A farewell of sorts

As you may have noticed, recently I’ve been involved with an exciting new project. I’ve teamed up with Marysia of the Nonviolent Choice Directory to start All Our Lives. This project has been a long time coming. It started back in 2008, when Marysia and I shared our frustration that there was no longer any organization that advocated for contraception, sex education, and other vital needs without advocating for abortion as well.

Others, like LAMom and Cecilia Brown of PLAGAL gave their support, and we launched in March of this year.

We call ourselves a “reproductive peace” organization, which combines principles of the reproductive justice movement and the consistent life ethic. We reject the violence of abortion, and instead work for all women to have the power to make all nonviolent choices about their sexual and reproductive lives.

If that sounds interesting, please visit our web site and get involved. In particular, we’d love to have help getting the Nonviolent Choice Directory ported over to the new site.

This blog will stay up indefinitely — I have the server space, and it’s easy enough to maintain — but I have no plans to add to it. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented over the years; it’s meant a lot to me to know that there are other people out there who share some of my beliefs and frustrations. :) I hope to see you on the new site!

Guttmacher: Abortion has become more concentrated among poor women

The US may be a nation of unimaginable wealth, but its poorest women and children are made to live in quite another country, one of constrained resources and alternatives. And here are some of the real-life results:

The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008 […].

The growing concentration of abortion among women with incomes below the federal poverty line likely reflects a combination of factors. Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of women in the overall population who were poor increased by 25%. And a Guttmacher study published in the Fall of 2009 showed that the deep economic recession may also have played a role, as financial concerns led more women to want to delay childbearing or limit the number of children they have.

(Guttmacher Institute, Abortion Has Become More Concentrated Among Poor Women)

Not only are poor women less likely than more affluent women to be able to afford to raise a child without assistance, they are also less likely to be able to afford health care, including both prenatal/childbirth care and access to prescription contraception. One of the key reasons that women who use oral contraceptives sometimes miss pills (and are therefore more likely to become pregnant) is that they put off filling prescriptions for financial reasons.

We hope that the health care bill recently passed by Congress can help counteract these pressures on lower-income women.

(Crossposted to All Our Lives)

Donate for prenatal care in Nebraska

Last week, I posted about women in Nebraska who have lost public funding for their prenatal care due to immigration politics.  Fear and uncertainty are driving some of these women to consider abortion because they're not sure how they'll be able to bear and raise their children.  Now there is a way that you can help. All Our Lives has created a charity badge for donations to One World Community Health Centers, Inc., aka Indian-Chicano Health Center, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska.

If you wish, you may designate your gift specifically for prenatal care when you make your donation. Please donate if you can; if you can't, please help by spreading the word!

(Crossposted to All Our Lives)

Shared Sacrifice podcast shout-out

I got a shout-out on the February 5 episode of the Shared Sacrifice podcast. Much of the content of the podcast is drawn from a blog post Matt made last summer after the murder of George Tiller. He also referred to my first Shared Sacrifice article from last year, “A Primer on Pro-Life Progressivism”. Matt’s a self-identified pro-choicer, but he sees a lot of common ground with progressive pro-lifers and considers us to be vital to the future of the abortion debate:

“The only reasonable ground to have a debate about abortion is a progressive ground, where both those who are ardently in favor of reproductive rights and those who are concerned about the status of the unborn can come together and help — together — build a world that is truly, and universally, pro-life.”

Thanks, Matt!

Secular, pro-life, sex ed

Secular Prolife has a new project under way: a secular, pro-life sex ed program. For more information or to participate, probably the best thing to do is to join their Facebook group.

I keep meaning to post about Secular Prolife. It’s an organization open to nonbelievers, as well as to religious believers who see the value in arguing against abortion from a secular point of view. It’s explicitly pro-sex-ed (obviously) and pro-contraception. The group doesn’t take an official stance on LGBT rights, but its founder, Kelsey Hazzard, is strongly in favor and it’s certainly an LGBT-friendly environment. It’s come a long way in a short time and has a lot more in store.

Waldman does it again

Who gains from the constant equation of opposition to abortion with opposition to family planning? Two groups come immediately to mind:

* The minority who are anti-family planning, because it increases their stature and influence (Jill Stanek must love being considered THE voice of pro-lifers).
* Abortion advocates who want to paint their opposition as extreme and out of touch.

Who are the biggest losers? The people who would benefit the most if the broadest possible coalition of pro-lifers and pro-choicers came together to support family planning and sex education.

Just something to keep in mind.

Maybe we need a movement to find common ground among people looking for common ground

Speaking of common ground, Marysia has braved the intensely hostile waters of RHRealityCheck with a post titled, What the First Wave of Feminism Can Teach the First Wave of Common Ground.

What I love about Marysia’s writing is that without compromising her own views, she takes the arguments of pro-choice feminists very seriously. She doesn’t dismiss them or lie about them. She doesn’t have to, because her convictions are solid. And frankly, pro-choice feminists are right about a lot of injustices facing women, and failing to understand that will be the downfall of the pro-life establishment.

And why DO birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

If I were to interview, oh, say, Amanda Marcotte and then pose the question, “Why do pro-choicers think all pro-lifers are misogynists and reject any notion of finding common ground with them?”, I think pro-choicers like Steven Waldman might get a bit miffed. He might protest that Marcotte doesn’t represent the views of most pro-choicers, no matter how loudly and how often she and her fans repeat those views. He might even take the opportunity to remind us how much he personally respects people on “both sides”* of the abortion debate.

So when he asks Jill Stanek why pro-lifers oppose contraception, he might first want to take a step back and question whether, in general, they do.

Several commenters pointed out that Stanek’s views are extreme and don’t represent most pro-lifers, but apparently Waldman either didn’t read the comments or ignored them, because he was beating the same drum again few days later.

Surely one of the first principles of “common ground”, which Waldman so endlessly claims to seek, is that one must honestly engage the people with whom one is trying to find commonality, and not resort to stereotypes and holding up extremists as examples.

* Scare quotes because I think the notion that there are two neat sides is preposterous.

Is Alexia Kelley anti-contraception?

I’ve been reading about the appointment of Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, as director of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the Department of Health and Human Services. (Quite a mouthful, that.) It is being repeated as fact all over the blogosphere that Kelley is opposed to contraception. However, all of these reports seem to trace back to just two sources. The first is an unsubstantiated claim in a Salon article by Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice.

What Greenberger and others will want to know is why the post, which includes oversight of the department’s faith-based grant-making in family planning, HIV and AIDS and in small-scale research into the effect of religion and spirituality on early sexual behavior, has gone to someone who both believes abortion should be illegal and opposes contraception. That’s right — Kelley’s group of self-described progressive Catholics takes a position held by only a small minority, that the Catholic church is right to prohibit birth control.

What’s Kissling’s evidence for this claim? I have no idea. She doesn’t say.

The other source is a TAPPED article in which Sarah Posner builds her entire case on one out-of-context quote.

Kelley and CACG have made clear they are committed to Catholic doctrine on abortion and birth control. CACG has supported the Pregnant Women’s Support Act, aimed at stigmatizing abortion and making it less accessible. In discussing legislation on reducing the need for abortion, Kelley has written that various pieces of legislation concerned with women’s health “are not all perfect; some include contraception — which the Church opposes.”

Well, yes. From the Catholic Church’s perspective, legislation which funds contraception or would require Catholic employers to provide insurance that includes contraception is imperfect. It’s impossible to tell from this truncated quote whether this is a perspective Kelley herself shares or whether she’s simply reporting a fact. And given Posner’s thorough misstatement of the goals of the Pregnant Women Support Act, I’m not going to assume that she’s interpreting Kelley’s statement correctly.

I checked CACG’s website and could find no mention of their stance on contraception, let alone Alexia Kelley’s. They do, however, link to the pro-contraception National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

I’m not saying Alexia Kelley is pro-contraception. I don’t know what her position is. I just don’t think most of the people criticizing her know either.

Is she serious?

There were maybe two quotes in this article about Obama’s “common ground” participants that didn’t make me want to scream. This wasn’t one of them.

Tiller’s death is a “massive setback” in the search for common ground, said Cristina Page, a New York City author and abortion rights advocate. “It’s sort of like having a family member murdered and then being asked to make nice with the assassin’s family. It’s unnatural.”

I understand that this is an emotional time. Nobody’s doing their best thinking when someone on “their side” has just been murdered. But does Cristina Page honestly believe that the kind of person who feels any kinship with murderers of abortion providers would sit down with pro-choice advocates in Barack Obama’s White House? Really?

I hate to break this to her, but the kind of person who feels any kinship with murderers of abortion providers wouldn’t even sit down with the kind of person who would meet with pro-choice advocates in Barack Obama’s White House.

Republicans and independents heavily favor contraception, sex ed

Opposition to contraception and support for abstinence-only sex ed are extreme minority positions, even among Republicans and Independents, according to a new survey by the National Women’s Law Center and the YWCA USA.* A couple of points:

* Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Republicans and Independents favor legislation that would make it easier for people at all income levels to obtain contraception, and 70 percent favor legislation that would help make birth control more affordable. More than 60 percent of fundamentalist/evangelical Protestants favor these proposals.

* Only 8 percent of Republicans and Independents think the government should support abstinence-only education. A strong majority of Independents (76%) and Republicans (62%) believe the government should support comprehensive sex education programs that include information about abstinence, as well as information about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

And yet for some reason, we’re still pretending in this country that pro-contraception and comprehensive sex ed policies are radical liberalism. If you’re a Republican who favors them, consider writing to your party’s leadership to ask them to represent you and the majority who believe as you do.

*The usual cautions about study design and sampling do apply, of course. I’ve written to ask for more information. These results are consistent with other polls I’ve seen, though.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but …

Last week, the White House announced its new plan to reduce the perceived need for abortion — as part of the expanded White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

I’m pleased to see President Obama following through on this campaign promise. All the same, I couldn’t help being disappointed. The word “women” was used exactly once in the announcement. Three out of the fifteen named council members are women.

I had hoped that the abortion-reduction program would be under Health and Human Services, or possibly a revived White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Basing the program there would have shown that President Obama understands that the problems driving women to abortion are not just personal, but systemic. A woman-centric abortion reduction program also would have made partners of women’s advocates and abortion opponents — two groups who should have so many of the same goals, but often end up in opposite camps due to our toxic abortion politics.

I worry that this move is more about placating religious people who are distressed by abortion than it is about actually ending it. I also worry about abortion reduction being stereotyped as solely a religious concern — like that isn’t enough of a problem already.

Platform meeting

I went to our local Democratic Platform meeting today. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the proposed abortion reduction plank, unfortunately. The way that the meetings are set up, everybody lists the issues they want to talk about, and then the issues are grouped into more general topics. Then, they pick the five or so topics that the most people want to talk about and split up into small groups to hash out the details. Abortion and related subjects fell under “women’s issues and LGBT issues”, but that topic didn’t make the cut. I ended up in the “restoring democracy and the rule of law” small group instead, which was the other subject I’d come to talk about anyway.

Participants were encouraged to submit a write-up of subjects that were important to them but that we didn’t have a chance to discuss in the meeting. The write-ups had to be handed in by the end of the meeting in order to be sent on to the campaign, so I quickly filled up the back of a flyer with ideas on abortion reduction. (I might wish in retrospect that I’d brought something to write with besides a purple pen, but that’s OK.) I wrote that all Democrats, pro-life and pro-choice, should be able to agree on reducing abortion not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but also by working to ensure that no woman feels compelled by financial and social pressures to have an abortion. I set out several concrete proposals, including:

* improved access to contraception, and funding for comprehensive sex education;
* direct financial aid for low-income mothers;
* improved parental leave; paid leave; encouraging fathers to take leave;
* subsidized child care for low-income women and students;
* guaranteed health care for pregnant women and children, including unborn children (to cover things like prenatal surgery);
* a public education program aimed at partners, parents, and peers of pregnant women, urging them to be supportive and not abandon the women in their lives;
* passage of the Kennedy-Brownback bill that would provide accurate information and support to families whose unborn child has been diagnosed with a genetic disease;
* passage of FFL’s bill which would establish a pilot program for initiatives aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students on college campuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember the details of this.

There are other things I wish I’d remembered, such as health care for postpartum moms (but then, universal health care should be a Democratic position anyway) and economic incentives for job-sharing, flex time, and other family-friendly employment arrangements.

Finally, I urged whoever might be reading to recognize the diversity of opinions on abortion within the Democratic Party, and not to make the mistake of stereotyping opponents of abortion as conservative, anti-woman, religious zealots.

I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I look at it this way; we may not make any progress with grassroots efforts (at least, not right away), but we’ll never make any progress without them.

(Sorry about the incomplete version of this post that hit the feeds; I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.)