From my friend Jennifer:
pro-choice & abortion access friends: your financial help is needed! Georgia Reproductive Justice Access Network, one of the only abortion funds in the southeast, is down to $89. they need an infusion of money FAST so they can keep their fund up and helping those who are pregnant afford abortion care. please give as much as you can!
I say this often about abortion funds but they help people who desperately need to get an abortion but cannot afford it. These are people in the most dire of circumstances.
When you donate to an abortion fund you 1) know your money will go directly toward helping someone and 2) you will make someone’s life better.
If you can, please donate to this abortion fund.
He’s talking about Obama and healthcare reform, but I think it could equally apply to the current (also healthcare-related) situation in Ireland*. Legislating on X is eminently all of those things, and even if it’s only marginally pro-choice (as someone pointed out, such legislation would only give doctors, not women, the choice to terminate a pregnancy where they were concerned for her safety) the very reason why it hasn’t been done so far is because to do so would disturb the hegemonic ideology of Catholic conservatism in Irish politics.
Since I’m a critical bastard, it only took most of yesterday before I started to get concerned about the actual meaning of the Savita case versus the (justifiably) dogmatic, emotional and firmly pro-choice responses to it. I explained my aversion to Catholicism in the Irish context and the possibilities of the facts not being quite what they seemed, but I’m still firmly of the opinion that the upshot of the case is that restrictive, ambiguous, religiously-derived laws contributed to Savita Hallapanavar’s death. Today’s lead editorial in The Irish Times is an excellent, nuanced and detailed argument weaving together the various medical, legal and political uncertainties into a clear call for action. (Except, its closing remarks bring a pessimistic note to the debate: “The sooner the Government can bring clarity to the legal morass that this case and others have exposed, the better. But, in reality, it may bring cold comfort to those moved by the appalling plight of Savita Halappanavar.” It hints at broader issues than those covered by potential X Case legislation.)
There are scores of stronger broadsides around the web currently, and people, especially women, have a right to be angry and to demand action on the basis of what is most likely to be the correct assessment of the case (despite whatever ultra-cautious judgement comes out of the reflexively produced inquiries). They have every right, as well, to connect this to the broader pro-choice agenda, because from the moment it hit the headlines it was never just about the facts of a single case - it was a signal that, by allowing a death even just to be connected to the denial of abortion, we as a society have failed to live up to the tough political choices inherent in attempting to preserve a ‘pro-life’ constitution in a modern, developed country.
However - and I am loathe to give their statements any further airing - the pro-life movement will seek to deny the obvious necessity for action, and undermine the emotional, human response to this tragedy as long it is sited in an unfavourable political context. They will point out - with some modicum of truth - that it isn’t quite as simple as the pro-choice placards make out; and then go on to further claim that either abortion would not have helped, or that termination was already permissible and the doctors were at fault (not, of course, the guidelines they rely on or the ambiguous legal context they work in), and that therefore legislation - which would strike at the conservative hegemonic ideology that abortion is an untouchable, sacrosanct issue almost beyond political debate - is unnecessary. This is false, but it must be responded to with care. As the Irish Times puts it:
“It is not possible to say categorically that earlier medical intervention to end Savita Halappanavar’s pregnancy by “expediting delivery” of her miscarrying foetus would definitely have saved her life. Medical science is not that certain. Septicaemia can take hold fast, uncontrollably, and devastatingly. But earlier intervention could have saved her life, and it would have been available to her in many other hospitals (although, for theological rather than medical reasons, not defined as an “abortion”).”
That parenthetical comment sums up both the hegemonic influence of Catholic morality and its distortion of the medical issue. It also serves as a wedge between issues relating to miscarriages during pregnancy and what pro-lifers consider ‘true’ abortion: ignoring the fact that it is their attitude to the latter that clouds (and in extreme cases, includes) the former and causes these problems. It is utterly legitimate and feasible to legislate for something that is shrouded in uncertainty, uncertainty that is itself problematic. Just thinking through the logic involved brings out the flaws:
“Was the view being taken by the medical team that, although in deep discomfort and pain and bearing a foetus that could not go to term, and despite the subsequent outcome, Savita Halappanavar’s life was not actually threatened in the early stages of her crisis, even if the life-threatening possibilities were inherent in her condition? Were they therefore constrained not to perform an abortion?”
But the realist perspective also says that this will remain complicated, inexorably so, within the constitutional confines that Ireland has bound itself. And that is how questioning a tragic but still uncertain case leads, not to one quick legal solution, but to an idea more fundamentally threatening to the pro-life position:
“…it begs questions not so much about the conduct of the Galway medical team as about the inadequacy of the Constitution’s already controversial provisions. Would the Irish people really wish to deny a woman in her position an abortion when, legally speaking, her life could not be said to be in jeopardy?”
The opposition to allowing abortion, as in Britain, when there is a threat to the mother’s health (as distinct from her life), is based on the principle that it will become too broad and lead to abortion on demand - unacceptable to those who believe their opinions on the life of the unborn must trump the choice of any woman. But if the alternative is to put the choice in the hands of doctors, and continue to wrestle with the legal and moral ethics of legislating for childbirth, will the pro-life centre hold? Or will the apparent denial of choice to one woman and her subsequent tragic death lead ultimately to choice for all?
*It also has this great footnote-worthy observation that I had forgotten was true, but also links in to the wider basis for reproductive health:
“In Europe, the ground floor of a building is counted as zero, so the floor above it is the first floor, while in the US, the first floor is on street level. This trivial difference indicates a profound ideological gap: Europeans are aware that, before counting starts – before decisions or choices are made – there has to be a ground of tradition, a zero level that is always already given and, as such, cannot be counted. While the US, a land with no proper historical tradition, presumes that one can begin directly with self-legislated freedom – the past is erased. What the US has to learn to take into account is the foundation of the “freedom to choose”.”
This collection is also posted at the Abortion Assistance Blog.
The Abortion Diaries (a short documentary featuring 12 women)
Another Memory of Visiting Dr. Tiller (severe fetal anomalies)
National Network of Abortion Funds: How are women’s lives affected?
A Heartbreaking Choice (severe fetal anomalies)
Akin Unmasks the Pro-Life Movement - what underlies the rape-doesn’t-get-you-pregnant myth is the notion that sex is shameful & that slutty women will do anything—even send an innocent man to jail or kill a ‘baby’ in order to avoid facing the consequences of their actions
If you’re going to slander the estimated 32,000 women a year who become pregnant after being raped, it’s probably not wise to do it on a Sunday, when it will lead the next week’s news coverage. Republican nominee for Missouri Senate Todd Akin chose not to follow this bit of wisdom, instead declaring in a television interview yesterday that women can’t get pregnant from rape.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
For people who don’t follow the anti-choice movement closely, this statement might be a stunner for the simple reason that it makes no biological sense; a rapist’s sperm swims as well as a non-rapist’s. But for those of us who do, it’s no surprise. The myth that “real” rapes don’t result in pregnancy is widespread among anti-choicers—and not just the fringe (Akin, for instance, used to be on the board of Missouri Right to Life). You can see a variation of this myth atthe anti-choice website Abortion Facts:
To get pregnant and stay pregnant, a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain which is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy.
Akin’s comment should serve as a reminder that despite its sentimentality surrounding the fetus, the anti-choice movement is motivated by misogyny and ignorance about human sexuality. In this case, what underlies the rape-doesn’t-get-you-pregnant myth is the notion that sex is shameful and that slutty women will do anything—even send an innocent man to jail to kill a baby—in order to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.
You can see this logic play out broadly in discussions about rape as well as abortion. The most common defense in rape cases is that the victim consented to sex and only “cried rape” in order to seem less promiscuous. The claim, of course, is nonsensical. Why would a woman trying to put a one-night stand behind her invite grilling by detectives and defense attorneys? Why would someone so concerned about maintaining the illusion of purity subject her sex life to examination by a crowd of jurors? That the myth persists nonetheless goes a long way to explaining why we have such low rape conviction rates. When it comes to abortion, anti-choice activists accuse women going into abortion clinics of taking the easy way out, as if raising an unwanted child is the rightful price of having sex.
While most everyone can see the absurdity of Akin’s comments, fewer pick up on the deeper problem of “rape exceptions” to abortion bans. When journalists and politicians refer to banning abortions except in the case of rape, they are assuming that there’s a way to construct abortion policy that allows women who “deserve” abortions to get them while preventing those dirty girls who consented to sex from having them. This is simply not the case.
We know from research that even with a rape exception, most rape victims who seek an abortion will be denied. Take Medicaid, for instance, which will not cover an abortion unless the patient is a rape victim. Research by Ibis Reproductive Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving women’s access to reproductive services, has shown that only 37 percent of women who qualified for rape exceptions got the necessary funding for their abortions. Between the onerous paperwork demands to demonstrate that one is, to use Akin’s term, a “legitimate” rape victim and bureaucrats who are understandably anxious about making exceptions even when they’re called for, doctors and patients simply found it impossible to get the funding they need.
In this light, what’s surprising is not that an anti-choice politician accused pregnant rape victims of lying to cover their shame, but that anti-choice politicians manage to avoid saying similar things with regularity. Unfortunately, we live in a political climate where statements like Akin’s will likely be dismissed as a gaffe instead of serving as an opportunity to discuss what motivates such myths. Such is the nature of our shallow, scandal-driven media: It points our heads in the direction of deeper truths, but moves to the next story before we can take the time to see them.
Judicial Bypass for Minors
There are 37 states that currently enforce parental notification or consent laws - find out here if yours is one, or call your local Planned Parenthood. To avoid having to notify or obtain consent from parents or guardians, you must get a judicial bypass, meaning a judge will decide if you can get an abortion. Here are a few resources I’ve found on judicial bypass for minors seeking a safe, legal abortion without parental notification or consent.
Getting a judicial bypass does not cost anything, and you are entitled to a court-appointed lawyer.
- I found a lawyer in Ohio, Christine Baker, who offers free, confidential assistance.
- Texas has a program called Jane’s Due Process that ensures legal representation for pregnant minors.
- Contact your state’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They may have a program that provides legal representation, or give referrals to lawyers.
- Contact the National Abortion Federation’s hotline (1-800-772-9100) for information and referrals in your state.
- Search your local Planned Parenthood’s website (find it here) for information on judicial bypass in your state. They may have a hotline or references for someone who can represent you.
- Be prepared to go out of your county, or even out of your state. Some judges will refuse to handle judicial bypass petitions, or to even hear the proceedings. If you need help getting to a court that will hear your petition, check out or contact the Abortion Assistance Blog or your state’s abortion fund.
I’ll keep updating this post, so any more information is much appreciated.