Tag Archives: abortion

Men Making Women’s Decisions: In Person, In Sport, In Politics


Laurie and Debbie say:

We started with a story we found on Twitter. Here’s Meg Elison, author of (among other books), the highly-recommended The Book of the Unnamed Midwife:

Motherfucker comes to my table, unbidden. I assume he’s a waiter; he’s not. I’m having a drink and a snack. I look up and he’s got Fake Concern Face on. Without preamble he says, “If you took better care of yourself, you’d find somebody to love you.”

She shows off her wedding ring, gives him the finger and tells him to Leave Her Alone. But he can’t.

“I didn’t mean anything offensive by it. I just think we have these moments of clarity–“

I tell him if he needs to make a fat girl cry so he can have something to jack off to, then he better pay by the minute for it because there are professionals who provide that service. I am not one of them, and this is not an appropriate place to solicit me.

We’ve heard, and made, some pretty tough comebacks in our time, but this is one of the truest ones ever.

He still can’t leave, but she finishes him off:

He has the NERVE to “Namaste” me as he slinks out of this place where I was having a peaceful moment by myself. Friends, I yelled GO FUCK YOURSELF at his cringing back.

She also makes it completely clear that she was shaking and rattled, because she was verbally assaulted with no provocation. And you just know that guy went home and felt sorry for … himself. The best part is that he may never do that to anyone again.

He’s a small-time, basically trivial, example of a man thinking he both knows what’s best for a woman he doesn’t know, and that he has the right to interrupt her life to give her the benefit of his wisdom.

He matters for two reasons: first, because there are millions of him all over the country and the world, trying to make fat girls cry. Second, because he’s an individual example of wielding toxic societal power.


Who do you think made the decision to turn down Castor Semenya’s appeal regarding women and testosterone in Olympic sports? The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which (if you can tell by names) is definitely majority male. They made this decision even though they know it’s difficult, if not impossible to implement. They also ruled that athletes who wish to compete in women’s events, but whose testosterone is over an arbitrary level, will have to take drugs to reduce those levels. The World Medical Association has urged its members in 114 countries not to cooperate with this:

We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. They are also contrary to a number of key WMA ethical statements and declarations, and as such we are calling for their immediate withdrawal.

But again, men not only feel they can make decisions on women’s bodies, they are formally authorized to make those decisions, and they don’t have to respond to, for example, doctors who think their decisions are unsafe and unethical.

For some history on this controversy, read this post from about a year ago. We hoped things would get better after that.


Ohio state representative John Becker, however, has managed to outdo both random San Francisco harassers and Court of Arbitration biased judges with his proposed “anti-abortion” bill. Ohio already has one of the most restrictive laws in the country (miserably superseded in the last week or so by Georgia’s indefensible law), but it isn’t enough for Mr. Becker, who wants to eliminate rape and incest exceptions, and also (while claiming this isn’t what he means) ban most forms of birth control. But then he completely loses touch with any reality:

The bill excludes treatments for ectopic pregnancies from the insurance coverage ban, which seems like a good thing—we should try to treat ectopic pregnancies!—until you realize that Becker’s notion of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is fucking nonsense: “Part of that treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and then reinserting it in the uterus so that’s defined as not an abortion under this bill,” Becker said.

The bill says the term “nontherapeutic abortion” does not include a “procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to re-implant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.” Presumably, Becker envisions a world where doctors are trying to “fix” ectopic pregnancies by reinserting wayward embryos into the pregnant person’s uterus.

Except that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

“That doesn’t exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can’t just re-implant. It’s not a medical thing,” said Miracle.

Mr. Becker doesn’t, it would seem, know what a woman’s anatomy looks like, let alone what can and can’t be done medically, surgically, or even magically. All he knows is that “he’s no expert” but he is willing to try to convince his fellow legislators (most of whom are almost certainly men) that they all know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” and are more than proud of themselves for exercising their power on the living bodies of the women they feel compelled to control.


Men aren’t going to stop tormenting women in restaurants, telling women whether or not we are women, or telling women what we can, or can’t, do with our own bodies, any time soon. So let’s all take up Meg Elison’s rallying cry and stand up against them.


Becoming an Abortion Doctor


Laurie and Debbie say:

The closing of abortion clinics around the United States is reasonably common knowledge, but neither of us knew how few doctors perform abortions in the U.S., or how a grass-roots organization of women is working to change that. In “The Future Abortionists of America,” published at Medium, Malcolm Harris takes us on a long detailed walk through the current landscape by attending a conference of Medical Students for Choice (MSFC), an organization almost entirely of young progressive women who are circumventing the current medical school norms of barely mentioning, let alone teaching, abortion procedures.

For two decades after Roe, the number of residency programs for obstetricians and gynecologists—the medical specialty where most abortionists train—that included abortion instruction declined steadily, until 1996 when the American Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) began requiring access to abortion-training as part of residency accreditation.

Though the requirement halted the decline, there’s little evidence it has been meaningfully implemented. An ACGME clarification issued in June 2017 stated that, due to moral/religious opt-out provisions, no students necessarily had to receive abortion education in order for programs to be in compliance. In the most recent national survey of medical schools on the topic (2005), only 19 percent reported a single preclinical lecture on abortion, and two-thirds reported no knowledge of any formal abortion education at all in the first two years of instruction. Only 10 percent of third-year OB/GYN clinical rotation programs reported any clinical abortion experience (think, a field trip to Planned Parenthood), in which most students participated.

MSFC is working to change that, from the ground up, knitting the modern knowledge and techniques of abortion into the centuries-old world of women helping women, women transmitting women’s knowledge. Their work is desperately needed: according to Harris, right now about 1700 providers around the U.S. perform somewhere between 650,000 and 750,000 abortions each year, or one per provider per day, every day. Ninety-five percent of these procedures are performed in clinics, such as those run by Planned Parenthood. That shockingly low number is due to a combination of right-wing pressure on the laws, right-wing pressure on the clinics and doctors, and right-wing pressure on the medical schools — a small minority acting like a 1000-pound gorilla, successfully.

So MSFC members have their work cut out for them.

Nationwide, students at over 150 med schools are organized in campus chapters of MSFC, where they support and train each other in an extracurricular fashion, as well as lobby their schools for resources and for abortion to be incorporated into standard syllabi. At the annual conference, organized by the small Philadelphia-based national office, students from around the country meet to steel their collective resolve and to learn.

Harris salts the nuts and bolts information about where they learn and what they learn with who the students are. The article is low on quotations from the students themselves and (tellingly) uses initials for all of them, with a disclaimer at the end saying they didn’t necessarily request anonymity–it was an editorial choice.

Although they were nearly all progressive young women, the attendees had the kind of racial and regional diversity that’s hard to achieve without intention. Unusually for this kind of event, students from elite schools were proportionally represented, which is to say they were nearly absent. Universities are concentrated in East Coast cities, but those students don’t have the most to gain.

The article simultaneously downplays and highlights the dangers of the path these young women are taking.

Emily Young, a doctor from Charlottesville, Virginia, reassured students that as providers, they would not have to live in daily fear; they could be both the doctor on the block and an abortionist. Simply by virtue of being themselves and doing the work, they would be advocates. “Everyone knows I’m the abortion provider in Charlottesville,” she said, “and I like that.”

[Dr. Sarah] Horvath agreed, saying that by doing abortions in addition to a full-range of medical practice she hopes to normalize it. Medical students want to be doctors, and the roomful seemed happy to hear that performing abortions would not automatically forfeit all the benefits and prestige of being a doctor. There was a relieved sigh when the audience heard that psychiatrists are more likely to be murdered in the course of their work than abortionists are.

And yet … the article starts by describing how secretive the conference chooses to be about its meeting. It refers to the high-profile 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller for performing abortions. It does not say what Lizz Winstead of (soon to be renamed) Lady Parts Justice League says elsewhere, which is that abortion providers almost invariably hear that their neighbors are getting letters saying “A murderer lives on your block.” Eighty percent of Americans may support some sort of legal abortion, but the other 20% are mighty comfortable with threats and intimidation.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the article is the extraordinary safety of abortion procedures.

While American maternal mortality has increased alarmingly in recent years (an increase of almost 60% from 1990 to 2015), the number of abortion mortalities is so low that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates using five-year averages. Over the last three years for which there are data (2011–2013), the CDC reported 10 total abortion deaths, and the agency has not recorded a fatality due to an illegal abortion since 2004.

Harris doesn’t say this, but that increase in maternal mortality is very strongly skewed to women of color; somehow, even though women of color are nine times as likely as white non-Hispanic women to have abortions, this seems to be one area where the outcomes are not disproportionately affected by race (or if they are, the risks are still vanishingly small for everyone).

Women helping women, women learning the skills they need to take care of women’s needs, and women organizing to teach each other — this works. And since what we have now is not working at all for women in need of abortions, MSFC is helping move the country in the right direction.