Amanda Mellet was told the child she was carrying would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

3-dec-2

THE GOVERNMENT HAS offered a woman €30,000 in compensation because she was forced to travel abroad to have an abortion.

Amanda Mellet was 21 weeks pregnant in 2011 when she was told the foetus had congenital defects meaning it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Mellet chose to travel to the UK to have a termination, staying there for only 12 hours because that was all she could afford.

In June, the UN’s Human Rights Commission ruled that Ireland had subjected Mellet to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” because of its laws against abortion.

It found that the State was obliged to provide compensation to Mellet, who has spoken previously about the “heartbreaking” loss she felt losing the child she named Aoife.

Source: SineadOCarrollTJ/YouTube

Minister for Health Simon Harris met with Mellet and her husband yesterday evening to outline Ireland’s response to the UN ruling.

Harris has confirmed today that the State has offered her “an ex gratia sum of €30,000″.

An ex gratia payment describes a payment made that is not legally obligated.

Harris also said that he will direct the HSE to ensure that Mellet has access to “all appropriate psychological services.”

The UN had also told Ireland it was obliged to provide Mellet with psychological treatment.

Ireland has until next Tuesday to respond to the UN committee and detail the steps it intends to take to ensure it is complaint under human rights law.

In his statement, Harris says that Ireland’s response to the committee will outline the constitutional protection of the unborn under Irish law and the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly to consider whether this should be changed.

The Health Minister previously outlined his view that his is in favour of a referendum so that people who have never voted on the Eighth Amendment have an opportunity to do so.

The minister also said that he found Mellet’s particular case “deeply upsetting”.

Health Minister Simon Harris met with Amanda Mellet and her husband yesterday evening.

In a statement this afternoon, Mellet said that the minister offered her a personal apology and that she is “immensely grateful”:

I am immensely grateful to Minister Harris for his personal apology to me last night and offer of compensation and counselling. It goes a long way towards closure for what was the most painful chapter of my life.I am hopeful that ensuring the legal change outlined by the UN Committee will now be the government’s next step

“I personally will not feel able to move on while knowing that other women continue to have to leave this country to access reproductive health services,” she added.

Heartened

Amnesty International has welcomed the offer made to Mellet saying that it showed the government “accepted the UN committee’s findings”.

, Leah Hoctor, Centre for Reproductive Rights and Katrine Thomasen, legal

“This response acknowledges the harm caused to women by the current law,”said Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman.

The government must now comply with the committee’s ruling that Ireland reform its laws to ensure that no woman or girl will ever face similar human rights violations.

“We have tentatively welcomed the Citizens’ Assembly process,” he added.

The Centre for Reproductive Rights has represented Mellet as part of her case and has described the government’s offer as “a symbolic step”.

“The government’s promise of compensation to Ms Mellet is a hugely important and symbolic step towards recognising the pain she suffered,” said Europe director at the centre Leah Hoctor.

“Women’s health and well-being are put in jeopardy when they have to travel to another country for abortion services,” she added.

Hoctor has also said that the government must “repair the wrongs” Hoctor experienced by “ensuring effective law reform takes place”.

TFMR Ireland, a group that works with people bereaved by fatal foetal anomalies, has welcomed Harris’ apology and compensation offer but criticised the timeframe being set aside to consider to recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.

“There is no appreciation of the urgency with which this solution is required by all of the women and their families who continue to suffer these tragedies,” said TMFR Ireland’s Gerry Edwards.

http://www.thejournal.ie/amanda-mellet-compensation-3111497-Nov2016/

Source: The Journal

1-dec

Lawsuits in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina include one against 20-week ban on abortions, a challenge that could have national repercussions

Reproductive rights advocates announced a significant slate of challenges to anti-abortion laws on Wednesday, taking aim at major restrictions in three states which advocates say are unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group which argued a landmark abortion case earlier this year, filed three lawsuits in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina. In Missouri, the groups will challenge a pair of abortion restrictions that have reduced the number of abortion providers to just one. They are taking aim at a similar clinic restriction in Alaska. In North Carolina, they will mount a challenge to a 20-week ban on abortion that has some of the nation’s strictest exceptions.

The two Missouri restrictions are highly similar to laws in Texas that the US supreme court struck down in June. They require abortions to be performed in expensive, hospital-like facilities and require abortion providers to have certain professional relationships with a local hospital.

The supreme court ruled that such restrictions served no medical purpose and were unconstitutional. But similar restrictions remain on the books in several states. In Missouri, where 1.2 million women of reproductive age live, the laws have forced two Planned Parenthood clinics, in Columbia and Kansas City, to stop providing abortions in recent years. The only remaining clinic is located in St Louis, forcing many Missouri women seeking an abortion to travel long distances.

“Because of laws like the ones we are challenging today, for too many women across our country the constitutional right to have an abortion is more theoretical than real,” said Jennifer Dalven, the director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

But it is the North Carolina challenge that may have the bigger impact on abortion rights nationwide. This is only the second time reproductive rights advocates have challenged a 20-week ban on abortion in federal court – potentially setting the table for these restrictions to go before the supreme court.

North Carolina’s law bans abortions after 20 weeks except in a medical emergency where a woman’s condition is so grave that she requires an abortion immediately. That is stricter than other 20-week bans, which have health exceptions but don’t require there to be a medical emergency.

The bill defines medical emergency as a condition which “so complicates the medical condition of the pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” not including mental health.

In their lawsuit, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that the language essentially forces women having an abortion for health reasons to wait until she becomes gravely ill.

Laws banning abortion several weeks before a fetus is viable outside the womb are increasingly common. Across the country, more than a dozen states ban abortion two weeks before viability on the medically dubious grounds that the fetus can feel pain.

But despite the fact that Roe v Wade prohibits states from banning abortion before the point of viability, most of those laws have not faced a legal challenge. Only Arizona’s 20-week ban, passed in 2012 and struck down permanently over the next two years, was ever the subject of a legal battle in federal court.

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The challenge is especially significant now that Donald Trump has been elected president. Trump, in a wholesale embrace of the anti-abortion movement’s top priorities, has promised to sign into law a nationwide ban on abortion at 20 weeks.

One reason is that very few abortion providers have standing for such a challenge. “To challenge these laws, you would have to be actually doing abortions after 20 weeks,” said Priscilla Smith, an abortion rights advocate and a senior fellow at Yale law school. “And there are just so few states where you can obtain abortions at that stage of pregnancy. Despite the anti-abortion world’s focus on post-20-week abortions, they’re very rare.”

But another reason may be that reproductive rights advocates have been hesitant to launch a lawsuit that could reach the supreme court. In the past several decades, many such legal challenges have resulted in the supreme court chipping away at abortion rights.

That changed this summer, when the court ruled 5-to-3 to strike down a set of harsh Texas abortion restrictions. The ruling prohibited states from enacting abortion restrictions based on medically questionable arguments about protecting women’s health. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often skeptical of abortion rights, joined the majority.

With Trump potentially empowered to shift the balance of the court rightward, Smith said, reproductive rights advocates are probably facing the friendliest bench possible under the new president.

Courts have struck down early bans on abortion before, including an Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks and a North Dakota law banning abortion at six weeks – before many women realize they are pregnant. In defense of 20-week bans, abortion foes commonly argue that fetuses at that stage of development will feel pain during the procedure. But the evidence is slim. While select studies have found evidence for this, the most recent systematic review of studies on this topic concluded that the fetal nervous system is not developed enough to feel pain until the third trimester.

Still, bans on abortion at 20 weeks occupy fraught emotional territory. Public support for abortion restrictions grows with gestational age, and a substantial portion of Americans are ambivalent or opposed to abortion rights in the second trimester.

Anti-abortion activists place an emphasis on these cases, even though they account for only 1% to 2% of all abortions in the US. Abortion rights advocates argue that many women obtaining later abortions are doing so for health reasons or after discovering a severe or fatal fetal anomaly – although the evidence suggests these are not the majority of cases.

On Wednesday, representatives for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights said the three lawsuits were the beginning of a spate of legal challenges the groups would mount jointly.

“We are going to fight back state by state and law by law until every person has the right to pursue the life they want,” said Dr Raegan McDonald-Mosley, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/01/planned-parenthood-aclu-challenge-abortion-ban

Source: The Guardian

4-nov

The Zika outbreak has led to calls for Latin American countries to loosen their strict abortion laws and make contraceptives more readily available.

The Zika virus outbreak and its probable association with microcephaly in newborns are prompting calls to loosen Latin America’s strict abortion laws and make birth control more readily available.

Abortion is fully criminalized in six countries in the region. In El Salvador, for instance, women who have abortions can face prison. In many other countries, including Brazil and Colombia, abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, incest or fetal impairment.

As Zika raises anxieties about babies born with significant medical problems, some physicians and reproductive health advocates think the virus should create another legal exception for abortion.

Even though abortion is outlawed in much of Latin America, women still seek it out at legal and physical risk. In fact, 13 percent of maternal deaths (the fourth highest cause) in the region can be attributed to unsafe abortions.

Concern about Zika could lead to real change for reproductive health for millions of women in the region. But this can happen only if the expansion of abortion and contraception is based on human rights and reproductive health equity, not driven primarily by fears of defective babies.

Abortion is restricted in most of Latin America

Abortion is fully criminalized, with no exceptions, in El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua and Suriname. In El Salvador, 30 to 40 women are serving prison sentences for seeking abortions.

In many other countries, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, abortion is permitted under certain circumstances.

In Brazil, for instance, abortion has been allowed since 1940 in instances of rape or endangerment to the woman. Women who seek abortions outside these exceptions and the physicians who perform the procedure can be imprisoned.

In 2012, Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld anencephaly (the absence of parts of the brain and skull in the fetus) as a justifiable condition for the termination of a pregnancy, creating a new exception.

Health officials in Brazil have suggested that women avoid pregnancy until the Zika crisis is over. While Brazilian women are using contraception at a slowly increasing rate, up to 81 percent in 2006 from 78 percent in 1996, there are significant class and regional divides when it comes to access.

A member of ‘Miles,’ an NGO supporting sexual and reproductive rights, shows pins that read ‘I support the abortion decision’ at their headquarters in Santiago.

In 2006, Colombia’s Constitutional Court issued Decision C-355, guaranteeing three health exceptions for abortion: when the woman’s health is endangered, when serious malformations make the fetus unviable or when the pregnancy has resulted from criminal acts such as rape or incest. The decision was based, in part, on action from two groups called Women’s Link Worldwide and La Mesa.

Now that Zika is spreading in Colombia, affecting as many as 6,300 pregnant women, some physicians and women’s health advocates are eyeing the possibility of another exception.

While that possibility is debated, officials are urging women of childbearing age to avoid pregnancy, a suggestion as problematic as it is unrealistic. Colombia has high levels of unplanned pregnancy, and birth control is expensive.

El Salvador, Ecuador and Jamaica have made similar calls for women to delay pregnancy.

Why is access to birth control and abortion so restricted?

Up to one-half of sexually active women in Latin America have an unmet need for contraceptionUp to 58 percent of pregnancies in Latin America are unintended (compared to 45 percent in the United States).

Many factors explain why birth control is out of reach for so many Latin American women. Cost can be a significant barrier to access, but it’s not the only one.

The Catholic Church and evangelical religions are stalwart opponents to abortion and contraception. Even when there is growing public support of birth control and abortion, legislatures have been exceedingly slow to enact change.

 Why are mothers in El Salvador being charged with homicide or manslaughter after losing a child? Dateline investigates the country’s extreme anti-abortion laws and finds local women fighting to have their cases heard.

For instance, in the mid-2000s, then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sought to expand abortion in Brazil, casting it as an important public health issue. Despite rising public support, he could not obtain enough support from his own left-wing Worker’s Party (PT) to change existing law.

Judicial interpretation frequently invokes moral law about protecting the right to life from conception. For example, both Argentina’s Civil Code and Brazil’s Penal Code and Constitution uphold that life commences at conception. This has been invoked in a range of abortion cases.

Finally, mainstream media coverage of abortion tends to be negative and reflects patriarchal values around motherhood and reproduction.

These obstacles are why women’s rights groups and reproductive health advocates, like those who argued for exceptions in Colombia, have strategically used harm reduction and exception rationales to open wedges in ironclad abortion policies.

Where is abortion legal in Latin America?

Abortion is legal and accessible in just a few places in Latin America.

In 1979, Cuba fully legalized abortion and made it available as part of overall health services.

In 1995, Guyana allowed women to obtain abortions on request in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. After that, abortion is available under certain circumstances.

In 2007, following campaigns that involved women’s groups, supportive legislators and NGOs, Mexico City bucked national policy and decriminalized abortion in the first trimester. The decision was based on human rights, reproductive health and even sympathetic theological arguments.

Uruguayan senators vote 17 to 14 in favor of a bill to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in Montevideo.

In 2012, Uruguay made abortion available upon request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, following a five-day period of reflection for the woman considering termination. Later-term abortions are permitted in instances of rape and when a women’s health is endangered.

The seeds for this change were planted in the mid-2000s with the implementation of a “harm reduction model,” which allowed women to induce abortions using drugs like Mifeprex. Although this law depended on the logic of health exception, it was passed amid increasing emphasis on health equity. Since its passage, maternal deaths due to abortion have decreased markedly in the country. Uruguay now has the third lowest maternal death rate in the Americas after Canada and the United States.

Not surprisingly, contraception also is more accessible and accepted in countries where abortion laws are less restrictive. For example, a 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that only five percent of people in Uruguay believe contraception is morally wrong, compared to 45 percent in El Salvador.

Underground abortions are a major public health problem

Zika is a public emergency in Latin America, forcing nations to devote resources to halting its continued spread. But unsafe abortion is another public health crisis the region faces.

Latin America has the highest incidence of unsafe abortion in the world, resulting in approximately 1,100 maternal deaths per year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, of the 4.4 million abortions performed in all of Latin America in 2008, 95 percent were unsafe. About 760,000 women are hospitalized for complications from these substandard procedures each year.

Many of the women harmed by lack of access to abortion are indigenous, low-income or live in rural areas. They may not have money nor the legal resources to obtain abortions in private clinics or to make a case for an exception based on rape or incest.

Indeed, 1.6 million women are raped each year in Latin America, making access to emergency contraception and abortion all the more critical.

The Zika outbreak has the potential to promote change in abortion and birth control policies across Latin America. Yet these reproductive health options should not be framed simply as solutions to the latest health crisis or the specter of babies with deformities. Women need contraception and access to safe, legal abortion whether they are living in an area where Zika is active, or not.

Following the lead of Uruguay and Mexico City, framing abortion and contraception in terms of human rights and reproductive health equity could help expand access to these critical services for millions of women.
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/dateline/article/2016/11/04/zika-and-abortion-will-virus-prompt-latin-america-rethink-abortion-and-birth

Source: SBS

3rd-nov-post

Women from Northern Ireland who seek abortion are “second-class citizens”, the Supreme Court has been told.

On Wednesday, the court heard a legal challenge brought by a mother and daughter who want women from Northern Ireland to be allowed access to NHS-funded abortion care in England.

Women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to free NHS abortions in England.

Judgement in the case has been reserved until a later date.

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

‘Desperate and stressful practices’

The case at the centre of the hearing was originally brought in 2014 by a young woman, A, and her mother, B.

The young woman was 15 when she and her mother travelled to Manchester to have an abortion, at a reported cost of £900.

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), last year 833 women were recorded as having travelled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales for abortion care.

Analysis: Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent

If A succeeds it could open the way for women from Northern Ireland to be permitted abortions on the NHS in England.

She argues that the Secretary of State for Health failed to discharge his duty under section three of the NHS Act 2006 to “meet all reasonable requirements” in England for services – including abortion.

A also argues that her human rights under Article 8 and Article 12 of European Convention of Human Rights, have been breached and she has been discriminated against – by reason of being treated differently from other women in England.

However, the fact that abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland – save in exceptional circumstances – remains a major obstacle.

Their challenge against a ruling that prevents women from Northern Ireland having free NHS abortions in England was unsuccessful at the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but they were granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In court, a lawyer for the two women said that women in A’s position “find themselves in desperate and stressful practices and become second-class citizens in abortion”.

He added that B said it was “more stressful, humiliating and traumatic for a 15-year-old girl than it needs to be”.

Lady Hale, the deputy president of the Supreme Court, told the women’s lawyers that she was far more interested in the human rights arguments in the case than the NHS Act arguments.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-37837283

Source: BBC

 

2nd-november

Despite numerous protests, the Northern Ireland assembly has refused to relax abortion legislation. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Teenager is taking NHS to supreme court over its refusal to fund abortions for woman from Northern Ireland

Northern Irish teenager who as a fifteen year old had to go to England to terminate a pregnancy, is challenging the NHS’s refusal to fund abortions for women from the region in the supreme court on Wednesday.

The health service has so far refused to pay for abortions for women from Northern Ireland who travel to England for terminations.

The girl, identified as “A”, and her mother are appealing to the supreme court to force the NHS to fund abortions. Their lawyers have described the refusal to financially help women from Northern Ireland who are in crisis pregnancies as “perverse and unlawful”.

Abortion is only available in Northern Ireland’s hospitals when there is a direct threat to the mother’s life if the pregnancy continues. In all other cases abortion is illegal.

Last November, a high court judge ruled that, as it stands, Northern Ireland’s abortion laws violate the rights of women and girls in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or where a pregnancy is the result of a sexual crime.

An estimated 2,000 women travel to English hospitals and clinics from Northern Ireland every year to have terminations. All of these women have to raise money to go to private clinics in England for abortions.

There is strong opposition to liberalising the province’s strict anti-abortion laws across the floor of the Northern Ireland assembly. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, and a bid to ease the country’s termination laws to include cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and pregnancy via sexual crime was rejected earlier this year.

In the supreme court on Wednesday judges will be told that in 2012, then 15-year old “A travelled to Manchester from Northern Ireland with her mother (B), where she paid £600 for an abortion, on top of £300 in travel costs.

They received charitable assistance from the Abortion Support Network in the sum of £400 without which they could not have afforded the treatment. A and B have since argued in the high court and court of appeal that the cost of the treatment should have been free for them as UK citizens, and that by not enacting this change, Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, has failed in his duty to make NHS procedures reasonably available.

Angela Jackman, a partner at law firm Simpson Millar, has been representing A & B throughout the legal process.

Jackman said: “For women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant and seek a termination, the status quo is almost unbearable. I believe the legal arguments of the secretary of State are perverse and contrary to its international obligations. Many women face the choice between an unlawful termination using dangerous and illegal pills, with the prospect of prosecution to follow, or a costly journey to England where they must pay privately for an abortion. For many women, those costs are prohibitive.”

She continued: “This is the end of a long and significant domestic journey. I am pleased that the issue is finally being given due consideration by the supreme court, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.”

The supreme court has recently granted six national charities the right to intervene in the A and B case.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the Family Planning Association, Alliance for Choice, Abortion Support Network, Birthright and the British Humanist Association have been granted permission to provide their perspectives on the issue in the supreme cCourt hearing.

Jackman added: “I am pleased that the court has permitted these six charities to provide submissions in this case. Through their efforts in providing advice and assistance to women like ‘A’, and campaigning for the reproductive choices of women, these charities can offer invaluable insight into the reality of the situation for the court’s consideration.”

The British Humanist Association’s director of public affairs and policy, Pavan Dhaliwal, said denying women from Northern Ireland in crisis pregnancies support was putting their lives at risk.

“Our government’s stance in refusing women from Northern Ireland safe and legal abortion on the NHS is shameful and we believe it is a breach of human rights laws. The supreme court judges have an opportunity to rectify a situation which currently causes undue distress to hundreds of women and leaves many more with no choice but to buy illegal abortion pills online,” he said.

The case will concern A and B versus the secretary of state for health. The arguments will be heard in front of five judges at the one-day hearing.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/02/northern-ireland-nhs-abortions-supreme-court-law

Source: The Guardian

If you have been following my recent posts, you know I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set to kick off on 23 July 2013 in New York City and San Francisco.  I discussed this summer’s action with a number of people I respect, and there is a divide in the abortion rights community on whether or not it is wise to embark on this action.  I did not reach the decision to support and join with the Riders without giving the decision due diligence; nor, did I neglect to consider the multiple outcomes of the action.

When facing a dichotomous debate among two sides of the community, two camps who should be working together toward common goals, I ask myself now as I did in the past, What Would Dad Do?  Would he shrink back into the shadows, rely solely on private action and influence, or would he advocate, and actually engage in, direct action and response to those who tormented, stalked, and eventually killed him?  Obviously, we know the answer:  he did not back down!  As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I also cannot and will not back down.

Upon the 20th year after my dad’s murder by a Christian terrorist, as we face continued threat of violence, and as state after state passes draconian anti abortion legislation, I reflect not only on what my dad would do but also consider the words of Yeats:

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

Knowing I will be appalled by remaining silent, I resolved the vacillation by opting to support what I believe is the right course of action.  To that end, I co-authored a piece on the merits and need of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with one of its primary organizers Sunsara Taylor.  I want to share with you our recent missive so perhaps more of us will come together on the need for direct, vocal, and mass support our clinics, our doctors, and our rights

Abortion Rights Are At a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!

By Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
July 12, 2013

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio’s recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of “established conventional wisdom,” only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters,and matters tremendously.

It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively chose their destinies.

Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights andlauncha national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.

As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded by with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women’s rights face harshest threat.

However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.

Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.

First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.

Second, while it is true that a great many people – including many who support abortion rights – are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.

Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women’s equality but posture as defenders of “babies”; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.

If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.

A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn’t this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?

History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet, it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got “in your face” that broader public opinion and actions began to change.

We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table).When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.

Third, while court cases are important – even essential – it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a “mission from God” are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.

But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.

We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st Century’s Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.

Now is the time for courage, for truth telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco in July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love’s labor won.

To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)

David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws

No More Bullying Abortion Facilities

About ten years ago, I attended the funeral of Norma Stave, a good friend who, with her husband Carl, was the co-owner of two abortion clinics in Maryland.  Carl was the main physician who performed the abortions.  When I arrived at the church, Carl came up to me and asked at the last second if I would deliver a eulogy.  I had always been comfortable talking in front of audiences but this was a different animal.  Still, I was able to get through it, using my few minutes to praise Norma for her devotion to women in need.

Skip ahead a number of years.  Carl died shortly after Norma and their son, Todd, ultimately became the landlord for their two buildings.  About eight months ago, Todd’s clinic in Germantown, Maryland attracted national attention when they hired Doctor Lee Carhart, a physician who worked for the late George Tiller and who vowed to continue George’s work by offering late term abortions.

Victim of Anti-Abortion groups

Victim of Anti-Abortion groups

Soon thereafter, local anti-abortion advocates learned that Todd owned that building where Lee worked.  They quickly organized a number of protests, accomplished their goal of getting publicity in the local papers and have been a continual presence ever since.  Then, looking for another angle to get their names in the papers, they decided to crawl deeper into the gutter.  They learned where Todd’s 11 year old daughter was going to school and at a Back to School night, they stood outside the school with a banner that read “Please Stop Killing the Children” and the usual photos of aborted fetuses.   Then, these wackos actually put Todd’s picture, phone numbers and email addresses online and urged their followers to contact him with their “prayers.”  Todd was inundated with calls and emails.  Nice, huh?

But Todd decided to fight back.  He compiled a list of the people who were calling and emailing him and he sent that list out to 20 of his friends, urging them to call those people.  He told them to not argue with them, to just be polite and tell them that “the Stave family thanks you for your prayers.”  Well, those 20 friends passed on the info to their friends, and so on and so on and within two days they had 5,000 pro-choice folks making calls.  Interestingly, the calls and emails to Todd’s house came to an abrupt halt.

Hmmmmmm…Is Todd on to something here?

Abortion

Abortion Rights

I talked to Todd last night.  He tells me that he has actually established a group called “Voice of Choice” (www.VoChoice.org) which seeks to organize a “person to person counter campaign against anti-choice bullying.”  The people who volunteer are notified when a certain anti-abortion advocate is harassing a doctor and are given that person’s phone and/or email.  Then they start contacting that person.  Todd says they have successfully stopped the harassment in two cases already.

I have no doubt that there are some pro-choicers out there who might feel uncomfortable about stooping to the tactics normally used by the anti abortion folks.  Indeed, whether or not to use these kinds of aggressive tactics has been the subject of many conversations within the pro choice movement for years.  In fact, Todd told me that some national pro-choice groups have been reluctant to cooperate with his organization.

When I was in the movement, I always came down on the side of those who did not support stooping to their level.  I thought it was beneath us, that we had to take the high road.  And maybe I’m just getting old and cranky.  But now I say screw it.  As long as it’s legal, go get the bastards, Todd!