Freedom of Access Under Attack

Clinic escorts in Minnesota. Image: Brianne

Clinic escorts in Minnesota. Image: Brianne

One of the saddest — and most infuriating — things I witnessed during my time as a Planned Parenthood clinic escort was the relentless, unyielding harassment that women were forced to withstand at the hands of anti-abortion protesters, simply for seeking reproductive health care.

Now that we are in the midst of another annual “40 Days For Life” campaign, which always causes a dramatic increase in protester presence, my memories of escorting are even more vivid.


Buffer zones prevent raging extremists from occupying clinic property and blocking patients’ movement.


Before our clinic on 7th Avenue in Phoenix was relocated, I stood outside every Sunday morning for more than a year serving as an access advocate for women. Not only were our patients subjected to extreme haranguing by Planned Parenthood protesters, I was as well. Not one Sunday would pass where I wouldn’t be (loudly) accused of being some kind of an accomplice to murder — or a “murderer” myself.

I constantly questioned not only their tactics, but also their motivation. What kind of people spend their mornings and afternoons preying on women who are going to get health care? Debasing and denigrating unsuspecting women they don’t know at all. Taking mental snapshots of them. Capturing their identities. Glaring directly into their eyes. And voraciously leering at them as they go in and out of a clinic.

It’s a feral, savage practice if you think about it. Incredibly voyeuristic and wildly invasive. Continue reading

Book Club: Woman Rebel – The Margaret Sanger Story

Woman RebelNow that comic books have become the source material for blockbuster movies, the oft-told story of the maligned and misunderstood superhero should be a familiar one, even to many who have never read a comic. Think Professor Xavier’s cohort in the X-Men movies or Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman. They’re extraordinary. They’re also flawed, often unable to shake the ghosts of an uneasy past. But their powers, not their shortcomings, are the reason they’re so maligned. No matter their good intentions, they challenge what is known and established, earning them fear and distrust.


Bagge’s graphic novel is a refreshing contribution to a medium that is often a guilty pleasure at best.


Given that trope, maybe it wasn’t such an odd idea to give the comic book treatment to the life of Margaret Sanger, the reproductive rights pioneer and founder of Planned Parenthood. Writer and illustrator Peter Bagge, a veteran of alternative comics, does just that in Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013). The outcome is a graphic novel that doesn’t let exaggerated expressions, vivid colors, and terse speech bubbles derail an intelligent and sensitive retelling of Sanger’s life.

Comparing Sanger to a superhero might be hyperbole, but Sanger’s trailblazing work not only created the movement to advocate for birth control but also spurred the development of the oral contraceptive, or “the Pill.” She had the drive and the know-how to contribute to the movement as an author, editor, lecturer, and founder of a reproductive health clinic. Along the way, Sanger helped change the laws that stood in the way of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, while rubbing shoulders (and sometimes developing romances) with many luminaries of her time, from novelists to political agitators to wealthy industrialists. March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment — a theme perfect for someone of Sanger’s stature. Sanger’s visionary efforts earned her many accolades — as well as a campaign of character assassination that has called her everything from a fascist to a proponent of genocide. Continue reading

Home Pregnancy Testing 101

pregnancy testYou missed a period. You had unprotected sex. You didn’t take your birth control pills. Are you pregnant? How soon can you know? What are your options to find out?

Approximately every month, most sexually active women of child-bearing years could become pregnant. During ovulation, an egg is released from the ovary and makes its way to the uterus. If it is fertilized by a sperm and implants on the uterine wall, a woman is pregnant. If she is not pregnant, the lining of the uterus sheds (this is your period), and the cycle repeats.


Pregnancy tests are most accurate about one week after a missed period.


When a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, the body begins producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. The levels of this hormone rise rapidly in early pregnancy, almost doubling every two to three days. hCG is detectable in urine and blood, and is a sign of pregnancy.

There are different types of pregnancy tests available. Home pregnancy tests, which you can buy in drugstores, test for hCG in urine. Blood tests done in a health provider’s office don’t just test for the presence of hCG, which indicates you are pregnant, but also can tell how much hCG is present. Measuring hCG levels helps a provider determine how far along you are, if you have more than one developing embryo, or if there might be a problem with the pregnancy. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Arizona has had quite an eventful few weeks, y’all. Here’s what’s been happening on the home front …

  • As you’ve probably heard, anti-gay SB 1062, vetoed by Gov. Brewer last week, was hugely unpopular to begin with — even among Arizona Republicans. (AZ Capitol Times)
  • Right-wing machine Center for Arizona Policy, which has a storied history of being anti-choice and all-around terrible, wants to implement a modern-day gestapo to make unannounced inspections at the clinic of any abortion provider in the state. Just what you don’t need when you’re lying back with your legs in the stirrups while getting a Pap test at Planned Parenthood. ’Cause, ya know, we do way more of those than abortions. (AZ Central)
  • After two-and-a-half years, Planned Parenthood will again offer medication abortions in Flagstaff. (KNAU)
  • Aaaand medication abortions are in serious danger here as well. Can you guess who’s behind that? It rhymes with “Schmenter for Parizona Folicy.” (WaPo, Fronteras)
  • State Sen. Steve Gallardo, in the wake of the governor’s veto and inspired by the heated dialogue surrounding SB 1062, took the opportunity to come out of the closet. (Advocate)
  • Arizona’s attempts to strip Planned Parenthood of its Medicaid funding continue to be futile. (RH Reality Check)

In the rest of the world …

  • As a black woman, it’s nice to hear about lesser-known black women who’ve championed for reproductive rights throughout history. (Salon)
  • The FDA is increasing access to generic morning-after pills! (NPR)
  • Pro-choice advocates have been playing defense for three long years and it’s time for a change, dammit. (Bloomberg)
  • Abortion clinic protesters continue to be awful in their treatment of women. (Cosmopolitan)
  • Pregnancy and motherhood are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting endeavors. Sometimes it takes experiencing those things to understand how important it is to be pro-choice. (Feministe)
  • The concept of vegan condoms may strike you as strange, but so will the fact that they were created by a father and his daughter. (ABC News)
  • Birthing center and abortion clinic in one building! Pro-choice is pro-life, folks! (Jezebel)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Staci Michelle Yandle, the first African-American lesbian federal judge

Staci Michelle Yandle, the first African-American lesbian federal judge

  • Dear Jan Brewer and all the other ridiculous Republicans in this state: Your attempts to thwart the reproductive rights of Arizona women WILL NOT STAND! You have no business trying to dictate when a fetus is viable. None of you are ob/gyns. Just give it up already. You have lost the battle and the war. #Booya (AZ Central)
  • OK, so, remember how the Repubs came up with the astronomically stupid idea to force women to see or have doctors describe the contents of their uterus via ultrasound before they could undergo an abortion? Well, the studies on the impact of this practice are in, and guess what? It turns out women already know what’s in their uteruses! A whopping 98.4 percent of those women went on to undergo their abortions anyway. What they saw wasn’t a shocking revelation! Those who thought women were too stupid to make an informed choice without seeing the embryo or fetus occupying their body were totally wrong. Shocker. (Slate)
  • President Obama is taking an unprecedented step in judicial history by nominating the first black lesbian federal judge, who will preside in the 7th Circuit, covering Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. (The Root)
  • There’s a pretty active debate on whether or not MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” has had a direct effect on the downturn in teenage pregnancy rates. Speaking from a personal standpoint, it sure helped cement my commitment to staying childfree! (Time)
  • In related news, it ain’t cheap to have a baby. And after that, guess what? You have to spend money on it for at least 19 to 20 years. Minimum! (NBC News)
  • Further evidence that the health and wishes of a pregnant woman are trumped by the “rights” of a fetus: Marlise Munoz, a 33-year-old woman in Texas, suffered a tragic fall that resulted in her being on life support and clinically brain dead. Under Texas law, brain dead individuals are considered deceased. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped John Peter Hospital in Fort Worth from refusing to act in accordance with her personal end-of-life directive. Instead, they have forced her to remain on life support. Why? Because of the 19-week-old fetus still occupying her womb. Her family is suffering and understandably distressed. Her husband Erick is determined to fight this out in court. We’ll be watching and hoping. (RH Reality Check)
  • Just so you know, abortion is just like slavery! This message was brought to you by complete idiot Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Who should be ashamed for equating hundreds of years of brutal whippings, back-breaking and unrelenting labor, rape, lynching, and all of the other unspeakable acts of cruelty inflicted upon blacks in this country to a woman exercising her right not to be forced to give birth and choosing not to carry a non-viable, non human being in her body. (Politico)
  • Is it a coincidence that the anti-contraception movement wasn’t on the radar of evangelicals until 2011, after Obama took office? HELL NO. (Salon)

Happy New Year and Family Planning for All!

world health family planningHappy New Year! With the start of the Affordable Care Act this year and birth control available to many American women without a co-pay, we have made great strides to decrease unintended pregnancies in the United States. I was about to write about new contraceptives that may be coming down the pipeline that could add to the already vast array of choices American women have for family planning. As I lay in my warm bed, thankful for being safe and well fed, I thought about women around the world who do not have the choices I have. They aren’t reading articles about new advances in contraceptive choices. Many have no access to contraceptives at all. Globally, 222 million women have an “unmet need for contraception.”


Let’s create a healthier world where we all have access to family planning!


One of the most essential ways to increase a woman’s health and independence is to provide access to family planning. When women have access to contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies result and also fewer unsafe abortions. Women who continue to have unintended pregnancies risk not only their health and the health of their child, they also have fewer educational and economic opportunities. When a woman is able to time and space her pregnancies, the woman, her children, and her community fare better. In communities where rapid population growth is related to unintended pregnancies, social and economic progress is impaired.

Limited access to contraceptives is just a part of the problem. Fear of using modern contraceptives such as the birth control pill also contribute to decreased use of some contraceptives. In many countries, religious and cultural values may have an impact on family planning efforts. Lack of  donor support to put programs of education and access in place are also a factor, especially when many political discussions associate family planning with abortion. Continue reading

2013: A Retrospective

wendy-davis victoryWell folks, 2013 has been quite the year when it comes to women’s issues and reproductive health. Anti-choice Republicans have made every attempt to strip us of our most basic human rights. We dealt with many a jackass. We won. We lost. We came, we saw, and sometimes we even conquered.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?

  • Trent Franks (from our great state, naturally) told everyone that pregnancies attributed to rape were super low and thus insignificant and not even relevant to the abortion issue.
    (The Daily Beast)
  • zero dollar copayThe Affordable Care Act made birth control available without a co-pay! (Planned Parenthood)
  • But that didn’t go unchallenged, of course. Domino’s Farms, Hobby Lobby, and a gang of other fools think the mandate to cover birth control for women in their insurance policies is a “violation” of their rights and values. That’s right. They believe the pills you take to exert control over what happens in your uterus is not only their business, but something they should have full control over! They also completely disregard the fact that birth control pills are often medically necessary. From PMS, PCOS, and endometriosis relief, birth control pills serve women’s health interests in many important ways. You think these a-holes give any sort of damn about that? NOPE. (RH Reality Check)
  • Plan B emergency contraception is finally available over the counter! (New Civil Rights Movement)
  • wendy davis tennis shoesTexas pretty much went anti-choice nuts this year. But little-known State Sen. Wendy Davis put on her tennis shoes and went to battle for the women of Texas in an effort to kill SB 5, a craptacular proposal that would pretty much annihilate abortion access in the state. This pro-choice dynamo stood on her feet for 11 hours to filibuster the bill. While her efforts were ultimately thwarted by “pro-life” governor Rick Perry (who’s so pro-life he facilitated the execution of more than 200 people), she became a powerful symbol of the pro-choice movement in Texas, and the rest of America. (NYT)
  • A majority of Americans now support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion! That’s the first time in the 10 years that NBC/WSJ has included the question in their poll. (NBC News)
  • Anti-choice legislators have latched onto “fetal pain” and “heartbeat” bills as their latest strategy to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Neither of those things can be proven as “real” by science, but they’re not going to let pesky facts get in the way of their women-hating mission. (The Atlantic)
  • Dr. Kermit Gosnell committed unspeakable horrors in his abortion clinic, the details of which are not only distressing, but almost physically painful to read. Despite that fact that this is astonishingly rare, he gave credence to to all of the anti-choice vultures and harmed the pro-choice movement in an immeasurable way. (Jezebel)
  • obama planned parenthood national conferenceMr. President had to lay the ultimate smack down on behalf of Planned Parenthood earlier this year. He told all of the anti-choice haters, “Planned Parenthood ain’t goin’ nowhere, chumps!” (OK, he didn’t say that exactly/verbatim, but kinda.) Anyway, thank you, President Obama, for being our advocate and BFF in Chief. (Salon)
  • Another big story this year: More women are purposely forgoing mommyhood and deducing that babies are better when they belong to someone else. It’s like a trend now. Childfree is the new black! (Fem2pt0)
  • 2013: Another year in which abortion clinics got shut down at an alarming rate. Less access to safe abortion. Just what we need. (Think Progress)
  • Lastly, some good news. Four years after his tragic, heartbreaking murder, Dr. Tiller’s clinic reopened this year. His legacy lives on. (Mother Jones)

What will 2014 hold? We can’t predict the future, but one thing is for sure: We will continue to put everything on the line to make sure women have access to the reproductive health care they deserve and have a right to. If we have to be relentless and unyielding in this fight, so be it. The lives of women matter.

We’re here if you need us.