My Conversation With A Congresswoman

It’s not that hard to become disillusioned with politics lately, when it feels like individual rights are being challenged at every turn – especially if you’re a woman. Last week’s House hearing on birth control and religion not only fueled … Continue reading

An Open Letter To Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

This is an open letter of thanks to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D – CT) after watching her speak at the House hearing today on religious freedom and birth control. You can read most of my thoughts on the entire hearing via my twitter feed (scroll down to see from the beginning). 

Dear Congresswoman DeLauro,

It it with pride and appreciation that I find myself writing this letter to you. Sadly, I am also fueled to write this letter out of anger, frustration and indignation.

Earlier today I was glued to the live feed of Representative Darrell Issa’s hearing on religious freedom and birth control. The hearing, spurred by the ongoing controversy over HHS regulations on birth control coverage by religious employers, included a panel of religious leaders of various denominations.

At first, I was shocked. Here was a panel, convened to discuss issues of birth control, and not one of them was a woman.

Image via Planned Parenthood

My shock quickly turned to outrage as I listened to these men discuss issues intimately connected to women without a second thought that something was missing – that some voice was missing. It was incredibly telling that many of your female colleagues walked out of the hearing in disgust and anger at the lack of women involved.

My anger was tempered slightly as I watched some of your colleagues speak, pointing out what I had noticed – that in a discussion about birth control, the fact that there were no women present on the panel was indeed a huge oversight. However, any comfort I felt in that was challenged again as other Representatives made sweeping statements about first Amendment rights violations. A lot of buzzwords and catch phrases were tossed around, with both panel members and various Representatives claiming that liberty and freedom was being infringed upon with the decision to make all businesses (regardless of religion) provide coverage for birth control.

We heard from both sides of the debate, but sadly, we heard from very few women. Then I saw a familiar face. I may live in Massachusetts now, but as a former nutmegger, I was once a constituent of yours, and literally felt a wave of relief when I realized you were about to speak.

You brought up crucial points that many seemed to be missing – that any church led business must act like a business and provide for the people that work for them, and that includes allowing them access to have insurance-covered birth control. You reminded everyone that contraceptive coverage is both outstanding and overdue in relation to women’s health. You stood up as a Catholic, and made the point that you support the new guidelines not in spite of being a Catholic, but because you are a Catholic.

I knew you would bring clarity, perspective, and common sense to this issue. And you did…only to be rudely cut off just minutes in.

I wish you would have been given the time to finish your thoughts, as they were sorely needed in the discussion. As I stated at the beginning of this letter, I felt pride in watching you not waver in your belief and knowledge in what is right in this situation. I was proud that you did not back down in your stance to promote and protect women’s health and access to insurance-covered birth control. I commend you on taking on not only the panel, but your colleagues that support it. While the number of women even sitting in that room this morning was appallingly low, thank you for attempting to give us voice and speak to the truth of the situation – it is appreciated by many.

Please continue to fight for the women in this country, Congresswoman DeLauro. Please continue to be our much needed voice when it’s clear that many neither value or trust in it.

I am still flabbergasted that we live in a country that is even having hearings like this. I am dismayed that issues like access to birth control are even being brought up for Congressional debate. Yet I’m heartened that we have folks like you, and Representatives Davis, Cummings, Clay, and others speak up for what, according to Representative Connolly, surely looked like a sham and a shameful exercise.

In support & gratitude,

Avital Norman Nathman

Vote For Choice Day

This post in is response to NARAL‘s Blog For Choice Day question:  What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

Hopefully it’s no surprise that I’ve chosen to participate in NARAL’s Blog For Choice Day. It is especially important to me this year to raise my voice with others, sharing what we will do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012.

I’ve previously written about the Republican candidates, and why I am so, so fearful of any of them having a shot at the presidency of our country. Women’s health is truly at stake in this election both at the national and state levels. We need to ensure that we elect representatives that will have our best interests at heart.

What will I be doing to help ensure pro-chose candidates are elected? I will keep on talking about the issues. I will talk about them until I’m blue in the face and people are sick of hearing about them. And then I’ll talk some more.

If we stay silent and just cross our fingers, hoping that somebody else will pick up the slack, or that our favored candidate will somehow magically win, well…then we shouldn’t be disappointed when it all falls apart around us. Instead – talk about what issues are important to you, and find out which ones are important to the candidates running.

Make sure to find out what positions are up for election your state. Find our who is running and check out their voting records. Promises and pretty commercials are nice, but solid voting records will give a realistic look of who you’re voting for.

For example, just the other day, the Obama administration announced that religiously affiliated hospitals or universities MUST have their health insurance plans cover birth control with no co-pays for female employees. Despite many folks lobbying against the bill, trying to create wide exemptions, the Obama administration stepped up to the plate, protecting this important access to birth control. I want to see more of this type of action in Congress!

For me, a candidate who listens to his and her constituents, and votes on their behalf is more important than hollow promises that go unfulfilled. With recent polls showing more people considering themselves pro-choice than pro-life, politicians have a duty to represent these view in Congress.

Even if you personally don’t agree with abortion, please allow other women the chance to choose. Ensure this by electing representatives who will protect that right. I will do everything I can to know the platforms my local candidates are running on, and will support them up until voting day.

What will YOU be doing to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

Republican Candidates: A Race To The Bottom

Hometown (well…on weekends) Hero, Rachel Maddow hustled this past weekend to try and get some time with the Republican candidates while in New Hampshire. She specifically wanted to discuss the candidates opinions on contraception, but nobody was willing to speak with her. Maddow managed to sneak in a quick question to Rick Santorum, but his response hardly answered the question, and was cut off before he could fully answer.

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Despite the fact that birth control has been legal for over half a century, we’re now faced with almost every Republican candidate opposing birth control – something that has never been seen since the right to birth control became legal.

Towards the end of the segment, Maddow is joined by Planned Parenthood Action Fund president, Cecile Richards. The two of them discuss this phenomenon, with Richards remarking that if any of these candidates do indeed become win the presidency, there is a very good chance that our right to birth control would be taken away.

With Mitt Romney being one of the more vocal candidates about eliminating birth control, it behooves us to look at his past. As a resident of Massachusetts, it wasn’t that long ago when Romney ran for office here, looking towards Planned Parenthood for endorsement. In fact, he even filled out a Planned Parenthood questionnaire (back in 2002), in which he affirms his support for Roe vs. Wade. Way to flip-flop like a rock star, Mittens.

Statistics tell us that the majority of voters in the upcoming election will be women. The fact that Republican candidates are standing on platforms that will essentially strip women of very basic rights is frightening. This is not just about birth control and abortion. It also quickly becomes about access to affordable and quality health care, especially when candidates talk about defunding programs like Planned Parenthood.

As Richards notes, this is primary is a race to the bottom for women, with each candidate seemingly doing their best to be the worst president for women.

Pepsi 4 Lyfe

…or rather “Pepsi for Life?”

Actually, I guess the most accurate description of this post should be “Giving Up Pepsi Until Abortion Ends” – but really, isn’t “Pepsi 4 Lyfe” catchier?

And really, when it all boils down – that’s what this whole abortion argument revolves around: marketing/branding/language.

People who are against abortion are extremely clever in the way they frame their arguments. (not right, just clever). The term “pro-life” sounds innocuous, and even good. I mean, who would ever say they are “anti-life?!” But the way anti-abortionists make their argument at least sound somewhat appealing is using the way they phrase their argument. If you’re not “pro-life,” you’re obviously against it, and who wants to take that on?

It’s branding/marketing/smart use of language no matter how you look at it. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with musician and activist, Ani DiFranco. One of the many things we ended up talking about was abortion, and how Conservatives have very carefully crafted their language around their position. We need to do the same.

It’s just tackling the language on a daily basis I think is so important. For me I have to stop and choke back the words, “pro-life,” because that’s a particular frame that somebody came up with to misguide us, and say “anti-choice,” because there’s “pro-choice” and there’s “anti-choice.” Because when you frame it that way then it will ring in people’s ears differently. – Ani DiFranco

And what else is marketing but framing something in a way that appeals to people? We need to continue reframing/rewording ourselves to make just as much of an impact as “pro-life” (aka ANTI-CHOICE) supporters.

Now…back to Pepsi 4 Lyfe. A couple of YouTubes have floated pass me that need to share. Apparently there is an online campaign called Until Abortion Ends, where people can add pictures or videos of them swearing off something…until abortion ends. I’m not quite sure how giving up soda, coffee, Taco Bell, video games, alcohol or chocolate will help end abortion, but these folks sure are giving it the old college try. Again, this is just another marketing tactic from conservatives to reframe the abortion argument. In fact, the site itself asks you upon visiting “How Whole Life are you?”  – with the assumption being that if you are pro-choice that you are clearly less in some way.

In response to one of these videos, a young woman named Erin made her own video, and I think it’s well worth the four minutes to watch:

An Abortion Story

Krista, who I met via my This Is What A Feminist Looks Like series, graciously agreed to do a guest post for me, especially after I had found out that she had been a patient of the late Dr. George Tiller. Krista originally shared this post as a speech at a Planned Parenthood event.

Krista at 15

In 1986 I was 15-years-old and I was pregnant.

That’s an easy statement to make now, but it was a reality that took me months to accept.

I was in love. I honestly thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him….until he broke up with me.

The next month my period didn’t come. I thought it was because I was upset over the break-up.

The month after that, I was in denial. It couldn’t happen to me. We had been safe….most of the time.

The month after that I accepted I was pregnant.

But I wasn’t allowed to date yet, so how was I going to tell my parents I was pregnant?

When I finally told them they were angry, disappointed and concerned.

We talked about my future and what I wanted.

I wanted to go to college. And I knew I was not ready to be a mother at 15-years old.

My mother took me to the Planned Parenthood in Peoria Illinois.

After an examination the doctor said he could not perform the abortion.

I was more than 21-weeks pregnant.

Our only alternative was to travel to Wichita Kansas and the Women’s Health Care Services clinic.

The same clinic Operation Rescue and other anti-choice protesters targeted for years.

When we pulled up to the gated clinic only one silent protestor stood outside.

I was relieved, but I was also scared.

The staff was kind. They smiled and treated me and the six others in my group gingerly.

They were other teenagers like me.

There was a 20-year old beauty pageant queen. She told me she was getting an abortion because the Miss America rules stated she could not have a child.

There was a couple in their 30’s who made the difficult decision to terminate a planned pregnancy because the child was stricken with a severe birth defect.

The same birth defect that had already claimed one of their children.

And there was a 12-year-old Hispanic girl who didn’t speak English.  She looked terrified.

The staff explained that over the next week we would take pills to induce labor and abort our fetuses.

We all stayed at a local motel.

We ate together, we cried together and we supported each other.

My contractions started in the middle of the afternoon.

I couldn’t keep food or water down.

The pain increased as the contractions got closer together.

By the next morning I was in agony.

I don’t remember much about the moment when my pregnancy ended.

Just the nurse who told me to push.

On the long drive home, my breasts started producing milk. My body believed I had given birth.

Before we left the clinic, the Doctor talked to all of us about our futures.

When the Doctor looked at me he paused and quietly said I reminded him of his daughter.

My doctor was Dr. George Tiller.

In 2004, I saw Dr. Tiller again at the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C.

I cried and thanked him for giving me a future.

I felt empowered knowing he was on our side.

On May 31, 2009 Scott Roeder shot and killed Dr. George Tiller.

The doctor was at his church serving as an usher during the Sunday morning service when Roeder shot Dr. Tiller in the head.

That single gunshot closed the Women’s Health Care Services clinic permanently.

I want Dr. Tiller’s legacy to be something he said, “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams and potential, the rest of their lives, abortion is a matter of survival for women.

Krista today

Krista is married to an amazing, supportive man.  They have two dogs who fill their lives with joy. You can find Krista on Twitter.

Raise Your Hand!

How many of your Facebook friends have been admitting their hooker status lately? By my count, I have over twenty.

Sure, this latest push by Planned Parenthood for support is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it certainly gets your attention. All they had to do was use words that had been spoken against them and BAM! Instant media campaign.

This Thursday, the House and Senate will be voting on a bill that will strip Planned Parenthood from all federal funding, and they can use all the support they can muster, especially in light of all the disparaging and false remarks being spread. If you haven’t already done so, please contact your representative and let them know that Planned Parenthood is more than some of the media and politicians purport it to be.

And if I can’t convince you, then perhaps these gentleman can…
(Yes, gentlemen. Not so surprisingly, many men are just as pissed off over the fact that Planned Parenthood is in danger of losing funding)