"80 percent of women who experienced mostly negative emotions still felt that abortion was the right choice for them."
"80 percent of women who experienced mostly negative emotions still felt that abortion was the right choice for them."
Everything You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know About Abortion
Founded in 2007, the Museum for Contraception and Abortion in Vienna, Austria, is world’s most thorough collection of all the different methods and objects humans have used to stop them producing other humans. Recently I was given a tour of the museum by Christian Fiala, an abortion provider who founded the museum (pictured, below left), and this is what he told me as we walked through the exhibits.
There is, of course, a backstory as to why I started working in this field [of abortion and contraception], which is considered a big taboo in Austria—even more so in the Alpine region of Tyrol, where they wouldn’t even rent out an apartment to my girlfriend and me because we weren’t married.
Back then, I had just started attending med school and was shocked to discover that loads of my colleagues didn’t know how to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, despite their professional education.
After spending a year in Thailand, where I saw women dying on a daily basis during failed self-induced abortions, I decided to take action. I wanted to help and support the victims and help educate their partners about the risks and possibilities—especially when the choice isn’t fatherhood.
French Right Wingers Rioted Against Pretty Much Everything Last Weekend
On Sunday, we arrived at Bastille Square in Paris under heavy rain, ready for a protest that had been billed as a “Day of Anger” by the dozens of far-right groups responsible for organizing it. The demonstration had a nebulous array of gripes: They hated abortions, the gays, the Jews, and so on. Most of all, though, they hated the French president, François Hollande and his Socialist Party. Hollande actually become more popular since news broke of his affair with actress Julie Gayet, but his approval rating is still a dismal 31 percent, and that seems unlikely to change no matter how much sex he has.
That isn’t to say that the far right is more popular than he is—Bastille Square was far from full. The organizers claimed there were over 150,000 protesters at the event, but the police said there were only about 17,000, which sounds closer to the truth.
Before a fist had been shaken in anger, about ten members of the militant, frequently nude feminist group FEMEN showed up to protest against the protest. By the time we arrived they had already been bundled into police vans, the crowd chucking shouts of “whores” at them as they were whisked off to the station. Their clothes had been left behind on the street, and we wondered what would happen to them.
Then the march began.
The Stealth War on Abortion
While more Americans support upholding ‘Roe v. Wade’ than ever, the Tea Party and the Christian right have teamed up to pass hundreds of restrictions eviscerating abortion rights in GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country.
The Least Bad Option
Americans will declare war on almost anything. Like most nations in history, we declare war on other governments. But we have also made a habit of declaring war on ideologies (Communism, Islamic extremism), on broadly defined patterns of violence (terrorism, piracy), and even on abstract social ills (poverty, drugs). And then there are the “culture wars,” a lazy phrase that at one point served as a shorthand for the political agenda of the Christian right, but which has recently expanded to refer to any controversial topic that doesn’t involve tax brackets or firing cruise missiles into foreign countries. Guns, medical marijuana, zoning regulations, soda bans, physician-assisted suicide, rent-controlled apartments, Citibikes, and the Pledge of Allegiance all are part of the culture wars according to one respected commentator or another.
But there is one front in the culture war where the word “war” doesn’t seem like overheated rhetoric, where real bullets are fired and where real bombs are thrown: the struggle over the availability and scope of abortion. It’s the hot-button social issue that stubbornly continues to divide Americans even as other bones of contention like recreational drug use and gay rights inch reliably towards liberalization. And the white-hot beating heart of the abortion debate—its bloodiest battlefield—is the question of late-term (i.e., third-trimester) abortions.
Late-term abortions and the forces arrayed for and against them are the subject of a wrenching new documentary, After Tiller, which opens in New York later this month. The film profiles the four remaining doctors in the United States who perform late-term abortions, all of whose lives were touched in one way or another by George Tiller, the Kansas-based, late-term abortion provider gunned-down by an anti-abortion extremist while attending Sunday church services three years ago. In the aftermath of Tiller’s slaying, Randall Terry, founder of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, called Tiller a “mass murderer” who “reaped what he sowed.” Despite widespread condemnation, the killer got what he wanted: late-term abortions are no longer available in Kansas. Residents now must travel 500 miles to Denver for the procedure.
The Abortion Freedom Riders
There’s no disputing that here in the US there seems to be some kind of state-level legislative epidemic hellbent on condemning female reproductive rights for ever more. Never mind the explosive support of Texas Senator Wendy Davis during her abortion-bill filibuster earlier this summer—Governor Rick Perry saw that the bill passed in the bat of an eye in an instantaneously appointed special session. A couple states away, in North Dakota, recent legislation aimed to prohibit abortions after six weeks but was paused by a last-minute injunction granted on July 31, mere hours before the new laws were set to take effect. Not that it matters much anyway: There’s only one remaining abortion clinic in the entire state. Meanwhile, Arkansas has instituted its own ban on abortions after twelve-weeks.
So it sucks, but what are you doing about it? Probably nothing. Did you pile into a van and drive for a month straight through some of the most abortion-inhospitable states to protest in front of weird white men plaintively screaming at you to kill yourself? I doubt it.
But Sunsara Taylor gathered a crew of twenty-one fellow activists and embarked on a massive road trip—New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, by way of Fargo, Wichita, and Jackson, Mississippi. All for the purpose of demonstrating at last-remaining clinics, corrupt anti-abortion organizations, and state capitols. Their slogan: “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” Their name, a provocative homage to another tremendous civil rights protest that toured the Deep South: the “Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.”
I had a chance to speak with Sunsara as she and her crew wrapped up their tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.
VICE: How did it go in Charlotte?
Sunsara: Well, we went to Charlotte yesterday to make it to Moral Monday, which was a pretty major protest. In North Carolina, there are new restrictions that have been passed on abortion which would close down clinics in that state, but this is just part of the whole tapestry, nationwide, of drastic restrictions to women’s right to abortion, and really, it’s a state of emergency facing women’s rights. So we went there with that message—we had an incredible reception. We have this big, beautiful banner we’ve traveled around the country with that says “Abortion Providers Are Heroes” and people have been signing it at every stop along the country. But there, we were just mobbed with people who wanted to write a message on it and put their name on it, get literature and get connected.
Can you explain how you chose some of the stops on the tour?
[We chose] Wichita, because it’s the home of where Dr. George Tiller practiced for many years. He was stalked and hunted by Operation Rescue—Christian fascists, a very theocratic organization with ties into the power structure at the national level and who relocated their offices to Wichita to target Dr. Tiller for years, and he, as you know, was assassinated in his church, and we wanted to go there because there have been so many more restrictions passed in Kansas. Even though after four years, some people very heroically and courageously re-opened an abortion clinic, they can’t do abortions as late as Dr. Tiller had performed them. They have further restrictions there than were there four years ago. The new doctor who has been flying in there has now been outed by the anti-abortion protesters and she is being targeted and stalked in her home in Oak Park, Chicago. So we wanted to go there and rally support.
Irish Women Are Buying Abortion Pills Advertised on Street Lamps
Names and identities in this article have been changed.
"This is what it’s coming to," said Katie. "These stickers are popping up on lampposts all over town." The Dublin streetlamp she’s pointing at, along with many others around the city, has been branded with a large, pink dot beneath the words, "A SAFE ABORTION WITH PILLS." It’s part of an ad campaign for a website selling miscarriage-inducing drugs, a good deal of which are being snapped up by young Irish women for whom abortion remains a stigma that can’t be addressed openly.
"Vulnerable girls and women are ordering shite like this online and hiding away to ride it out and hope for the best. It’s hideous," Katie told me, repulsed. Ten years ago, she—like tens of thousands of Irish women have in the past decade—made a secret trip to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. But today, abortion in Ireland is still illegal and divisive. Politicians may have voted overwhelmingly to introduce limited abortion last week, pushing the bill onto the next stage, but even if it were passed, it would only allow women who were deemed to be sufficiently “suicidal” to stop unwanted pregnancies in their tracks.
Ireland’s quietest export—women who travel to the UK seeking an abortion—is often referred to in the country’s ferocious abortion debate. But the less publicized practice of self-administering—when Irish women order their own “abortion pills” online—is actually much more common.
“No one talks about women who self-administer,” says Amy. Four years ago, she carried out an abortion on herself using a pill bought from the internet. “We talk about our 5,000 women a year who travel, but no one talks about the really dark underbelly of self-administering, and there are far more of us. We’re swept under the carpet.”
Anti-abortion posters in Dublin. Photo courtesy of @redlemonader
“This kind of abortion is a lot more common than people think,” said Cathy Doherty from the Abortion Rights Campaign. “Before I’d heard of it, I never really thought you’d still have the ‘back-alley abortion’ in Ireland these days—women sitting alone in their houses, still desperate enough to try it.”
The Abortion Rights Battle in Texas Comes to Term
The battle for reproductive rights is on in Texas. You might not have known that if you watch the 24-hour cable news channels, since during state senator Wendy Davis’ ten-hour filibuster against an extreme anti-abortion bill and the subsequent too-late vote forced by the Republicans last week, they were talking about muffins and George Zimmerman.
Media attention or no media attention, yesterday marked the second day of the second special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, which governor Rick Perry called on June 26 so lawmakers could vote on the anti-abortion bill and a couple of other measures. “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn,”Perry said, while meanwhile, the state of Texas was executing its 500th prisoner since 1976, a woman namedKimberly McCarthy. The big event yesterday, which drew hordes of pro-choice and pro-life protesters, was the second public hearing on the anti-abortion bill at the Capitol building in Austin.
Phony Abortion Clinics Are Scaring Women with Lies
Warning: This article contains extreme imagery. All images are from the literature given out at the Aid to Women crisis center.
If you’re pregnant and panicking, there’s a good chance your research will lead you to the website of a crisis pregnancy center. There are about 200 of them across Canada and 4,000 in the United States, and if you believe their advertising, they offer no-judgment counselling services for women who want to know what their options are. Most of the time, they won’t tell you they’re religious organizations hell-bent on convincing you to avoid having an abortion. They’ll have innocuous-sounding names, like “Aid to Women” or “Pregnancy Care Center,” and to the untrained eye, they won’t look like they’re being run by nutjobs who have no problem lying to women.
When I call Aid to Women, a Toronto crisis pregnancy center, to schedule a pregnancy options consultation, I speak with Enza Rattenni, the executive director. She seems friendly enough at first, but it’s not long before what should be a pretty simple phone call starts feeling like an interrogation.
None of what I tell Enza on the phone is true. I’m not six weeks pregnant, I don’t have a boyfriend, and I don’t need options counselling. But I’ve heard a ton of horror stories about crisis pregnancy centers and wanted to find out for myself.
“Where did you get our number?” she asks. My boyfriend. “What’s your boyfriend’s name?” I blurt out the first name that comes to mind. “Oh, OK. Where did he get our number? Just curious because it’s always interesting to hear how people find out about us.” Shit. I’m a terrible liar and haven’t thought this through. I mumble something about finding the center online. Luckily, Enza seems satisfied that I’m not a reporter—just a vulnerable pregnant girl in need of some advice.
She tells me if I’m only able to come in after hours, it’s fine and that she knows how important it is to have these conversations. Sometimes, she tells me, girls walk out of abortion clinics and find out they’ve been LIED to, and she doesn’t want this to happen to me. It makes me wonder how the women who mistakenly stumble into the clinic must feel when they realize they’ve wandered into the hands of an anti-abortion organization.