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Laugh it Up with “Obvious Child”

obviouschildHave you ever wondered what it would be like to be a stand up comedian and make jokes about yourself to get laughs from the audience? Donna Stern, the lead character in “Obvious Child,” does exactly that. Donna is my favorite kind of comedian. She tells fart jokes and there are plenty of references to poop throughout the film. But what makes “Obvious Child” different from your typical crude comedy is that the film provides an in-depth look at the reality of unintended pregnancy and obtaining a first-trimester abortion.

We get and inside look at a Planned Parenthood clinic when Donna goes there to verify the results of her pee stick. The doctor asks Donna if she wants to go over all of her options, but Donna assures the physician that she has already thought about all the options and she is sure she wants to get an abortion. She schedules her procedure . . . for Valentine’s Day . . . and then tries to go about her business as best as she can while she waits for her appointment.

Donna talks to her friends about whether or not she should tell Max, the partner in her one-night stand, with about her pregnancy. They offer different points of view and make great jokes about screwing the patriarchy. Who knew feminism could be so funny? [Read more…]

Women’s History Month: Susan Wicklund

Susan-WicklundAs we finish this year’s Women’s History Month, we wanted to spotlight one more inspirational woman who contributed immensely to the protection of women’s reproductive rights. Dr. Susan Wicklund, an abortion provider, author, activist, and recent retiree, is someone we hope won’t soon be forgotten.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin and living on welfare for a time, Dr. Wicklund understood just how much socioeconomic status and geographical region could affect a woman’s ability to access abortion services. After herself having an abortion and being upset by the subpar quality of her treatment during the process, Dr. Wicklund developed a desire to make reproductive healthcare better for women. To this end, she trained as a midwife and eventually went to medical school, where she learned to perform abortions.

After attending the 1989 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C. and learning that the hospital she worked at was not permitted to perform elective abortions, Dr. Wicklund sought out opportunities to get involved with local (and sometimes not-so-local) clinics. At one point, she was traveling between Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota on a daily basis, sometimes as the only available abortion provider in the state. Later, she opened her own clinic in Montana, allowing her to also service Wyoming.

While Dr. Wicklund only performed first-trimester abortions, she supports the legality of late-term abortions. Her philosophy is that doctors should be open to, and actively seek to, counsel their patients. Of course, her intention is not to discourage patients from seeking abortions, but instead to ensure that they are comfortable making the choice that is best for them.

Not unlike other abortion providers, Dr. Wicklund faced frequent threats and harassment from anti-abortion activists. But, she received special attention and gave a face to abortion providers during an interview on 60 Minutes in 1992, during which she discussed the experience of working under such hostile conditions. In 2011, The Guardian named Dr. Wicklund one of its top 100 women due to her persistence in the face of violence.

Dr. Wicklund also wrote a memoir titled This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. In the book, she reflects on her own experiences and shares the stories of some of her patients. Her hope is that the book can serve to open discussion about abortion on a personal level, given the prevalence of abortion among American women and the deep shame that often accompanies the decision.

Women’s History Month: Wendy Davis

Wendy DavisWe’ve all heard Wendy Davis’ name thrown around after she gained political stardom as the result of staging a one-woman filibuster last summer. But, in honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to make sure that you know exactly why she should be remembered as an advocate of reproductive rights.

Davis spent most of her childhood working to help support her financially struggling family. Although she graduated high school with honors and intended to study at the University of Texas at Arlington, she was forced to take time away from her education in order to work. But, she eventually attended Texas Christian University, graduating at the top of her class, and continued on to Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, she volunteered at a legal clinic for the poor, assisting AIDS patients and their families. Later, she served as a clerk under a district court judge in Dallas, worked for a corporate law firm, served on the Fort Worth City Council, and is currently a Senator in the Texas State Senate.

Despite winning numerous awards (such as the “Bold Woman Award”, the “Texas Women’s Health Champion Award,” and the title “Best Servant of the People”) during her time in the Texas Senate, undoubtedly her biggest claim to fame is being the senator who spoke for 11 hours while wearing running shoes on the senate floor.

But really, she did speak for 11 hours in attempt to maintain the floor until midnight, when the special session would end and there would be no time left to vote on a bill that would severely restrict abortion access in Texas. Contained in the bill were provisions to “ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.” Recognizing that such laws would force a number of clinics to shut down or stop providing abortion services, Davis took to the floor on June 25th, 2013. Unfortunately, three hours before midnight (after the 11 hours of speaking), there was question as to whether she had gotten off topic, forcing a vote on whether she could continue. Fortunately, parliamentary procedure and the cheering of bystander activists distracted from a vote on the bill until after midnight. While this should have killed the bill, on June 26th, Texas Governor Rick Perry allowed the bill to be considered during a second special session, allowing its eventual passage.

Despite the long-term loss, Davis gained enormous recognition and respect from pro-choice advocates, and she is now a favorite for Texas Governor in the upcoming 2014 elections.

Women’s History Month: Sarah Weddington

weddingtonAlthough we’re halfway through, let’s not forget that it’s Women’s History Month and celebrate accordingly! At AANA, we particularly like women who have made moves to make abortions safer and more accessible. So, who else to spotlight than Sarah Weddington, the attorney who represented Roe in Roe v. Wade?

Weddington grew up in Texas, the daughter of a Methodist minister, and later attended the University of Texas Law School as one of only 40 women in a student body of 1600. Although we think this should have made her stand out as an exceptional candidate, she found difficulty in securing a job with a law firm. But, it turned out just fine because she instead joined up with a group of students who were looking to challenge anti-abortion laws in Texas.

Having herself traveled to Mexico seeking an illegal abortion, Weddington volunteered to head up any case they could bring to court. This is when Norma McCorvey (referred to as Jane Roe to protect her identity) was referred to Weddington and her group to file suit against Henry Wade, the district attorney who enforced the anti-abortion statute, denying McCorvey’s request for an abortion.

Although the district court sided with Weddington’s team, the state court overturned it, bringing the case national attention when it went before the Supreme Court. Arguing on grounds of like all the amendments (the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 14th), Weddington convinced the court in a 7-2 decision, legalizing abortion during the first trimester. This ruling is just as important today as it was when it was decided. Despite hundreds of attempts by lawmakers to restrict access to abortion, the Roe v. Wade ruling provides a baseline level of reproductive choice that is invaluable to the rights and the safety of women who seek abortions.

“After Tiller” Provides an Intimate Look at Abortion Clinics

dr robinsonWhen people ask me where I’m interning, I find myself choosing my words carefully, knowing that there is so much important information to convey, but that I only have a few seconds before the person decides that they’re either with me or against me in my work. Unfortunately, so much of the conversation about reproductive rights and access to safe medical care has occurred in the arena of politics, rather than of policy or community. As such, misconception, and blatant assumption, about the people who choose to have abortions and the doctors who provide them have become institionalized as part and parcel to the general knowledge of the issue.

Fortunately, films like After Tiller represent an opportunity to change the discourse on abortion by providing a candid look into the real lived experiences of those involved and the multi-dimensional ethical deliberations that are constantly on both the patients’ and doctors’ minds at the clinics. While the film focuses on late-term abortions and the heated political climate that surrounds them, After Tiller provides a larger look at the process of obtaining reproductive choice-related healthcare and the struggles that seekers of abortion must face. In interviewing and shadowing the four remaining doctors who are currently able to provide late-term abortions, the viewer is offered a more grounded, humanized look into what clinics look like from the inside, both in terms of the operations within and the protests just beyond the door.

Unquestionably to me, the most striking moments of the film are when the doctors listen to the stories of their patients, attempting to understand why it is that they want abortions, and engaging in dialogue to determine whether it is ultimately in the woman’s best interest. But as one doctor points out, as much as it is the realm of doctors to determine which procedure to use and whether it will be safe, it is hardly their expertise to know completely how an abortion might play into the mother’s life. Rather, women are fully capable of making reasoned moral decisions about their lives, and those choices should be respected when possible. To the end of making this fact clear, the film offers a number of narratives, highlighting the diversity of reasons that women end up seeking abortions. Of course, it would be much too Utopian to hope for a future in which women’s decisions are always respected and political ideology never interferes with access.

However, the clear passion of these four doctors is what imbues the film with hope. Despite the serious challenges from lawmakers and local populations trying to shut down clinics, these doctors show no sign of giving in. Rather, their hope is that people come to recognize that the health and the safety of women who seek abortions is of central importance and that closing clinics does nothing to advance that value. Ultimately, doctors and women who seek/have sought abortions, not policymakers, should be empowered to speak about abortion, opening the door to more productive dialogue.

Opening Day Rally at the Arizona State Capitol

Yesterday was the opening day for the 2014 Arizona state legislative session. Several pro-choice groups organized the rally, including NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Arizona List, Arizona’s AFL-CIO, the Arizona Foundation for Women, the ACLU of Arizona, and Abortion Access Network of Arizona, among other groups. NARAL Pro-choice Arizona’s Executive Director Kat Sabine gave a speech urging people to share their stories, register to vote, and keep on standing up for women’s rights.

Pro-choice groups in Arizona were lucky that no anti-abortion bills were passed during the 2013 legislative session. This is because the state legislature got tied up in debates about universal health care access and the federal regulations mandating that states provide health care insurance collectives. We are happy that the US Supreme Court ruled on January 13th that Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional. That being said, anti-choice groups will be gearing up to introduce more reproductive health regulations during the 2014 legislative session. I hope you’ll listen to Kat’s speech and get inspired to roll up your sleeves and get involved in the movement.

Attitude of Gratitude

stocking stuffersOn Saturday, November 9, 2013 Abortion Access Network of Arizona hosted its first annual Holiday Fundraiser. Local artisans and businesses were very generous with the gifts they shared with us. All of the Etsy vendors who joined our cause are appreciated, especially since none of them reside in the state of Arizona. Shoot! We even had donations shipped to us from Greece, Australia, and the UK.

If you live in Tucson, please show your gratitude by visiting PopCycle, Antigone Books, and Revolutionary Grounds on 4th Avenue. We appreciate all of the authors who donated autographed copies of their books to our fundraiser: Sarah Erdrich, Gloria Feldt, Fran Johns, Robin Marty, Jessica Mason Pieklo, Judy Schachner, Stephen Singular, and Susan Stryker. And it’s never too late to show the Etsy vendors who contributed some love:
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AANA Garners National Media Attention

In 2012, over 40 abortion restrictions were passed across the country.  When you add that to the 60 abortion restrictions passed in 2011, you see a very bleak picture of what reproductive healthcare looks like in the United States.  Arizona, however, tops the list of states with the harshest laws pertaining to women’s health.  This year the legislature passed a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of gestation.  This bill will force many women to travel out of state to obtain healthcare services, which will drastically increase the cost of their abortions.

Arizona’s legislation is so bad that our state has garnered national media attention.  Thankfully, so has Abortion Access Network of Arizona.  In October, AANA’s work was featured on the Rachel Maddow show, as well as in Bloomberg’s Business Week.  Carrie Klaege, one of AANA’s founders, told Rachel Maddow that “abortion is legal [in the state of Arizona], but when you have to travel 300 miles to get to a clinic that provides the services you need, you don’t really have access.”  [Read more…]

Three Anti-Abortion Bills Passed in Arizona

In April of this year, three anti-choice bills were passed. One bill, HB2036, bans abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy except in a “medical emergency”. This law was passed by claiming that conception begins at “the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman,” which would move the beginning of a pregnancy up two weeks prior to conception. Using this backwards logic, Arizona claims to have a 20-week cutoff but has actually become the state with the earliest cutoff for late-term abortions in the country.

Someone who wants an abortion is also required to get a transvaginal ultrasound, an expensive form of state-sanctioned rape which requires a healthcare provider to insert an object into the patient’s vagina in order to show them a sonogram of the developing fetus. The law also requires doctors to remind patients that alternatives to abortion are located in Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS)’s website. The bill reiterates parental consent laws and states that civil action may be brought against anyone who violates them.

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