I lived in liberal Washington, D.C., with a tight-knit circle of progressive pro-choice friends, and I still wasn’t sure whom I could lean on for support.


If the test was positive, I was going to have an abortion. I made my decision in the aisle of CVS when I was calculating whether I could afford FirstResponse Early Result or if I should just go generic.

I was 24, just two years out of college, living in a group house, with a career that had just started to take off. I wasn’t financially or emotionally prepared to carry, have, or raise a child. Nor did I want to. That’s why I was on birth control. It was why I’d taken Plan B. Neither, in this instance, had worked.

If you’d been in my bedroom the night I found out, you would have seen used tissues scattered on the floor next to the pregnancy-test packaging. I wasn’t crying about my decision, or even about the pregnancy. I was crying because of how alone I felt.

I lived in liberal Washington, D.C., with a tight-knit circle of progressive pro-choice friends and a family I trusted just a phone call away. But we weren’t having frank, open conversations about abortion — and when we did, they were rarely grounded in personal experiences. So I wasn’t sure whom I could talk to, whom I could lean on for support. Worse, I found myself worrying that people might judge me for my decision, for not feeling the slightest bit guilty, remorseful, or sad about it.

That’s how potent the stigma surrounding abortion is.

Because of stigma, women are made to feel ashamed about a routine procedure. Because of stigma, women are made to feel isolated — even though 1 in 3 will have an abortion in her lifetime. Because of stigma, there are women who go through this process on their own — and never tell a soul.

Many women, like me, choose abortion because they don’t want children yet. Other women don’t want children, period. Some desperately want children but find out during their pregnancy that the fetus isn’t viable. Some women, already mothers, know they can’t afford to raise more children.

The decisions and experiences and reasons surrounding abortions are as different as the many women who choose to have them. But stigma — albeit, varying levels of it — is something we all have in common.

Ultimately, I told my best friend — someone I trust deeply — because I needed someone to take me in for my procedure. Her outpouring of love and support prompted me to tell others close to me. They all responded with some variation of “I’m here for you. How are you? Let me know what I can do to help.”

Not one of them questioned my decision or my character. No one jumped in with their personal opinions or asked me to explain myself. I know I was fortunate though: Not all women in this situation have this kind of experience. Ultimately, talking about my abortion became a sort of healing process — a way to break down that stigma for myself and assuage the fear that those close to me might judge me for the choice I made.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that people weren’t just offering their support — they were really listening, they were really engaging. Friends would ask about my experience because they had questions they could never ask anyone else before: Was it painful? Where did you go? How long did it take? What was your recovery like? Others started sharing stories about their own pregnancy scares and abortions for the first time. Some began reaching out because they needed support themselves.

And so, the circle of people who I’d tell about my abortion began to widen — from friends, to friends of friends, to family, to colleagues. With every candid conversation — especially those that happened in person — abortion (not just my own) began to feel a bit more relatable, for everyone. So I made the circle wider still. I talked to new acquaintances about my abortion, posted about it on social media, and would even — given the opportunity — bring it up on dates.

Recently, a woman I hadn’t spoken to in five years contacted me. She’d seen that I had shared my story and advocated for Planned Parenthood on social media. “Hey Tania! This is still your number right?” It was. “Full disclosure, I’m in a panic. I may be pregnant. Who can I call?” I gave her the number to Planned Parenthood and also to an abortion provider in her area.

When I talk about my abortion now, I talk about how — because I had missed the window during which the abortion pill is most effective (the first seven to nine weeks of pregnancy) — I had a 15-minute procedure called a dilation and evacuation (or D&E). I always mention the nurse who stood by my side and let me squeeze her hand when I felt cramps the pain medication didn’t dull.

I talk about how, yes, the weekend after the Thursday afternoon procedure was physically draining; I took off work Friday because I was bloated, reeling from cramps, and dealing with what resembled the absolute worst period I’d ever had.

I talk about the relief I felt after my abortion — and how my doctor nodded when I told her, saying that’s how the vast majority of women feel after their procedures.

And I always, always talk about how lucky I was to be employed, with quality insurance, and living in Washington, D.C, which meant I could call and schedule my appointment within one week. Had I lived in a state like Missouri, I would have had to drive across the state (local lawmakers have shut down all but one abortion-providing clinic), sit through state-directed counseling designed to discourage abortion, and then wait 72 hours before being provided the procedure.

Even if I weren’t talking about it, I would still think about it every day. Because every day, I’m living the life I chose for myself — with a career, ambitions, and a lifestyle that wouldn’t have been possible had I been forced to carry the pregnancy to term. My sense of relief hasn’t faded and I don’t expect it ever will.

It’s been two years since my abortion, and I talk about it openly, out loud and often, because I know that there are women out there who might, one day, benefit from hearing about it.

Of course, not everyone has been so receptive to my story. Someone else I know confronted me through Instagram for my support for “killing babies.” When I offered to talk about our views by phone, she refused.

Her inflammatory language, though, wasn’t what bothered me most. She has daughters, and I imagine what they would do if they ever found themselves with pregnancy tests and tissues scattered on the floor of their bedrooms, and needed someone who wouldn’t judge them for asking, “What do I do?”

So I’m going to keep talking about my abortion.

Because every woman should know she’s not alone. Because abortion is a safe, normal procedure — and should be talked about as such. And because every woman should have the right to choose, and she should feel empowered — never ashamed — to make the choice that’s right for her.


'Handmaids' protesters silently urge Rauner to sign abortion rights bill
Silent protesters gathered outside of The James R. Thompson Center Aug. 9 urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign a reproductive rights bill.

Dressed in red robes and white bonnets—a nod to the Hulu original show “The Handmaid’s Tale” based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood—demonstrators stood in silence outside Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Chicago office on Aug. 9, asking him to hold true to his campaign promises.

Rauner campaigned as a fiscal conservative and a supporter of reproductive rights during Illinois’ 2014 governor election. However, Rauner has threatened to veto a bill that would strengthen abortion rights in Illinois.

If Rauner were to veto House Bill 40 it would be “unconscionable,” said Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, 30, who helped organize the Aug. 9 silent protest outside the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St.

Introduced by state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, in December 2016, HB40 aims to eliminate “trigger” language in Illinois law that would criminalize abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The bill would also remove any provision that would bar insurance coverage for abortion services to women who rely on Medicaid or state employee health insurance. It passed the House in April, 62–55, and the Senate in May, 33–22. However, because of Rauner’s veto threats, Democrats have yet to send him the bill, according to state legislative records. 

“I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for standing up for women’s rights today,” Feigenholtz said in a May 10 press release when the bill passed the Senate. “Illinois took another important step toward healthcare equality for all women who deserve access to all reproductive health options. The burden of giving millions of women in Illinois these fair and equal rights now rest squarely on the shoulders of Bruce Rauner.”

Illiatovitch-Goldman, a freelance writer and artist who lives in Lincoln Square, said most people are unaware that Illinois does not have protections for reproductive rights. It is important to support HB40 to prevent Illinois from reverting back to 1970s law, she added.

“Not all forms of insurance are accepted by healthcare providers for abortion [in Illinois], and that’s not OK,” Illiatovitch-Goldman said. “You should have equal access to things regardless of what your job, insurance provider or income level is. It’s discriminatory otherwise.”

Valerie Bodurtha, a 20-year-old Hyde Park resident, said she immediately volunteered for the silent protest when she learned about the bill and Rauner’s opposition because she thinks people are more concerned about legislation at the federal level.

“Once I found out this bill was being threatened and might be vetoed, I knew I had to jump in and let people know about it,” said Bodurtha, who is a senior classical studies major at the University of Chicago.

Illiatovitch-Goldman and Bodurtha both said they do not know the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned. However, Bodurtha said states should modernize their laws and prepare in the event it is overturned to reflect the public’s approval of reproductive rights.

According to March 2016 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Illinois voters are generally in favor of women’s reproductive rights. Thirty-six percent of voters said abortion should be legal under any circumstance, 44 percent said it should be legal under certain circumstances and only 15 percent said it should be illegal under all circumstances.

Illiatovitch-Goldman and Bodurtha both said numerous people have been open to talking to them about the issue. However, Illiatovitch-Goldman said there had been some negative comments directed at them, adding that “one of our volunteers was told that we should all close our legs.”

While Illiatovitch-Goldman said she does not know why Rauner flipped his position on the subject, she suspected that pressure from social conservatives and his need for their support in the upcoming election may have acted as a motivator.

“Like so many of our other billionaire leaders at the moment, I don’t trust him one way or the other,” Illiatovitch-Goldman said. “All I can do is come out here and [encourage people to sign] our petition from Planned Parenthood Illinois.”

Demonstrators were outside the Thompson Center for eight hours, 7 a.m.–3 p.m., and were able to obtain more than 500 signatures, according to the group’s Twitter page.

A Rauner spokesperson did not reply to request for comment as of press time.

“If there’s one thing that progressives have learned from [the 2016] election is that we can’t wait for the bad thing to happen to start responding,” Illiatovitch-Goldman said. “Regardless of Roe v. Wade, Illinois should be protecting its citizens.”


State Sen. Mae Beavers (R), an outspoken opponent of abortion rights and transgender rights, was an early supporter of President Trump and his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) on Saturday announced her candidacy for governor while embracing the rhetoric President Trump deployed in his presidential campaign.

Beavers repeated the refrain “Tennessee first” in a speech to kick off her gubernatorial run.

Beavers, one of the most outspoken and controversial members of the Tennessee legislature, has been extremely unreceptive to criticism, once suggesting the enforcement of a state law that allows the imprisonment of anyone who “disrespects a legislator.”

Beavers announced her candidacy for governor in front of hometown supporters, saying she has “consistently championed the same conservative values and principles.”

“I have not wavered one inch,” Beavers said.

The event was attended both by the lawmaker’s supporters and detractors.

Chris McCarthy, who was among those protesting, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Beavers would not represent all Tennesseans. “We think she’s the epitome of what is wrong with the Tennessee Legislature with divisive [speech], polarization, and her inability to listen to her constituents,” McCarthy said.

Beavers was an early supporter of Trump, and, like the president, she has made many inflammatory statements and dubious claims. Beavers, like Trump, promoted the “birther” conspiracy theory created to delegitimize President Obama.

Muslims have long been one of Beavers’ targets, and she supported Trump’s call for a ban on all Muslim immigrants. She has claimed that Muslims are “infiltrating churches,” later admitting the information was not “entirely accurate.”

Beavers said in a statement before her announcement that she would make the “terrorist threat from radical Islam” a focus of her campaign, claiming in her announcement that Tennessee “communities have been made unsafe” because of “unvetted refugees.” Tennessee was the first state to file a lawsuit attempting to block the federal government from resettling refugees in the state.

“Terrorism is a threat right here at home,” Beavers said. “I intend to make safety and security a centerpiece of my campaign.”

Beavers pledged during her announcement that she would promote the same policies she championed during her 23 years as a state legislator.

Beavers has sponsored legislation to characterize pornography as a “public health crisis,” sponsored bills to reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, sought to impose an unconstitutional ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, pushed to require pregnant people to complete a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion, and backed a measure to force people to undergo an ultrasound prior to abortion care.

She also wants to restrict the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. “That safety and security extends to making sure that men are not allowed into the bathrooms and locker rooms of little girls,” Beavers said.

Beavers sponsored a bill in the 2017 legislative session that would require students in public schools and public colleges to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to people of the sex indicated on the students’ original birth certificates. The bill failed to pass.

Two other Republican candidates have entered the gubernatorial race: former state Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and business owner Bill Lee, reported the Tennessean.


Our vision for a healthy, thriving society—with access to and support for the health care we need—requires it.

Over the past several years, the country has seen a steady drumbeat of bad news out of state capitols when it comes to reproductive health and rights. That trend continued in 2017, as conservatives possessed historic control over state legislative chambers nationwide.

The good news: There’s now widespread recognition of the power of states and the need to channel resistance efforts toward reclaiming progressive control from the ground up. State leaders are pushing back against the Trump administration’s agenda on a variety of fronts, and women are at the center of these efforts. As progressives rebuild, and as debates that ought to be settled threaten to resurface, we must make sure that the voices of those most affected by anti-choice efforts are heard—and that reproductive autonomy continues to be a central tenet of the progressive agenda. As the director of the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) new Reproductive Rights Program, I’m committed to making this goal a reality.

Conservatives’ drive to roll back reproductive rights is nothing new. States have been laboratories for testing anti-abortion policies for decades. But since 2010, conservatives have accrued a historic number of state legislative majorities, and anti-abortion legislation is at a fever pitch. In 2017 alone, 1,257 provisionsrelated to reproductive health were introduced at the state level. And since 2010, state legislators have enacted more than 350 abortion restrictions across the country. Restrictions have included unnecessary clinic regulations intended to shut down providers, biased counseling requirements, mandatory delays before receiving care, and more.

This avalanche of abortion restrictions at the state level was no mistake. It was a calculated, purposeful strategy driven by national anti-abortion organizations capitalizing on well-funded conservative state legislators. When conservatives won back so many majorities in 2010, they were prepared to act—thanks to a years-long financial investment to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from huge donors like the Koch brothers. Republicans’ party platform has explicitly called for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, and they now control more than 30 governorships, the majority of state attorney general offices, and two-thirds of all state legislative chambers. The consequences are clear.

The effect of conservatives’ try-everything strategy extends well beyond the impact of the policies themselves. Even when abortion restrictions don’t pass, legislators learn from them. State lawmakers who push these restrictions gain real-time feedback on how to message them from their constituents, the press, and their colleagues. They learn who their legislative allies and opponents are—and how strongly they will or will not fight back. They also learn whether and how the media will cover their efforts, and they can gauge the public’s willingness to accept junk science and outrageous claims. Additionally, the sheer volume of abortion restrictions and the resulting media coverage contribute to a culture of abortion stigma.

And though the results are expensive and outrageous, state legislators who repeatedly introduce restrictive legislation learn how to better advance their anti-women agenda. They become part of a pipeline of elected officials who know how to enact these restrictions. In fact, some of Congress’ leading proponents of criminalizing abortion, like U.S. Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), began their careers pushing abortion restrictions in their own statehouses.

Meanwhile, progressive legislators have historically been under-resourced and under-supported, lacking training opportunities and access to the messaging and policy resources they need, even though public opinion—not to mention the medical community—is on our side. Seven in ten women and mencontinue to agree that Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, should not be overturned, and major medical organizations throughout the country continue to recognize that abortion is health care and ought to be treated as such.

So what can we do to address this gap?

The rebuilding of our state progressive infrastructure and the shoring up of our pipeline of progressive elected leaders must include explicit attention to and training around issues of reproductive health, rights, and justice. State lawmakers and leaders must boldly embrace and understand how crucial these issues are to their constituents’ well-being, and they must articulate how connected reproductive health, rights, and justice are to virtually every other part of the progressive platform. SiX’s new Reproductive Rights Program will prepare legislators for this task by helping them identify and articulate their own values around reproductive freedom, as they learn how to move the conversation beyond the four corners of their statehouse and into the hearts and minds of their communities and constituencies.

From the Stupak amendment during the 2010 health care reform fight, to the rights of D.C. residents, to ongoing debates among Beltway insiders, abortion is historically one of the first issues up for negotiation. Let’s learn from these mistakes and work to holistically incorporate issues of reproductive freedom as we invest in rebuilding our progressive movement from the state and local level up. After all, our vision for a healthy, thriving society—with access to and support for the health care we need—requires it.


Western States Center

Oregon has achieved something that seems impossible in the Trump era: With one single piece of legislation, Oregon has protected abortion access, lifted a ban on abortion coverage, and ended restrictions on health coverage based on immigration status. How did the state achieve this? It wasn’t an easy road — but the journey may be helpful for others looking to advance reproductive health in their home states.

As the Gender Justice Program Director at the Western States Center, I know that on a federal level, the landscape for abortion rights looks bleak. The United States has a president who has vowed to appoint anti-abortion judges (who would overturn Roe v. Wade) and has said that women should be punished for having abortions. In the states, a tidal wave of medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion have been passed — 438 new restrictions since 2010 alone — and politicians are not letting up.

Yet despite these challenges, there’s a movement afoot to introduce legislation to advance a proactive policy agenda that strengthens reproductive health care access. In the first six months of 2017, legislators in 49 states and the District of Columbia have introduced 581 pieces of proactive legislation to advance access to reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion.

In some states, these bills face an uphill battle, and it might take years of building power or an electoral shift to see them made into law. But in Oregon, the Western States Center and our coalition partners did more than just dream big — we made our dream come true.

Western States Center

Any day now, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA). RHEA ensures that most Oregonians, regardless of income, citizenship status, gender identity, or type of insurance have access to the full range of preventive reproductive health services, including family planning, abortion, and postpartum care. No one should be forced to pay out of pocket and be pushed to the economic brink by having to pay for necessary care.

We refused to compromise our values or leave people behind.

The journey to this moment began in 2015, with a bold vision and a small but mighty group of advocates. Over time, the Western States Center helped build a diverse coalition united around shared values — like putting the communities most affected by reproductive oppression at the center of our work. At the heart of RHEA is a deep belief that no one should be denied health care just because they are low-income, or transgender, or undocumented.

To some, it might seem politically expedient to exclude certain communities in order to pass a “compromise” bill — but we refused to compromise our values or leave people behind.

View image on Twitter

Part of the success of the Western States Center and our coalition partners’ work can be attributed to the leadership of those living with the harms of reproductive inequity. Women, people of color, immigrants, and transgender and gender-nonconforming people played key roles in informing and executing our strategy.

The political challenges were real, but so was our resolve to stay together.

Leading with race helped us to confront racism and white supremacy. Doing so made our coalition stronger, helped to build our power, and ultimately contributed to getting the bill passed. It was hard work — lots of deep and difficult conversations, but we built relationships that will last a lifetime.

Our definition of success was clear from the start. Improving reproductive health equity in Oregon meant that we had to lift the ban on abortion coverage, so that low-income people could meaningfully access abortion care. It also meant that we had to include undocumented people, who for decades were unfairly singled out and denied health insurance. The political challenges were real, but so was our resolve to stay together.

Western States Center

And we learned something amazing: When you ask for what you want, and refuse to let others drive a wedge to privilege one community over another, you just might win.

My advice for others who have a bold vision for proactive policy in your state? Dream big. Define success by sticking together and seizing on the opportunity to envision, challenge, and fight for reproductive freedom. Ask your communities what they want and need. Confront the dynamics of race and gender within activist spaces. And keep fighting, because the moment requires us to rise up and fight for our values and the world we want to live in.

What’s next for Oregon? Now that we’ve won, we’ll have to fight to keep and effectively implement RHEA. If the attempts by congressional leadership and Trump to repeal Obamacare teach us anything, it’s that we must be ever-vigilant. There are always those who will want to tear down good policies for political points or personal gain.

And our proactive work continues. The Western States Center’s vision for health equity in Oregon is a future where all in our state can get the health care they need and where our families can thrive.

We’ll keep working until we get there, but in the meantime, I’m taking a moment to celebrate this win.


Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Wednesday that the state is appealing a federal judge’s ruling declaring parts of the law unconstitutional.

The 2014 law allowed a district attorney to question the girl and call witnesses to assess her maturity. It also allowed the judge to appoint a representative for the fetus.

Marshall argued the proceedings are confidential and, contrary to the judge’s ruling, did not violate privacy rights.

Under the law, a prosecutor appealed a judge’s decision to allow a 12-year girl to have an abortion after being impregnated by a relative. A state appellate court allowed the abortion.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/08/09/us/ap-us-abortion-law-alabama.html

maternal ward
 ‘This is not just a political argument for me – it’s quite personal.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Marqwetta Johnson, a 42-year-old mother of seven, died in Oklahoma due to complications from ectopic pregnancy. Krystine Toledo-Gonzalez, a nurse in Georgia, passed away from a staph infection brought on by childbirth. Amy Bartlett, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone national park, died after giving birth to her third child from a heart condition brought on by pregnancy.

These women aren’t statistics or sad stories – they were people with lives and families and dreams. People who were loved and who are missed. These women’s names have been running through my mind for some time, since ProPublica published its incredible investigative project on maternal mortality in the United States.

But as Democratic leaders continue on their ill-advised abandonment of reproductive rights as a core issue for the party, these women’s faces and stories do more than just come to me occasionally. I cannot stop thinking about them, and about how easily those in positions of power forget.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, shameful proof of how little we value women’s lives and health: women in the US are more than three times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than Canadian women, and six times as likely to die as Scandinavian women.

Given this reality, given the risk associated with being pregnant and childbirth – how can we possibly expect women to take it on involuntarily? Yes, access to abortion is about “choice” and our bodies; and as Lindy West pointed out so eloquently in the New York Times, “there is no economic equality without the ability to terminate a pregnancy”. But there’s also something more fundamental at stake – our ability to live.

Everyone should be able to decide whether to put their health and lives at risk through pregnancy. Laws that limit access to birth control, emergency contraception and abortion make that impossible.

So when Democrats say that abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test for the party, what they are really saying is that women’s ability to choose life for themselves is up for debate. That it’s expendable. More horrifically, that we’re expendable.

Admittedly, this is not just a political argument for me – it’s quite personal. As a mother who nearly died in childbirth, I know how terrifying this all is and how real. I know what it’s like to be lying on a gurney telling your husband what you want him to say to your family should the worst happen. I remember the fear like it happened yesterday instead of nearly seven years ago.

Though people have assumed that having a baby so early and so small – born at 28 weeks and 2lbs – changed my mind or made me less sure about abortion rights, the truth is that it made me more pro-choice than ever. Having a child is not all glowing skin and beautiful round bellies – it is pain, blood and risk. It is not for the faint of heart and it should never be something forced on women and girls.

I know that Democrats are shaken, that Trump’s presidential win has them scrambling to regain power at all costs. But their are some costs that are too high; these women’s stories and names and faces should be a reminder of that.