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Feminists are winning the war of ideas, but Republicans still hold power and keep stripping women of their rights

U.S. President Donald Trump vs The Women's March (Getty Images/Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Chip Somodevilla)

U.S. President Donald Trump vs The Women’s March (Getty Images/Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Chip Somodevilla)

o understand the baffling, chaotic times we live in, one can do no better than to look at the disconnect in the U.S. between polling on what are often deemed “women’s issues” and the actual state of play in the world of politics. Feminist ideas are increasingly popular. But, because Republicans have wildly disproportionate amounts of power, women are actually losing rights.

Abortion rights are more popular than ever, with 77% of Americans in an NPR/PBS poll saying they want Roe v. Wade to be preserved.

But, by this time next year, it’s  likely Roe v. Wade will be toast. With Brett Kavanaugh replacing Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, it was just a matter of time. Kennedy was the deciding vote in 2016’s Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, in which the court ruled that states can’t ban abortion by drowning clinics in medically unnecessary and impossible-to-meet regulations. But in shameless and unprecedented fashion, the court is retrying that same abortion ban (though in a different state) in March. By June, it’s almost certain that the court will allow states to shut down all their abortion clinics, for the first time since 1973.

Similarly, support for birth control is rising, with an all-time high of 92% of Americans supporting its use and 71% believing the government should require insurance companies to cover contraception. But the Trump administration has been quietly undermining women’s access, using federal red tape to shut down birth control grants to nearly 900 public clinics, and attempting to redirect that money to groups that argue abstinence is the only legitimate birth control. The administration has also tried to roll back rules requiring insurers to cover contraception.

The #MeToo movement, which was started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 but really blew up after Donald “Grab ‘Em by the Pussy” Trump was elected and Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual abuse was exposed, is also relatively popular, with polls consistently showing more than half of Americans support it.

Yet Republicans — who control the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the White House — see it very differently. In fact, Republicans are growing increasingly hostile towards the #MeToo movement. In 2018, a majority of Republican voters agreed that “women who complain about harassment often cause more problems than they solve,” casting the victims as the victimizers.

This helps explain how Kavanaugh got confirmed to the Supreme Court in the  first place, despite more Americans believing the woman who accused him of attempted rape, Christine Blasey Ford, than believing his denials. Republicans control the Senate and know full well their voters are inclined to lash out at women who have the courage to stand up to abuse, rather than supporting them.

Then there is perhaps the most dramatic example of all: In the 2016 election the first female major-party candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots cast. But, because the American electoral college system overweights the votes of people living in rural areas, Trump — a misogynist who bragged about sexual assault on tape — won the presidency anyway.

The gap between the popularity of feminism and the actual power of feminism was illustrated in January 2017, when the number of people who hit the streets of Washington for the Women’s March utterly swamped that of Trump’s inauguration the day before, drawing three times the number of people. And that’s not including the millions across the country who turned out for solidarity marches in other cities, leading to quite possibly the largest political demonstration in American history.

Feminists are winning the war of ideas. But feminists are losing in the halls of power, where “Mad Men”-era views that women should be silent and servile are winning the day.

It’s all a bitter pill, because, as these poll numbers show, the hard work of feminists over the past decade to move the needle of public opinion has really paid off.

Younger readers may not remember this, but back when I was a fledging feminist blogger in the era of the George W. Bush administration, things looked bleak for women both in the world of politics and in the national discourse. Feminist rhetoric was often timorous, afraid to speak too bluntly about issues like abortion or rape for fear of running off moderates. Younger women felt sidelined by the major organizations, and there were frequently articles in the mainstream press in which older feminists accused younger women of not caring about their own equality. Meanwhile, progressive politics was in thrall to the “What’s the Matter with Kansas” theory that Republicans only pretended to oppose women’s rights in order to win the votes of benighted rubes, and would never actually act on it.

I’d like to think I played a role in changing that, being an early adopter of feminist blogging that took a different approach of being both cheeky and confrontational — and also by taking sexism seriously. While male pundits clucked over feminists who thought Republicans would taking reproductive rights away, feminists bloggers raised the alarm over the Bush administration’s all-out assault on women having non-procreative sex. We raised awareness of rape culture and introduced ideas like “affirmative consent” as a way to counteract it. We insisted that it wasn’t that women holding themselves back in the workplace, but that discrimination was still a live issue. We bashed sexist dating manuals and those who claimed that women don’t make as much money as men because we don’t work hard enough.

We were laughed at and trolled and abused and ignored, but we kept plugging away. And by 2009, we were winning. Feminist blogs were wildly popular. Democrats started to be unapologetically pro-choice. The first woman to become speaker of the House managed to do what Democrats had failed to do for decades — pass a comprehensive health care bill, which mandated that contraception be covered by insurance. Feminist bloggers published a manifesto against rape, titled “Yes Means Yes,” that would reshape the national conversation on consent. The idea that “abstinence-only” was a legitimate ideology had turned into a joke. The idea that young women were indifferent to politics was dying. And the feminist bloggers who had once been relegated to the fringes were getting mainstream jobs, at such a pace that, over the next decade, the blogs would be shuttered, victims of their own success.

It would be a lie to say that we were surprised by the backlash. If there’s one book that every Generation X and millennial feminist has read, it’s probably “Backlash” by Susan Faludi. We knew what to expect. Plus, those of us who had blogs spent ungodly amounts of time dealing with unhinged trolls — men whose desire to control women manifested in online stalking — so we weren’t unaware that a lot of men really, really did not like the idea of women’s equality.

(We also were aware of the liberal men who pooh-poohed our experiences and said trolls were just a handful of guys and nothing to worry about, a line that held right up until those trolls elected a president.)

Sure enough, the backlash came — and it was brutal. Arguably, the anti-feminist backlash of the teens was the single most important reactionary movement of the time, the one that did more than any other to lay the groundwork for the election of a confessed sexual assailant to the White House.

Maybe the first sign was the sudden surge of attacks on reproductive rights. Women gave Barack Obama his 2008 win — 53% of women voted for Obama vs. only 49% of men — and unsurprisingly, Republicans in state legislatures decided to take their anger out on women. Starting in 2010, Republican-controlled states went nuts restricting reproductive rights, passing laws to block women from getting abortions and deprive women of affordable contraception access. In some parts of the country, abortion clinics were shuttered at an alarming rateleaving huge numbers of women in “abortion deserts” that required lengthy drives to the nearest clinic.

The war on contraception, which many of us hoped would be over with the election of Obama, only heated up in this frenzy of misogyny. On multiple occasions, congressional Republicans had a standoff with Obama, threatening to shut down the government to try to force him into cutting Planned Parenthood off government grants for affordable birth control.

Things also got ugly over the Obamacare rule requiring insurance companies to cover contraception. Even though government-mandated insurance coverage of birth control had previously been uncontroversial, the right-wing media swung into action in 2012 on this rule in the Affordable Care Act to suddenly and dishonestly pretend the government was asking taxpayers to bankroll hot young sluts to have sex with men who clearly aren’t the Fox News demographic. That’s no exaggeration — for days on end, Rush Limbaugh railed about how Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who had testified in support of the new rule, was a “slut”  who wanted “to be paid to have sex.” He even demanded  that Fluke provide him with videos of her private life as masturbation material.

Limbaugh’s tone was emblematic of what the anti-feminist backlash of the teens looked like. The face of misogyny was no longer pious Christians claiming that feminism was a threat to “the family.” Now it was vulgarians who gleefully used sexist slurs and didn’t even bother to pretend they wanted women on their knees for Jesus. It was a Trumpian kind of sexism.

So even as traditional anti-choice forces tried to pass off their latest bans on abortion as done in the name of “protecting” women, the actual right wing was in a full-blown lady-hate uproar, culminating in utterly false accusations that women were getting abortions as part of a scheme to sell “baby parts” on the open market. Unsurprisingly, there was also a rise in terrorism against abortion clinics over the decade, kicked off by the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, with the deadliest incident being a 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado that left three dead.

Outside the reproductive rights debate, the anti-feminist backlash was equally bleak, with a well-funded right wing apparatus churning out a constant stream of shady articles and video segments mocking alleged rape victims and sympathizing with their accused attackerscheering sexual harassment and claiming that men were under attack by a shadowy feminist conspiracy to emasculate them. Meanwhile, a growing online movement of misogynists, such as the “men’s rights activists” and “incels,” was becoming ever more radical and increasingly embracing fascism and white nationalism as the answer to their anger at feminist gains.

Gamergate was perhaps the most perfect distillation of what the anti-feminist backlash looked like in the past decade. There were efforts at the time to claim that Gamergate was merely an explosion of anger over “corruption” in the video game press (no, really, that’s what they said), in truth it was an eruption of virulent misogyny that started in the video game community and spread across the internet. Sexist video game players, assured in their belief that video gaming “belonged” to them, were furious at feminist critics for their articles and videos arguing that T&A-heavy games that presented women as bimbos and sex objects were misogynistic. Those gamers spent months — years,  really — raging endlessly online about it and subjecting those feminist critics to unreal amounts of abuse.

Breitbart and other right wing media glommed onto Gamergate because they knew that it wasn’t just about video games, but about this growing and boiling rage in many men over the fact that feminists were winning the argument. These were men who liked the prevailing system, where they could be condescending and cruel and treat women like objects and unpaid servants without consequence, and also knew they couldn’t defend that point of view any longer. Gamergate gave them another option: Give up trying to make coherent arguments, and instead resort to outright trolling, bad faith, harassment and other abusive tactics meant not to win with reason, but to exhaust your opponents into submission.

No wonder the 2016 election was dominated by the chant, “Lock her up!” A lot of men were angry as hell at women and wanted to bring them to heel, and didn’t really care how it was done any longer.

But you know what? Feminists didn’t give up. On the contrary, unlike during other backlash periods, feminists, armed with social media, were able to fight back, instead of being forced to cede ground to a male-dominated media that is inclined to side with the backlashers.

In the face of rising attacks on abortion rights, feminists started an online movement to “shout your abortion” and rallied around Texas legislator Wendy Davis, who became a feminist hero by filibustering a law meant to shut down most abortion clinics in Texas. Rather than being browbeaten into silence, anti-rape activists created headline-worthy performance art  and held hands while Lady Gaga sang at the Oscars. The #MeToo movement blew up and thousands of men were finally held accountable. Rather than let Trump’s win scare them into the shadows, Democratic women turned out in droves to run for office, making 2019 a record-setting year for women in Congress.

The backlashers, using profane language and trying to affect a derring-do trollish attitude, clearly thought they could make feminism uncool. At this, they failed. Beyoncé is a feministPractically every famous woman in Hollywood has joined hands under the #MeToo banner. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the potential to be the next Obama-style political star. Feminist blogs may be gone, but that’s because we took the act mainstream. Trump may be president, but the place to be that January was the Women’s March.

In 2009, people made fun of feminists for supposedly not being cool. In 2019, anti-feminists are far more likely to lash out at feminists with the angry resentment the terminally uncool have for hipsters.

Still, there is no doubt that, thanks to an electoral system that gives far more voting power to rural, white-dominated areas than the more diverse, urban areas where most Americans live, we are a feminist-sympathetic country being ruled by a misogynist minority. The country may hate Trump, but he is still the most powerful man in the world. We’re all learning the hard way that feminists can do the work, make the case and win the people over — and still the patriarchy keeps on winning, because it holds a disproportionate share of power in a rigged system.

Source: https://www.salon.com/2019/12/14/the-2010s-in-feminism-two-steps-forward-and-a-big-shove-back/

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a court decision that dismissed as immaterial doctors’ ethical concerns and equated an embryo with a person.

Imagini pentru Supreme Court Confirms There Is No Fifth Vote to Protect Abortion Rights

In March, the Roberts Court will hear oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Gee, the first abortion rights challenge to be argued before the Court with Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the bench. Doug Mills-Pool / Getty Images

It only takes four votes for the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to take a case. That’s it. Not even a majority of the justices have to sign on for the Court to hear a case. Just four.

That threshold took on a new significance Monday when the Court announced it was denying a request from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to reconsider an appellate court decision that let Kentucky’s forced ultrasound law, HB2, take effect. The decision was announced without an explanation, just a one-line denial in the list of orders the Court released that day. But the justices didn’t need to offer any explanation for why they turned the case away.

The denial spoke for itself.

The Court’s refusal to take up the challenge signals that the liberal block of justices decided it was better to let a devastatingly wrong decision stand and a lingering circuit court split on the First Amendment rights of abortion providers fester than to have the full Roberts Court weigh in. It also signals that the Court’s conservative block is content to allow appeals courts to egregiously misinterpret abortion rights jurisprudence so long as those decisions advance anti-choice causes. None of those signs are good for abortion rights and access.

The Kentucky law at issue is an especially terrible version of the forced ultrasound laws enacted by Republican-held legislatures nationwide. HB 2 requires doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient 24 hours prior to an abortion, mandates the provider to describe the images of that ultrasound, and forces the patient to listen to fetal heart tones during the procedure. Providers must perform these “speech and display” requirements even if their patient objects. If the patient tries to cover their ears or turn their head, HB 2 directs providers to carry on with the state-mandated script describing the ultrasound image over those objections. Often providers are required to use a transvaginal ultrasound to get images with sufficient detail to meet HB2’s speech and display requirements. 

Medical groups opposed the forced ultrasound law on the grounds that it violates both medical ethics and standards of care. Forcing patients to see images and hear descriptions over their objections and the judgment of their doctors is not just bad medicine, the providers claim, it’s a free speech violation. But a panel of Sixth Circuit judges disagreed, and in a 2-1 decision explained that speech and display requirements are simply part of the process for a provider obtaining a patient’s informed consent to their abortion and not part of an anti-abortion message. Therefore, the panel of judges ruled, Kentucky’s law does not violate the free speech rights of abortion providers. Sixth Circuit Court Judge John Bush, a Trump appointee, cast the deciding vote and authored the decision. 

“The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description, and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her,” Bush wrote for the panel. “This also inherently provides the patient with more knowledge about the effect of an abortion procedure: it shows her what, or whom, she is consenting to terminate.” 

Bush’s opinion drips with this anti-choice paternalism that forced ultrasounds are necessary because patients don’t know what they are doing when they seek an abortion. His opinion cites the myth of “abortion regret” cooked up by former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to uphold the federal “partial-birth abortion” ban in Gonzales v. Carhart to further justify its conclusion that forcing patients to hear and see fetal images is both constitutional and sound medicine. 

As to objections the medical community had to mandate the disclosures over patient objections, Bush in his decision dismissed those objections not “material” to whether the disclosures should be considered part of informed consent. That’s right. According to Bush, the medical profession’s stated concerns that the Kentucky law actually perverts the informed consent process are not relevant and necessary for the court to deem HB 2 constitutional.

This is the decision the Supreme Court let stand on Monday, one that dismisses as immaterial doctors ethical concerns, one that equates an embryo with a person, and one that is at conflict with recent federal appeals court decisions on the topic. Letting this decision stand sends an ominous message about abortion and the Roberts Court. Quite simply, there is no fifth vote to affirm abortion rights. 

In March, the Roberts Court will hear oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Gee, the first abortion rights challenge to be argued before the Court with Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the bench. The case landed before the Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit went rogue and ruled a Louisiana admitting privileges law identical to a Texas anti-choice law the Roberts Court struck as unconstitutional three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt should be allowed to take effect. 

The Fifth Circuit decision allowing the law to take effect is bonkers. Like the Sixth Circuit decision to allow Kentucky’s ultrasound law to take effect, it is a willful misreading of abortion rights precedent. That Chief Justice John Roberts wasn’t willing on Monday to join his liberal colleagues and hear the Kentucky challenge in order to correct the Sixth Circuit’s decision that is out of bounds from other precedent does not bode well for an outcome in June Medical Services that unequivocally affirms Whole Woman’s Health. 

This is what the future of abortion rights looks like at the Supreme Court with Kennedy gone. It’s an exercise by the liberal justices in harm reduction, a balancing of the damage done by allowing a wrong and dangerous opinion and policy to stand rather than grant their conservative colleagues an opportunity to weigh in and endorse it nationwide.

For the conservatives on the bench, it is an exercise in tempered acceleration. Conservative appeals courts stacked with Trump appointees have the ability to undermine abortion rights and access and the conservatives on the Supreme Court have no incentive to stop them.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2019/12/12/supreme-court-confirms-there-is-no-fifth-vote-to-protect-abortion-rights/

Clinics will offer birth control, STI testing and pregnancy counseling, but not abortion

A container of condoms at a Planned Parenthood clinic. (Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)

A container of condoms at a Planned Parenthood clinic. (Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)

Planned Parenthood is pioneering a new model of reproductive health services for Los Angeles County teens by opening 50 clinics at area high schools. The program — announced Wednesday and launched in partnership with the school district and county health department — is believed to be the most ambitious effort in the country to bring these types of services to at-risk students in public schools.

The program, funded by an initial investment of $10 million from Los Angeles County and $6 million from Planned Parenthood over three years, will offer a full range of birth control options, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy counseling, but not abortion, for an estimated 75,000 teens. The program will also train hundreds of teens to be “peer advocates” to help provide information about safe sex and relationships.

“Teens listen to other teens,” said Jennifer Rivera, 23, a Planned Parenthood staffer who will oversee the training.

Students will be able to walk into the clinics or make appointments and will be allowed to leave class for them. Information about the appointments will be in protected medical files not accessible to school officials. Under California law, minors can consent to certain medical services, such as receiving birth control or mental health counseling, and health care providers are not allowed to inform a parent without the minor’s permission.

The announcement comes as high schools and colleges have become a priority battleground for abortion rights advocates and antiabortion activists.

California has taken a leading role in pushing back against efforts by the Trump administration and conservative legislators to cut government funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, impose new restrictions on abortion and shift the conversation about teens and sex toward abstinence. In October, it became the first state to require its public colleges and universities to offer abortion medication under a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Five of the Planned Parenthood centers opened a few weeks into the school year. The rest are to be added before June. Officials involved in the project said the selected schools — in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest — were targeted because they are largely low-income and have no similar medical providers in the vicinity. Two public health officials, trained by Planned Parenthood, will be stationed full time at each school to provide education and counseling, and a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner or other medical provider will come once a week.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and a former high school principal, said the program grew out of conversations about strategies for combating the area’s alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, among young people ages 15 to 24.

She said the clinics will be called “Wellbeing Centers” because they will do more than provide simple medical services: “We want to support their general well-being, the ups and downs of being a teen.”

In parent and community meetings before the launch, participants have been very supportive so far, said Sue Dunlap, president of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. But the organization is prepared for protest from groups that do not support its mission based on its experience working with schools in other capacities and in other areas.

“I do anticipate, as this becomes public, we will have very normal and healthy debate around sexuality and schools and what it is to be engaged in family communication around a healthy adolescence,” Dunlap said.

Planned Parenthood’s involvement in sex education has long been criticized by social conservative and religious groups. In April, Pacific Grove Middle School in California canceled a visit from Planned Parenthood educators after a mother got a Christian legal group involved. In October in Minnesota, Planned Parenthood’s support of a comprehensive sex education bill drew accusations from Students for Life, an antiabortion group, which said: “All of this is really just an opportunity for Planned Parenthood to force their way into schools and sell more abortions.”

In Los Angeles, Sister Paula Vandegaer, head of Volunteers for Life, which opposes abortion rights, said she is against the Planned Parenthood initiative because it “pushes sexuality beyond where they should without reference to families.”

“I am against them being in the schools,” she said. “They all have school nurses, and there’s no need for Planned Parenthood to co-opt the normal program for health in the school.”

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/12/11/planned-parenthood-open-reproductive-health-centers-los-angeles-high-schools/?fbclid=IwAR0LgAe2E3z6ho9FJdJkVecFXEp36ZuFasDcdkBvtWgDiFZAlcp_dtA-BXk

Doulas not only support people having abortions but also demystify abortion in the wider world.


A clinic in Santa Teresa, New Mexico (AP / Juan Carlos Llorca)

In the clinic, it goes like this: Call the patients by their first name only, or it’s a security risk. When they come to the door, introduce yourself. Show them into the room, explain how to put the gown on, draw the curtain, and wait. When you go back inside, the procedure will begin.

The person on the table says, “I have five kids. I just can’t have another.”

The person on the table says, “My mom said this would hurt so much, but this isn’t even as bad as my tattoo.”

The person on the table says, “Can I see my baby?”

The person on the table says, “Thank God.”

Officially, an abortion doula provides nonjudgmental emotional, informational, and physical support to people receiving abortions for unintended, wanted, or miscarried pregnancies. We refer patients to help lines, wipe away tears, and chat about their kids, their commutes, and, sometimes, what constitutes a living being. I’ve been an abortion doula for two years, supporting patients at abortion clinics in Connecticut and New York.

In the past ten years, abortion doula collectives have proliferated across the country. One group that tracks abortion and full-spectrum doula groups currently active in the United States counts 35, located in every geographical region and in many major cities. They sprout out of birth doula groups, sexual violence centers, and reproductive health clinics. The collectives skew toward youth and are largely composed of volunteers; there is little or no money in being an abortion doula. Still, the doulas come.

Abortion is one of the most discussed medical procedures in the United States today but remains strangled in stigmas, silences, and outright lies. Doulas work not only to support people experiencing the medical procedure itself, but also to let some light, air, and sound into the stale conversation about abortion. We do this partially by demystifying abortion in the wider world. When people find out that I’m a doula and have been present for more abortions than the average person sees in their lifetime, I am often asked to describe what a surgical abortion looks like (probably not how you’d expect), how long it takes (five to 10 minutes), and who gets abortions (mostly people who already have children). But the real work of the doula takes place in the clinic, in the time, however brief, that we spend with patients.

Go back inside.

The doctor comes in and introduces herself. She is plump and kind, brown hair pinned up in a braid above her clean white coat. She asks if there are any unanswered questions. She asks if we are ready.

When you train to become an abortion doula, you learn first about the Procedure. You learn to call it The Procedure instead of the Abortion, because words have power, and that one can make people uncomfortable, even the ones who call themselves pro-choice, even while they are on the table.

You learn the science of it, the history, the laws. You learn the most common questions about how it will feel, about pain, about the pressure of guilt and grief or the denial of it, just as corrosive. You learn ways to relax the lower body and encourage deep breathing.

You learn about the steps of the Procedure. This is how the doctor will deliver a painkiller and dilate the cervix. This is how she will apply suction, with a handheld tool called a vacuum aspirator, to remove the products of conception from the uterus, and release those products into a metal bowl. What comes out is a spill of tissue. That’s what it looks like in the first trimester: a small, flesh colored sac smaller than my thumb, like some deep-sea jellyfish.

During the Procedure, it’s common for people to get cold. It’s a cool room, and they’re not wearing much clothing, and stress plays a factor, as does anesthesia. I offer my hand to hold; my body runs hot, always has. “It’s not just for comfort,” I say with a smile, when I think it will help. “I have warm hands. And you can squeeze as hard as you want.”

She touches my palm. “Oh, it’s hot!”

“Yep. Take as much heat as you need.”

She smiles at that, usually, and takes my hand.

Later, she might squeeze it, even if she wasn’t planning to.

Pregnant people have all kinds of reactions to working with a doula, just like they have all kinds of reactions to abortion. For some, the decision to have an abortion is a wrenching one. For many others, it’s not emotionally fraught—but when I explain to a patient that I’m a non-medical support person and that I’ll be with them throughout the procedure, I’ve never been turned away. Everyone uses our moments alone differently. I hear about the Netflix shows they’re binging and their parents’ deaths. One woman, her mascara smudged slightly, tells me she’s just left an abusive relationship. Another apologizes profusely that she hasn’t waxed.

Some compare their experiences at various clinics. “When I had my first abortion, it was totally different,” an older woman confided. “They were very professional, but it was a little bit—cold. There was nobody to talk to like this.”

Some don’t want to talk at all. Once a patient pulled a pair of Bose BlueTooth headphones out of her bag and said, “I get anxious, so I’m just going to listen to my own music, is that okay?”

I said of course it was, and once she was set up on the table, her eyes closed and her music turned up loud, I sat quietly, keeping an eye out and scrolling through my e-mail, until the doctor came. That woman didn’t ask for a hand to squeeze during the cramps; she didn’t ask any questions or list anxieties. Afterward, though, as she was leaving the recovery room, she stopped me, her headphones still looped around her neck. “Thank you,” she said. “It really helped that you were there.”

In popular imagination and media, abortions have often been represented as isolated and furtive. On TV, there are scenes where the abortion—in the rare cases one is pictured—consists entirely of patient and doctor. In real life, a surgical abortion has the following lineup: doctor, nurse, lab tech, often a resident, sometimes an anesthesiologist, and sometimes a doula, all gathered around the patient, who is in the center of the room, breathing now on my count. It takes a village.

The woman on the table says, “I want kids later, I do, but I just can’t right now, and I heard that getting this will hurt my chances.”

In 26 states, clinics are required by law to tell patients that abortion has a potential effect on future fertility. In four of these states, the information provided is medically inaccurate, by which I mean it is a lie. People are told that getting an abortion will mean their chances of getting pregnant later are significantly reduced. The truth is that scientists have found that an abortion performed by a trained medical professional is not associated with future infertility. Abortion is also a very safe procedure: The chance of major complications is only 0.23 percentlower than the chance of major complications in pregnancy and birth.

In five states, clinics are required to lie and say that abortion is linked to breast cancer.

In six states, abortion clinic counselors are mandated by law to tell women that life begins at fertilization, which is a religious idea, not a scientific one.

I’ve had the privilege of doulaing in two states that provide medically accurate information, and by the time patients get to me, they’ve already made the decision to have an abortion, but still some ask for reassurance that they won’t get breast cancer or become infertile. Lies about abortion are our accepted frame of reference.

This is how to approach the clinic: Don’t engage with the protesters outside. Some of them don’t do anything but murmur Hail Marys over and over, but others are different. Wear your street clothes through the door and then change into your scrubs, for hygiene purposes but also so that the protesters will think you’re there to receive services. If they think you’re there to receive services, they say, Don’t kill your baby. If they think you’re providing the Procedure they slam on the glass doors and say, I’ll kill you, you fucking slut.

What they don’t teach you in training: how it will smell, wet and metallic. It is nearly the dark, rubbery smell of period blood, a smell that everyone with a uterus knows. This is that smell, but more so.

The woman on the table says, “Do you think God will forgive me?”

I don’t believe in any God who wouldn’t understand the choice you’ve made. Whether it’s because you have other mouths to feed or you don’t feel ready or this pregnancy is dangerous or you were raped or you’re not financially independent or you don’t want to be a parent right now or you don’t want to be a parent ever. I don’t believe in any God who wouldn’t understand that you have done nothing that needs forgiving.

The bones of my hand grate under her grip.

She is 39, 15, 25, 32, she is my age exactly. She is white, black, Latina, Asian. She wears a fuzzy sweatshirt, she wears a hijab, she wears black ballet flats, she wears a wedding ring. She is getting a ride home from her boyfriend, her best friend, her husband, her mother, she is here alone.

No. While she’s here, she is not entirely alone.

I change out of my scrubs and walked from the clinic to the parking lot. “Miss!” a man shouts, and I turn without thinking, without remembering where I am, and there he is, holding a sign with a picture of what is supposed to be a dead baby. It doesn’t look anything like what I’ve seen today.

“Don’t kill your baby,” he says. “It’s a sin. God won’t forgive you.”

In training, they teach you never to engage with the protesters because of the threat of violence to the clinic. I turn away and hear him whisper, “Devil slut.”

I keep walking, gathering silence about me like a cloak, or armor. I get into the car, turn the engine on, and sit for a minute, watching my rearview. The man has turned back to the clinic. He hoists his sign again, higher, like he’s already forgotten me.

Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/abortion-doula-clinics/

Doctors must perform ultrasounds and have women listen to fetal heartbeats before performing abortions.

Image: The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington on Nov. 13, 2018.Al Drago / Reuters file

The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law, mandating doctors perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.

The high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the state’s lone abortion clinic.

The Kentucky law, which requires a doctor to describe an ultrasound in detail while a pregnant woman hears the fetal heartbeat, was passed in 2017.

It was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican who lost his bid for re-election last month.

“This is a HUGE win for the pro-life movement!” the Kentucky GOP tweeted on Monday, thanking Bevin and Republican lawmakers. “This decision by SCOTUS to allow the lower court ruling to stand is a victory for the unborn!”

The ACLU had argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. Defenders of the law said it represented a straightforward attempt to help patients make a well-informed decision.

The high court’s action let stand the law which had been upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement Monday that the high court had “rubber-stamped” Kentucky’s interference in the “doctor-patient relationship.”

“By refusing to review the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the Supreme Court has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship,” according to Kolbi-Molinas.

“This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical. We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand.”

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that backs abortion rights, called the Kentucky law a “shaming tactic.”

“By upholding a requirement that provides conduct an ultrasound before an abortion, what they’re really doing is establishing that the state can interfere with medical health practice and create a stigma,” Nash told NBC News on Monday. “It’s a shaming tactic.”

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/supreme-court-upholds-kentucky-abortion-law-mandating-ultrasounds-n1098181?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma&fbclid=IwAR1Y8CvUJOJH6t1uZfdk8epTKnhP_O1Feng4Zqq5iOaNW1tMQ8JWeKesqDY

UC Davis Health ended a study early after researchers found a risk of “serious blood loss” when patients stopped in the middle of the medication abortion protocol.

[Photo: A woman receives an IV solution as she lies on a hospital bed.]

These new findings from UC Davis Health are further evidence that abortion reversal can be dangerous—both as a fictitious narrative and as a medical practice. Shutterstock

The first-ever randomized clinical study on the medically unproven “abortion reversal” treatment being pushed by anti-choice advocates has ended early as a result of safety concerns for participants, according to UC Davis Health, the academic health center where the research was being conducted.

The study sought to enroll 40 pregnant people who were planning to have a medication abortion and test the effectiveness of progesterone as a way to “reverse” an abortion. At the time of its conclusion, only 12 participants had enrolled. Of those, one participant who had received progesterone and two who had received a placebo experienced severe bleeding that required ambulance transport.

The discovered risk of “serious blood loss” when patients stop in the middle of the medication abortion protocol led principal investigator Professor Mitchell Creinin at UC Davis Health and his colleagues to end the study early. As a result, there remains no established scientific evidence that “abortion reversal” is possible.

“Women who use mifepristone for a medical abortion should be advised that not following up with misoprostol could result in severe hemorrhage,” Dr. Creinin said in a statement for UC Davis Health.

Medication abortion relies on two drugs—mifepristone and misoprostol—to terminate a pregnancy. The pregnant person first takes a dose of mifepristone, which blocks progesterone receptors and stops the pregnancy from continuing to develop. Twenty-four to 48 hours later, they take a dose of misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and empty itself.

In recent years, anti-abortion activists have alleged that injecting a pregnant person with progesterone after they’ve taken mifepristone, but before they’ve taken the misoprostol, will allow the pregnancy to continue and therefore “reverse” the abortion.

This progesterone regiment is not FDA-approved, and it’s never been studied with rigorous scientific procedures such as those undertaken by Creinin’s team. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has fully denounced the practice. But that hasn’t stopped the anti-choice movement from launching a full-blown “abortion reversal” misinformation campaign and offering the “procedure” at crisis pregnancy centers across the country.

Those pushing “abortion reversal” rely on an unscientific report involving seven anecdotes of people who had undergone the reversal regiment. The report was published by anti-abortion doctors Dr. George Delgado and Dr. Mary Davenport in 2012. Of the seven subjects, two had complete abortions and one ended their participation without a response.

The anecdotes of four doctors who treated four people are the beginnings of this myth. In 2018, Delgado published more cases from his network of anti-abortion doctors who are apparently spending their time experimenting on pregnant people. The journal that published the report recalled the paper shortly after publication because an ethics board never fully approved Delgado’s research, which also had no control group. Both are very serious research failures.

Here’s the problem with relying entirely on anecdotes and calling it scientific research: You can’t establish any semblance of a causal relationship. That matters in this case because science has already established that taking mifepristone and failing to take misoprostol results in anywhere from 8 percent to 46 percent of pregnancies continuing normally with no abortion occurring. The pregnancy outcomes recorded by Delgado could be entirely attributed to the lack of misoprostol and wholly unrelated to the progesterone injections; there’s no way to know because there was no control group.

But four anecdotes and a recalled paper are apparently more than enough for conservative politicians across the country to codify what looks a whole lot like medical malpractice. In at least eight states, legislators have passed laws forcing abortion providers to trick their patients into believing that abortion reversal is a real medical procedure that’s available and effective. In 2019 alone, five states have passed these mandatory deception laws, and Ohio is moving another right now. Several of these laws have already failed legal tests, with a federal judge opining that North Dakota’s defense of its abortion reversal legislation was “Devoid of scientific support, misleading, and untrue.”

Medication abortion is becoming an increasingly common and accessible way to safely end a pregnancy, and abortion opponents and their allies in state legislatures are aggressively responding by pushing these restrictions. In 2017, nearly 40 percent of abortions in the United States were medication abortions. Spreading lies about abortion reversal is just the right’s latest strategy for denying bodily autonomy.

The myth of abortion reversal is particularly attractive to the anti-abortion cause because it centers itself on the false premise that people who have abortions often regret them, a stigmatizing belief that simply isn’t grounded in fact. Different people feel different emotions after having an abortion, but regret is almost never one of them. In fact, 95 percent of people who’ve had an abortion reported feeling that abortion was the right choice for them. Abortion reversal practitioners are targeting pregnant people at a time when they are often emotionally vulnerable and using their bodies to further an ideological agenda with little concern for the potential effects.

These new findings from UC Davis Health are further evidence that abortion reversal can be dangerous—both as a fictitious narrative and as a medical practice.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2019/12/06/abortion-reversal-is-not-only-b-s-but-is-dangerous-too/

From remaking the judiciary to repealing Hyde to removing the global gag rule, Trump’s successor has their work cut out for them.


Supremely unjust: Protesters raise their fists outside the Supreme Court after the confirmation vote of Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

In Los Angeles in early May, I woke up at 5:30 am to a barrage of texts and phone calls. The day before, the Alabama Legislature had passed a law banning abortion completely. This move came on the heels of the Georgia General Assembly criminalizing abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy. I was in LA with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to talk to film industry leaders about how they could challenge that law, given their extensive investments in her state. The Alabama ban was a tipping point, and women across the country were rising in anger, frustration, and disgust over the attacks on our reproductive freedoms.

Among the calls were several from presidential contenders who wanted to put together plans to address the erosion of reproductive rights by the Trump administration and the state-level attacks that started years ago in the form of 20-week bans, mandatory waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, and much more. In all, 20 presidential candidates spoke out that day.

It hadn’t always been so. In 2016, when reproductive freedom and justice groups pushed debate moderators to ask then–presidential primary candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about the threats to reproductive rights as a part of the #AskAboutAbortion campaign, we were mostly dismissed by the media and the political elite. Despite the attacks on reproductive freedom that were well underway, many in the Democratic Party and the progressive movement didn’t understand the toll of these escalating assaults on the ability of women to access abortion, birth control, and prenatal care—not coincidentally, assaults that are primarily felt by poor women, rural women, immigrant women, and women of color. Given the complacency of many at the top, including in the media, only one question was asked about abortion rights during the primary debates—the very last one.

Clinton and Sanders were both pro-choice, so people scoffed, “Why should we waste our time on that?” Having our concerns minimized came as no surprise to those of us who do the work. We explained again and again that pro-choice values are great, but we expect plans.

To their credit, Clinton and Sanders didn’t shy away from the issue. When asked, they were aggressive in response, and as the nominee, Clinton led the charge to insert in the Democratic Party platform a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion services. Still, the conversation existed on the margins for most pundits and observers.

That brings us to today. Through fiat in the federal agencies and an unapologetic takeover of the judicial system, President Donald Trump has thrust the question of access to abortion—and all it represents about control and freedom—to the center of the 2020 presidential election.

So far, the Democratic field has risen to the occasion. Candidates have advanced explicit positions on abortion rights, and all the major ones support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the decades-long discrimination it embodies. That commitment was tested this year when Joe Biden reversed his stance on the issue—vowing to lift the ban on abortion funding for low-income women after quick and severe public criticism.

This progress is due to the painstaking work of those raising the alarm year after year, even when too few listened. In 2014, All Above All, a leader in the reproductive justice movement, began educating people on the evils of the Hyde Amendment and calling for its repeal. Six years ago Wendy Davis, then a state legislator, mounted her famous filibuster against Texas’s 20-week abortion ban. The backlash against that law was enormous, and it planted seeds of resistance against today’s bans. Legislators in the anti-choice movement knew their agenda was unpopular and that they were living on borrowed time. So they moved quickly and quietly to introduce bills designed to outlaw certain kinds of abortions, shame women out of choosing the procedure, and shut down clinics. These lawmakers used every trick available to jam these bills through, convening special legislative sessions and hijacking unrelated legislative efforts. In North Carolina, a bill to impose restrictions on abortion clinics was even attached to a motorcycle safety bill.

Trump’s victory heralded the end of this stealth approach. But as state-level bans sweep the nation, so does an awareness of what’s at stake. The vast majority of American adults—77 percent, according to a 2019 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll—support legal access to abortion, an increase even from last year. Support is overwhelming among Democratic voters, who have had it with the reproductive oppression enabled by misogyny. It’s undeniable that left and liberal candidates must take these issues seriously if they are to be competitive. People who understand that the freedom to access abortion is inextricably part of our fight for gender equity are marching and resisting in record numbers.

This is an inflection point, and it’s crucial to treat Roe v. Wade as the floor of what we need and not the ceiling. The next president will have massive challenges in digging our nation out of the hole we find ourselves in. Fortunately, the contenders for the Democratic nomination have some ideas. The crisis requires dedicated resources and attention, which would be part of Cory Booker’s call for a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom. The crisis requires nominating judges to all levels of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, who would protect reproductive freedom, as promised by former candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O’Rourke and current contenders Pete Buttigieg and Julián Castro, among others. The crisis requires innovative thinking about the relationship between state and federal government, like the proposal put forward by Kamala Harris, whose plan models the preclearance process in the Voting Rights Act, stipulating that the most regressive states get permission from the Justice Department before a new abortion law takes effect. The crisis requires a health care plan that includes coverage of comprehensive reproductive care, like the one proposed by Bernie Sanders. And the crisis requires us to address the increased threats to and violence against abortion clinics, as proposed in Elizabeth Warren’s plan. And of course, the next president must push to codify Roe into statute; repeal the Hyde Amendment permanently; remove the global gag rule, which bars giving federal funds to any foreign health organization that provides abortion or even discusses it as an option; and reinstate Title X funding for Planned Parenthood and other full-service reproductive health care providers.

These plans—and the fact that several presidential candidates vowed during the Democratic debates to restore reproductive rights, even when they weren’t asked about them—are a good start. Still, all of that should be the minimum. To adequately confront this moment, we have to elect pro-choice champions. Congress will be instrumental in safeguarding our reproductive rights, and perhaps more than anything, we need a national leader who can convey with moral clarity and conviction what’s at stake. The Trump administration is a manifestation of a radical anti-choice movement’s deep misogyny and racism. Extremists in the White House have used this opportunity to move an anti-​science agenda and force their narrow moral code on all Americans. We need the exact opposite in our next president.

In a dystopian move, the Trump administration has tracked the periods and pregnancies of migrant women being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement centers to prevent them from having abortions—a move that implicitly acknowledges the sexual violence experienced by these women on their travels and in detention. This White House has put people in charge of our family planning programs who do not believe in contraception and have pursued a strict abstinence-only, sex-shaming agenda. This administration moved funds away from Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive health care providers to fake clinics that lie about everything from abortion to contraception.

Of course, the crowning achievement of this administration is to install justices on the Supreme Court dedicated to gutting Roe and criminalizing abortion. The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults, to the nation’s highest court by a president who is an alleged serial sexual predator himself sent a clear message: We will have no rights to, no ability to feel safe in our own bodies. This president and the anti-choice movement that put him over the top in 2016 see our personal agency as something to gleefully extinguish.

This spring, emboldened by a president who said women should be punished for seeking abortion, Texas held a hearing on a law that would allow prosecutors to impose the death penalty on women who terminate their pregnancies. And in many states, women are fodder for test cases to establish the statutory rights of a fertilized egg over those of the person carrying it. In Alabama, Marshae Jones was charged with manslaughter after being shot in the stomach and losing her pregnancy. Although the charges were dropped, the message was clear: Our ability to reproduce can and will be wielded as a weapon to keep us in our place. Left unchecked, this is the future for all women, just as it is the present for the less powerful voices among them.

So therein lies the challenge. The mantle of leadership is not in seeking a return to a pre-Trump status quo that was already victimizing so many. It’s certainly not in treating the anti-choice movement as a benign force that we have a mild disagreement with. The leader we need will realize that he or she has a mandate to move policy that recognizes reproductive rights for what they are: the nucleus of gender equity and a fundamental guarantee without which women will never be free.

Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/abortion-trump-kavanaugh-hyde/