Want to Actually Lower the Abortion Rate? Shred Your Script
Jan 28th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I had a nightmare last night.

I was back at my estranged ex-stepfather’s house on Bayou Tejar, which was flooding. A young woman (a student, maybe) asked me to read and comment on her script–it was a trick–it was actually a thinly veiled attempt to convince me to be pro-life. All the while, the bayou water rose–it was all the way up to the second floor, where we were, but the young woman didn’t notice.

Luckily, my PhD in lit trained me well for moments like this: the symbolism isn’t hard to decode. Most pro-life people don’t pay attention to the problems that threaten life–even unborn life. They’re too busy sticking to their script.

(The stepfather’s house thing is separate symbolism–most of my bad dreams are set there. However, I was living in that house when my town became a centerpiece in the abortion debate–when a pro-life terrorist shot an abortion provider in the back, when my friend’s father got death threats for publicly saying one can’t murder in the name of life, when my mother refused to let me wear a pro-choice shirt because she was afraid I would be attacked.)

Yesterday, the VP spoke at a pro-life rally. The pro-lifers will be marching against Planned Parenthood on 2/11. (I organized and will be performing at a benefit for Planned Parenthood that night.)

All this bullshit always reminds me of a conversation I had in 2000. I was in car full of medical students on the way to a water park (in Florida). One guy was new–an extern. Someone asked whom he was voting for.

Extern: I don’t know yet. My parents’ church gives us a list of people to vote for, based on who’s pro-life. I just use that list.

There was silence. Everyone else in the car was pro-choice.

I thought: they have to work with him. I don’t.

I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by voting that way.

Extern: We want to ban abortion, obviously.

Me: You’ve taken a medical history class by now. What happens, historically, when abortion is banned, to the abortion rate?

Extern [sheepishly]: It goes up.

Me: Everyone else here is pro-choice. Would it surprise you to know everyone here wants the abortion rate to go down?

Extern: Yes!

Remaining calm, I explained that we all wished it never had to happen. But that we all knew it always would–at some rate–but that we wanted it to be very rare. And that we were doing a lot to make sure the rate went down–by advocating for comprehensive sex education, by advocating for access to birth control, by advocating for girls’ access to education.

All those things actually lower the abortion rate.

What that young extern wanted to do–what yesterday’s protesters want to do–drives the numbers up. And increases STD rates. And increases maternal mortality rates. Look at what’s happened in Texas recently, after they shut down so many women’s health providers.

The extern didn’t know about me, didn’t know I’d had my son at 17. So I told him.

And then I explained one way to look at my choice to him.

Since I chose to have my son, I altered my whole future.

The extern’s “side” of the debate had nothing to offer me. His side wouldn’t advocate for child care so I could work or go to school. His side wouldn’t advocate for me to have health care or enough to eat (although if one cares about children, one should realize that their parents being alive is kind of important). His side would, in fact, forever judge me for getting pregnant in the first place. For having a child that young.

And if I ever asked for anything, even basic dignity, I would be told that I shouldn’t have had sex (by a bunch of people who’ve also had sex at that age), and thus that I was undeserving.

“You know, I could have had an abortion. And I might have had to walk past some of you screaming at me, but when it was done, I could have avoided your scorn for the rest of my life. Have you given any thought to actually making the choice to carry an unplanned child the more desirable one?”

“We’re on the same side,” I said. “I just don’t think your strategy will work. It will just make things worse.”

The extern agreed.

(I didn’t realize then that I was using Rogerian argument strategy, but I now use this conversation as an example when I teach it.)

It’s many years later. I know more.

I know more about what happens when people push abstinence, when they try to block birth control, when they attack Planned Parenthood, when they push gag rules.

Pro-lifers, it’s not that we pro-choicers are pro-abortion.

We’re not.

But your script (“Ban abortion” “Defund Planned Parenthood”) WILL RESULT IN MORE.


Ah, Texas
Jul 20th, 2013 by Dr Karma

First, I’m going to admit that I don’t know much about Texas. I’ve only been in airports and airport hotels there. My step-father cheated on my mom with a hairdresser from there. I love The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I’ve heard children pledge allegiance to the nation’s flag and the Texas flag in the mornings. I’ve heard you aren’t supposed to mess with them and that things are bigger there.

I used to watch Dallas when I was a kid.

But I also know Texas Governor Rick Perry would like California businesses to move to his state. He has a series of ads across many states (see Lewis Black’s story about it here:—new-york-versus-texas), all of which imply that his state is the best for business because of their lack of regulations.

There should be an asterisk. If your business is providing safe, legal abortions, then Texas is going to regulate the hell out of you. Due to new regulations signed just a couple of days ago, almost all of these businesses will have to close.

If you’re a woman who believes her body’s reproductive system is her business, you also want to stay out of Texas. The new bill restricts them after 20 weeks (if you can find a place to do them). The new push is to ban them after six weeks.

Most women aren’t even aware they’re pregnant by then.

Rick Perry hates regulation and loves freedom.

Apparently, everything is bigger in Texas, even hypocrisy.

I think I have this whole blogging thing backward
Jun 2nd, 2009 by Dr Karma

It occurs to me that the life blood of a blogger is bad news–all the better to bitch about.  I even advise my students to write about something that bothers them if they want to be able to write a good quantity of work.

Yet when I’m stressed out and tired, the last thing I want to do is blog.  I don’t want to whine & I don’t (always) want to rant.

So what’s the news that’s keeping me from writing?  Telling myself that I lived on next year’s wages in grad school, and then remembering that in grad school, I had student loans to supplement that income (and a decided lack of student loan payments).

Dealing with the panic of some of my students (you see, one class is worried because if they don’t pass, they get kicked out).  They really should have worried nine weeks ago.  And turned all the papers/homework in.  I mean, if failing a class gets you kicked out, don’t you attempt to do the work?

Finally, people shooting abortion doctors.  I have wanted to write about this because I have a lot to say.  I have not wanted to write about this because I’m afraid that once I get going, I won’t be able to stop.  Here’s a very short version of my thoughts.

They killed abortion doctors where I grew up (in Pensacola, FL).  It didn’t stop girls from getting pregnant and it didn’t stop people from getting abortions.  All it does is make it really difficult for a certain group of people to call themselves pro-life.  Oh, and kill someone, which that Bible thing sometimes says is wrong (not always, though–the people who shoot doctors are reading the Old Testament, but not the parts of the Old Testament where God kills babies, as he is wont to do).

Speaking of nomenclature, I would like to go on record as saying that we pro-choicers are not pro-abortion.

Even if someone is super-callous, they don’t want women having to have procedures that are potentially life-threatening (though not as dangerous as carrying to term) and usually cost more than they can manage.  No one wants more surgery.

I don’t know any super-callous people, though.  I simply know a bunch of people who know that you don’t reduce abortion by shooting doctors or by outlawing it.  Any medical historian can tell you that it was easier to find someone to perform an abortion when it was illegal (you didn’t have to find a doctor–women through the centuries have passed abortitives down with the family recipes (birth control and abortion are not just tools of single women–married women have used them to control their family planning for ages)).

What does reduce abortion?  Making sure that we reduce unintended pregnancy.  Remember that abstinence teaching doesn’t work, as studies show.  But comprehensive sex education does.  And so does providing people with affordable and effective birth control.  And so does making it easier to carry a child to term and to raise it–right now, the financial and social burden of an unwanted child can be galaxies greater than the burden of not carrying a child to term.

I have a PhD and a gifted child, but people still judge me because I had him young and alone.  Amazingly, it’s mostly the pro-life people who think they get to judge me, but only because I made the choice they preferred, carrying with me the evidence.  If I’d made a different decision, they wouldn’t get to have this attitude with me, because the last seventeen years of my life would have been very different.

We all want fewer abortions.  I just think that my way will actually work better than the “don’t have sex, but if you do, don’t use birth control” method currently so popular among “pro-lifers.”

If you actually want to save lives, take the guns away from the crazy fringe people and fight for sex ed and birth control.

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