12.1.15 – Anti-choice legislation

In 2015, Michigan lawmakers proposed 23 bills related to abortion, 17 of which were anti-choice. Male legislators sponsered 72% of the proposed bills.  Here’s an overview of current pending state legislation:

Heartbeat Awareness Act
H.B. 4241Rep. Tom Hooker
Description: Before an abortion can be performed, the doctor must attempt to detect a fetal heartbeat and allow the woman to hear the heartbeat if she chooses.  In addition, the bill requires the doctor to inform the woman of the likelihood of experiencing a spontaneous miscarriage based on the lack of fetal heartbeat and gestational age.

Choose Life License Plate

S.B. 84Sen. Patrick ColbeckH.B. 4140Rep. Tom Hooker
Description: S.B. 84 and H.B. 4140 create the Choose Life Michigan fund within the Michigan Treasury where funds from the sale of specialty “Choose Life” license plates will be deposited. Funds generated by the sale of “Choose Life” plates in Michigan will be directed to the Choose Life Michigan fund. The board of the nonprofit prolife committee, Choose Life Michigan, will then disperse the money to organizations that submit grant proposals for specific abortion prevention projects. The bill stipulates that the funds will be used to promote alternatives to abortion, including adoption, provide practical support to pregnant women, and conduct outreach to at-risk populations regarding positive pregnancy options.Citizens Accountability Act
S.B. 27 Sen. Rick Jones
Description: The Citizen Accountability Act would allow any individual who has knowledge of a woman being treated for an abortion complication to file a “Notice of Compliance” regarding Public Act 208. This notice would be filed simultaneously with the physician or facility treating the complication, the abortionist if he or she did not treat the complication, and the state Department of Community Health.

Abortion Provider Funding Ban aka Defund Planned Parenthood
H.B. 4145Rep. Tom Hooker
Description: H.B. 4145 adds section 2 to the Family Planning Act the public health code.  It states that state departments shall not distribute money to organizations that perform or refer for elective abortions.

Coercive Abortion Prevention Act
H.B. 4787 – Rep. Amanda Price & H.B. 4830Rep. Nancy Jenkins
Description: H.B. 4787 adds to Michigan’s current anti-extortion/coercion provisions by including coercion to abort as a specific crime. It will be illegal to coerce a woman to abort by threatening or actually committing the following actions: physical assault, withdrawing financial support, or terminating or otherwise violating a legal contract, destroying or concealing a passport or other identification, and threats to deport or arrest.

Dismemberment Abortion Ban
H.B. 4833 & H.B. 4834Rep. Laura Cox
Description: Modify partial-birth abortion legislation to criminalize dilation and evacuation abortions. A common medical procedure used after miscarriages and during second-trimester abortions.

Abortion Counseling Conflict of Interest
H.B. 4831Rep. Mike Callton
Description: Prohibits anyone who benefits financially from tissue procurement of aborted babies from counseling women who are seeking an abortion.

No Abortion Providers in Public Schools
H.B. 4883Rep. Tom Hooker
Description: H.B. 4883 amends the Revised School Code.  It states that entities that provide or refer for abortions will not be allowed to teach sexual education in public schools.

Pain Capable Child Protection Act     
H.B. 4851 and 4852 – Rep. Cindy Gamrat, Rep. Aaron Miller, Rep. Ed McBroom, Rep. Jim Runestad, Rep. Ken Goike
Description: HB 4851 would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, unless it is to save the life of the mother. Under this law, a physician would be required to first determine the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus. If it is determined that the fetus is has a probable post-fertilization age of 20 or more weeks, any attempt to perform an abortion would be prohibited. Any person that violates this law would be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment up to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Clinic Licensing Enforcement Act
H.B. 573 – Sen. Judy Emmons
Description: S.B. 573 would require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to license abortion clinics as freestanding outpatient surgical facilities.

Prenatally Diagnosed Conditions Act 
S.B. 287Sen. Jim Marleau & H.B. 5065 Rep. Jason Sheppard
Description: The Prenatally Diagnosed Conditions Act is a two part bill that will address both fatal prenatal conditions as well as other contidions that are diagnosed prenatally   This act creates a database of medically accurate information about the prenatally diagnosed conditions, links to support groups, and provides information about intervention services. The physician will refer a woman to who has been given a prenatal diagnosis to a website where she can receive medically accurate and up to date information. In the event that the diagnosis is fatal (one in which is would not be surprising if the baby died within one year), the doctor will refer the mother to a perinatal hospice program.

 

11.30.15 – You are a good woman

It was time to return to work today after the holiday weekend. I feel like such a liar. Telling everyone my Thanksgiving was nice and quiet, I spent it at home. Apple pie was great, very relaxing, and so on – bleeding throughout every conversation. I wish I felt as refreshed as everyone looks. I can’t exercise, can’t drink, can’t have sex, can’t sleep, and I’ve also developed a cold.   I’m obviously very grumpy. I still have ten more days before my check-up exam, which is when I must have another ultrasound to ensure that the abortion was successful. Medical abortions are ninety-five percent effective. The remaining five percent must be completed surgically.

The clinic gave me a pamphlet entitled, “You are a Good Woman.”   The “good woman” narrative was repeated endlessly while at the clinic. It was plastered on posters, on videos and at the bottom of many forms. The handout provides a brief history of abortion as well as a section entitled, “There are people who want to make you feel bad.” Here is an excerpt:

Even though you know you are doing the best you can, there are people who are working hard to make you feel guilty and ashamed…For nearly forty years since abortion became legal, these people have spent millions of dollars and used politics, religion, intimidations, terrorism, threats, arson, violence, and even murder to try to make it so you don’t have a choice.

This may already be a hard time for you. It’s not fair, but making you feel even worse is part of their plan. They believe that if you feel guilty and ashamed it will be hard for you to stand up for yourself.

The pamphlet continues to provide advice for women who are judged by people they care about, and some confidence boosting tips for honoring personal decisions. The back of the handout provides a list of resources, including several religious organizations for reproductive choice.

I am saddened that this information is needed.

According to a study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, four percent of all priests in the Catholic priesthood between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of abusing a child.

The strings of morality dangle from the fist of power.

11.29.15 – Managing

I couldn’t sleep last night. Low, deep pains on my left side kept me awake. I’m still taking painkillers. I woke up frustrated that this is still happening. My tits still ache. My body aches. I have no energy. I’m sick of this.

Is it manageable? Of course, but I don’t want to “manage” my life. I want to live it.

11.27.15 – I brunched

Today I awoke with pancakes on my mind. Still bleeding, still aching, I brunched. Even innocent pancakes were too much after my internal marathon so I returned to bed and didn’t leave. I am exhausted and sore. My uterus or something inside spasms unpredictably from time to time.

Do you know that there are people who believe women use abortion flippantly as a retroactive form of birth control? You know, the whores of America who make a pit stop at the clinic for a quick abortion between shopping and manicures? What an impractical, absurd idea. Nobody does that. Nobody. Setting aside all of the potential psychological and emotional distress that accompanies an unwanted pregnancy, it’s physically incredibly difficult. Not only must a woman endure the side-effects of pregnancy for at least a month or more, the abortion process is expensive, painful, exhausting, and lasts for weeks following the actual procedure. I will be bleeding for the next month. A lot. I can expect continued cramping and hormone fluctuations over the next several weeks as my body copes with these monumental changes within me. The alternatives? Become a mother? Demand that women unwillingly commit to a lifetime of hardship if they are incapable of supporting a child on their own, knowing that financial assistance for low-income families is on the chopping block each year? Adoption? Forcing women to serve as a vessel for nine months without the financial resources to support themselves in the final months of pregnancy and during recovery? A body forever changed? None of these options are easy. Compared to the alternatives, abortion is the most sensible solution for most.

I know that everyone’s experience is different. Choosing abortion was not a difficult choice for me. I’ve never felt sad, or depressed, or unsure. I haven’t shed a single tear. My perspective does not detract from the physical and emotional hardship of the abortion itself.

An unwanted pregnancy places a woman between a rock and a hard place. There is no good solution. The clinic called this morning to check in on me. I thought that was nice.

11.26.15 – The abortion

I had a Thanksgiving abortion. This was good because I don’t care much for the holiday and was provided ample time off from life to recover. I spent the morning preparing for the experience. A mound of warm blankets, heat pads, ginger ale, tea, one can of emergency Vernors, a bag of ice for snacking, a playlist of b-rated movies, one soft cat, a thermometer and a bottle of Percocet (an abortion gift), Ibuprofen 800 (prescribed), an antibiotic, an anti-nausea medication, and four pills of Misoprostol. The video I watched at the clinic informed me that cramping could begin as soon as thirty minutes after taking the medication but up to twenty-four hours to pass the pregnancy tissue. I would be having a miscarriage at home. I could expect contractions, nausea and bleeding. At three o’clock I washed down a half Percocet and one anti-nausea with a tall glass of water. At three thirty I placed two pills against the left side of my cheek, and two pills against the right cheek, took one deep breath, and pressed play on John Carpenter’s They Live. The pills dissolved slowly into a paste of wet sawdust in my mouth. I lay there with swollen cheeks for forty minutes until I could wash away the remaining pill-goo from my gums.

They tell you every woman’s experience is different. What a shit way of skirting around it. When a doctor prescribes you pain medication, you should find out why and then ask for more.

I started bleeding at four thirty, then a little pain. It didn’t resemble typical ovulation pain. It was more substantial. Deeper. Lower. Buried. It’s a peculiar thing to consciously feel one of your internal organs. At first, it was like a large fist slowly pressing out against my uterus, moving across one hip to the next and back. Then, a boulder rolling between my ovaries. I applied more heat and felt heavy. I fell asleep for a little.

Sometime between an alien police raid and Roddy Piper’s final blow my body transitioned into animal. Something took hold of my abdomen and began to ring it out. I woke up covered in sweat and blurry-eyed. I vomited. Then I was taken over by electric, resonant throbbing. I didn’t feel prepared. I expected waves of pain, but this was relentless. It could be a full ten minutes of this miserable state before a moment of stillness. There was more throbbing than there was not throbbing for several hours. I bled more.

I couldn’t lie down, I couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t sit. I walked around hunched over, crawled on the floor, sat cross-legged, laid on my side, on my stomach, with my feet up and my head down, then my head up and my feet down but nothing was comfortable. I was trapped inside of myself.

It was six thirty. I vomited again and fell asleep. It was more exhaustion than sleep. I didn’t rest. I just gave up for a little. It woke me up again at seven thirty. This time, worse. I must admit, when I’m in pain sometimes I cry. I didn’t cry once. I was somewhere else altogether.

Everything became a sort of alternative reality where I was floating above myself. I transcended pain and became primal, and bloody. A relentless electric shock. I vomited again. Then felt something drop out of me.

I didn’t look.

I collapsed again at eight forty-five and awoke at nine thirty. The third act was unforgiving. I’m not sure I have real memories from these final hours. Everything was white noise. I bled and I bled until I expelled one last something. I didn’t look and I didn’t care.

At ten fifteen it was over. Time was thick. I was suspended in that moment immediately after an old television has been turned off, when you can hear the static and a faint ring although nothing’s there anymore. I drank some ginger ale. Ate some mash potatoes and fell asleep. Strange dreams.

11.25.15 – The clinic

I was the only one in the room with a still leg. The other three women sat cross-legged, fidgeting and bouncing their toes restlessly. This was the first stop during the three-hour ordeal, a video screening for all women who had selected a medical abortion that day. The film, entitled “Everyday Good Women Choose Abortion,” described what we could expect over the next forty-eight hours in detail as narrated by clinic staff. The artificial flowers and vase on the video matched the flowers in the small screening room. Each woman narrowed in on the television screen as if they had blinders on, seemingly unable to glance even for a moment at each other. I think this was the first time any of us confronted the reality of our situation, and it was uncomfortable to acknowledge alongside strangers.

The clinic was in a generic medical office building, which retained its Nixon-era charm because it hadn’t been updated since. I arrived just after nine in the morning. The waiting room was already noisy, bustling with people engaged in conversation, sharing videos and playing music on smart phones.  There were no men waiting and nobody seemed to notice Pat Robertson spewing out his typical nonsense as The 700 Club played on the widescreen. I thought this was a strange programming choice. Admittedly, I wondered for a moment if this was a trap until I resigned myself to the likelihood that the television channel was a low priority (they later changed it to The View).

I was required to provide my signed informed-consent confirmation page at check-in, which was time-stamped twenty-four hours prior to the appointment. Per Michigan law, had I not brought this with me or failed to print it out at least twenty-four hours in advance, the clinic would not have been able to see me.

I then completed over ten pages of paperwork. Much of this was mandated by the state as well. I spent an additional twenty minutes reviewing all of my responses with a staff member. I would be required to return to the clinic had I missed anything.

Following the video, the paperwork, and the paperwork review I was called back by a woman in scrubs. The office looked like any other medical clinic with private exam rooms plus an additional quiet space exclusively for patients in-between tests. The ultrasound was first. Apparently, a vaginal ultrasound is required to determine how far along a woman is in her pregnancy. I was on my back with a wand in my vagina when the clinician informed me about yet another state mandate, “per Michigan law I must give you the option to see your ultrasound.” I declined.

Next, blood and urine samples. I snuck down the hall to the bathroom past a dark, discreet surgical recovery room. Several young unconscious women were tucked into recliners, waiting to return to the world. I locked eyes with an older woman with a furrowed brow who sat in the shadows keeping a watchful eye on one of the patients, perhaps her daughter or family member. This was an eerie space, but I suppose all surgery recovery rooms are somewhat eerie. This one, in particular, made me glad for selecting a medical abortion.

All my tests were completed, so I waited with the other women who were called back for their private exams with the doctor one by one. There were eight of us waiting, all appeared to be in their mid to late twenties. Each woman rushed out of the exam room with their head down, clutching a brown paper bag of medication. I was called in last. After a pelvic exam, the doctor asked me if I had any concerns or questions. I asked her how much pain I could expect. She told me that ninety-five percent of patients are happy with their abortion experience, but most all can expect some level of pain, which is why I was prescribed painkillers. The remaining five percent find the process particularly difficult.

She placed a pill in my hand. She explained that once I swallow the first of the two pills, my pregnancy would no longer be normal. The embryo would not develop and would likely be deformed if I attempted to continue the pregnancy. This point was underscored as I swallowed the pill.

11.23.15 – Arturo Fuente

jex final-2-cropToday I was the subject of a photo shoot for a French magazine called Society. Pregnancy is not a dress I like to wear in occasions such as these. At the moment, a wet soggy sponge like me finds it particularly difficult to be confident. The photographer suggested I smoke a cigar for a few frames. Sure, I thought. There was a time in my life that I enjoyed a fine cigar now and again. The habit was inspired once by a tobacco man in a three-piece suit who laughed at me when I inquired about the kind of cigar a lady might enjoy. I went back to him monthly and bought only the most masculine smoke just to spite him.

In this spirit, I put a flame to it and puffed away. In capturing the perfect shot, I puffed quite a bit, quite quickly. Then, the room was no longer level and my head no longer on my shoulders. I went outdoors to stand under the stars and breathe real air. I vomited into the snow three times.

I learned a lesson tonight. Do not smoke cigars while pregnant and probably, don’t smoke cigars in general.

You win tobacco man.

11.22.15 – The ejaculation situation

My sex life has become a topic of interest among the righteous and faithful. I wish this newfound fascination was inspired by something more erotic than pregnancy, but I suppose that’s as erotic as it gets with this crowd.

 

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Apparently, some believe that women must accept the burden of motherhood every time they have sex. It might surprise you to learn that many people have no intention of procreating when they sleep together. I for one do not believe that sex is a contract for pregnancy.

Many of the messages I’ve received illustrate the resounding assumption that I’m pregnant because I was irresponsible and had unprotected sex. This is not true, but does this really matter? Perhaps it’s easier to demonize a pregnant woman seeking abortion rather than consider that she’s someone like you.

What I hadn’t quite realized until now is how much attention is focused on the exact manner in which a child is conceived. Total strangers have asked me to explain, or presumed details about the person I’ve been sleeping with, whether I take birth control, the kind of sex we had, the general level of promiscuity in my life, and the amount of times I’ve “thrown babies in the trash after a wild orgy.” Apparently, to those who oppose abortion, the value of a potential life is directly related to how it was conceived.

Interestingly, my male counterpart shared news about our abortion on his social media accounts and has yet to receive a single criticism. Additionally, not one of his friends or family members assumed for a moment that he might keep the child when he announced my pregnancy. Nobody has asked him if he wore a condom, or if he’s thought about adoption. As far as I know, nobody is praying for him tonight.

I am repulsed that the most intimate details of a woman’s life are co-opted and broadcast in order to shame, humiliate, and guilt her in the name of a “innocent child’s life.”

Forced motherhood, deprived of its humanity.  A jury’s verdict.

11.21.15 – State mandates

I have officially scheduled my abortion procedure. I’m fortunate to live in an area where there are several locations near my home. In many places in Michigan, uninsured women have to travel over an hour to the nearest clinic. If I had insurance, and a primary care physician, I would like schedule the procedure at their office, but without I must find a clinic that offers affordable treatment options. With little experience on this matter, I selected the clinic with the highest Google review stars. A simple search: “Metro Detroit Abortion Services,” a brief scan of customer reviews and a phone call.

Like most medical procedures, getting an abortion is not a simple process. I think that I’ve always somewhat assumed that early-term abortion was nothing to bat an eyelash at. I’ve taken Plan B, I know many women who have terminated their pregnancy and the focus of the conversation always seems to revolve around the decision and much less about the actual medical process. Perhaps we downplay how much of an ordeal it is to get the abortion because we fear stoking the flames of the irrational? So much attention is focused on the “horrors” of late term or surgical abortion it seems that very little is said about the medical procedure, which is the most common.  Regardless of your opinion on the matter,  there is no doubt that getting an abortion is at least logistically a pain in the ass.

I spent about twelve minutes on the phone today setting up my appointment. I called and told the woman who answered the phone that I wanted to schedule an abortion. She then asked me if I wanted a medical or surgical procedure. I wasn’t really sure what either entailed, but I asked which one was more affordable. They are the same price. But, because surgical sounds more intensive – and from what I’ve read it is – I opted for medical. I asked her to explain it to me.   A medical abortion induces a miscarriage. It’s actually the same process many women undergo if they must terminate their pregnancy due to health concerns, so I suppose the stigma really does revolve around the decision rather than the reality of actually being able to carry a baby to term. There is a series of two pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) that works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which causes the uterus to break down and stop the pregnancy. The second medicine causes the uterus to empty.  The woman on the phone did not offer to explain what’s involved in a surgical abortion. I also didn’t ask.

She informed me that the medical abortion has an $800 price tag not including the additional cost of antibiotics and pain medication. Turns out that I qualify for financial assistance, bringing my out of pocket expenses down to $360.   Then, she started reading this long-winded script, which began something like, “I’m required to tell you the following information by law. The only thing you have to remember from it is today’s date and time because we will ask you for it later.” The next minute was a descriptive jumble of confusing requirements imposed by the state quickly rounded up by – “got that?” – sure, I guess.

I was told that I must print, receive by fax or physically pick up state-mandated informed consent materials at least twenty-four hours in advance of my procedure. Informed consent materials are written by the Michigan Department of Community Health rather than medical professionals and are intended to “provide a woman with accurate and unbiased information,” under the assumption that the medical professional selected by the patient cannot be trusted to do so, and that the state is more qualified to inform a woman about medical procedures than her doctor. The State of Michigan website requires women to click through and read material which includes a description of the abortion procedure, illustrations of fetal development stages (as if this was necessary), pre-natal care and a brief overview of the responsibilities of parenthood (also unnecessary).  Additionally, the State of Michigan website offers a list of “clinics offering free pre-natal ultrasounds.”  These clinics are state funded non-medical, crisis pregnancy centers whose mission is to dissuade women from choosing abortion.  In 2014, the state of Michigan allocated $800,000 to these anti-abortion centers.   If you pay taxes, you help to fund these groups.

Fortunately, I am someone who has educated herself about politicized pre-abortion “information” mandates. Many women do not know. I was told that if I were to forget to pick-up, or print off and sign the informed consent materials twenty-four hours in advance I would be sent home when I arrived for my appointment. Under the law, the clinic is unable to perform an abortion without proof that each woman has received and reviewed the state-mandated reading materials. I will need to find a place where I can print materials privately because I do not have time to drive to the clinic before my appointment and the last thing I need is for some librarian to harass me when I pay eighty cents for my copies.

With that, I set my date and the woman on the other end was ready to hang up and move on. I was not ready. I wanted to know what was involved during the appointment and I’m glad that I asked because it’s quite elaborate. She told me that I can expect to be at the clinic for about four hours and will need to complete fifteen minutes worth of paperwork when I arrive.  First, I will receive an ultrasound, then blood work, then urine test, I will have to watch a video, potentially receive a pelvic exam from a doctor who will also speak with me about my options. Someone is allowed to come with me to the appointment but they must remain in the waiting room. Before I leave the appointment I will take the first of the medications. I can expect cramping and bleeding most on the second day of medication and should plan to take the day off during the process.  I will also need a day to recover. They also recommended having someone with me during the second day in case there are any complications.

Four women have recently discussed their medical abortion experiences with me. None of the stories were easy or simple, or painless. I must admit – I’m freaked out. I’m not sure if I should keep researching or ignore these stories altogether with the understanding that everyone’s experience is unique. I would seek professional advice prior to my appointment to get the perspective of an experienced medical practitioner – but who is there to trust? A pregnancy help line? A resource with typically zero transparency regarding the organization’s motivations or funding sources? Plus, I don’t really need “help,” I would just like some impartial explanations. The politicization on both sides of the abortion debate make this process so much more difficult to navigate, discuss and understand.