Abortion issue of On The Issues Magazine; Winter 2012
What's next for women's autonomy? To mark four decades of women exercising the right to abortion, our contributors share ideas & actions in On The Issues Magazine Winter 2012.

RELATED STORIES: Bold Discussions of ABORTION in On The Issues Magazine
by The Editors


On the Issues Magazine has been linked with abortion – in theory and practice – since its first issue in 1983 as a newsletter of Choices Women's Medical Center. Since then, the magazine, in print and online, has spoken boldly about the essential right of women to make their own reproductive decisions, covering a wide range of subjects: morality, ethics, history, anti-abortion violence, law, artistic expressions. A large repository of past stories, available for free, are indexed in our archives. Below are excerpts from a few.

In 1990, a story by Mary Lou Greenberg, Another American Tragedy, The Death of Becky Bell, Interview with Bill and Karen Bell described the horrible consequences of a parental notification law: When Becky went to Planned Parenthood in Indianapolis, she learned that she couldn't get an abortion without the consent of at least one parent or a waiver from a judge. But she couldn't bear to tell her mother or father. And word on the street was that it was useless to go before the judge…. Becky Bell, as thousands of women and girls before her, was forced to seek an illegal abortion. Several days after Becky returned from a party feeling "sick," her parents took her to a hospital. The next day she died….Now her parents, Bill and Karen Bell, are …talking to whomever will listen about the killing nature of parental consent and notification laws.

In 1991, Merle Hoffman, in response to anti-abortion efforts to equate abortion to the Holocaust, spoke with a preeminent writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor for "I Am Against Fanatics": A Dialogue Between Elie Wiesel and Merle Hoffman on Abortion, Love and the Holocaust. Merle Hoffman: Women who choose abortion are consistently labeled killers, and I personally have been compared to Hitler and called a great murderer. Elie Weisel: A woman who feels she cannot go on, and with pain and despair she decides that she has to give up her child, is this woman a killer? Really, really. But look, you cannot let these words hurt you. You have to be strong not to pay any attention because those who do that call you a Hitler and relate it to the Holocaust prove that they do not know what the Holocaust was.

In Fall 1993, NorineDworkin wrote THE ABORTION ISSUE: There Is No Choice Without Providers: So, how does the number one women's outpatient surgical procedure vanish from the teaching curricula? Simply put, lack of motivation on the part of ob/gyn program faculty to institute training and teach the procedure. According to Family Planning Perspectives, a survey conducted shortly after abortion was legalized revealed that many university departments had not fully integrated elective abortion training into their programs. A follow-up study done five years later reported little improvement. That study revealed that 20 to 40 percent of all ob/gyn residents had no clinical experience in first trimester abortion.

In Spring 1994, Loretta Ross wrote A Simple Human Right; The History Of Black Women And Abortion: The tension between the resistance to externally imposed population control and the right of individual women to avoid involuntary motherhood marks the history of black women and reproductive rights in the U.S. It's a fascinating story in its own right, but is also quite relevant to our current struggles.

For today, black reproductive rights activists often face a double challenge. They work to mobilize a black community that is still haunted by the idea of abortion as acquiescent genocide. And they must also work with white women activists, who may believe black women are too new to the struggle to be able to determine present day strategies and future direction. For example, a call last year by the National Black Women's Health Project to launch a campaign to repeal the Hyde Amendment got only a small response from white activist groups. Reconstructing the impressive history of black women and abortion can help us all understand the underlying tensions that divide us and the deep commonalities that can help us work better together in the future.

Poetry has always been part of On The Issues Magazine, and in Summer 1995, after horrible violence at a clinic in Massachusetts, Margie Piercy responded with a powerful new poem, For two women shot to death in Brookline, Massachusetts, with the final lines: We will not dwell in the caves of fear./We will make each other strong./We will make each other safe./There is no other monument.

In Summer 1998, Mary Lou Greenberg addressed the murderous violence of the anti-abortion movement in When "Pro-Life" Means Death: As I held in my hand the sharp slivers of glass that were now the only remains of the shattered windows, my eye was drawn to a metal object in the debris. It was a nail, a small, sharp spike two inches long. I shuddered. Hundreds of these projectiles intended to shred human flesh had been propelled outward by the blast when the bomb went off, just a few feet from the main entrance. I could still see some of the nails embedded in the building's masonry facade, between the now boarded-up door and bits of what had been an awning. A crater, a foot deep, marked where the bomb had been planted. The trajectory of the nails and shrapnel was toward the front door and windows, and the reception area just inside. If the bomb had gone off minutes later, women coming to the clinic for abortions would have been among its victims. As it was, security guard Robert D. Sanderson was killed in the explosion, and nurse Emily Lyons was severely injured. The bomb was not meant to destroy the building -- the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic in Birmingham, Ala., sustained no structural damage -- but the walls of the reception area were torn by the nails.

When the online magazine launched in 2008 after a nine-year publishing hiatus, Eleanor Bader wrote in fall of that year, Anti-Abortion Terror Tactics Take A Toll: What's shocking -- and enraging -- is that both this year and last are considered relatively quiet in terms of anti-abortion activity. In 2007, the National Abortion Federation noted one anthrax threat, 13 death threats, 19 cases of stalking, 23 suspicious packages and 181 incidents of vandalism or trespassing. During the year, several clinics were hit by arson. One, Abortion Acceptance of Albuquerque, burned to the ground.

Indeed, that the pro-choice community is cheered that the past 18 months have seen no murders, attempted murders or bombings speaks volumes about the political climate we live in.

In Winter 2009, Gloria Feldt wrote A Do-Over for Reproductive Justice, Roe was a meaningful and necessary advance, but its grounding in privacy rights portended that it could not stand forever. There must be something more than privacy. And there is. A woman's right to her own life and body has to be elevated to the moral position that supports a human rights framework.

This framework must be translatable into civil rights-based legislation that gives access to relevant health care, education, supportive counseling and economic justice. It must be articulated in policies that will be upheld by courts, and those courts must be reshaped by presidents to speak without apology about the legitimacy of women's reproductive self-determination.

That's my challenge to the next generation of feminists.

In 2010, publisher Merle Hoffman was awarded The Front Page Award for Opinion Writing from the Newswomen's Club of New York for her commentary, Selecting The Same Sex published in Summer 2009. The essay addresses the complex issues of sex selection and abortion, concluding: Practitioners who counsel women seeking abortions do an exercise called "the last abortion." The participants choose one woman among six who will be allowed to receive the last abortion on earth. It is an exercise in individual ethics and forces one to confront her own prejudices. There is an orphaned teenager, a victim of rape, a woman carrying a medically deformed fetus, a 46-year-old woman with HIV, a 12-year-old, and a graduate student who wants to finish her Ph.D. They all have good reasons, because all the reasons are theirs. And in the end, that is the answer: All the reasons are theirs.

If you were the chooser -- what would be your choice?

In Summer 2010, Marcy Bloom wrote a commentary, Health Inequality: Gates Foundation Bans Abortion: So why is the Gates Foundation ignoring the abortion care needs of women? When asked on NPR by reporter Michele Norris, Melinda Gates said, "We don't want to be part of the controversy." …Gates seems unable to understand that the true moral issue is allowing women and girls to die because of lack of access to a safe medical procedure. By trying to avoid the "controversy" surrounding abortion, Gates has created another: it is impossible to work on maternal mortality issues and ignore abortion.

In Fall 2011, Eleanor Bader penned another article, Heather Ault: Visualizing 4000 Years of Choice: Ault has created 50 brightly colored posters, all of which seek to educate viewers about timeworn efforts to control reproduction. Called 4000 Years for Choice, the posters introduce a raft of little-known information. For example, did you know that in 1500 BCE, the Egyptians used a contraceptive plug made from an acacia plant, honey, and lint? Or that ancient Roman physicians wrote about using wild cucumbers to end unwanted pregnancies? Or that, throughout the 1960s, Californian Patricia Maginnis stood on San Francisco street corners and handed out information on how to obtain safe, affordable, albeit illegal, abortions? Ault's paean to Maginnis — a bright red likeness on a peach background — calls her the "first abortion rights activist in history" and lauds her 1961 creation of the Society for Humane Abortion."

See more stories on abortion and reproductive rights from our archives.

Also see: Where the Reality of Abortion Resides: Intimate Wars by Merle Hoffman in this edition of On The Issues Magazine

Read the Cafe for new and updated stories.

SungMontef41 posted: 2012-03-01 02:19:04

Dude that is one of the coolest things ive read in a long time.

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