Friday, February 19, 2010

Racist, Anti-Choice Billboard Campaign in Georgia Sparks Outrage

An inflammatory anti-choice billboard campaign in Georgia that depicts Black children as “endangered species” as a result of abortion rates has been highly criticized as being racist and sexist. The billboard is a collaboration of two anti-choice organizations, the Radiance Foundation and Georgia’s Operation Outrage.

This offensive campaign is another attempt by the anti-choice movement to exploit racial disparities and gender narratives to gain support for their cause. By using this tactic, they fail to acknowledge the real issues, and in this case, the specific experiences of women of color, that influence women’s reproductive health care decisions. What anti-choice groups don’t seem to realize is the rate of abortion among women of color is directly proportional to the fact that they also experience higher rates of unintended pregnancies. The real problem lies in the systematic inequities faced by communities of color, including, but not limited to, the lack of access to birth control, comprehensive sex education, and affordable health care.

This campaign also suggests that abortion providers try to “lure” women of color in particular; this claim is preposterous and false. SisterSong, an Atlanta-based reproductive justice organization, worked to de-mystify this claim in a recent press release. Advocates of SisterSong rightfully acknowledge “that the lived experiences of women of color, and Black women specifically, drive how and when women choose abortion, not abortion providers who defend women’s right.” To suggest otherwise is insulting and disempowering to Black women. Furthermore, of the 15 abortion providers that exist in Georgia, just four are in predominantly black neighborhoods. While these numbers support the fact that abortion providers do not target certain populations, it’s important to note that health clinics are located where there is a need, not where they can hope to create a need.

The billboard campaign also coincides with the introduction of anti-choice bill (H.B. 1155) in the Georgia state legislature. The bill is disguised as a ban on race and sex selection, but if passed, it would ban abortion providers from directing any of their services towards women of color. Bills banning sex and gender selection have been introduced in four other states. Although anti-choice politicians claim to care about women and communities of color when introducing these bills, that is a farce. Their hypocrisy is evidenced by the fact that the bills fail to provide any real solutions to address health disparities or any programs to assist women who wish to cary pregnancies to term. In fact, SisterSong reports that H.B. 1155 would actually hinder reproductive services for women of color.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland continues to work towards eliminating racial disparities in women’s health care. Furthermore, we applaud organizations of women of color like SisterSong for their endless efforts towards reproductive justice.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Emergency Contraception on Military Bases...Finally

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Department of Defense, emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill, has been added to the list of medications available to service members overseas.  What does that mean?  It means that EC, the safe, legal medication that can help prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after sex, will be available to military women stationed overseas the same way it is available to women stateside.  This is a critical policy shift from the Bush administration, which repeatedly put ideology before science and prevented military women from having guaranteed access to EC.  It is a great relief to have the political intrusion of the previous administration lifted.  And then there are men like Major Gen. Anthony Cuculo III, commander of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq, who last November attempted to restrict the reproductive rights of military women by declaring impregnation a crime subject to a court-martial.  Although the policy fell through because of heavy criticisms, it is a reminder that we need to be vigilant of the double standard and the sexism military women face.  

Emergency contraception to women in uniform has been a long time in coming and it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies .  Although this is a sure victory for servicewomen, it is important to remember that women in the military are still denied access to safe, legal abortion care.  This is particularly problematic for women who are stationed in countries that do not recognize abortion rights.  Women serving in our country should have the same access to legal reproductive health care as civilian women, which should include making abortion care available on military bases throughout the world.  While the Obama administration should be commended for their efforts to increase access of EC for military women, the fight must continue until military women are given the ability to make private decisions about their lives and bodies without government interference.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Maryland gets an "A"!

 Who Decides?
In NARAL’s most recent issue of Who Decides, a comprehensive guide to reproductive rights in all 50 states, Maryland received the grade of “A”.  Of course, our state isn’t perfect, but Marylanders should consider themselves lucky to live in a state where the right to choose is affirmed, state abortion clinics are protected from protester violence and state aid has increased access to family planning services for low-income women. 

 Unfortunately, many other states and the nation as a whole did not receive such high marks.  For example, the Prevention First Act was recently introduced in Ohio. Similar to a Maryland law, it would mandate that insurance companies that offer prescription coverage to include birth control.  The Ohio measure would go beyond the Maryland law to guarantee sexual assault survivor’s access to EC and require sex-ed to be comprehensive and medically-accurate. Good luck, Ohio!

Arizona is another example of a state lagging behind in ensuring reproductive freedoms. A judge ruled a 24-hour waiting period restriction on abortion to be unconstitutional. The decision was mixed-choice though, as the judge said that the waiting period is not the problem, but forcing women to visit a doctor twice is. He recommended that women be able to get counseling over the phone from a trained staff member 24 hours before their abortion. The judge’s ruling should ease the physical hardship that waiting periods put on women seeking abortions. Read more about 24-hour waiting periods, which states have them, and why they are discriminatory, from the Guttmacher Institute.

We can be glad that there is no 24-hour waiting period in Maryland and that insurance companies covering prescriptions must cover birth control.  The passing of the resolution requiring CPCs to display disclaimers in both Baltimore and Montgomery County is another victory.  Let’s not take this news to mean we can be complacent.  It’s important to remember that the Maryland state legislature hasn’t passed any pro-active, pro-choice legislation in over a decade and anti-choice forces are constantly working to chip away at Maryland women’s right to choose. It is important to keep an eye on choice issues-- positive and negative—here in Maryland and the nation as a whole.

To stay updated on choice-related news around the nation, get feeds from Choice in the Headlines.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Focus on …..Something Else

There has been much talk about the anti-abortion commercial featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, slated to appear during the Super Bowl. The cost of the ad is being paid by the anti-choice, anti-birth-control, anti-sex-education, anti-gay group Focus on the Family. CBS has a history of denying (mostly left leaning) advocacy groups a platform to express their views, citing a policy against airing advocacy ads. After much public outcry over the ad, CBS issued a statement clarifying a rather sudden change in their policy. Very convenient. To top it off, it has been revealed that CBS has been working closely with Focus on the Family on the ad for months.

Rumor has it that the ad will feature the story of how Pam Tebow chose to continue a pregnancy which her doctors warned her could threaten her life. The truth of the matter is that Tim Tebow's mother made the choice that was best for her and her family... and that's exactly what it means to be pro-choice. Unfortunately, Focus on the Family wants to take that choice away from other women.

It is undeniable that Focus on the Family has an extreme agenda that, among other things, is inherently anti-woman. The language used by Focus on the Family on their website is insulting and dangerous to women. For example, they urge women facing an unintended pregnancy to seek “wise advice” because “the hormones and extreme emotions of pregnancy make reasonable decisions more difficult.” It seems that nothing helps a pregnant woman more than a good dose of condescension.

Despite the objection of pro-choice supporters, it seems that CBS is not going to pull the ad. But that does not mean you have to sit idly by while anti-choice sentiment interjects itself into your Super Bowl experience. You can join us by not watching the ad and instead focus on…something else with other pro-choice activists. You can post on your Facebook or Twitter account what you will be focusing on when the ad airs. It can be refilling the salsa, turning the T.V. off, grabbing a beer…you name it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Untold Story:Reproduction Coercion

A new study conducted by the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) has shed light on a little recognized form of abuse called reproductive coercion. With this form of abuse, men use birth control sabotage (for example, hiding birth control pills, damaging condoms, etc) in an effort to impregnate their partners without consent. The findings have concluded that reproductive coercion is frequently associated with physical and sexual abuse of intimate partners. Shockingly, women who face intimate partner violence double their risk of unintended pregnancy.

The FVPF has created a campaign, Know More, Say More, to educate women and youth on sexual violence and its ramifications. The aim of the campaign is to open a dialogue and expand awareness on this issue. The website contains testimonials of victims/survivors of reproductive coercion, who convey a disturbing pattern of control where the men believe that having a child will prevent their partners from leaving. Sadly, this tactic is often effective and is exacerbated by the fact that women in abusive relationships often experience an increase of violence when they become pregnant. Many women, particularly those in rural areas, already face obstacles, like lack of insurance, transportation, child care, that affect their ability to obtain affordable birth control. These obstacles can be insurmountable for women experiencing intimate partner violence.

Reproductive coercion is a real and serious problem and it is crucial that it is acknowledged when discussing the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse towards women. Recognizing reproductive coercion as form of abuse is the first step in eradicating the practice. Do your part to raise awareness by learning more about reproductive coercion and sharing the information with others.