Archives for posts with tag: abortion

Amelia Long lives in Austin, Texas. She is a volunteer coordinator by day and a volunteer with her local abortion fund by night.

We’re 30 days into the nationwide 40 Days for Life protest, which means abortion clinic workers still have 10 more days of protesters praying on their sidewalks and offering clients “sidewalk counseling” as they approach clinic buildings.

Meanwhile, the awesome CLPP (Civil Liberties and Public Policy) conference is going on this weekend at Hampshire College – and being liveblogged at Feministing and Amplify.  CLPP is a national organization for repro rights and repro justice movement-building.

Abortion rights, at the state level, continue to face legislative death-by-a-thousand-cuts:

  • In Iowa, Ohio, AlabamaIdahoOklahoma, Missouri and probably even more states, lawmakers moved forward with bills banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on claims that a fetus can feel pain at that stage of development. Nebraska and North Carolina already ban abortions after 20 weeks, while 36 other states ban abortions after 24 weeks.
  • Idaho, Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri and Louisiana are trying to ban insurance plans covering abortion from inclusion in the state’s health exchange. End result: people in those states whose insurance is not covered by an employer would continue to pay for abortions out of their own pockets.  (For more on the issue, see Katherine Greenier’s article “Why Insurance Coverage for Abortion Matters” from RH Reality Check this week.)
  • But… Montana’s Democratic governor vetoed such a proposition, saying it violated the state’s constitution.
  • Last week, Arizona passed a law that not only made race- and sex-selective abortion a felony but also “allows the father of an aborted fetus – or, if the mother is a minor, the mother’s parents – to take legal action against the doctor or other health-care provider who performed the abortion.”
  • Arizona also now requires doctors to perform all abortions (surgical and medical) by defining the administration of abortion pills as “surgery.”  The bill also outlaws telemedicine in the case of abortion.

On the bright side of things, the racist anti-abortion billboard I petitioned against in Austin got taken down (coverage via How to Have Sex in Texas).  In its place is the “Pregnant? Scared?” campaign that was up there before.  I’m not really counting this as a victory, especially since the replacement billboard, as an advertisement for a crisis pregnancy center (a.k.a. fake abortion clinic) is still racist.  (See Akiba Solomon’s “Crisis Pregnancy Centers: One More Weapon Against Women of Color” last week on Colorlines.)

A new racist anti-African-American-abortion billboard in Chicago featured President Obama’s image and drew a rapid activist response.

I’ll leave you with some good listening for your weekend:  audio from a reproductive justice bloggers panel in New York (via Feministing).

This week in Mindblowingly Regressive Attacks on Your Reproductive Rights, South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard passed a statewide law mandating a veritable legislative obstacle course for any woman seeking an abortion. Women in the state will now be subjected to a three-day waiting period before they’re able to get an abortion — and they must also visit a crisis pregnancy center (which, by the way, are privately regulated facilities and thus under no legal obligation to keep your medical information confidential) and listen to a lecture about why abortion is evil. Really. Suddenly that old South Dakotan law that bars you from falling asleep in a cheese factory sounds relatively rational. Amanda Marcotte explains why this law is more than an attack on reproductive rights, but on individual privacy at large:

Republican state senator Al Novstrup claimed the bill is somehow protective of women, offering them a “second opinion,” which indicates not just his disrespect for religious freedom but his profound ignorance of options counseling typical to abortion clinics, especially Planned Parenthood, which runs the sole abortion clinic in the state. I don’t imagine he’d see it that way if the state required citizens to hear a “second opinion” about other private decisions based on personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Would Novstrup enjoy having to listen to a lecture from an atheist or Muslim group before joining a church, getting married or making plans for his own funeral? Why then is it appropriate to force women to listen to religious lectures before making a decision that involves their own religious beliefs about life?

In The New York Times, Kate Zernike reported good news and bad news for female professors at M.I.T. and beyond. The good? There are more of them, they’re ascending to more prestigious positions in greater numbers, and they’re winning more awards. But, says M.I.T. associate dean Hazel S. Sive, “Because things are so much better now, we can see an entirely new set of issues.” The situation described at many top universities speaks to the residual and harder-to-define effects of institutional sexism that linger long after equality has, ostenisbly, been “achieved.” Zernike notes:

[W]ith the emphasis on eliminating bias, women now say the assumption when they win important prizes or positions is that they did so because of their gender. Professors say that female undergraduates ask them how to answer male classmates who tell them they got into M.I.T. only because of affirmative action.

Finally, Akoto Ofori-Atta asked an important question in a must-read piece at The Root: “Is Hip-Hop Feminism Alive in 2011?” Ofori-Atta revisits the ideology of hip-hop feminism that writer Joan Morgan coined over a decade ago in her exquisitely titled book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost. Hip-hop feminists have always had to grapple with a rather difficult question: “How do women actively participate in a culture that seems to hate them so vehemently?” There are no easy answers, but Morgan has found that ambiguity both challenging and freeing:

The manifestoes of black feminism, while they helped me to understand the importance of articulating the language to combat oppression, didn’t give me the language to explore things that were not black and white, but things that were in the gray. And that gray is very much represented in hip-hop.

This weekend we’ll be returning to our beloved alma matter to attend the Visions in Feminism Conference. Let us know if you’ll be there too! We’ll report back next week with what we’ve learned.

Amelia Long lives in Austin, Texas. She is a volunteer coordinator by day and a volunteer with her local abortion fund by night.

Because of recent rightward shifts in political power, both federally and in my home state of Texas, staying up to date on women’s stuff in the news has become increasingly distressing.  More than once, I have found myself deleting the entire blog feed from RH Reality Check in my Google Reader after looking at a single headline.  As a feminist who cares a lot about access to birth control and safe, legal abortion, I feel stressed out that most of the people who govern me don’t understand women’s bodies, think we can’t make our own decisions, and feel they deserve to have a say in something that is a legal and private medical procedure.

So I stopped reading the news for a while.  But I couldn’t stop seeing this billboard every day on my commute:

[Billboard reads,   “The most dangerous place for some children is in the womb.”]

At first, I thought this smiling African-American boy was warning pregnant ladies not to forget their pre-natal vitamins or something.  Then I learned that his image is part of a nationwide anti-abortion media campaign which began last year with similar ads in Atlanta.  It is hard to summarize all the ways in which this campaign is completely messed up, so I’ll just quote from SisterSong’s October 2010 policy report on race, gender and abortion:

These stunning billboards attempted to use the history of medical mistrust in the African American community to accuse abortion providers of racism and genocide in a bizarre conspiracy theory. Not so coincidentally, they launched a misogynistic attack to shame-and-blame black women who choose abortion, alleging that we endanger the future of our children.

[For an excellent discussion of this issue, click through to Miriam Zoila Pérez’s article.]

Seeing this billboard always makes me mad, and last week I was already in a bad mood while driving downtown.  When I saw it this time, I reflexively threw up my middle finger and waved it around, swearing.

I immediately felt like an idiot for getting mad at a picture and hoped no one had seen me.  But then I thought, what if the woman in the next car did just see me giving the finger to a billboard?  Maybe she’ll wonder what the billboard is all about.  Maybe she’ll get mad too!

I realized that if other people could see me getting mad, they might join me in protest.  I decided to call the billboard company to complain and to pass along what I learned to my friends.  The next time I drove by, I took down the advertising company’s phone number listed on the billboard frame.

I called them and said I found their billboard racially offensive and insulting to women.  I asked them to log my complaint in their company’s records.  And I asked them whether they planned to take the billboard down any time soon.

Then I went online to tell other people how they could do what I did.  I created a petition at explaining why I think the billboard should come down.  My petition includes a phone script and contact information for Dinosaur Outdoor Advertising, the company that owns the billboard space.  It also includes contact information for Heroic Media, the Austin-based “pro-motherhood” (read:  anti-choice) organization behind the billboards.  I sent out an email telling about 20 friends about my petition and inviting them to call Dinosaur Outdoor.  Several of them did, and then they emailed, facebooked and tweeted about it, using’s helpful widgets. My petition got 100 signatures in just over 24 hours.

Seeing signatures come in from all over reminded me that so many people do support women and abortion rights. It also made me feel like people aren’t giving up on Texas as some black hole of anti-feminism – like they weren’t saying to themselves Why should I even click on this because how will the internet ever change anything about that terrible, backwards place. Complaining – and seeing that others agreed with me – made me feel a lot better about things.

It also had an impact. When I first called Dinosaur Outdoor, they told me there was no timeframe for the removal of the billboard.  When my friend called one day later, they said staff would be meeting to discuss the billboard and they’d make a decision in a few days. (If you want to check in with them and suggest they decide against the billboard, you can call Dinosaur at 512-272-8887.)

In light of this experience, here are my suggestions on how you can make change in your community:

Speak out.  If something sucks in your community, find out who has the power to change it and speak to him/her.  If you’re contacting a business or an elected official, find out how they log complaints and make sure yours gets counted.  And think strategically about how you can get what you want – people may not care deeply about feminism, but they care about profits/reputation/reelection.  Point out to them how they will lose money, standing in the community or votes if they continue to be anti-woman jerks.

Coordinate. Tell your friends what it was like to contact that business owner or elected official so they’ll know what to expect.  Give people a script and contact information.  Tweet, post on Facebook, blog, email your friends, make a video. You can also create an online petition like I did. This article at Socialbrite discusses pros and cons of nine different petition websites – you should be able to find something that works for you here.

Connect with local groups and organizations. You’re probably not the first person to get mad about this issue. Figure out who else is doing something about it and work together. When I emailed friends about my petition, I learned that NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is working to track locations of Heroic Media’s billboards across Texas using Google Maps. Kailey Vollinger, an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told me that allies in several states have rallied against these billboards. She says, “we hope to assist fellow Texans and advocates for choice in the same type of campaign.  We are currently updating our website with information about where these billboards are located – as well as how you can help defeat this racist anti-choice messaging campaign.”

Smart organizations like NARAL in Texas are increasingly crowdsourcing information and ideas through grassroots contacts.  Organizations can list crowdsourcing and other virtual volunteering opportunities through Sparked, a website where nonprofits post their “challenges” to an online volunteer community. (Hint:  even though they don’t show up on Sparked’s front page, you can search for “women’s issues” volunteer opportunities. You just have to log in first. However, at this time there are not a lot of feminist challenges listed.)

If you find a really great organization working on your issue, you can start your own fundraiser to benefit them. If you want to manage your fund-raising online, I recommend checking out websites like FirstGiving. They’ll allow you to list information about your fundraiser, post pictures and videos, collect donations and communicate with supporters.

Lastly, consider attending a conference. It’s energizing to meet new people who care about your issue and learn about how things are done in other places. I’m looking forward to attending the National Network of Abortion Funds’ National Organizing Summit this summer, and would love to make it to the annual Reproductive Justice Conference at Hampshire College sometime.

Are there any great grassroots opportunities where you live? Are you mad about something but don’t know what to do about it?  Have you made a feminist improvement in your community? Tell me in the comments. Let’s make this a conversation.

RJ Pettersen lives in Washington, D.C.

Justin Bieber’s beliefs about abortion are irrelevant, and Canonball has been right not to post about them.  All that is going to change now, though, because of a bit of contorted logic: Bieber’s comments are relevant precisely because they’re irrelevant.

Tempted though I may be, this post will not become a Bieber exegesis.  However, any interpreting I do will serve a greater purpose, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me for quoting a recent tweet:

The banality of most Bieber quotes—from his thoughts on haircuts, above, to the Grilled Cheese memories in his memoir—is one reason why his Rolling Stone interview was irresponsible at best. Who would expect a 16-year-old boy to have anything to say about abortion rights?

A lot of people, actually. Despite the irrelevance of Bieber’s beliefs on abortion—“I really don’t believe in abortion,” he said, as though he were discussing the Tooth Fairy—the attitudes that grant credence to boys’ ideas on abortion are worth discussing.

In January, Lindsay discussed her encounter with the March for Life, whose participants included boys 13 years old and younger.  Among these participants, I’m sure, were students who attended my all-boys, Catholic high school, visiting Washington to commemorate “Sanctity of Life Month.”  These boys were two or three years younger than Justin Bieber is now.

I never “marched on Washington” as my peers did.  I do, however, remember Sanctity of Life Month for the massive, shocking poster of a fetus that the brothers hung, throughout the month of January, just inside the school entrance.  I thought this was hilarious, and I fancied myself funny and precocious when I called it “the attack of the 50-foot fetus.”  But I wasn’t precocious—I was a 15-year-old boy.  And yet: at the behest of older men, boys younger than me were yelling about fetuses in Washington.

To return briefly to Bieber, one of the more interesting moments of his Rolling Stone interview is a situation in which he backtracks.  When asked about rape, he thinks out loud for a time.  But then Bieber shifts gears—for publicity reasons or because, presented with evidence, he’s added wrinkles to his argument.  “I guess I haven’t been in that position,” he said, “so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

If Justin Bieber can recognize the limits of his perspective, why did the brothers at my high school encourage 13-year-old boys to attack something they couldn’t possibly understand?  And why did they—men living among men—fight for something that they, too, were unable to judge?

The reason, I think, is belief.  This isn’t about religion, though.  It’s about patriarchy and the way men perpetuate it.  Men “keep it up” through faulty logic based not on evidence, but on the idea that they can’t be wrong.

I’m a privileged white male, so I do this, too.  In senior-year religion class, teachers at my high school screened a video of a live abortion.  My teacher suggested that, if we didn’t want to watch the video, we could put our heads down—which I did, of course.  What I didn’t do was think critically about the screening.  In fact, I assumed that the other religion teachers forced their students to watch the video.  But I didn’t ask my peers in other classes; beyond that, I didn’t ask my peers in my own class whether they watched the video and how it might have affected them.  None of that mattered, though.  I knew I was right, and I complained to my public school friends that my high school wanted to brainwash me.

That was belief.  When Justin Bieber tweets about his hair, though—that’s thought.  “Thinking about getting a haircut…hmmmmmmmmm.”  Bieber can think about hair because he knows about hair.  When presented with something that he can’t understand, though—as in his Rolling Stone interview—Bieber’s verb of choice becomes “believe.”

That’s not to say that Bieber weighed his words, but his word choice might reflect what’s going on in his head.  And what’s going on in his head could be patriarchal logic.  Belief is more often implied than directly stated—as it is in Texas Governor Rick Perry’s argument for abstinence, which Gail Collins quotes in her February 16 op-ed:

“Abstinence works,” said Governor Perry during a televised interview with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune.

“But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country,” Smith responded.

“It works,” insisted Perry.

“Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?” asked Smith.

“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” said Perry, doggedly.

This is what we (feminists) are up against. Perry also reveals what we (men) are up against: the temptation to make sweeping claims because, consciously or unconsciously, we know that people are unlikely to correct us.  That’s what I did when I assumed that the other teachers at my high school tried to brainwash their students.  It’s what I do here, to a degree—this isn’t a comprehensive study, so some of my arguments are deductive.

More important, it’s what Insane Clown Posse did in their recent song, “Miracles.” In an earlier draft of this post, I was more evasive about connecting myself to patriarchy—so evasive, in fact, that I planned to call it “Beliebers, Juggalos and the Attack on Planned Parenthood.” Suffice it to say that I was onto something.

While “Miracles” doesn’t discuss abortion, it does say something about patriarchy: “Shaggy’s little boys look just like Shaggy, and my little boy looks just like Daddy.”  Patriarchy asserts itself through indoctrination, and while my politics might differ from the privileged white males who taught me, there are times when I apply their logic. Justin Bieber comes from a different socioeconomic background, but he does the same thing.  Call us out when that happens, please.

File under One of The Best Things We’ve Read on the Internet, Molly Lambert’s manifesto, “In Which We Teach You How to Be a Woman in Any Boys’ Club” from This Recording. Lambert’s insights — including the imperative that cool girls stop competing with each other for boys’ attention and start being the cool girl best friends we all dream about — include the advice, “Drive it like you stole it”:

Be the best. That is, assuming that you are the best. Be the best you can possibly be, whatever that means to you. Absolutely do not step down in order to not threaten people. Don’t apologize. If you genuinely fucked up fine, you are allowed to apologize once but then stop apologizing. Think about how much you hear women apologizing for themselves for no reason, or being self-deprecating or self-abnegating out of habit. What the fuck are you apologizing for? For being too good?

And thoughts on the lowered expectations women often encounter from men:

When men demonstrate or betray surprise that you know a lot about something or have mastered a skill that they care about, it unfortunately just shows that some guys still don’t expect women to care about anything. Except being pretty and shopping and having thoughts that are somehow completely unlike male thoughts in any way. They think we don’t like dumb obsessive information hoarding. They think our brains are wired differently. They are wrong. Sasha Baron-Cohen’s brother is wrong (man u so fucking wrong Simon).

The flip side of exceptionalism for anyone from an oppressed group is the realization that you are only considered exceptional because the system is sooooooo fuckkkkkked uppppppppp. The idea that it’s fair and you just worked your way in because you’re so hyper-talented is a useful seeming illusion that stops benefiting you the moment it fucks over somebody else. When men are like “wow you’re so cool, you’re not like most girls” it always begs the question oh my god what do you think girls are like?

At Salon, Aaron Traister (brother of Rebecca, the author of one of our past book club selections) wrote about how abortion impacted his life and why other men need to speak up:

But mostly, I don’t understand how these issues are still simply referred to as “women’s issues.” The destinies of men and women are intertwined by sex, and pregnancy, and childbirth. It is time for more men to sack up and start taking responsibility for their end of the conversation.

Speaking of! Remember how the South Dakota legislature introduced and then shelved a bill that could have protected the killing of abortion providers as “justifiable homicide” in defense of a fetus? Well, we can’t celebrate just yet: the Nebraska legislature has introduced a similar bill that could potentially protect anyone — not just the pregnant woman or her family — who commits “justifiable homicide.” Mother Jones reported that this bill could put abortion providers at major risk from anti-abortion vigilantes:

Abortion providers are frequent targets of violent attacks. Eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993, and another 17 have been victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes, including Scott Roeder, the murderer of Wichita, Kansas, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, have attempted to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials.

Al Jazeera English made room for some of the women of Cairo to tell their stories of the Egyptian uprising. Mona Seif, a 24-year-old researcher, explained that taking part in the protests has made her more confident and less afraid to speak out:

I know that Egypt has changed and we will transfer the spirit of the square to the rest of the country. Before Tahrir if I was [harassed] I would refrain from asking people for help, because there are a lot of people that would disappoint you by blaming you. But I think the spirit of the revolution has empowered us to spread the feeling we established wider and wider. From now on, if anything happens to me, I am going to scream, I am going to ask people to help me and I know that I will find people that will help me.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher tried to argue that sexism in America isn’t as problematic as sexism in the Middle East by demonizing Muslim men and downplaying the concerns of American women. Everyone loses! You can check out the video, transcript and some nice analysis at Womanist Musings. In this excerpt, Tavis Smiley calls out Maher:

Bill Maher: I mean in this country we treat women badly because
Tavis Smiley: Because we’re sexist and patriarchal
Bill Maher: They don’t equal pay, or someone calls you sugar tits or something like that. In those countries
Tavis Smiley: But you think that’s okay though
Bill Maher: I don’t but I don’t think it’s comparable to cutting their heads off, not letting them drive, not letting them work. I mean
Tavis Smiley: And all I’m saying is that you missed the point. If all you want to do is compare, you win that argument.
Bill Maher: Oh okay then.
Tavis Smiley: But my point is that it’s not about comparing, either right or wrong how we treat people and I think that it’s wrong there, and wrong here.
Bill Maher: It’s more wrong there. Degree matters, degree matters.
Tavis Smiley: Malcolm X said, “If you put a knife in my back and you pull it out six inches you call that progress. I’ve still got a knife in my back.” I don’t necessarily agree that degree always matters Bill.
Bill Maher: Really?
Tavis Smiley: yeah
Bill Maher: What would you rather do, make eighty cents on the dollar, or have your head cut off?
Tavis Smiley: I would rather us stop acting like we know the answers to everything, that we’re always right, that our way is always better, that we don’t make mistakes. That’s what I’d like.

Audrey Mardavich rounds up the week in reproductive rights.

This week marks the 38th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade – decided on Jan. 22, 1973 – which upholds a right to privacy, via due process of the Fourteenth Amendment, in a woman’s decision to have an abortion, and that the right to the decision is guaranteed by the Constitution. Which, 38 years later, is a cause to celebrate!

The Center for Reproductive Rights interviewed its board members, staff, abortion providers, journalists and activists to ask “Why is Roe important to you?

The White House released a statement by the president on the anniversary:

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Not everyone in D.C. was celebrating the anniversary of this controversial decision; in fact, I heard that many small young men were pretty bummed out about it and planned a March for Life.

Mother Jones published an exceptional article about Harold Cassidy, the man behind the “re-branding of the pro-life movement”:

They have used the notion that women must be protected from abortion’s emotional impacts to justify a new round of laws (PDF) imposing mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods, or forcing doctors to dole out discredited information about health risks. (See “Are You Sure You Want an Abortion?”) They’ve also championed state-mandated counseling scripts informing women that what they are doing amounts to taking a life—so that, the argument goes, a woman doesn’t later find herself overcome with grief  over a decision she cannot undo.

However, Cassidy’s argument that women should be protected from abortion because of the mental health issues they experience after the procedure JUST MIGHT be flawed!  The Huffington Post reported on a new study published by The New England Journal of Medicine on the mental health of women after pregnancy versus after abortion:

Researchers compared the rate of mental health treatment among women before and after a first abortion. Within the first year after an abortion, 15 per 1,000 women needed psychiatric counseling – similar to the rate seeking help nine months before an abortion.

Researchers say women who seek abortions come from a demographic group more likely to have emotional problems to begin with. Statistics show that a large percentage struggle economically and they have above-average rates of unintended pregnancies.

I spoke with Amelia Long of the Lilith Fund, an abortion fund in Central and Southern Texas that is based on a reproductive equity model.  “If you don’t have resources, information, money, transportation or cultural support then there are all sorts of ways that you don’t have the choice to exercise your right to carry out a reproductive choice. We try to remove economic barriers to access,” says Long.

Lilith Fund is in touch with abortion providers in their service territory, and works to provide grants to women in need of financial help to carry out an abortion. In 2009, Lilith Fund provided 837 grants to Texas women. From their website:

Unfortunately, the 1976 Hyde Amendment cut off federal funding for abortion care, creating a “dual standard” where the “right to choose” exists only for those who can afford it. One in every three women has an abortion, in a country where 12% of women live in poverty. Many low income women now find a safe, legal abortion beyond their reach and are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion provider, was charged this week with the murder of one woman and seven newborn babies whose spinal cords had been cut with scissors. “This is an example of why having equal access to safe, affordable abortion care and education is so important,” says Long. “No one should have to think that this is their only choice.”

Which, is what it comes down to, folks. Choice. A woman’s right to her reproductive choice, upheld by the Constitution, and equal access to the resources she may need to make that decision.

If you care about women’s right to choose then TAKE ACTION:

1. Find out about your local abortion fund and support it by donating or volunteering.
2. Write to your representatives to let them know you want them to support pro-choice legislation.
3. Most importantly, as the late Dr. George Tiller said, “trust women.”

Lindsay stares the patriarchy in the teeth and is surprised to find it wears braces.

Last night I had a dream about the Modern Greek salad at Chop’t, and I awoke today with the conviction that seeking out and eating this salad for lunch was my destiny. Nothing would stand in my way – not the chill of one of the coldest, windiest days of the year, nor the stubborn and sort of depressing insistence of most of my co-workers to eat lunch at their desks. (Read the Employee Handbook, dudes. That hour is our given right.) Anyway, little did I know that this fateful craving would lead me on a 3-block journey walking against the direction of the crowd (y’all heard of this thing called SYMBOLISM) assembled for the March for Life.

At first, I was sort of amused by the serendipity of it all. Especially the part about my lunch craving: admittedly this is the sort of thing that would happen in an episode of 30 Rock, or if Jason Reitman had cut a coyly soundtracked montage of my workday. But then, becoming overwhelmed by the feeling of walking against a large crowd, I noticed how young most of the marchers were. We’re talking 7-, 8-, 10-year-old kids (and a surprisingly large number of them boys) holding up “Abortion Kills!” signs, grinning cheerfully through missing baby teeth. A lot of them seemed to be there with their families; some of them seemed to be there with religious schools (a few kids were proudly waving their schools’ flags). As I elbowed my way down the block, the whole thing started to feel surreal, but it was a group with a flag from an all-boys school that put me over the edge. They were maybe 13 or 14, and one of them was goofing off, not looking where he was going, and he slammed right into me head-on. Overcome by the whole scene, I screamed “EXCUSE ME” at him in a tone of voice that I wouldn’t normally use to a kid that age, or really anyone. I was pretty sure I was one of the only people I’d encountered on the walk who was of the age to possess a functioning uterus, and for that silly and subjective reason the whole thing couldn’t help but feel like a personal affront. By the time I reached Chop’t, I was fighting back sobs.

Musing over my lunch, I realized that my stance as a pro-choice individual is about something even larger than my reproductive rights. It’s about the very nature of choice, the power in fighting through brainwashing ideologies and collective groupthink to come to my own opinions and conclusions. What was so terrifying about seeing the faces in that crowd was that most of them don’t even understand what the issue of abortion is about – they’re holding signs because someone in a position of power over them put them into their hands. Parents, teachers and religious educators should allow these kids to make up their own minds before using them as pawns in this sort of debate – though as Mia rightly pointed out to me later, I’m sure the “making up their own minds” part is what most of those adults are afraid of.

Still, I took my time eating my salad, and as I did (see, co-workers? You really can do productive things on your lunch hour) I channeled my anger to write all this down. Which goes to show that nothing – not even the disarming baby face of the patriarchy – stands between me and my lunch break. And in the heat of that moment what I wanted to say is thank you to all of you for helping us create the kind of community in which we feel comfortable venting about these sorts of incidents and the emotions they stir up. But I also wanted it to serve as a reminder of the  still prevalent, everyday absurdity surrounding discussions about women’s rights. Because even though Jimmy hasn’t yet gotten to the part in his health textbook where they teach him what a uterus is, he’s pretty sure what you should and shouldn’t be doing with yours.