Friday, August 31, 2007

States are funding anti-abortion advice

Published: Sunday February 11, 2007
click here for article

A growing number of states are funding pro-life groups to counsel women with unplanned pregnancies, writes the LA Times.

Public funds are being used in at least eight states to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers and other programs designed to keep pregnant women from having abortions. In some cases, grants being awarded carry stipulations keeping counselors from referring women to abortion clinics or even talking about contraception.

Many of the groups receiving funding, in states including Texas, Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, are faith-based. Tax laws bars groups from using federal money for religious purposes, but such groups can still participate in government programs.

The trend is disturbing to many abortion-rights advocates. But some supporters of the funding don't see it a threat to pro-choice. "I have heard many pro-choice people say, 'There ought to be fewer abortions.' [Funding] this is one way we can do that," Pennsylvania state Rep. Thomas A. Tangretti, tells the LA Times.

Excerpts from the article below:

Most states still spend far more money subsidizing comprehensive family planning, but the flow of tax dollars to anti-abortion groups has surged in recent months, as programs have taken effect in Texas and Minnesota.

The trend alarms abortion-rights supporters, who assert that the funds would be better spent — and would prevent more abortions — if used to expand access to birth control. But to anti-abortion activists such as Nancy McDonald, the funding is both practical and symbolic, a way of putting the state's stamp of approval on their work.

Here in Texas, the state reduced grants to a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Austin — and began sending some of the money to the Roman Catholic diocese a block away.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New website for The Coat Hanger Project!

The Coat Hanger Project has a new website! Visit us at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Florida: ERA would be good for men, too!


Florida MALES ALSO BENEFIT FROM AN ERA (Equal Rights Amendment)

Click here to find out more information about the Florida ERA

Granted, it’s hard for some to admit that discrimination exists and often goes unchallenged. Males experience sex discrimination, too,--- often goes unrecognized—though women experience it more egregiously and more routinely. Not everything would be ‘fixed” right away by the ERA. Equal treatment by the courts and in the military and fair equal wages are among the most notable. Defense against sex discrimination needs to be written in the US Constitution for both sexes because NOTHING else guarantees it. Laws, the Florida constitution, and the 14th Amendment—each has quirks making them unreliable as guarantees.

Child custody: often traditionally goes to the mother in a divorce case just because she is typically assigned to be the better parent for a child, whether that is the case or not.

Males often have little or no choice in becoming a father if they rely on a woman’s word that she is "on the Pill".

Women’s molestation of boys is sometimes not punished by the courts as rigorously. (e.g., Debra LeFevre case)

When a crime is described, the unknown perpetrator is always called ‘he’.

Working families’ accrual from their combined wages averages $4205 less per year than if She were paid equally and fairly for the work she does.

Men cannot automatically take the woman’s last name in marriage.

Children are considered citizens of the Mother’s country only.

And, America males filed an increased number of sex discrimination charges last year! Justice would be better served with an ERA to provide a higher level of review by the courts, strict scrutiny.

Men as well as women who bring sex discrimination cases are currently deprived of court review by Strict Scrutiny since ERA guidelines are not yet in place in the Constitution. Intermediate Scrutiny is usually applied. This means that these plaintiffs’ cases have statistically only a 47% chance of positive outcome. Winning under Strict Scrutiny has a statistical chance of 73%. (Rutgers Law Journal, April 2006).

According to one large recent study, wherever equality of the sexes is the standard, divorce rates decline. (It may be that equality could bring about improved mutual understandings of the other sex, and more healthy negotiation of issues in the family and workplace.) Another study found that marital relations improve.

Beliefs about men and their roles will not directly be rectified by ERA but may change as a result: “Real men deny their feelings, cannot cry. Masculinity has to be proven constantly. Men’s jobs are more important to them than anything else; men are identified by their jobs. Real men don’t get sick. Men are tough and can take it. Men must be perfect in bed. Old: Providing for his family is completely the man’s responsibility. Men must be all things to all people. Men must be the Rescuer; women the Victim. Strong, strong: Men must act the Predator role no matter what; not even Family matters. Men must meet society’s demand to be: the capable provider, aggressive competitor, the wise father, the solver of all problems, the sensitive and gentle lover, the fearless protector, the cool and controlled one under pressure (this is in 1978). Sounds unrealistically demanding to us. From Goldberg’s, The Hazards of Being Male.

P. S.

You may be thinking, we already have laws against sex discrimination, and we have the wording of the Florida constitution, and the 14th Amendment. THEY DON’T WORK RELIABLY.

Unfortunately, none of them defend reliably against sex discrimination. Laws can be ignored, distorted, overturned, or made worse—else why are Florida women still being paid 28% less. Working families lose an average of $4205 per year for that reason. Why aren’t men marching in the street about that? The Florida constitution was made moot by a Brevard County court opinion in January 2001 and reinforced in another Florida case in 2004. The 14th Amendment focuses solely on racial discrimination, speaks only of males’ rights and does not address women’s problems—was not intended to. The only incontestable right in the US Constitution for women is the they went and got for themselves 50 years after all men had it – the right to vote, in 1920.

Bottom line is that there is much historical precedent for women being discriminated against—the first ever case of sex discrimination that found it illegal was only in 1971, Before that it had no legal standing. Women had to struggle to get the Vote for themselves in 1920. History does influence the court’s judgments. Until there is an ERA, there is NO guarantee of equality of the sexes. The Constitution is a contract with the people that is still missing this piece. And everyone knows that if you don’t have a contract, you don’t have a substantive legal claim. Both sexes should get Honorable Mention in the Constitution representing citizens’ contract with America.

Who could be against Equality for ALL in America?

That’s why we come before you to urge you to VOTE FOR SCR 272 or HCR 8003 THIS SESSION, for Florida’s ERA ratification.


How much time should a woman do for having an abortion?

Monday, August 27, 2007
Some uncomfortable questions about abortion

click here for article link

One of my sons has just dawn my attention to this thought-provoking, six-minute-long YouTube posting, featuring a polite, off-screen interviewer asking anti-abortion activists at a demonstration in the U.S. earlier this summer a very good set of questions, which can be summed up as:

1. Do you think abortion should be illegal? (The answer was invariably Yes).

2. OK, then, if abortion becomes illegal, what do you think the penalty should be for a woman who has an abortion?

It's a logical and pertinent question, but not a single one of the demonstrators had a well-thought-out answer. Most of them initially suggested that the woman would have to answer to God, but then later displayed some discomfort when the interviewer pointed out that if abortion were simply a matter between a woman and God, then there was no reason to make it illegal.
It should be noted that one of the demonstrators suggested that the interviewer talk to the event's organizer for a detailed policy response. Either the interviewer failed to do so or he chose to omit the interview from the posting.

The demonstrators showed admirable honesty and also displayed commendable empathy for women who find themselves in so deep a personal crisis that they choose to abort their children. Nevertheless, I was taken aback by the obvious gap in the pro-life platform when it comes to sentencing. Indeed, I cannot recall hearing the issue discussed in Canada, for example, in the decade and a half since the Senate killed the Mulroney government's abortion-regulation bill. And I have to admit I personally haven't given it much thought.

So, are pro-lifers hypocrites for, on one hand, calling abortion "murder," but on the other hand appearing to not have the fortitude to demand murder-like sentences for women who abort their unborn children? If so, does this signify that the abortion question is really a moral one, not a legal one?

Is the more culpable criminal in an abortion actually the abortionist? If so, is the mother really another victim?

Tell Congress: "Stop Denying Emergency Contraception to our Servicewomen!"

Click here to send a quick email to Congress demanding they provide emergency contraception to servicewomen

With over 350,000 women serving in our nation's armed services, it is reprehensible that this administration will not allow them complete access to emergency contraception. You can help.

Last year nearly 3,000 military women reported sexual assault while on active duty. Part of the recommended regimen for treating survivors of assault is to inform them about and offer them emergency contraception, yet it is only sporadically available to servicewomen at their base pharmacies and medical facilities in the U.S. and overseas.

This is simply unacceptable. Women in the military deserve more from their country. Until this sexual violence ends, we must at least ensure that they can prevent any pregnancy resulting from these criminal acts.

No one questions the need for the highest grade and most reliable form of protective body armor for our troops at war. Yet our women in the armed services are often defenseless to prevent pregnancies resulting from rape because they are being denied information about and access to emergency contraception. We must support legislation to guarantee that our servicewomen have the same access to emergency contraception as their civilian counterparts.

The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act (S.1800/H.R.2064), sponsored by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Representative Michael Michaud (D-Maine), requires full access to emergency contraception for servicewomen at all U.S. military health care facilities around the world.

Take Action NOW

Ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act which will require that all military health care facilities stock emergency contraception. Tell them to support this health care version of "body armor” which will protect the reproductive health and human rights of women serving our country in the armed forces.


Emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill (brand name Plan B), is a safe, effective, FDA-approved pharmaceutical. EC is simply a high dose of hormonal birth control pills which can be used to prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. While EC is sold without prescription for women ages 18 and older in all 50 states, U.S. servicewomen are not guaranteed access to the drug on military bases in our country and abroad, including fields of combat.

In 2002, the Department of Defense initially added its Basic Care Formulary, a list of over 200 medications required to be stocked at all military treatment facilities. Sadly, emergency contraception was quietly removed from the list weeks later, a result of ideological pressure from the Bush administration. Now, it is at the discretion of each health facility to decide whether or not to stock EC, and military women have no guarantee of universal access.

Servicewomen deserve quality health care, including access to EC. In 2003, a survey financed by the Defense Department found that almost a third of all servicewomen reported being the victim of rape or attempted rape during their time in the Armed Services. Most women serving our country rely exclusively on military facilities for all their health care needs and restricting or denying access to emergency contraception is not only unhealthy and irresponsible but completely unjust.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales' Federal Abortion Ban Legacy

Alberto Gonzales' Federal Abortion Ban Legacy
Amie Newman, RH Reality Check on August 27, 2007 - 2:00pm
article link

So here we are nine months after Democrats swept Congress and Donald Rumsfield tendered his resignation tipping off a series of escapes among Bush administration senior officials, including Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz.

The latest one to jump ship? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who submitted his resignation today, Monday, August 27th. According to his letter, his resignation will become effective on September 17th.

As with the stellar lot of Bush administration senior staff who have come and now gone, Gonzales has become best known for what looks like mishandled situations and potentially deceptive actions rather than a commitment to ensuring an open, just and Democratic government.

In Gonzales' case, the group firing of eight U.S. attorneys (federal prosecutors) and the subsequent inquiry and investigation into the handling of the firings led to his demise. But the Attorney General has been mired in controversy since being appointed by his close-friend, President Bush. Gonzales' tag-line, "it's a new kind of war"- in reference to the war on terror, became a de-facto way to excuse his outrageous flogging of American's civil liberties including instituting a domestic spying programs that allowed for warrantless wiretapping and advocating for U.S. exemption from the Geneva Convention in certain circumstances.

But how exactly does the Attorney General wield power over women's reproductive health and rights?

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR),

"The Attorney General's office holds enormous power over a woman's right to reproductive self-determination. During his confirmation hearing, the current Attorney General, John Ashcroft, promised to enforce Roe but instead aggressively defended the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," a law that three federal courts have found blatantly violates the rights protected by the decision.

The Attorney General also determines how he or she will enforce federal laws that protect a woman's right to an abortion, such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE).

Through the Solicitor General, the Attorney General represents the United States in the Supreme Court, determining which cases the government will ask the Court to review and crafting the positions the government will take before the Court."

Gonzales angered some anti-choice activists when he was initially nominated by President Bush; many of whom felt he was not sufficiently anti-choice. As a member of the Texas supreme court, Gonzales ruled that parental consent was not necessary for all teenage girls seeking an abortion, despite noting in the decision that "the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent."

Lovely words, but what happened in practice?

During the brief period of time that Gonzales sat on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales denied judicial bypass to eight out of the ten teens who came before him seeking an abortion without parental permission. And, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, he did so even in cases where the young women feared physical abuse from a parent or being banished from their homes.

Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court (led by co-Bush appointee, Justice John Roberts) reviewed and ruled on the consolidated cases of Gonzales vs. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales vs. Carhart, cases brought by Attorney General Gonzales seeking to uphold the federal abortion ban passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, confirming the low priority of women's decision-making power when it comes to reproductive health and rights.

In response to Gonzales' resignation, Cecile Richards, Planned President Federation of American's President says:

"We're heartened by the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales. As the nation's leading advocate and provider of reproductive health care, we call upon President Bush to nominate and the Senate to confirm an attorney general who will be America's lawyer...

America deserves an attorney general who will protect our fundamental freedoms, including the right to make private, personal health care decisions free from government intrusion."

The word on the Washington streets is that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is a favored replacement for Gonzales. You want to know whether or not Chertoff or whomever is Gonzales' replacement, will be the great defender of women's reproductive health and rights? Ask these questions put forth by the CRR:

Will you advocate overturning Roe v. Wade?
Do you support the Federal Abortion Ban?
Did you support the Justice Department's use of subpoenas against doctors and hospitals seeking private medical records of women who sought health care for their reproductive choices?

Liza, at CultureKitchen, has her own take on the Gonzales resignation and "how the Bush administration has used the idea of 'diversity' to empower into corruption racial, ethnic and gender minorities."

Celebrating Grace Paley

Grace Paley will forever live on as a beloved champion of feminist causes including abortion, and a well lauded literary figure. Thank you Grace for a life well lived and creating a legacy that will live on.

* * *

L’Chaim! A Celebration of Grace Paley by Robin Morgan

August 27, 2007

First the factual stuff—Because some people care about that sort of thing, she would have said, So a person should try to act polite even if they’re a writer maybe especially if and even though factual stuff never tells what really went on, which was plenty. Raising children. Picketing. Teaching. Making soup. Arguing. Showing up.

So this next part will be factual stuff. Meanwhile, she might have said, Sit, drink your coffee We’ll get to the real stuff in a minute Or you could skip down a paragraph if you’re the impatient type.

Grace Paley, one of America’s most beloved writers, was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1922, and died last week, on August 22, at home in Thetford, Vermont. A self-described “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist,” Grace was a lifelong activist in social-justice movements: civil-rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, feminist, whatever needed revolution. Her books of short fiction and essays include The Little Disturbances of Man (1959); Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974); Later the Same Day (1985), Long Walks and Intimate Talks (with Vera B. Williams, 1991); and Just as I Thought (1998)—a collection of articles and talks “representing about 30 years of political and literary activity with a couple of occasional glances over my shoulder into disappearing family and childhood.” She wrote several volumes of poetry, including Leaning Forward (1985), New and Collected Poems (1991), and Begin Again: Collected Poems (2000). Her Collected Stories (1994) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. She and her husband, Robert Nichols, compiled their poems and stories in Here and Somewhere Else, published earlier this year by The Feminist Press at CUNY. She taught for 18 years at Sarah Lawrence. Among her numerous honors was a Guggenheim, awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts (for a lifetime’s contribution to literature), the first Edith Wharton Citation of Merit, and being named the first official New York State Writer and poet laureate of Vermont.

There. That’s the factual stuff. There’s also a good interview on Salon in which her funny, wise voice comes through sharp as freshly grated horseradish.

Now for the real stuff.

I loved her. In this, I was part of another mass movement.

She was one of the great story-tellers. But what the literary tributes won’t necessarily mention is that Grace knew the personal was political before feminism did, and was holistic before new agers were born: fierce atheist, fierce Jew, fierce radical traditionalist feminist wife mother grandmother artist. If anybody had a problem with the seamlessness of that cloth or tried to inflict contradictions on it, how silly: a shrug and loud crack of the ever-present chewing gum at them.

What the political eulogies won’t necessarily mention is how generous she was to younger writers—Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin (both also gone, alas), numerous others; I can personally testify to that. She was also unfailingly supportive of small literary ventures (like the recent founding of an online literary journal by older women, Persimmontree), and small presses: The Feminist Press, Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, and many more, including her own venture with Bob Nichols, Glad Day Books (named for a William Blake etching).

What the obituaries cannot mention is how hilarious an experience it was to edit her; I can testify to that, too. When I was editor of Ms. in the early 1990s, I published Grace as often as possible. I never touched her deceptively simple poems or superbly honed fiction (though she always asked me to “Please fix anything stupid, Honey”–an opportunity that never presented itself). She would apologize for her “messy” copy, typescript (no computer, no print-out), all the x-outs and scribbled write-ins evident—Sorry, Toots, rushing to a demonstration, no time to retype. How could she realize my delight in tracking those breadcrumbs of her revisions as clues to the brilliant exercise of her craft?

Editing her nonfiction is where the hilarity came in.

First, she’d be late on deadline. I don’t mean late the way all us writers are late: The cats peed on my draft My computer crashed My grandfather died (again). I mean really late. So I’d nag. She’d apologize: I feel so guilty Honey, my grandkids were visiting, tomorrow, I swear. A few days later, I’d nag. She’d apologize: Oh I’m a bad person no don’t you apologize for nagging it’s a woman’s art-form besides I come from a nagging people Jews survive by nagging the world.

But eventually, Grace would appear, essay not in hand but in shopping bag. Fragments would emerge, to be spread across desk or table or even the floor: half-page typed bits; a post-it or twelve; a paper napkin with a few ink-blurred lines; the back of a grocery list sporting two paragraphs in pencil. She would grin and crack her gum. There! she would beam, Arrange ‘em how you like. I would reply Grace, as calmly as I could, Grace. You’re a literary lion, also a pal, I wouldn’t dare “arrange” your work. Dare schmare, she’d shrug—the least pretentious anti-diva I ever met—You’ll see, Toots, maybe they’ll fall into place, I trust you, do whacha want. Then she’d ask after my son, hug me, scurry off. And of course, I learned that if you studied the highly sophisticated shards of this Linear B closely enough, they inevitably “fell into place.”

This ritual repeated itself not long ago when I asked Grace to write the essay on peace for my anthology Sisterhood Is Forever. Here’s an excerpt from “Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue”—which once lay, a paper carpet, fluttering across my study floor:

“Patrimony and matrimony do not say what they mean. . . . Patrimony is what you inherit from your father. Matrimony is the state of being in a marriage. Now men live in it—marriage—as well as women and it is therefore a little joke for men that this word is used about a condition in which women and families have often suffered the strongest patriarchal oppression. Matrimony is not what you inherit from your mother, probably because in history she didn’t own much of anything. This was true at least 500 years ago, sounding a little more French. If marriage and its historic condition has been what women leave to their daughters and sons, what is it that men leave? Wars, of course.”

Grace was my neighbor, too, a decades-long Greenwich Village denizen. When I’d find her leafleting on 6th Avenue—for lesbian marriage, Palestinian rights, whatever—I’d stop to chat or join her. Passers-by rarely recognized the 4-foot-10-inches-tall, age-84 “little old lady in tennis shoes” as a titan of American literature. Once, while I skimmed a leaflet’s jargon, she whispered sadly, “I didn’t write it.” Obvious, but her wordsmith’s standards leaked, though she quickly added, “Lissen, so what, it says what’s needed.”

Her own lovely work feeds our lives, and I wish we had more of it than we do. But she honored her choices without regret, sometimes “settling this morning for a responsive eatership,” as in these lines from her poem, “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative”:

“I was going to write a poem/I made a pie instead it took/about the same amount of time/of course the pie was a final//draft a poem would have had some/distance to go days and weeks and/much crumpled paper//the pie already had a talking/tumbling audience among small/trucks and a fire engine on/the kitchen floor//everybody will like this pie/it will have apples and cranberries/dried apricots in it many friends/will say why in the world did you/make only one//this does not happen with poems.”

We live in fearful times. Powerful men build walls against immigrants and fuel our fear of the Stranger. Nothing and nobody was Other to Grace. Her art gave voice to the Outsider: “a literature that chants the disappearance of tongues” (from her poem “The Immigrant Story”). That voice is rich and moist with the past but heartcrackingly eager for the crisp future promised and betrayed in the New World. Her characters are people who smell of onions, yell at each other, mourn in darkened kitchens. A reader might laugh out loud recognizing the small cruelties of merciless family love, but that laughter rises through a lump in the throat.

Intensely present, she loved life and lived it well. And not even death was Other to Grace. In “Therefore,” she knew:

“When I am old/I will not be surprised . . . for I have built my Ship of Death . . . I will live though I die old/in passion like a fool . . . this window makes such light it is/the natural law as any child/would know of moon and love and night.”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do women matter to Catholics?

The Edmonton Sun
August 21, 2007

Do women matter to Catholics?

Predictably, the Roman Catholic church has reacted with outrage at Amnesty International's support for abortion when women have been raped or when their health or human rights are in danger.

The Vatican, which opposes abortion under any circumstances, has urged Catholics to stop donating to AI.

However, I suspect that many good-hearted Catholics will quietly continue supporting Amnesty, realizing that the Catholic church's unwavering condemnation of both birth control and abortion is causing profound misery to the world's most impoverished families.

It's estimated, for instance, that about 20 million unsafe abortions occur annually and five million women are hospitalized worldwide each year because of complications of illegal abortions.
In addition, tens of thousands of women die annually from botched abortions because they don't have access to the safe, legal procedures women in the privileged West enjoy.

Pro-lifers live in a fantasy world where every child is wanted. The grim reality is that for millions of struggling women in developing countries, another pregnancy means just another mouth to feed when there already isn't enough food.


A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Centre for Reproductive Rights released a report on the hardships experienced by women in Manila because of a law that severely limits access to birth control.

Contraception isn't explicitly banned, but it might as well be because it's virtually impossible for women to get free birth control pills, IUDS, injectables and sterilization.

Three poor Filipino women interviewed for the study said they'd had far more children than they'd planned because they no longer had access to free birth control.

One women, aged 36, has eight children but she only wanted two. She tried to get her tubes tied after her fourth pregnancy but her local hospital no longer provided the service. All the family can afford is bread for dinner and her children are malnourished.

The world is full of such harrowing stories, but we rarely hear about them because these women don't matter to powerful politicians and religious leaders who value dogma over women's lives.
An article on unsafe abortion in the Lancet last year put it succinctly. "The underlying causes of morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion today are not blood loss and infection but, rather, apathy and disdain toward women."

The authors described unsafe abortion as "a persistent, preventable pandemic" as well as an urgent public health and human rights issue.

When abortion is made legal and easily accessible, it noted, women's health rapidly improves. In contrast, the health of women deteriorates when access to safe abortion is made more difficult or illegal.


Women in poor countries are so desperate to terminate their pregnancies that they swallow bleach, detergent or tea made with livestock manure. Others insert foreign bodies into the uterus, such as sticks, chicken bones or bicycle spokes.

Unsafe abortion deserves the same scientific approach to solutions as other threats to public health, the authors rightfully argued.

Women will continue to have abortions "irrespective of prevailing laws, religious prescriptions or social norms," they added.

And the Catholic church will keep its head in the sand, it seems, while scores of women die. Zygotes matter. Women don't.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is a Stillbirth an Act of Murder? Maryland Law Says So

Is a Stillbirth an Act of Murder? Maryland Law Says So

By Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times. Posted August 17, 2007.

Maryland’s Viable Fetus Act displays the coercive potential of legislation that gives fetuses rights at the expense of women.


Christy Lynn Freeman, a 37-year-old, Ocean City, Md., woman, was recently charged with murder after delivering a stillborn child under Maryland's as-yet-untested Viable Fetus Act of 2005.

Worcester County prosecutor Joel J. Todd charged Freeman with murder and a district court judge held her without bail for allegedly performing her own late-term abortion. Though these charges were eventually dropped, Freeman's case illustrates the coercive potential of legislation that gives fetuses rights at the expense of women.

Freeman arrived at Atlantic General Hospital by ambulance on July 26, bleeding profusely. She denied that she had ever been pregnant, but doctors found a placenta and an umbilical cord inside her body. Later, she admitted that she had given birth to a stillborn fetus at home.

After questioning Freeman at the hospital, police searched her home and found the recently stillborn infant and three older sets of fetal remains in and around her property.

The medical examiner's preliminary report confirmed Freeman's story that the 26-week-old fetus was born dead. Nevertheless, Freeman was charged with first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter for allegedly inducing the stillbirth.

Maryland's Viable Fetus Act provides for prosecution for the murder of a viable fetus if the perpetrator "intended to cause the death of the viable fetus, intended to cause serious physical injury to the viable fetus, or wantonly or recklessly disregarded the likelihood that the person's actions would cause the death of or serious physical injury to the viable fetus."

The prosecutor maintained that Freeman's self-abortion "wantonly or recklessly disregarded" the possibility that her actions would kill the fetus.

However, even if Freeman induced a self-abortion, the law explicitly exempts pregnant women who kill their own fetuses. "Nothing in this section applies to an act or failure to act of a pregnant woman with regard to her own fetus," the statute reads.

On July 31, the authorities announced that Freeman admitted to killing at least one live infant that she delivered in secret several years ago.

Prosecutors dismissed the murder charges for the stillbirth on August 2. She is now facing ordinary murder charges for killing a live infant. Although prosecutor Joel Todd told reporters that Freeman was being charged for killing an infant born alive in 2003, the charging document says that the infant died in 2004. (Todd's spokesperson could not be reached for comment.)

Thirty-six states have some kind of fetal homicide law on the books. While Maryland's law applies only to viable fetuses, at least 15 states extend fetal homicide protection from conception. In state legislatures around the country, anti-abortionists have fought for laws that recognize the killing of fetuses as criminal acts on the grounds that full-fledged personhood begins in utero.

Freeman isn't the only woman to face murder charges for a pregnancy loss. Theresa Lee Hernandez of Oklahoma has spent the last three years in jail awaiting trial for "murder" after a late-term pregnancy loss. Her son was stillborn at 32 weeks gestation. When the son tested positive for methamphetamine, Hernandez was charged with murder.

In June, National Advocates for Pregnant Women sent an open letter to Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater, urging him to drop the charges against Hernandez. Signatories included the Oklahoma State Medical Association and the America Public Health Association. Prater issued a statement that he had no intention of dropping the charges.

In the wake of the Freeman case, some abortion foes are calling for Maryland to eliminate the maternal exemption. An editorial in the August 7 Washington Times lamented the Maryland law's exclusion for pregnant women as evidence of the "lock of abortionism on American government and a reflection of the continued unprotection of the unborn."

It would have been fitting if Christy Freeman's case had been the first legal test of the Viable Fetus Act. Proponents of the legislation insist that these bills protect women from abuse, rather than restrict access to abortion. Yet, Freeman's case shows how prosecutors can use such laws to punish a "misbehaving" pregnant woman and criminalize a kind of abortion in the process.

Australia: Abortion could be decriminalized in Victoria

AM - Abortion could be decriminalized in Victoria

click here for article

AM - Tuesday, 21 August , 2007 08:20:00

Reporter: Samantha Donovan

PETER CAVE: Abortion may be decriminalised in Victoria next year.

The Premier, John Brumby, has asked the Law Reform Commission to advise on how abortion can be removed from the Crimes Act and clarify when abortion is legal.

The move is being cautiously welcomed by the Victorian Opposition, while Right to Life Australia says the Victorian Government is deferring debate on the issue until after the federal election.

From Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks had baulked at decriminalising abortion during his years in office.

But it was to be debated in Victorian Parliament today, after the tabling of a bill by Upper House Member Candy Broad.

It proposed decriminalisation in a wide set of circumstances.

Now, just three weeks into his new job, Victorian Premier John Brumby has stepped in and announced the Government will legislate.

JOHN BRUMBY: The reference which goes to the Law Reform Commission will make it clear that the modern laws should reflect, in essence, what is currently the practice. So we are not looking at changes in practice, we are looking at changes the way in which the law is presented, the way in which the law is written, the way in which the Crimes Act is defined and modern community sentiment and modern community practice.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Abortions are currently performed in Victoria under the 1969 Menhennitt ruling, which allows terminations when there is a threat to the physical or mental health of the mother or child.

But Mr Brumby says further clarity is needed.

JOHN BRUMBY: We've had, in Victoria, a legal position which has been dictated not by the law, as made by Parliamentarians, but by the common law, since 1969, and the community, I think, deserves modern laws as voted upon by current members of Parliament.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Upper House Labor MP Candy Broad withdrew her private member's bill after Mr Brumby's announcement, and says she hopes Victoria will draw on the experience of other Australian jurisdictions.

CANDY BROAD: The fact that Victoria is coming somewhat after reforms in other states does give us the benefit of looking at how that experience has worked and not worked in other states, and the ACT experience is the one which is reflected most closely in the bill I've put forward. Now it will be up to the Law Reform Commission in Victoria to have a look at that experience and provide advice to the Government.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Victorian Opposition leader Ted Baillieu says it's disappointing that debate has been delayed again by the withdrawal of Candy Broad's bill.

TED BAILLIEU: It's a shame an opportunity has been missed to clarify the law in Victoria at least, and to ease the burden on women, and also to ensure that this debate takes place in the ultimate public forum, the Parliamentary chamber.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The President of Right to Life Australia, Margaret Tighe, says the withdrawal of the private member's bill gives her group more time to campaign against decriminalisation.

MARGARET TIGHE: Well, I see it as a partial victory. I believe that they have withdrawn from the heat of battle at the moment with an eye on the federal election. I mean, does the ALP want to be known as the abortion party, 'cause quite clearly they would be able to wear that label if they're responsible for decriminalising abortion in Victoria.

PETER CAVE: Margaret Tighe, President of the Right to Life Australia Association, ending Samantha Donovan's report.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

China bans crude family planning slogans

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
August 6, 2007 Monday National Edition
China bans crude family planning slogans
Reuters News Agency

China has banned the use of slogans such as "raise fewer babies but more piggies" to promote family planning, worried that crude language may hamper its message in the world's most populous country, state media said yesterday.

The slogans are painted on walls and houses across China, but many are too coarse or even miswritten, the official Xinhua news agency cited a notice from the country's National Population and Family Planning Commission as saying.

Others judged offensive include "houses toppled, cows confiscated, if abortion demand rejected" and "one more baby means one more tomb," it said.

"Many slogans promoting the family planning policy are poorly worded or full of strong language that leave an impression of simply forcing people to give up having more babies, causing misunderstanding on the policy and even tarnishing the image of the government," the report added.

"If such low-quality slogans, which may cause public complaint and resentment, are not corrected and remain where they are, the country's family planning efforts in the new era will be hindered," it said.

The commission has come up with 190 new slogans judged more tasteful, such as "the mother Earth is too tired to sustain more children."

Stringent rules on family planning allow most couples to have just one child, at least in cities.

The restrictions have bolstered a traditional bias for male offspring - who are seen as the mainstay for elderly parents - and have resulted in abortions, or the killing or abandonment of baby girls.

Interview with the DC Abortion Fund

Interview with the DC Abortion Fund
Re-post from RH Reality Check on August 2, 2007 - 8:30am
Click here for article
Published under: Access to Abortion | Women’s Rights | Organization Spotlight

Since the Hyde Amendment in 1977, no federal funds are allowed to pay for abortions. Most state Medicaid programs won't cover abortion either (and if they do, it's usually only in cases of rape or incest). Therefore, low-income women with unintended pregnancies may feel like they don't really have the full range of pregnancy options to choose from. Of course it's expensive to raise a child, but it can also be difficult to raise the money for an abortion.

That's where local abortion funds across the country help women in need. They make sure that every woman does have the right to abortion -- regardless of her economic situation. I had the opportunity to interview Tiffany Reed, President of the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) -- a terrific volunteer-run non-profit serving the Washington, DC area. She graciously answered my questions over email.

TL: How did DCAF get started?

TR: Several years ago, a social worker at the DC Rape Crisis Center was working with a rape survivor who found out she was pregnant. In an effort to raise quick funds for the woman, who wanted an abortion, the social worker email blasted her entire address book asking for money. She raised enough money for the procedure and even had leftover resources. When she asked her colleagues what she should do with the extra money, they told her to "save it for the next time..." thus the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) began.

TL: What motivated you to get involved?

TR: What motivated me to get involved with DCAF was my experience at the National Abortion Federation Hotline, a part-time job I still hold today. About half of the calls we receive on the national hotline involve women calling about funding help for their abortion procedures. On the hotline I met two DCAF board members who persuaded me to replace an exiting board member. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

TL: What services does DCAF provide?

TR: DCAF provides basic funding services at this point, namely pledging money to patients via clinics and some resource counseling. We're expanding our outreach and collaboration with other choice funds, clinics, and women's advocacy groups in an effort to spread awareness about the work we do. We also provide abortion and birth control counseling, and can help with transportation logistics.

TL: Why is DCAF needed in the DC metro area?

TR: DCAF's existence is critical to the DC metro area for a couple of reasons. First, DC Medicaid does not cover any cost of an abortion, even if a woman is a rape or incest survivor. Second, pregnancy has massive time constraints and it can be extremely difficult for women to come up with the entire cost of an abortion in a short amount of time. A first trimester abortion in DC can cost in the range of $240-$400 and a second trimester abortion can cost anywhere from $600-$2,000. Imagine being a single mom, receiving government aid, with two children. You have groceries to buy, you have rent to pay, you have electric bills ... how is a woman in that situation expected to come up with $350 in a few weeks? Or less? Why DCAF is so vital to our area is that we help eradicate that awful choice. We support women. We don't want DC women to have to choose between being evicted and receiving health care.

TL: Who needs these services the most? Are there common factors among your clients?

TR: I would say that the one common factor is income. The women we serve predominantly are low-income women and are referred to us by local clinics.

TL: Do you have any individual stories that you'd like to share?

TR: Recently we received a call from a social worker in a homeless shelter. A client of hers was staying at the shelter and was about to be transported to a drug abuse treatment facility in West Virginia. Right before the woman was scheduled to leave, she found out she was pregnant. Unfortunately the facility would not accept pregnant women; she decided to seek treatment at the facility and have an abortion. Living in a homeless shelter, without any income, it would have been very unlikely for her to raise money on her own. With a pledge from DCAF, she was able to travel to the drug treatment facility as planned and get her life back together.

TL: How do you see the climate of reproductive health policy impacting DCAF's daily work and the women who are affected?

TR: The climate of reproductive health policy directly impacts DCAF and DC metro families. If DC Medicaid paid for elective abortion care we would see a huge decrease in our case load. We only exist to help do the job DC Medicaid doesn't.

TL: Do you think the progressive reproductive health movement has done a good job at addressing the reproductive health issues for women of color? If not, how can the movement work towards more equality/inclusion?

TR: The progressive reproductive health movement has done a decent job including women of color in the discussion of reproductive rights, at least in Washington. At DCAF, we do not meet the women we work with; our services are conducted over the phone so we do not know, statistically, how many women of color we pledge to. Given the demographic of this community, I'm assuming it's a good number of women of color that we serve. Right now DCAF is in the middle of a big outreach push to the Latina community specifically. We feel that this demographic is greatly underserved in DC, as far as health care is concerned, and we are working hard to spread awareness of our services to Latino community centers and schools. Of course we can never do enough. One thing I would love to do is expand our services to the realm of birth control education and Plan B distribution. But the need for abortion funding is far from being met, and that is all we can handle at this time.

TL: Does this area face unique challenges? Are other abortion funds around the country similar? Is there more of a need in rural/urban areas or certain regions of the country?

TR: DC is unique when it comes to abortion funding. We are extremely lucky to be working in such a pro-choice city. After collaborating with other funds across the country, we know how valuable DC's pro-choice residents are regarding abortion funding. Other funds across the country are similar in terms of operation; volunteer-run boards, small budgets, one hotline phone, supplies paid for with personal checkbooks ... this work is time consuming, it's personally expensive, but someone has to do it. Or at least we believe someone has to do it. Most of the folks who run funds across the country have full-time jobs, so this is an issue we all feel strongly about. In urban areas, the call volume is higher, but some of the greatest need is in rural areas. There is very little funding in the South and in the Midwest. Those are what we call "non-Medicaid friendly" states. The Pacific West and New England are parts of the country which have, arguably, the most resources. Small local funds in pro-choice areas end up giving to cases far outside their communities to help alleviate the stress at the national level. There are only five or six national funds and only two of those are actually pledging money at this time. DCAF is one of those small funds modestly helping at the national level.

TL: What can people do to help?

TR: People can help DCAF help women by sending a check to PO Box 33722, Washington, DC 20033. We also have volunteer opportunities too; email us. Thank you!

For more information on abortion funds around the country, check out the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wait...fetuses are human?

The New York Times
August 6, 2007

Putting the Government’s Words in the Doctor’s Mouth

Carol Kling had an abortion in 1982, when she was 22. Testifying before a state legislative committee in South Dakota a couple of years ago, she said she would not have made that choice had she understood what she was doing.

“I did not realize that this fetus was a human being,” Ms. Kling said. “I felt it was just tissue. It was reinforced by our culture and by the clinic, but if I had known the truth I never would have had that abortion, and I’d have a daughter today.”

Ms. Kling said her abortion led her to drinking, depression, divorce and thoughts of suicide.

South Dakota, an innovator in abortion legislation, responded to testimony from Ms. Kling and others with a law that requires doctors there to tell women seeking abortions that they “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Ms. Kling seemed sincere about her confusion, though it is a little hard to accept the idea that she did not realize she was extinguishing a life or that the statement required by the law would have changed her mind.

Her testimony did fit neatly with a shift in the strategy of groups opposing abortion, which now justify efforts to limit or ban it by focusing not only on fetal life but also on the consequences for the women involved. The South Dakota law is called, tellingly, the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act of 2005.

That new rhetoric also figured in the Supreme Court’s April decision upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

“The state has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority.

“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon,” he added, “it seems unexceptional to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

South Dakota’s solution — to mandate a set of disclosures — stops short of Justice Kennedy’s, which was to uphold a ban on an abortion procedure on the apparent theory that women cannot sort things out for themselves even with full information.

But there is, according to the federal courts that have so far blocked the South Dakota law, a constitutional flaw in how the state seeks to go about informing women of its views. The problem with the law, the courts said, is that it would hijack the doctor-patient relationship.

“The South Dakota statute,” Judge Karen E. Schreier of Federal District Court in Rapid City, S.D., wrote in issuing a preliminary injunction in 2005, “requires abortion doctors to enunciate the state’s viewpoint on an unsettled medical, philosophical, theological and scientific issue — that is, whether a fetus is a human being.”

A divided panel of the federal appeals court in St. Louis affirmed that decision last year, and the full appeals court will soon issue its decision. Judging from the oral argument in April, which is available on the court’s Web site,, the court may well uphold the law.

South Dakota can, of course, say what it likes about abortion. “If the state wants to have a billboard, good for the state,” Timothy E. Branson, a Minneapolis lawyer who represents Planned Parenthood in its challenge to the law, said in an interview. Indeed, as lawyers for South Dakota said in a brief last year, the state publishes pamphlets and maintains a Web site setting out its position (

Lawyers for the state say it is also entitled to make doctors into its publicity agents, though that is not how they put it.

“The point,” Lawrence E. Long, the state attorney general, wrote in a brief to the appeals court this spring, “is to require abortion providers to do a better job at what they should already be doing. That is, they should provide their patients with an accurate description of what they are aborting.”

The Supreme Court has said that doctors performing abortions may be forced to convey truthful information, and not only about medical issues. In 1992, the court upheld a Pennsylvania abortion law that required doctors to tell their patients that they might be eligible for child support if they decided to carry their pregnancies to term.

But other cases say the government cannot force anyone to disseminate ideological messages.

At the argument in April, John P. Guhin, a lawyer for the state, said doctors could paraphrase the required disclosures, which must be made in writing and signed by the patient on every page. He suggested that doctors could also express their disagreement, though the law requires them to certify that their patients have understood the disclosures. Should there be questions, doctors must answer them in writing. Failure to follow the procedures is a crime.

It is all awfully convoluted, which is probably the point. Had Ms. Kling been confronted with this disclosure process, she might well have decided to forgo her abortion. The question, though, is whether she would have done that because she had more information or because South Dakota succeeded in erecting a roadblock to a constitutional right.

Online: Related documents and an archive of Adam Liptak’s articles and columns: /adamliptak.

Kudos to Amnesty International for Maintaining Prochoice Vision

Amnesty International, the organization that works to protect human rights world wide, voted last week to maintain their stance on abortion as part of a woman's right to be free of fear, threat and coercion. Sexual assault and battery is a widespread tool of war in many battling nations like Darfur and Afghanistan, and the consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations are severe and can be lifelong.

Not surprisingly, the Catholic church and other anti-woman organizations have vowed to discontinue support over this issue.

Kudos to Amnesty for staying strong and doing the right thing for women's human rights!

Welcome to my blog


Thank you for stopping by the official blog for "The Coat Hanger Project," the documentary film about abortion and the current state of the prochoice movement, to be released in 2009. This blog contains facts, resources and news posts about abortion, as well as updates about my process making this (my first) documentary.

My name is Angie Young, and I am the filmmaker. I am a also an out feminist and human rights activist. I am especially passionate about women's reproductive and rights, and hope to use this blog as a tool to reach out the world and help re-educate humanity about the necessity of safe, accessible abortion care for all women.

While I welcome intelligent conversation, please note that, as I mentioned above, this is an unapologetically pro-choice blog. Any and all hateful anti-choice commentary will not be tolerated.

Thanks again, and please stay tuned for updates about the film, upcoming interviews, and other information.


Angie Young
The Coat Hanger Project