Monthly Archives: January 2015

Every Pregnancy is Exceptional: Questioning Exceptions and Creating Empathy in Later Abortion Debate

Check out my latest piece on the need to figure out how to have critical and complex conversations about later abortion and personal decisions that reflect the diverse range of experiences that women and families face and the role politicians can play in supporting people, rather than judging them.

EXCERPT

“When I was in my first year at college and found myself with a late period and a lackluster relationship with my high school boyfriend, I knew then and have absolutely no doubt what I would have done if that plus sign had appeared. I did not want to tie my life to him and knew I was not ready to be a parent. But here I was 20 years later with a pregnancy that we planned for and dreamed of from our first date. I am not sure what I would have done if I was told that I had potentially life threatening complications. Would it have been worth the risk for me? I don’t know. I did not have to make that decision. But you can be damn sure I would not have called my lawmakers to ask their opinion and that I would not have stood by while anyone presumed to tell me what the right thing to do was.”

Read the full piece HERE.

valenti

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Reflections on “Roe at 42”

When I think of the days before the Supreme Court affirmed a legal right to abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade, I think of women who felt they had no good options. Women who had to call random phone numbers handed to them covertly on little slips of paper and trust that the information they received was legitimate. Women who were directed to go to dark buildings or houses and sneak into rooms and hope that the procedure would not leave them sick, infertile or dead. Women who felt like they could not turn to anyone in their life for support because they would be judged or even reported to the police for illegal activity. I think of women forced into exceptionally difficult positions to maintain their own bodily autonomy, do what they felt was best for them and access a health care procedure.

Forty-two years later, I see reports of people who have to take time off work multiple times and risk being fired, try desperately to find care for their kids and pull together whatever little bit of money they may have to pay for abortion care. I read about people who are driving six, eight or ten hours to find a licensed provider. I hear stories from my friends who volunteer on abortion fund hotlines where people are selling their belongings and saving over weeks and then realizing that they have been pushed past what is to them an invisible line where the procedure is more expensive and not out of reach because of cost or an arbitrary cut off created by politicians.

People who need to seek an abortion in 2015 have a legal right to access care, but for far too many people that right is just not a reality.   We must do better not only to ensure access to abortion care, but also the promise of Roe.

Roe affirmed that people should be able to seek legal abortion care, but it is so much more than that. It is about women being able to say what happens to their body and make decisions about their future. As I think today about the anniversary, I commit myself to the work to push back on the restrictions that are chipping away at access to care for far too many people – from legislation that is designed to close clinics and cut off availability to laws that deny health coverage for abortion and make services unaffordable.  We must also speak out for the policies that enable people to plan healthy pregnancies and prevent unintended pregnancies – from sex education to contraception coverage and family planning funding. And we need to push for legislation and cultural change that ensures that when someone is ready become a parent that they have the support they need – from pregnant worker accommodations to paid family leave to adoption policies that don’t exclude LGBT people or people with disabilities to a fair wage and a safe place to raise their kids where they won’t have to constantly worry if they will make it home.

There is much work to be done. Let’s make not just today, but every day one that we celebrate the promise of Roe and do all we can to make it real for us all.

poggi

What Does 20 Weeks Look Like: Different for Everyone

I see this time and again.  A story runs about attacks on access to abortion care and the picture is of someone who is clearly about to give birth any day.  To make matters worse, she usually doesn’t even have a head.  This happened today in what was a great piece in Mother Jones pushing back on the federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks.  This is a complicated issue that elicits a lot of emotion and confusion.

mother ones

An image like this does not help to get people to understand the issue or to connect to the real women being hurt by laws like this one.

I was happy to see that there was a conversation happening on Twitter about the use of the disembodied, 9 or 10 month pregnant woman as the representation of someone who is 20 weeks pregnant.

drjanechi

The thing that didn’t sit quite right with me is that there was also a statement saying, “here are 20 week pregnant people”:

20 weeks, three 20 weeks, one

Now, I am 16 months postpartum – yes, that means that my child is 16 months old.  And you know what, I am not that small now and am definitely not fitting into those jeans.

This made me think about pregnancy models.  When I was pregnant, I bought the magazines to read about the fun baby gear and try to find maternity clothes that were not horrendous.  I ended up feeling like yet again there was this beauty image that I had to uphold. Beauty norms are something a lot of people struggle with, including during pregnancy.  This is especially true for women like me who have struggled with eating disorders.

So, here I was with the magazines full of pregnancy models who were all teeny tiny with the little, round, basketball tummies.  Let’s not even get into the endless discussions about baby weight and “getting back into your old jeans”.  Sure, I can currently wear two of my old pairs of jeans – the ones I used to think of as being my baggy, comfy jeans that I can now button and zip.

I applaud efforts to urge the media to use images that better represent abortion and pregnancy and that don’t confuse or sensationalize the issue.  But in doing so, let’s not just revert to another set of images that enforces what are for many of us impossible beauty standards.

Let’s make sure that when we work to do better, we actually do better.  Let’s make sure the images show a broader range of races, ages and body types.

Oh, in case you were wondering, this is me at 20 weeks:

me at 20 weeks

This is my beautiful wife, Rae at 20 weeks when she was having our first child:

rae at 20 weeks

Anti-Abortion Stigma Is Not the Only Cultural Force Restricting Reproductive Rights

Check out my latest piece on RH Reality Check on the need to include analysis of and investment in addressing racism and class issues as part of the work to combat abortion stigma.  

EXCERPT

Work to shift the political climate and to oppose the myriad of abortion restrictions in an effort to combat stigma is essential for activists. And yet, we cannot act as if laws controlling reproductive rights occur in a vacuum. We have to continue to confront the ways in which racism and economic injustice are also factors in preventing people from having true access to the right to abortion.”

READ the full piece HERE.