Clinic Escorting Encounters

After President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994, protesters have been limited in their ability to interfere with people who visit abortion clinics. For example, they’re no longer allowed to physically block the entrances to clinics. But they still do their damnedest to convince clients to not to go through those doors on their own. And so there are clinic escorts.

Clinic escorts give clients the strength to walk past the protesters, to ignore the offensive, lie-filled literature that is thrust at them. We make it okay for them to avert their eyes from the little plastic fetuses, the swinging rosaries, the gory pictures that are held up as they walk by or are posted in their line of sight. We give them an excuse to not listen to the prayers, the hymns, the questions and accusations that are thrown at them.  We are a psychological barrier between the clients and the protesters.

On Saturday I was escorting at Whole Women’s Health in downtown Minneapolis. When I showed up there were 13 protesters lining the narrow sidewalk that leads up to the clinic entrance. Two were active protesters (antis who rush up to heckle the clients) and the rest were passively praying, singing, touching the beads on their rosaries, and walking up and down the sidewalk. This later group had four kids who looked to be under the age of 12 with them. It always makes me sad to see kids with the protesters.

[Read more...]

Choice Leadership Conference Opportunity

Damn. I’m too old for this and it sounds like a great opportunity.

If you are or want to be a reproductive freedom activist, NARAL is advertising a leadership conference in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) metro area on June 8-10 for young adults aged 18-30.

According to the website, the institute is at no cost to participants. Meals will be provided. Travel and lodging stipends are also available (funding comes from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota). People of color, queer people, gender non-conforming people and trans people are strongly encouraged to apply.

The application due date is coming up quickly. For more information check out the web pages linked below:

The Choice Leadership Institute and Fellowship (CLIF)seeks to develop, educate, and empower emerging pro-choice leaders. Twenty pro-choice young adults, aged 18 to 30, will go through a full weekend of reproductive freedom and leadership trainings, followed by the opportunity to create a self-directed community engagement project.

Training sessions include Inequity in Access, Advocacy 101, and the Current Landscape of Reproductive Health in Minnesota. Presenting organizations include women winning, Take Action MN, and Pro-Choice Resources.

Applications for this exciting opportunity are due by May 23.

The future of choice is in your hands – apply today!

Pro-Choice Kittehs

Do you want to help fund abortions for women and families who can’t afford them? Do you like cats?

Okay…I KNOW the second question is the more controversial statement in this crowd, but just say yes to both.

Say yes?

Every year the NNAF – National Network of Abortion Funds – hosts a bowl-a-thon fundraiser. This is a series of bowl-a-thons that take place all over the country. Individual teams form up and raise money that go directly into abortion funds. Why are abortion funds important? [Read more...]

Planned Parenthood on Good Friday

Good Friday protesting is a tradition at the Highland Park Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, MN. Every year on this day a prayer vigil is held and hundreds of anti-choice supporters gather to pray to God for an end to abortion. In response, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gather to walk and cheer their support for the services that Planned Parenthood provides and a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

This is the first year that I’ve participated in the solidarity event, and the first time I have visited the Highland Park Planned Parenthood. I arrived at 7:30am and found a parking spot not too far from the clinic. Everything was very well-organized with cones, mobile fencing and plenty of uniformed police. An area for protesters was set up on one side of the clinic’s driveway, PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) supporters were on the other. There was a division between the two groups of about the length of the clinic itself, and the only people who were allowed to stop in this neutral zone were police and on-duty Highland Park clinic escorts.

The police and escorts were very good about keeping people from both groups off of the sidewalks and property unless they were walking through (that’s my way of saying I was wrist-slapped twice during the day for standing on the sidewalk while I took photos).  

Both groups were setting up when I arrived. I signed in at the pro-choice supporter’s booth, grabbed a sign (“Women’s Health Matters”) and joined a small group which had started walking clockwise around our “pen”.

The PPFA supporter sign-in area was in the clinic parking lot, but escorts did a great job of keeping the driveway entry clear for patients and staff.

At around 7:30am, the walk begins!

One of the first things I noticed as I was getting in line was a nearby run-down white building with a sign out front that said “Highland LifeCare Center”. I walked down to take a look.

Ugh. Yup – Crisis Pregnancy Center. CPCs usually position themselves close to clinics that provide abortions. This isn’t a medical clinic, but a “counseling” center. CPCs exist to try to keep women from getting abortions, and they have been known to use some pretty sneaky and underhanded tactics to achieve that goal. Bummer that this one is here.

8:00am and the crowds grow larger:

As time went on, more and more people showed up for both sides. There was no drama that I saw; both sides kept to themselves. The protesters chanted bible verses, sang hymns and church leaders showed up to give sermons and lead prayers. There were a few anti-choice signs, but nothing graphic, no bloody fetus replicas or yelling or screaming. I think that for most of them this was a pretty solemn occasion.

Okay, I swear that the appearance of the DQ Chicken Strip sign is purely coincidental and was not an attempt at humor. But it does kinda look like one of the marchers could be carrying it, doesn’t it? Pro-lifers for Chicken Strips!

There was little to do except chat, walk and cheer – which was a blast! I had a chance to meet some interesting people, including a lovely, charming woman who has been involved in the pro-choice movement since 1991. She told me about the illegal abortion she obtained back in the day, and how years she later she tracked down the doctor who had provided her abortion in order to thank him. I spoke with a gentleman who is interning with the MN National Organization for Women, and who I had met at the much chillier Walk4Choice back in February. And then I ran into some friends who I hadn’t even known were pro-choice supporters!


Walking at PPFA solidarity events is a great way to make new friends…


…and a good place to have surprise meet ups with current friends!

We were walking on Ford Parkway and there was a lot of passing traffic, a lot of supportive horn honking, and very little heckling. I did see one woman make a cross with her fingers (what are we – vampires? And get your hands back on the steering wheel, lady!), and I heard another walker exclaim, “I think that woman just hissed at us!” and start giggling. The supporters who drove by were very vocal and wildly waved out of their car windows or gave thumbs up. For those who didn’t agree with our message, well…Minnesota Nice kept them most of them politely disdainful and quiet.

Around 10am some of the PPFA supporters held a non-denominational service and sing-along.

And that was about it for me. There was a little drizzle, and the weather was cool, but not not horribly uncomfortable. I ended up leaving at around 11:30am when the crowds swelled so much that we could hardly move around our allotted space. I ran off to have lunch with the Hubby, and on the way back to his office we drove by and added some of our own honking and waving to the mix.

All in all, it was a really good experience and I’m glad I participated.

Social Science and Stuff

Omigosh, I’m so excited to be going tonight to Party with the Pharaohs, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s first Social Science event for adults. I set up a page on Eventbrite to organize all of my fabulous science-minded friends for this evening, and some of y’all even accepted! I’m giddy. It’s going to be a blast, what with the mummies and the movies and the food and the cash bar and the live animal exhibition and the omnitheater and wheee!

So until tomorrow when I can tell you about how all of that went, here are some articles that caught my interest today:

  • Verbal and physical attacks on students are encourged by extremist animal rights group, Negotiation is Over. Reported on by Pharyngula, Respectful Insolence and Speaking of Research.
  • SlutWalk - A Toronto event that is speaking out against the idea that women who dress like “sluts” get what is coming to them. Covered by Almost Diamonds.
  • Abortion Crackers – What happened when a pro-choice store owner in a small town encountered an anti-choice consumer. Written by Liberal House on the Prairie.

Taking Maternity Leave Doesn’t Make You Worthless

I haven’t had a Dinkus of the Day in a while, but somehow I always find more.

Okla. official questions hiring pregnant woman

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A member of Oklahoma’s Board of Education drew heated reaction Thursday after saying a newly hired administrator would be “worthless” as a legislative liaison if she took immediate maternity leave.

Shortly after the board voted to hire Jessica Russell, who is due to give birth in April, former state Sen. Herb Rozell noted that she was pregnant and questioned whether she would be around for key days of the upcoming legislative session.

Russell was hired to represent the state Department of Education’s interests at the Capitol. The Oklahoma Legislature reconvenes Feb. 7 and must end its business by May 27.

“If she has that baby in April and takes off six weeks, she’s worthless to us,” Rozell said.

While there was some laughter in the room, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi rebuked Rozell and ordered a 10-minute recess. Russell left the room in tears.

“Your comment is inappropriate and not worthy of this board and this department,” Barresi said.

After the meeting, Rozell said his words came out wrong.

“I didn’t mean to interfere. I was just hoping we could have her in April and May, because that’s when everything gets tied up,” he said.

Gov. Mary Fallin called Rozell’s remark “demeaning” and “disgusting,” while Sen. Clark Jolley and Sen. John Ford called for Rozell to resign. Jolley said Rozell’s comment was “archaic, misogynistic and deplorable.”

Rozell didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment about calls for his resignation.

Oklahoma has about 660,000 students in its public education system.

I’ve never had to take maternity leave, but I’ve worked with women who have. I’ve spoken with a few of them and asked if they ever had to worry about this kind of reaction. What sucks is that all of them expressed having some level of anxiety about notifying their boss that they were pregnant and would be taking leave, even at places that have track records of treating women and families with respect when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Sen. Roznell’s attitude is why – women still don’t know if they’re going to run into this Dinkus in the workplace. Even if the boss gives you a perfectly PC response and congratulates you, is her or she really thinking “Great…now what am I going to do? How can she get pregnant now when I need her here? Should I put off promoting her if she’s planning to have a lot of kids?”

As if being pregnant isn’t challenging enough. 

Found on twitter via @miriamzperez

Would you lie?

Seen on Nothing to Do With Abroath

Original article: NZHerald

New Zealand museum bans pregnant women from attending exhibit

A clash of cultures over a rule forbidding pregnant or menstruating women to attend a Te Papa exhibit has been criticised by feminists. An invitation for regional museums to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.

Jane Keig, Te Papa spokeswoman, said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the Taonga Maori collection included in the tour. She said the rule was one of the terms Te Papa agreed to when they took the collection.

“If a woman is pregnant or menstruating, they are tapu. Some of these taonga have been used in battle and to kill people. Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”

If an object is tapu it is “forbidden” and in Maori culture it is believed that if that tapu is not observed, something bad will happen. Women who plan to attend the tour on November 5 are expected to be honest about whether they are pregnant or menstruating as a sign of respect to Maori beliefs.

So the argument for keeping certain women out of the special tour is because the women are sacred, forbidden, and need to be protected.  And if they do go on the tour, tapu will be violated and something bad will happen. 

I have nothing to lose in this debate, so I don’t know if I would lie or not to get in.  But if I was affected by this ban, I might.  Or I might try to organize a boycott or protest.  The group imposing the restrictions doesn’t have the right to insist that I respect their beliefs. They have a right to not let me see their private stuff, but do they have the right to open their collection to the public except for the people they don’t want to see it? This particular museum is a public institution that accepts public funding.

Does the owner of a private collection have a right to place restrictions on who gets to see it, even if they allow it to be displayed at a public institution?

If only I had a seestor with a concentration in museum studies…

Nice ad, Macy’s!

Yay, Macy’s!  I was flipping through a Macy’s advertisement this morning – which I usually don’t do, but I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, plus they had a kick-butt $10 off coupon on the front cover of the ad, so why not?

A few pages in I ran into a page dedicated to the clothing and accessories and saw this:

No, not the shoes – the beautiful, curvy, plus-size model in lingerie.  I thought, “Oh, I must have found the “women’s” section (read: the plus size clothes), but no!  There are no other lingerie or clothing ads in the pamphlet.  Macy’s chose to use a plus-size model as the only lingerie model in the entire ad, which is pretty awesome.

Maybe people are starting to figure out that not only can curves be sexy, but that it’s even okay to admit it!

Men have fragile egos too?

Have you heard of vanity sizing?  It’s the gradual increase over time in how we define our clothing sizes.  Vanity sizing is a trick that clothing manufacturers play on consumers to make us feel better about the clothes we’re buying from them.  For example, they might make a size 10 skirt, but label it as size 8.

You’ve heard that Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14?  She was gorgeous and a size 14, so why should today’s size 14 gal worry about her waist?  A blog called True Life covered this topic in 2007:

Marilyn was a size 14…back in 1950.  Kate Dillon is still smokin’ hot (and I like the red hair, so I’d say hotter than Marilyn…and how can you not love that green swimsuit???) but her 14 is not Marilyn’s 14.

Vanity sizing is the reason why you may prefer Old Navy jeans to Gap jeans or Target jeans, or vice versa.  It’s the reason why you may have to buy boutique-style clothing two sizes “bigger” than ready-to-wear off-the rack clothes.

It’s sneaky, and we let them do it, because we’re vain.

And I’ll be honest – I thought it was something they only did to women.

Let’s look at women’s clothing sizes: 00, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and so on.  Those “sizes” don’t mean anything – a size 10 jean doesn’t mean one has a 10-inch waist.  Then there’s the ridiculous S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL size chart – pretty subjective.  Some plus size clothing manufacturers  have even tried to eliminate the standard prejudices associated with the previous two systems and use vague 1, 2, 3, 4 designations for clothing – especially clothing that would normally fall into the XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL system like shirts and dresses, or other other clothes that can adjust via belts, ties, adjustable straps, or *shudder* elastic.

Since the scales (hehehe) are subjective, I can understand how there’s some fudge factor room in creating women’s clothing in one size and calling it a smaller size.  You convince a woman that your store’s size 14 fits here, and if she goes to another store (that doesn’t vanity size as much) she’ll have to buy a size 16.  Ugh!  I would rather wear the 14 if given the choice!

Men’s clothing is more standardized.  A 32″ waist means the waist measures 32″ around.  There’s not a lot a room to maneuver here.

Unless they just…lie.

Esquire Magazine’s “The Style Blog” published an article by Adam Sauer yesterday about vanity sizing – or “down-waisting” – of men’s clothing.  On a recent shopping trip he carried along a tailor’s measuring tape and got the skinny (yes! pun-ilicious) on some big (ooops, I did it again! mwah ha ha!) names:

Sorry guys.

Thank you, Ladies.

This is making its way around the interwebs right now.  I thought it would make a nice addition to today’s Minnesota primary races.  Did you vote?  Thanks to Mary B for sending this my way.

Admin Notes: There is definitely an appeal to emotion in the writing below, but the history appears solid from the little bit of fact-checking I’ve done this evening.  Also, with all the references to HBO’s Iron-Jawed Angels, I’m not promising that this isn’t a cleverly disguised advert.  And knowing all this, you should give it a read.

Aside from a little formatting to fit the blog, everything below this point is unedited and not my words.

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This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.  And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.  Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

(Lucy Burns)

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.  Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.  For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because…why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work?  Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle
these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York )

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote.  Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege.  Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said.  ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

(Conferring over ratification [of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] at [National Woman's Party] headquarters, Jackson Pl [ace] [ Washington , D.C. ]. L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.  We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

(‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’)

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Hey, I’m back.  I also found this related “Ken Burns-esque” video on youtube.  There are a several pictures in this video that aren’t in the story above.