Women Are Being Prosecuted for Losing Their Babies
In 2006, 15-year-old Rennie Gibbs’ unborn child died after 36 weeks. An autopsy of the fetus showed traces of a metabolite of cocaine. Her doctors informed the authorities that she had tested positive for drugs while pregnant and she was arrested on a charge of “depraved heart murder”—a legal phrase used when it’s alleged that a “callous disregard for human life” has resulted in death. For the last seven years, the case has bounced around in the Mississippi court system as her lawyers wage an extensive legal challenge. Today, Gibbs is still awaiting a trial that could yet send her to prison for life.
The abortion argument is one that has rumbled on noisily for over a century in this country. Gibbs’ case isn’t unrelated to the pro-life/pro-choice debate, but it’s more of a grim sideshow to it, in which laws originally set up to punish third parties who attack pregnant women and cause miscarriages have been used to punish prospective mothers. Another recent example is that of Bei Bei Shuai, who was pregnant when she tried to commit suicide by swallowing rat poison in 2010. Though she survived, her baby Angel died days after birth and Shuai was charged with murder.
Relatively speaking, these two cases have attracted more attention because both women have pleaded not guilty. Many other women have not had the legal support to fight against their charges and have pleaded guilty in order to obtain reduced prison sentences. After reading about Bei Bei’s case in 2011, I wanted to know more their situation and women like them. Lynn Paltrow runs a non-profit organization called National Advocates for Pregnant Women, based in New York. While it’s a small, it’s talking on a national level, getting involved in legal proceedings as well as educating young women so they are aware of their rights. She also campaigns against the personhood movement—a collection of pro-life groups seeking to establish separate constitutional rights for fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses.
About My Abortion
Manifesto of the 343 was published in France in 1971, when abortion was still illegal. It was a confession of having had an abortion, something that made you liable for arrest, signed by 343 famous women. Among them were Catherine Deneuve and Marguerite Duras, Francoise Sagan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jeanne Moreau. Nearly every cigarette-sucking French sex symbol admitted she had had the procedure. The newspapers called them “the 343 Sluts.” Leave it to the French to make abortion glamorous.
In 1974, abortion was legalized in France. The 343 sluts changed everything.
In America today, abortion is legal. But few famous women would add themselves to a similar list.
When some defenders of choice talk about abortion, they often focus on edge cases: rape victims, life-threatening pregnancies, or teens who don’t know how babies are made. That kind of dialogue sometimes makes it seem like abortion is reserved for “other” women. Women who aren’t like them. Which, despite all delusions of enlightenment, is exactly what I thought when at 20, I realized I had an embryo growing inside of me.
Then, just like that, the other was me.
There are so many reasons why women need abortions. Those reasons are often wedded intractably to money. Some women have to abort longed-for pregnancies because of illness. Abortion is sometimes a trauma, sometimes an anticlimax, sometimes a relief. There are a million abortion stories just like there are a million stories of fucking and giving birth and going to war. None are representative. This is mine.
For me, whether or not I would have an abortion was never a question. It was just a question of how soon I could get one. I have never had maternal instincts. I was also broke. I was proud to have clawed my way to that elite station in life represented by having a room that no one walks through to on the way to the bathroom. I slept on a mattress on the floor, and worked as a naked model for amateur photographers—a job that, at the best of times, I often suspected would get me murdered. I was in school training to be an artist.
A baby meant the destruction of everything I might become. Being pregnant made me understand how and why women, pre-Roe v. Wade, stabbed knitting needles into their cervixes. Abstract debate meant nothing while I was throwing up every hour, just wanting to be how I had been before.
Sticking to his campaign promise, French President François Hollande and the French state will now pay for 100 percent (!) of the cost of abortions. Not only that, teenage girls between the ages of 15-18 will have the option for free and anonymous birth control.
Prior to April 1st, French women over 18 could receive only 80% of the cost of an abortion covered, an operation that can cost up to 450 euros. This medical change is part of the 2013 social security budget, and France also hopes to increase the sharing of free contraceptives in an effort to cut down the total number of abortions in general — as there were close to 12,000 abortions performed in France last year.
- by Zach Sokol
The Holy War on Irish Wombs
It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a petition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalizing the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”
It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions—and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky—immigrants, shift-workers… anyone who is too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London—the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish parliament are trying to push through legislation that would allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.
Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.
In part one of our three-parter with Sue Johanson of Sunday Night Sex Show fame, Kara Crabb chats with Sue about her origins as a nurse, being a pioneer of sexual education in a time when abortion was illegal, and the priests who told her to poke holes in condoms.
My Abortion Story
Last year I got knocked up by a dating coach. I can’t claim naivety since I knew what his profession was and had even sat in on a conference call while he attempted to guide a group of men from around the world into the skirts of their local drunk girls. However, while I was repulsed, I was also intrigued.
We met at a 12-step meeting. He was well spoken and short but handsome. We began a three-month Skype courtship while traveling around different parts of the world—me in San Francisco, him in Rio, me in Austin, him in Trinidad. I learned that he had two kids he didn’t exactly show up for, with a woman he verbally disrespected. He loathed his mother, and told me how he encouraged his first girlfriend to have sex with multiple men in front of him in order to help her “process” a gang-rape she went through years prior. Though he recounted this story with a sense of shame, I still should have taken it as a cue to bow out.
In a week of us sleeping together I did that thing that I hate that I do—I checked his phone. I know it’s a violation of privacy. I know it’s horrible. I know it’s dishonest and shitty. But I did it anyway. What I found was an email from his long-distance girlfriend that read, “I know something is wrong. Something feels off. I can’t lose you. If you want me to lose weight I will. Please don’t leave me. Without you I have nothing to live for.” I felt waves of nausea wash over me. I didn’t want to tell him what I’d done, so how could I get him to somehow tell me. A while later, when he was cooking us dinner her name popped up on his cell phone and he rejected the call. I carried on that night like everything was normal until, in the middle of sex, I just couldn’t stop myself from talking.
“I can’t get serious about you.” I said, continuing to ride him with a slow rhythm.
“You know I’m falling for you.” He looked up at me.
“You already have a girlfriend.” I said.
“You say that with such conviction.”
“I have to tell you something. You’re going to be mad.”
“What is it?”
“I checked your phone. And read your emails. I know you have a girlfriend.”
“How do you feel about that?” He grabbed my hips starting to slowly thrust into me again. This is so fucked up, I thought.
“I can’t date you if you have a girlfriend.” I said.
“I wasn’t afraid of you knowing. I was afraid to tell you.”
“I still can’t date you.” He pushed me off and got on top.
“I understand that.” He leaned down and kissed me.
What the fuck am I doing?
Me Vs. “Me” - by Kate Carraway
I’ve never had an abortion, but I’ve been to a few. They are or are not a big deal depending on a few things, like, how much religious or sexual dogma was absorbed before the age of majority, or whenever a girl double-middle-fingered her origin story and peeled the fuck out of there. It also probably depends on how bloodily nightmarish said dogma was, and on whether you believe that abortion is murder but an OK kind of murder or an almost nonthing or whatever. But I don’t actually know anything about abortions, and I don’t want to, because it’s probably not much different from but probably worse than touching my eyeball, and I hate that.
It doesn’t matter, but it does necessarily exclude me from a subset of my feminist sistren [spits] who are very into their I Had an Abortion T-shirts, and the ways in which their collectivized experience gives other people the squigglies, which is all fine—totally fine—and I do all of that all the time about having been raped: all code words behind whisper fingers with other girls who know. When you have an essential interest because you chose it or were born into it, or because something happened to you that was like a rushing wave of surgical knives, you will want to be somehow among your similars, getting empathically inebriated. (Twitter is a good place to see this play out without self-consciousness.)
What I’m trying to get at, basically, is that I think pro-choicers should be marketing their point of view to teenagers. Before you get all Antonin Scalia about it, just think for a second: Teens are the policy-makers of tomorrow, their minds are the most malleable, and they are the most horny. Also, I think we can all agree that no one wants kids having kids. (There’s also the overpopulation argument, and if Idiocracy has taught us anything it’s that a future where only the dumb have children is very bleak.) So it is a goal of mine to popularize abortion. Like, not just make it “OK,” but actually “cool.”
—Totally Abortion! Read the whole thing