Category Archives: Contraception

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!

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.

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.

Falling down on the job

I’ve been writing up a list of ideas about abortion reduction to send to the Obama transition team, and unfortunately there are a few holes in my list.

I want to write “Work with pro-life, pro-contraception groups to maximize support for your prevention policies,” but I can’t. There essentially aren’t any.

I want to write “There are people who agree with your agenda for reproductive justice in every way except that we view abortion as violence against a human being. Talk to them; they have ideas that people in your circle might not think of,” — it’s true, but who can I point to?

This came to mind again when I read all the hand-flapping about Planned Parenthood of Indiana offering gift certificates.

The network of 35 clinics across the state announced it is offering holiday vouchers for basic health care services “or the recipient’s choice of birth control method.”

The organization decided to offer the vouchers because so many people are uninsured or are putting off health care because of prohibitive costs, said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Nearly 800,000 Indiana residents don’t have health insurance, she said.

A few thoughts:

  • They’re not “gift certificates for abortions”, the way that many abortion opponents are breathlessly characterizing them. If you look at PP’s page, they’re not being marketed that way at all. They’re clearly meant for basic health care services and contraception. I actually agree with the PP spokesperson who says that although the vouchers can be used for abortions, she doesn’t think anyone would give them for that purpose. Whatever people’s political views might be, there aren’t a lot of people out there who celebrate abortion and would think of it as a fine holiday gift.
  • That said, someone will take a voucher that was given to them in the hope that they’d get necessary preventive health care, and use it to get an abortion. There’s no point telling ourselves otherwise.
  • All the blog posts I’ve seen about this (from “Planned Parenthood is selling gift certificates for abortions!” to “those Planned Parenthood-haters don’t want women to get health care!”) seem to be missing the bigger picture: that there are women for whom this might be the only way they can get a mammogram or a Pap smear. If I’m going to get outraged about something, I think it’ll be that, thanks.

I cordially invite pro-lifers who are outraged about this story to band together and start up their own clinics that provide reproductive health care and contraception, but not abortion. We have utterly, utterly fallen down on the job here.

Pro-life Dems should be proud

Forget about what we didn’t get, for a second. (Though I do want to talk about that in another post.) Look at what we did get. Look at what we did.

Here’s the Democratic platform statement on abortion from 2004:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Absent any pressure from pro-lifers, absent any push for abortion reduction, what would have changed about that statement? What would have been the motivation for change? I’d have expected a stronger statement of support for birth control, given the recent attacks on contraception, but that’s about it.

Here’s the statement from the draft platform for 2008:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

So, as you’d expect, there’s expanded language about contraception and sex ed, and that’s great. But that’s not all — look at what else has been added.

Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the platform is stronger on reproductive justice for women. Want to just mull that over for a second? I know I do.

We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.

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”.)

I see what you did there

Abortion Proposal Sets Condition on Aid

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control. [...]

In the proposal, obtained by The New York Times, the administration says it could cut off federal aid to individuals or entities that discriminate against people who object to abortion on the basis of “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The proposal defines abortion as follows: “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”

Of course, people who are opposed to birth control* want this so that they don’t have to provide emergency contraception or the pill. Why do I have the feeling we’re going to skip the pesky little step of actually demonstrating that EC and the pill prevent implantation, and just assume for the sake of this regulation that they do?

Nobody has ever accused this administration of making decisions based on evidence.

* I know people who are generally pro-birth-control but are wary of certain methods because of the perception that they prevent implantation. I also know that they’re not the ones driving this bus.

Rachel MacNair interview on Northern Spirit Radio

Via Rachel:

Because of the ads that Consistent Life and Friends Witness for a Prolife Peace Testimony ran in Friends Journal, I got an invitation to do a one-hour radio interview that is much more satisfying than usual. It was an abortion-defending Quaker professor and me who both got plenty of time to say our piece and to be calm and reasonable about it. This is a one-hour show, and it’s up on the web, information below. I thought some of you would be interested in listening in — there’s naturally a lot of consistent life ethic involved when any pro-life Quaker discusses abortion. Note also that comments and ratings will help to keep it visible so that others are more likely to listen in as well.

The program is Northern Spirit Radio‘s “Spirit in Action”, or you can go to the direct link here.