Clinic Stories

Robin Marty proposes to do in-depth investigative reporting on the stresses on family planning clinics.

Clinic Stories is a 12 part series that will look at 12 different clinics or cities in the country, telling the history of legal abortion through location and the people inside and outside it.

Each Clinic Story will be an intensely researched, longform article anywhere between 5000 and 10,000 words, detailing the history of the clinic and its role in the movement, tracking laws that it has challenged, protesters it has faced, anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups that have worked for it or against it, and where it fits into the greater history of the last four decades of the abortion rights movement. It will include interviews with current and former workers, escorts and even those who have worked to shut those clinics down.

Robin is writer with a fine track record who has been fighting for abortion rights for years, and this should be a very good addition to our knowledge. She’s looking for support — this is going to take time and effort to do well — so she’s asking for donations. Help her out, it will be worth the investment.

The courts giveth, and the courts taketh away

While we’ve all been pleased to see the courts enforcing minority rights by striking down restrictions on same sex marriage, the flip side also happens: the Supreme Court has now ruled that abortion protesters can’t be restricted by a ‘buffer zone’ around clinics. Their rationale is some nonsense about “sidewalk counseling”.

Some of the individuals who stand outside Massachusetts abortion clinics are fairly described as protestors, who express their moral or religious opposition to abortion through signs and chants or, in some cases, more aggressive methods such as face-to-face confrontation. Petitioners take a different tack. They attempt to engage women approaching the clinics in what they call “sidewalk counseling,” which involves offering information about alternatives to abortion and help pursuing those options. Petitioner Eleanor McCullen, for instance, will typically initiate a conversation this way: “Good morning, may I give you my literature? Is there anything I can do for you? I’m available if you have any questions.” If the woman seems receptive, McCullen will provide additional information. McCullen and the other petitioners consider it essential to maintain a caring demeanor, a calm tone of voice, and direct eye contact during these exchanges. Such interactions, petitioners believe, are a much more effective means of dissuading women from having abortions than confrontational methods such as shouting or brandishing signs, which in petitioners’ view tend only to antagonize their intended audience. In unrefuted testimony, petitioners say they have collectively persuaded hundreds of women to forgo abortions.

So the court recognizes that many protesters use “aggressive methods”, but they side with the sweet little lady who claims to be kindly offering pamphlets, rather than with the women who are being frightened away from medical care. If there is a buffer zone, poor Ms McCullen is denied her right to be condescending, but if there is no buffer zone, patients are denied the right to seek legal medical treatment without harassment.

I fail to see how this “unrefuted” claim that their tactics of suppression actually work is relevant to their claim that their right to lie to patients trumps the patients’ rights to care.

But I wonder how the court deals with the stark reality that abortion clinics need volunteer clinic escorts to help women get through the lines of shouting protesters? Isn’t the fact of their existence evidence that there is a problem with access? Apparently not. The escorts are the problem.

…theBoston clinic uses “escorts” to greet women as they approach the clinic, accompanying them through the zones to the clinic entrance. Petitioners claim that the escorts sometimes thwart petitioners’ attempts to communicate with patients by blocking petitioners from handing literature to patients, telling patients not to “pay any attention” or “listen to” petitioners, and disparaging petitioners as “crazy.”

It’s clear where the judges’ sympathies lie.

It’s great when the courts are on the side of justice, but not so great when you’ve got bought & paid-for clowns of the reactionary right, like Roberts and Scalia, calling the shots.


This is amusing. The Supreme Court is surrounded by a rather restrictive barrier.

scotusbarrier

But what if I want to give the justices some ‘sidewalk counseling’?

The horror! The video they don’t want you to see!

Emily Letts recorded her abortion. You know what you expect to see: Anguish! Pain! Screaming! Bloody body parts flying around the room! Regret!

Oh, wait.

She’s comfortable with the choice, she smiles through the procedure, and it’s so quick — having watched my wife go through three childbirths, the contrast is striking. I suffered far more than Letts in having a cyst removed last week, but what I went through was trivial compared to what women experience in labor.

There is so much fuss over something that ought to be regarded as a fairly simple decision for most women.

Marco Rubio is already Gish-Galloping

Marco Rubio is still staggering over charges that he’s a science denialist on climate change. He has discovered a familiar way to deal with it: distraction. Ask him about climate change, and he babbles about abortion.

Here’s what I always get a kick out of, and it shows you the hypocrisy. All these people always wag their finger at me about science and settled science. Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life beings at conception. So I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

This is only settled science if you get all your science information from the preacher on scienticianology at your local fundagelical Church of the One True American Jesus. Let’s take that phrase “human life begins at conception” apart.

What do you mean by “life begins”? Was there some step between your parents and you where there was a dead cell? Life is continuous — there hasn’t been a transition from non-life to life for about 4 billion years. So, yes, I’d agree that the zygote is a living cell, but so were the sperm and egg that fused to generate it, and so were the blast cells that were precursors to it, and so were the zygotes that developed into your parents. We can trace that life all the way back to early progenotes with limited autonomy drifting in Archean seas, to self-perpetuating chemical reactions occurring in porous rocks in the deep ocean rifts. It’s all been alive, so this is a distinction without meaning.

What about “human”? It’s a human zygote, we’d all agree; but it’s also human sperm and human ovum. You can pluck a hair from my head and determine with a few tests that it’s a human hair; you can take a blood sample from me and check a few antigens and determine that it is human blood; you can similarly swab a bit of saliva or earwax or tears from me, and analyze its biochemistry and find that it is specifically human spit or earwax or tears. That we can tag something with the adjective “human” does not in any way imply that my earwax deserves all the protections and privileges of a full human being. “Human zygote” imposes as much ethical obligation on me as “human spit”.

And don’t even try to pull that BS about a unique, novel genetic individual being created at conception. One of the key properties of meiosis is a genetic reshuffling of alleles by random assortment of the parental chromosomes and recombination by crossing over — every sperm and egg is genetically unique as well, and we spew those profligately with no remorse. Conception just adds another level of semi-random rearrangement of a random assortment of genes that were made during oogenesis and spermatogenesis.

So what are we left with? An obvious attempt at distortion or incomprehension in which the common modifier “human” is used as an absolute signifier for sociological and historical and psychological of an entity as being a complete member of a higher level community. It’s a lie cloaked in ambiguous language.

And of course, at the end of that dissection, we’re still left with the fact that Rubio is dead wrong on climate change and threw out this whole line of argument to distract us from the point that Marco Rubio is an idiot.

It didn’t work.

What is it about the word "choice" that you don’t understand?

I don’t follow the British popular press very closely, but Josie Cunningham must have done something truly evil.

To read Cunningham’s mentions on Twitter is to explore a world of medieval morality I didn’t think still existed in the UK. The "murdering cow" needs "locking up", you see. "It’s a mental institute you need," explains one man. One woman tells her to throw herself off a cliff, while a man named Warren patiently explains that, "someone needs to throw acid on you." "I sincerely hope this woman is flattened by a lorry," prays another. Women who’ve never met her call her an "ugly no good cunt," a "rank slut," who "doesn’t deserve the ability to conceive" and needs "a good hard kick in your piss flaps." Many talk erroneously about murdering babies or children, one woman asking if she can feel the 18-week-old foetus kicking inside her.

What did she do? She chose to state on television that she was pregnant and was going to get an abortion. She had a mix of good reasons — not wanting to be tied to the father, wanting to focus on her career — and bad reasons — her chosen career is to be a TV celebrity — but that doesn’t matter. The whole point of being pro-choice is that women get to make their own decisions about their own bodies. You can also have bad reasons for wanting to have a baby, but we shouldn’t also vilify women for making that choice (it’s a double-whammy: a single career woman who chooses to have a baby can also be vilified for selfishness and not fitting the maternal stereotype sufficiently well).

I don’t know much of anything about this woman, but if she wants to have an abortion, that’s her decision, not mine. And it doesn’t really matter why she wants it.

Condescending Republican compares abortion to buying new carpeting for his car

Chuck Gatschenberger wants to have a mandatory 72 hour waiting period before a woman is allowed to have an abortion…and his argument by analogy is that when he visits a car dealership, he doesn’t impulsively buy a car or recarpet his old one.

House Bill 1613 would require an ultrasound and also triple Missouri’s mandatory waiting period for a woman seeking abortion to 72 hours. Gatschenberger suggested that his legislation would make a woman "research" her decision before having an abortion — a move he said would increase the odds that she will choose life for her unborn baby.

That’s so sweet. So is House Bill 1614 going to require a 72 hour waiting period for all car purchasing decisions? Just think how poor Chuck would feel if he went into the car dealership and discovered he’d have to wait three days on anything.

But don’t worry, he has “apologized”.

Gatschenberger apologized for offending the women in the room and said his intention was simply to ensure that women considered their reproductive decisions more carefully.

“I’m just saying this is a life-ending decision,” he said. “You should think about it.”

Because women just never ever think before they rush off to get a surgical procedure. Flighty, stupid women — they all need a man to help them with these decisions.

Secular Pro-Life lies

Wow. Secular Pro-Life has accused Planned Parenthood of cheating their donors. Why? Because they had an increased budget by 3 million dollars, but they did fewer breast exams. So, yeah, SPL looked at a big, complex budget for an organization offering multiple services, noticed that one number went down, and libelously implied that all the money went to some other mysterious service, hint hint hint.

This year, we cut out meat at the Myers household, and if you looked at our total budget, despite the fact that our income rose very slightly last year, we spent much less in the meat department at the grocery store. Where did the extra money go? FRIVOLOUS ABORTIONS ON DEMAND, of course. All the money we saved by not buying steaks was rerouted into KILLING BABIES.

That’s the game SPL plays. TheTruePooka actually looks at Planned Parenthood’s detailed budget, in a way that SPL should have done if they were honestly evaluating their expenditures, and found that while breast exams were going down, other, related services were going up: for instance, follow-up care with ultrasound and biopsies (you know that breast exams are just one small part of preventing breast cancer, right?), providing educational resources so women can do their own exams, and expanding outreach to Latinas and other countries. To make it short, SPL was distorting the budget and misleading their readers, but Planned Parenthood was honest and accurate.

Follow the link and go read the whole thing, or if you’d prefer, here’s the author reading it to you:

Babies stacked like cordwood and burned to heat abortion clinics!

The latest ‘scandal’ to appall the anti-choicers is the discovery that aborted babies were incinerated to heat UK hospitals. It’s actually just more sensationalism from the Telegraph.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

Do the math. I calculate that, on average, that means each of those hospitals incinerated about 24 wads of bloody debris from a specific surgical procedure per month. I think we’ve just solved the energy crisis forever if setting a few grams of dead baby (how much do they think a first trimester fetus weighs, anyway?*) on fire every day or two is enough to make a significant dent in the hospital’s heating bill. Ask yourself, though — do you think crematoria are net energy producers, or net energy sinks?

Also, that wet, gooey scrap of tissue is not going to be a profitable energy source. Burning the mass of disposable pads and absorbent gauze and assorted paper waste associated with the procedure is a plus, but dead fetuses? Nope. This is a standard, significant cost for medical facilities and also universities — biological waste must be disposed of, but it’s nasty stuff that has to be disposed of properly. No one wants piles of blood-soaked laundry rotting in their landfill. It is standard procedure to use incinerators — specific incinerators rated to efficiently destroy hazardous and infectious materials.

Apparently, some of the incinerators in the UK are efficiently designed to use a high heat adequate for destroying biological waste, and some of that heat is used to also heat the place. That sounds sensible to me.

I’m not in the least disturbed by the fact that patients were not consulted on how their dead fetus was disposed. When you go in for an operation, are you concerned about what is done with the bloody towels afterwards, or how your appendix or tonsils or excised cyst are treated? Did you think there was some special room deep in the bowels of the institution where they were reverently interred, attended by a weeping chaplain who said a few kind words over your precious bodily fluids? Nope. They’re sealed up in a bag, dealt with according to appropriate protocols for medical waste, and incinerated.

Get over it.


*About 15 grams, or half an ounce…of the most energy-dense substance in the world, apparently.

You should have a right to not have babies

Amanda Marcotte does not ever want to have any children, and she has said so quite strongly. She doesn’t even like children. And that’s perfectly reasonable. Around 20% of American women are child-free for life. Are you going to force them to have babies?

Well, maybe. Cassy Fiano was outraged that Marcotte rejects the idea of having children. While ranting about how horrible it was that she has no affection for infants, let alone fetuses, she effectively discloses what it’s all really about.

What’s interesting is how she acts as if floating the idea of adoption for those facing unplanned pregnancies is somehow forcing them into it. No, Amanda. It’s called having sex. You choose to have sex, you choose to open the door to having a baby, no matter what kind of birth control you’re on. Every time a person has sex, there is a possibility that they will get pregnant, barring a full hysterectomy. She compares it to forcing men to donate sperm, surely what she feels is a no-fail argument against “the patriarchy.” The problem with that is that no one made it to where women are the ones who carry babies. It wasn’t something that men engineered. It’s called science, Amanda. It’s just the way it is, fair or unfair. Acknowledge reality and move on.

There’s the simple-minded solution to the whole abortion problem! You’re only allowed to have sex if you’re willing to get pregnant. Thirty million American women should just be abstinent forever, and she invokes science and reality as her justification.

Here’s some different science and reality for you: sex is a normal, healthy behavior for human beings, and almost all the sex acts performed are not procreative: no intent or desire for pregnancy, and often with no ability for impregnation. We do it for fun, because it makes us happy, because it brings us closer to another human being. Yet Fiano blithely declares that reproduction must be a component of human sexuality.

Why? I was happy to have my children, but I have no interest in having any more (and it would be irresponsible to do so). I am not quite ready to give up sex. I have even less interest in trying to dictate to others under what conditions they are allowed to have sex.

It seems Cassy Fiano is more about controlling others’ sexuality with a soupçon of slut-shaming.

Of course, if you want even more fun, read the comments.

Suppose Amanda would have said “I hate Asians. Their slanty eyes and smooched in faces make me want to puke”…or “I hate Blacks. All of them are shiftless, lazy dopers, and we all would be better off if they blew each other away”, we’d recognize the ugliness of her hatred and prejudice. But since it’s against babies and children, that’s another matter. That’s cool, at least for pro-aborts.

This person is a little too happy to indulge in racist stereotyping while equating fetuses with Asians and blacks, I think.