Tag Archives: Reproductive rights

Undue Burden: Abortion in Texas on the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

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January 22, 2016, Austin, TX, USA

Although I didn’t plan to be at the Texas Capitol on the 43rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade to hear comedian Lizz Winstead, Senator Kirk Watson, activist Amy Hagstrom Miller and others impassioned about Reproductive Justice speak, the stars aligned to bring me there. Wearing orange, armed with signs I made to protest in that same building back in 2013–La Lucha Sigue Y’all!–with a friend and clinic-worker by my side, I listened, as the wind whistled, and carried our whoops and hollering across the rolling lawns of the Capitol grounds.

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Fate has seemed time and again to draw me into abortion. Many, many people who support the right to choose clarify that they are pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I cannot claim the same. Abortion, its cloaked and infamous history, everything about it, calls to me, in the depths of my soul, as a human right I cannot stop fighting for. After leaving my local abortion provider’s office last January to focus on domestic violence full-time, last summer I began to feel the void again. Maybe it was memories from the Capitol, maybe the heat got to me, but I was finally recovered enough from the massive burnout I suffered after the devastation of HB2, to pour myself into abortion again.

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Now I serve as one of two Outreach & Volunteer coordinators for The Bridge Collective, the only practical support network in Central Texas for people seeking abortion care. We as a collective, and through our network of volunteers, provide accommodation and transportation to people traveling within 100 miles of Austin (roughly a two-hour drive each way) to terminate a pregnancy. To give you an idea of what that means, check out the maps below. The orange markers are all of the abortion clinics we don’t serve, the purple ones are clinics we do, and the red markers are towns within 100 miles of Austin.

Texas Zoomed Out

TBC Travel Area

Covering the vast swaths of land between tiny Texas towns that dot the landscape, you’ve got a lot of time to think. And while for our clients that time may be spent confirming their decision, or contemplating all of the other responsibilities and stressors in their lives, for the drivers, inequality is always on our minds.

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But that’s true for a lot of Texans, in a lot of battles, over abortion, voting rights, segregation, police brutality, healthcare or lack thereof, classism, shelters for domestic violence survivors and the homeless, etc. etc. etc.

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Abortion has always been an issue that sparks a fire in me. I’ve written numerous times about bodily autonomy and the policing of bodies and abortion, but I’m glad that the political discourse around abortion, at least in my circles, has finally started to be intersectional (almost) all the time. The argument that “if men could get pregnant” may finally be shifting to “if cismen could get pregnant” because men can and are getting pregnant. No longer are White Feminists talking only about a woman’s right to choose, although that is still the dominant rhetoric. It’s heartening to hear frank, public discussions of WHO is affected by these ridiculous, restrictive laws, and how those of us with white or class or able privilege can help people suffering from racism, classism, ableism and transphobia.  So while many pro-choice arguments still look like this:

12507451_10153215260552687_1076058395963496776_nor this better, more racially inclusive infographic

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I’m grateful that many of the memes and much of the discourse has shifted to be more wholly inclusive of all people who can become pregnant, like this: 1848_1679204842323100_2455440285072812659_n

It seems like more and more people, pro-choice people, are finally starting to show up for ACCESS to abortion, because Roe v. Wade means nothing to people who can’t afford, or get to, their appointments. Because we all know the wealthy will always find a way to terminate a pregnancy that is unwanted.

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But even if someone does have the funds, and the transportation to terminate a pregnancy, that doesn’t guarantee there is a clinic near them that will have an available appointment soon, or even before they pass the 12-week mark, or their state’s legal limit for termination. Nor do money and transportation promise that the patient has the “proper identification” or the right to take time off work (at least twice in Texas) or childcare or wouldn’t face a barrage of racist and insulting questions about their gender or immigration status. No wonder so many people in Texas and elsewhere are illegally purchasing abortifacients online, or self-inducing terminations.

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And while we may have to deal with media-supported abortion shaming and the clinic violence that is a consequence, and some ridiculous gubernatorial shenanigans and blatant sexism in our legislature, at least, unlike North Carolina, we don’t have to send the forced ultrasounds patients get to lawmakers. The documentary Trapped shows what it’s like from an abortion provider’s POV. We’re not the only one’s failing… yay? There have been some bright spots nationally in abortion laws though, like Louisiana & North Dakota, and some upcoming elections could prove to be critical as well.

Back at the Texas Capitol though, on January 22, 2016, our activists were just kicking off the Texas Truth Tour, to get to DC before March 2nd, in time for the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case challenging the ominous omnibus HB2 bill that has been so devastating to abortion care in Texas. For more on how the SCOTUS ruling will impact the nation, check out this piece from Colorlines.

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You can help Texans get to the Supreme Court by texting ‘Fight Back’ to 97779 and follow their journey using #FightBackTX #StopTheSham and #WWHvHellerstadt, and other conversations around abortion rights and access with #DrawTheLine #WeWontGoBack #ShoutYourAbortion #7in10forRoe #RepealHyde #RepealHelmes #1in3Speaks #ReclaimRoe and #reprojustice. For more from the Draw The Line campaign hear these actors speaking out. Also, check out the incredible amicus briefs filed for the Supreme Court’s consideration, and Obama’s take on all of it.

Do people really need to be reminded what life was like before Roe? Apparently so. We’ll only have to look to El Salvador in the near future to see what a healthcare crisis of that magnitude looks like.

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10 Uterus-Having Folks On Not Having Kids

More people than ever in the US are choosing not to have children–for a wide variety of reasons. After my (and the internet’s) overwhelmed reaction to this piece I knew that I had to see how the uterus-having non-breeders around me felt about (not) having children. I would have liked to have heard from more people of color, more people on the trans spectrum and from people of different ages… I guess it’s time to make more friends! *Some folks have chosen to remain anonymous.

blue dotMW: Female, straight, single, 33, white, live in San Francisco, from San Luis Obispo, CA, able-bodied, atheist/least religious person, Bachelors in Art, US citizen, employed full-time.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I can not remember a time that I ever wanted my own children. I’m very selfish with my time and money, and like doing whatever I want, almost all the time. This sounds immature but I’m extremely grossed out by childbirth, c-sections, and the recovery from both (and ‘the business of being born,’ and how people in the US collect disability when taking maternity leave). I think the population is too large already, I am a ZPG proponent, and world resources are strained so in my eyes, it’s a selfish act (especially having like 4, 8, 19 children). I swear I’m not a huge pessimist but I don’t like the idea of bringing a sweet little innocent baby into a pretty fucked up world.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
I have received close to zero pressure from my parents about having kids, including my mom who wanted not much more for herself than to be a mother. My maternal grandma will point at a young family at a restaurant and say things like “Now doesn’t that look fun?” and will inquire about my dating life. Fortunately younger cousins have gotten married and taken some pressure off of me.
Some acquaintances will say “Never? Never ever?” but people generally understand that everyone is different and has their reasons either way. Now that I’m 33, and in a pretty child-free city, the window of time is closing and I don’t think I’ll be asked too much. Close friends are married or coupled but none of them are rushing to have kids.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
n/a

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
Money talks but I personally would never do it. I feel like it’d ravage your body and I’d get too attached to the baby growing in me to give it up.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I went to Planned Parenthood a few times in college, and other locally run health providers as a teen having secret (from parents) sex. Having free access was key (check-ups and prescriptions). I’ve never had any pushback and the thought of that makes my blood boil. I get happy when I read about free birth control for people.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
One boyfriend broke up with me (among other reasons) because he said he wanted to eventually have a family and knew that I wasn’t interested. I know other guys pressure girls into the idea but come on, there are billions of other women who want babies, be with them. There is definitely the thought in my mind, during the very early stages with a new partner, that the no-child thing could be a “deal-breaker” for him.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
Reading about things like Japan’s birth rate drastically dropping off, I think people might be scared of society coming to a halt (obviously not soon). People are little money-makers for a society. I know that most people do genuinely adore their children and want others to feel that same all-consuming love for a kid too. It does seem frowned upon to not have kids, but I think people are seeing what a true liability a child is, that it’s a huge time suck and of course expensive. It’s one of the most selfless things you can do and most people I’ve encountered in my generation and younger are not selfless. Seeing more people as carefree and focusing energy on careers or travel or other family members seems to help destigmatize lack of desire to parent.
I sincerely love children, (am the eldest grandchild on both sides, did lots of babysitting, have considered teaching young children, am attracted to adults with child-like enthusiasm) but also hand babies back to their parent when it starts crying or poops. A roommate said he’s not ready for something that he can’t control the volume on.
I feel like oftentimes people who “shouldn’t” have babies, do.
I’m incredibly responsible, stable, good at saving money, I’m a candidate for “should,” but have no interest. And, it sucks that the family name will die out with me. The whole point of life is to create more life so I feel like something is wrong with me. But I don’t care.
People think they have to, or think they should have children. Or they think having a baby will salvage their own bad relationship with their partner. Eek.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
People think it’s selfish to NOT have kids. I think it is selfish to have kids.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
Highly highly doubt it but if I met a partner that reallllly wanted kids and put zero pressure on me to do so, I might consider adoption. (That’s a whole other thing: “selecting” a kid is strange…)

11258974_10153192545376480_1870465006_nNicole Loschke: I am a 28-year-old, Caucasian, heterosexual female. I am currently in a relationship. I am originally from Parachute, Colorado and currently live in Silt, Colorado. I am spiritual and not religious, although I was raised Catholic and have been exposed to and studied as a Baptist as well as Buddhism and Islam. I have a BA in Journalism and a Master’s in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies. I am a U.S. citizen and I currently work as a paralegal for an immigration attorney. I focus on victims of crime and hardship waivers. I have a large, loud red-nosed pitbull and I love spending time outdoors hiking, fishing, camping, and playing my djembe.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I never really had an “ah-hah” moment where I realized I didn’t want children, I just never wanted children. As I child, I never dreamed or imagined my wedding day or being a mother. As the years have passed, it hasn’t changed. That being said, the same answer can be applied to the second part of this question. It’s not necessarily that I don’t WANT to parent. I have about 11 god children and “nieces and nephews” (all children of very close friends) and I love them with all my heart. I love spending time with them and watching their minds expand. I value the time I spend with them and it teaches me a lot. I even worked in a preschool in the past. It’s not really a matter of NOT wanting to parent, but more a matter of wanting to be kid-free, if that makes any sense.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
The first time I had to come out and say it, I was at lunch with my mom, my cousin, and her daughter. My cousin lives in CA and we live in CO, so they came to visit. We never really got to know each other before this visit. While eating lunch, my cousin asks me, “So Niki, do you want kids?” I was stunned. I knew I didn’t, but I had never told my mom and I knew it would break her heart. I looked at my cousin straight in the eye and told her that I didn’t really want kids. I could see my mom’s heartbroken face out of the corner of my eye. When I broke eye contact with my cousin and finally looked at my mom, she was completely devastated. Since then, it hasn’t really been brought up. I only have one sibling: an older brother, who also doesn’t have kids, so the pressure is really intense right now. My brother is 31 and I am 28. Neither of us have the best track record with stable relationships, so my parents (who would be amazing grandparents) have been putting the pressure on us to give them grandchildren. We all just kind of brush it off without really talking about it. My friends reactions vary. Some of them tell me that I would be a great mother and some of them agree that I shouldn’t have children. Most are ultimately supportive of my decision and they know that I have a free spirit and I am terrified of commitment, so it is best for everyone.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
I’ve never really been offended by someone’s reaction. It is still pretty taboo in our society to talk about fertile women choosing not to reproduce, so I have grown a thick skin. I do have a coworker that hears me make my subtle (sometimes not-so-subtle) comments about not having children. Every time, she approaches me, caresses my shoulder, and tells me something like “Oh Nicole, one day you will find the love of your life and God will bless you with the fruit of your love in a child and you will be the greatest mother and feel the love only a mother can feel.” I usually give her a half smile and walk away. I don’t disagree that this is probably true for her and could be true for many people, but it is not my ideal future or is necessary for my happiness.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I don’t think I could be a surrogate. I think that if I was pregnant, I would grow too attached to the baby to ultimately give it up for someone else to raise.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
My reproductive health was fine until I was about 22 years old. I contracted HPV and the doctors found abnormal cells after a routine exam. I was living in Costa Rica at the time and it was horrible because my mom had to open the letter from the doctor and read it to me over the phone. I had to have my cervix frozen and eventually about half of my cervix was cut out. I have spoken to doctors who tell me that I shouldn’t experience any problems if I chose to reproduce, but I have my doubts.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I didn’t really talk about it with my boyfriends until a couple years ago. I was in a serious relationship; we were living together and had been together for almost a year. He wanted kids, and I didn’t tell him how I really felt. We actually tried to get pregnant for a couple months, and then our relationship ended abruptly. For three months after we broke up, I didn’t menstruate. I was terrified. I knew that I would be okay, because I was capable of raising a child, I had a stable home and a stable job, but the last thing I wanted was to be a single mother. Turns out I probably didn’t menstruate because of excess stress; it was a vicious cycle. My current partner also wants kids. At first when he mentioned it, I just changed the subject or passively agreed. It was weighing me down, so I finally told him how I felt. He was very sad at first, but then he decided that it didn’t matter because he loves me, so that’s the only thing that mattered to him. I think he still hopes that I will change my mind with time, and I feel horrible that he is having to sacrifice something that he has always wanted for me. I appreciate his stance and I have so much respect for him, but I still feel bad and I think it may be an issue in the future.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think since the beginning of time, the ultimate goal of society has been to reproduce. People want to feel like they have a purpose and that their legacy will live on. If you have a child, you can fulfill these things. Societal norms have always been questioned, but those doing the questioning are usually silenced, shunned, or deemed mentally unstable. I don’t know if it is just me getting older and maybe having conversations with like-minded people, but I would like to think that our society (at least the generations my age or younger) is shifting to embrace change and accept that the norms once accepted at face value should be questioned and deviated from. Still, a fertile woman choosing not to reproduce is taboo, especially in the older generations. I do have a couple aunts/uncles that are married and have not reproduced, and I admire them and look up to them. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for them during those years. I don’t really think that older generations will change. I also understand how an infertile woman could be mad or disappointed with a fertile woman consciously choosing not to have children, so I don’t think that will change either. However, I do think that the taboo is becoming less and less prevalent. As far as campaigns to reduce the stigma. I think that if climate change and overpopulation hasn’t convinced society, nothing will.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
People think that because I don’t want kids, I hate kids. This is completely false. Like I said before, I have around 11 godchildren/”nieces and nephews” so I am around children a lot. I love interacting with them and watching them grow. Their brains amaze me and I love taking them on even the littlest adventure and teaching them something (they usually teach me something too). I do enjoy children. Just because I don’t want children of my own, does not make me some child-hating monster.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I am never going to say that I will never have kids. I have never wanted to, but I realize that things could change. I am not sure of anything specific that would change my mind.

260160_10100207872793180_7757028_nLeslie Gordon: Female, hetero, single (never been married), 30 y.o., white non-Hispanic, currently live in Washington DC but from Cincinnati, OH.  Able bodied, not a veteran, agnostic beliefs, Master’s degree, US citizen and full-time employed.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I don’t think there was ever a single time when I decided that I didn’t want to parent, rather a decline in the number of kids I wanted.  Around 21/22 y.o. I was set on having 3, then over the years after learning about the cost of having kids and how much time it takes, it decreased to 1.  Now, I’m at 0.  I don’t want to parent because I generally have disinterest in it.  I’m also selfish, I want to spend the money I earn on myself, I want to spend my free time with my friends/family, I want to spend time making myself feel good (through working out, shopping, nails done etc.).  Travel is also a big part of why I don’t want kids.  I don’t want my vacation to be spent at Disney World or at a kid-friendly location.  As cliché as it is, I want to see the world and the best way I’ve found to do that is alone or with a small group of other adults.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
I recently told my mother that I didn’t want kids.  Luckily my parents don’t care, although I’m sure a part of them was disappointed they couldn’t tell their friends they were going to be grandparents.  I’m still holding out hope that my sister will want to parent…

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
None, yet

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
No way

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Good

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I think it definitely affects romantic relationships because our society puts so much pressure on having kids and a family.  I’m still in search of that person who won’t care either way.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I just think it’s expected, it’s expected that you will want to take on the identity of a mother.  For me, talking with others about their experience and choice to not parent has been the most beneficial.  It brings a sense of normalcy to the choice and it’s fun to chat about what fun activities people are doing with their free time and money.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That they hate kids!  I like to play with kids and think they do some really cute things, I just don’t want to deal with all of the un-fun stuff.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I’ve considered adopting an older child (like maybe 3, 4, 5).  I know for a fact that I don’t want to birth a child out of my body and that I don’t want to feel pressured by a biological clock to have a baby.  So this sounds like a good alternative (plus I don’t want to potty train or have to deal with excessive amount of crying at night).

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Briar Maverick: I’m a radical, poly, trans, queer non-binary. I share my life with four amazing partners, and I’m currently working on building a trans queer poly commune and learning ASL.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I’ve gone back and forth on having children most of my life. As a trans person, I’ve actively tried to distance myself from anything “maternal” or “motherly” and the idea of carrying a pregnancy to term makes me physically ill, but sometimes the idea of raising children in a queer and trans setting appealed to me. In college, I worked at a chain baby store, and I realized how draining children are on emotional and material resources, but I thought that I could have kids one day if I had enough money. As my future plans develop, I’ve realized that there’s probably never going to be a point in my life when I have the material or emotional resources to provide for a child, and I don’t have enough urge to procreate to overcome that lack.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
Most of my social group is fellow trans queer radicals, so even those who do want kids understand and respect the fact that I don’t see children in my future. My mom has alternated over the years from “oh, I was hoping I’d get a chance to have grandchildren” to “yes, good, don’t have kids.” Growing up Queer and Feminist, most everyone else in my family probably wrote me off for continuing the family line long ago.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
I distinctly remember being about 6 years old, talking to a family friend about how I didn’t want to have kids, and her telling me that my feelings about children would change some day, and how frustrated I got even then.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
The money is appealing to be a surrogate, but the idea of being pregnant, even if I don’t keep the child, makes me physically ill and incredibly dysphoric.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I’ve had a lot of problems finding a service provider that I feel comfortable with because I and the majority of my partners are trans. Any time I try to talk to someone about different forms of birth control, I or my partners end up getting misgendered directly or indirectly.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
At this point in my life, and for the foreseeable future, I’m only in polyamorous relationships, so if one of my partners want children, that’s fine, they can find another partner to have children with.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
The connection between womanhood, nurturing, and reproduction is a disservice to cis and trans women alike, regardless of reproductive capability. There are lots of different ways to create meaning in one’s life and women’s value goes beyond their ability and willingness to reproduce.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That this is an issue that only affects cis women pursuing careers.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption? 
I could see myself being part of a household/commune with someone who is raising children, and taking an uncle-type role, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to have a direct parenting relationship with a child.

HB headshotHeather Busby: I’m a straight, cis married white woman in my early 40’s. A native Texan by many generations, I was born in Houston, raised in Victoria and have lived in Austin, TX for a couple of decades, off and on. I’m a licensed attorney and currently director of a statewide reproductive rights advocacy organization. I’m happily married and we have two dog “children” that are ridiculously spoiled and our great loves.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent? 
I don’t remember exactly when I first realized I didn’t want kids. When I was a teen, I remember saying this, but I also assumed I would have children because that’s just what happens: you meet a prince charming, fall in love, get married, have kids, live happily ever after. I had a very unrealistic and idealized vision of relationships and life, basically.
When I was in my mid-20s and married for the first time, that assumption was always there, but my desire wasn’t. It was something I figured maybe one day we’d get to, but we had plenty of time. And the marriage was short-lived. After that I had a couple of brief and turbulent relationships and as I approached 30, I started facing the possibility that maybe my life wouldn’t follow the mold of love-marriage-kids and I realized that was okay. Then it really dawned on me that not only was it okay, but I really didn’t want to have kids at all, ever. Still, I thought maybe there was something that could change – like I thought maybe I’d adopt or be a foster parent – but the thought of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding was horrifying to me. I had no desire to procreate. None.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
Until maybe my mid-30’s, some family members would say, “Well, don’t you want a little Heather?” It was mostly my grandmother and a little bit my parents. One day I explained to my dad how I just didn’t have the biological desire to have kids and after that, it seems like the comments and questions stopped.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received? 
Nothing really sticks out. I guess I wasn’t overly outspoken about how I didn’t want to have kids, especially when I was younger (when people are more likely to pull out the “you’ll change your mind when you get older” line).

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate? 
No. Freaking. Way. I do not want to be pregnant, ever. Do not want to give birth. No way.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns? 
Mostly my ob/gyn experiences have been fairly positive. When I thought I might be experiencing perimenopause, my ob/gyn seemed to brush it off and just recommended I stay on the pill because I didn’t want to get pregnant, so it wasn’t an issue. Despite my disinterest in my fertility, I still wanted to know what was happening with my body and I dwelled on that visit until the following annual visit, when I insisted that I wanted to know. This time the doctor took the time to talk about the symptoms I was experiencing and she actually recommended I think about getting off the pill, which, as it turns out, was causing my issues.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all? 
I think there were bigger issues in my previous relationships, but all my long-term boyfriends are married with kids now. In my mid-30’s, I was concerned about dating and being able to find someone who was on the same page as me about no kids. I was somewhat okay with dating someone with kids from another relationship, as long as they didn’t want any with me. Fortunately, I met my husband and he wants kids even less than I do.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children? 
Although I haven’t gotten the pushback some others have gotten, it’s still been difficult. And I think that stigma is specific to those with uteruses – I don’t think men get the same pressure. But I think there’s still this nuclear family ideal, regardless of the genders of the parents. US society is definitely geared toward settling into a monogamous relationship and then rearing children. And those of us who choose a different path – especially females – are viewed as unnatural.
I don’t have the answer to what we could do to reduce that stigma. Maybe when someone gets married, don’t start asking them right away when they’re going to have kids or don’t ask women, regardless of marital status, when they’re going to have kids. It’s always “when,” not “if.” Don’t assume.
Also don’t assume that people who don’t want to have their own children won’t love and be wonderful with your own. Sometimes I feel like some of my friends just assume I wouldn’t be interested in being around them with their kids or that I’m not happy going to the playground or their child’s activities or birthday parties. I feel like I’m often written off, even if I express that I want to see them at a time and place that’s convenient for them. But still, the only invites I get from many of my friends with kids are on the rare occasion they actually make it out to a bar. I don’t expect them to conform to my life and only do “adults-only” activities with me, but they also don’t hear me when I say, “Hey, I want to be in your AND your children’s lives and I’ll come do your family thing.” I’m not in the club. I’m like a remnant of their pre-kids life. And it stings sometimes.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children? 
That we’ll change our mind.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption? 
I would consider adopting a gay or trans youth one day. And if something were to happen to a member of my family, I would take care of their children if asked.

Axe-WomanNT: Heterosexual, 31, First-American-born African, raised as Greek Orthodox Christian, California raised, college educated and works for a crisis hotline.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
Probably when I was a kid. I didn’t like how toys and games were gender biased/stereotypes. I didn’t want to play house and hated being assigned to be a “housewife and mommy”. Yo, I want to cut down the tree and make dining table or something. Plus, I’m the only girl (all brothers) and the baby of the family (over-protected/spoiled?).

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
They didn’t seem to care nor strongly encouraged me to reconsider. My mom is the only person that wants to see me have children, “At least one.” I respond back by telling her that my eggs are all dried up. She did not like that, ha.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Them: “Do you have children?” Me: “No.” Them: (grasp) “Why not? You’re beautiful, God wouldn’t make you a woman if he didn’t want you to have children.” Me: “You’re right, my body is a complete waste.” Them: (Puzzled face). Me: (walk away).

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I have several friends that want to have children (they have gone through unsuccessful IVF, adoption didn’t go through, dealing with health problems, etc). There is this one great friend of mine, when I see how much it means to her and her husband to have children, it makes me want to become one for them just to see them happy and give them to chance to experience parenthood because I know they will make great parents.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I am not sure what you are asking here… My experiences have been positive overall. The only time the discussion of becoming pregnant/preventing pregnancy comes up is when discussing birth control methods. I had to ask them about it by bringing it up otherwise they wouldn’t mention anything.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I don’t like the pressure of having to be with someone just so we could have a family together. I’m okay not living in a house with white fence, having a dog name Spot, being an active PTA member at a school, baking cookies (I do like baking cookies though), etc. See #9

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I want to say leave us alone but that won’t work. Let us be. 🙂 I would say the focus should not be about having your own children to fit that “American Dream” concept. You can still be part of it in a non-traditional way.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
They think we’re selfish and do not want to carry on our family legacy.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I am not sure, I haven’t really given that much thought until you mentioned it. I’m already an aunt to 5 nieces and nephew and a godmother to three kids. No matter what happens, I know I will always have kids in my life.

jackalope1Lauren: I am a cis lesbian woman in my mid twenties and hanging out in Texas. I am white and had the privilege of going to school for Women’s and Gender Studies. Currently I work as a domestic violence advocate and hope to go back to school for a Master’s in Social Work. I dream of traveling, getting an amazing Texas/Ray Wylie Hubbard tattoo, and one day being the mother of the most amazing garden in Texas.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
In my last year of college I started realizing that it wasn’t a priority and became indifferent to the idea of having children. The two years following college I found myself not wanting children. I think that supporting myself and seeing what having a child costs just seemed too much. It wasn’t so much the financial cost as the emotional cost. I am a fan of lazy mornings, doing what I want when I want, and being able to freely move through life. I do not think I would be a great mom because the baby would take away lazy mornings, always being able to do what I want, and would make adventures more complex. Although I know I would love a kid if I had one, I think I would resent it. I want to have a life where I can travel and go on random day trips without having to worry about another human.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
I haven’t had much push back from friends. I have been told by one person that as a woman I need to be a mother. That is just the nature of woman and men are the ones that can choose to have children or not. Obviously I disagreed with him. I have had a few friends say that I would be a great mother if I did want them. I have been told by older family members that they can hear my biological clock and that I am running out of time to have children. They want me to have babies within the next few years which is not going to happen.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
My friend telling me that women have babies and that men are the only ones that can decide not to have children. That is just sexism.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I am not cool with the idea of being pregnant and I am repulsed by the idea of carrying any baby. I just feel that is for someone else. With that said, I would do it for my sister if she needed it but that is family so it’s different.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Since I do not use birth control and I am a lesbian, I haven’t had any interactions with doctors and nurses about it.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
So far, it hasn’t impacted me. I have only had one long-term relationship and we were both indifferent to children. I wouldn’t get in a long-term relationship with someone who really wanted kids because it wouldn’t be right for both of us in the long run.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think a lot of the stigma has come from tradition. Women didn’t traditionally have the option to choose not to have children for the most part. As culture shifts to treat women as whole individuals capable of contributing to society outside of family life, I think the stigma will start to dissipate. I have read really great feminist blog posts discussing why some choose not to have kids. As more women speak up and more discussion takes place, I think it will become more accepted.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That we are being selfish by only thinking about what is right for us and what we want. We are also thinking about what it would be like too for our potential new children. Whether our lives wouldn’t allow us to provide the proper care or the sacrifices that come with being a parent would cause us to resent having children, the child would suffer.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
If something happened to my sister and I needed to adopt her kids, I would. Other than that, nope.

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Heath Davis: I am a 39 year old, genderqueer woman. I strongly identify as poly and queer, and I am in a committed poly relationship with my anchor (female, femme-identified) partner. I am also great friends with and dynamically supported by her female, femme-identified partner and her genderqueer partner. I am white, fat, able-bodied, non-Veteran, U.S. citizen, and have two Masters degrees (with zero intent of pursuing any more education). I work full-time as a librarian at a technical college in Kirkland, Washington. I grew up in a Baptist household in Southern Maryland and have run as far away from religion as possible. I have not identified a religion that resonates with me, but I do think of living in the city as its very own religion. I currently live in Seattle, Washington in the Columbia City neighborhood and Seattle is a place I can call home. I have a ten-pound Chihuahua/Min Pin mix and share my house with a lady queer couple, one is a massage therapist and the other is a plumber.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I realized I did not want to have children when I was in high school. I was routinely humiliated and bullied for being fat and having facial hair by various classmates and on the bus to/from school. I made a conscious decision at that time that did not want to bring a child into this world because I could not handle the emotional pain of watching my child go through anything even remotely similar. I didn’t feel like I was strong enough to be there for my children if/when this were to happen. I really wanted to have children when I was much younger, played with dolls, treated my dolls like they were actual babies, sat with and held the babies of other people in my Family of Origin. Another realization for me was that I didn’t want to have babies unless I was financially and emotionally stable to do so. I also wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted, and having children seemed like a barrier to that.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
Mostly it has been a non-issue since I have surrounded myself (mostly) with other queer folks who don’t want to have children. When I came out to my parents my mother said something to the effect of: “Well that makes sense because you don’t want to have kids.” This was really damaging to hear, but corresponded to my own assumptions that I COULD NOT have children because I was queer. Among my friends they usually get that I don’t want to have kids. My family of origin has sort of given up and I usually get exoticized as the “weird one” or the person no one bothers to really get to know because my life is so strange to them and outside of the traditional layout of family.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
The response I got from my mother when I came out to my parents as queer: “Well that makes sense because you don’t want to have kids.” Well before this and when I was newly navigating the GLBTQ community in Washington, D.C. I attended a women’s group in Dupont Circle neighborhood and there was a question or someone brought up something about having children and I shared, “I’m queer because I don’t want to have children.” One of the facilitators for the group pointed out that those two things were not mutually exclusive and not all LGBTQ folks feel that way, in fact quite the opposite. That was a bit of a revelation for me.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I have thought about that in the past. I think if a friend or family of choice/origin person was not able to have children I would serve as a surrogate. I’ve thought about this in terms of my family of choice as well, where if one of them could not have children I would offer to carry the child, but that is a moot point since adoption would be the next available option.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I haven’t had any issues in my healthcare history. The one thing that has been HUGELY frustrating is discontinuing the conversation about reproductive and sexual health when I inform a medical professional that I am sexually active with women and queer folks. This has changed somewhat, and sometimes I’m not entirely sure if concerns for my medical treatment aren’t flagrantly disregarded because I am a fat woman (whereas I have heard stories from women with more normed body size and femme presenting detailing how medical professionals hound them about STDs and pregnancy when they tell them they are only sleeping with women). I was on birth control pills off and on for a few years throughout my 30s (mostly to regulate my very erratic periods) and I switched to an IUD in August 2012. There has never been any pushback on this and has been supported by the medical professionals with whom I have worked. I have thought about, but have never sought to have tubal ligation, but it is something I am thinking about. At my age (39 years old) I don’t anticipate I would have a problem getting this done.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
As far as past romantic relationships my decision to not procreate has had little to no impact on my romantic relationships. I was in committed relationships with two women who were not interested in having children at all. Pursuing relationships with other folks once I began poly dating served as a bit of a challenge, because it seemed like (at the time) too much to take on at one time (along with a relationship). All of that said, at this time I am in a poly relationship/family structure where there is committed desire to building a large family that will include up to three children. How this will roll out is still in discussion, but there is talk of my partner carrying a child and/or adopting children. My decision to not have children did impact this relationship with my partner greatly since this is something she and her partner wanted and didn’t know how I would fit into that. I’ve flexed on my resolve to not have children because I feel like the family of choice I am in with my partner and her partner and her partner’s partner is committed to working through hard things and is deeply committed to each other and all of the members of that unit. It gets more and more solid everyday and my fears around stability and security for co-parenting and raising a child are mitigated by the love and solidity each of these people brings.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
One thing that has been truly damaging is the discourse in US society that myself and others who actively choose not to become pregnant or have children are somehow self-centered/selfish. The idea is that I’m so overly focused on myself and my own needs, material wants, desire for a child-free life, independence, freedom, sexual autonomy, you name it. I think this kind of thinking/stigma in US society is extremely sexist and the same concerns are not lobbed at men. No one thinks twice when a man doesn’t want to have children (or at the very least there is not as much of an extreme focus on it). The self-centered/selfish piece that I have been privy too in family conversations is particularly harmful because there seems to be a disconnect (for me) between making absolutely certain I can function and take care of myself before I bring another life into this world. As well, I view the choice to have children as just as self-centered/selfish as choosing to not have them. A child is (or will be) imprinted with your image and world view, and will be brought up to carry the same values and principles as the parent(s). There are lots of aspects of pregnancy and having children that is deeply inspiring and promotes growth and deepening commitments (to family, to the world), but I give a lot of side eye to anyone who tells me I am selfish for not wanting to have children. I think the only way to erase the stigma against women who don’t want to have children (and some women physically can’t have children and there is so much stigma and feelings around this) is to burn down the patriarchy and end sexism, allow women to be whatever the fuck they want. If they want to be mothers: GREAT! If they want to not have children and pursue their careers: YOU DO YOU.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
See selfish/self-centered statement above. I would add that it is someone’s responsibility to have children (and this is disproportionately the burden of women). Thinking this about me and other women flattens their experience and the richness of women making empowering choices for themselves. Many women are perfectly happy to not have children.
Note: I recognize my perspective on this is deeply rooted in my own privileges and comes from a very white, able-bodied, high socioeconomic class.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
See answer to question 6. I love my partner and my family of choice and I am relaxing my decision to not have children because there will be a family of (at least) four to support and lend hands in the raising of children. This alone makes me want to have children because there are multiple levels of support (and doesn’t even take into consideration very close friends who will also be a part of this support). The possibility doesn’t seem daunting to me and if my child comes home from school and has been bullied for one reason or another if I’m not emotionally ready or stable for that interaction there are at least three other people who are. This is the children/babies/pregnancy I’d like to see and am excited to contribute to.

11292902_10155628670165066_1725876614_nPatricia Sánchez: I am a woman who does not feel comfortable with identifying in an exclusive sexual orientation, since I believe that it should be me who defines my sexuality, according to what I decide to feel in the moment, rather than to be defined by my sexuality instead. I am 37 years old, Latin American, able, living in Colima, Mexico. I’ve been an atheist for about ten years now. I have a Master of Arts in Gender and Peace Building and work as a journalist in my country. I’m currently living in Mexico and visiting Houston, Texas as an occasional tourist.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I realized I didn’t want to have children about a year ago. The reason I don’t want to parent is because I don’t find a reason why I should. I don’t feel a maternal urge to have children, and have no problem with being with myself and my partner in solitude for the rest of our/my life. Having children would complicate my life so much that this would stop being mine and be completely of them, and this is something that I don’t wish to give up.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
My parents respect whatever I choose to do with my life or my body, but some distant relatives still bring the question up every now and then.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Offers of sex, or even semen, from some male friends that believe that my decision originates from not having a boyfriend. They never saw their offerings as an offense, but as a heartfelt gift.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I don’t have any interest in going through motherhood in any way, but I respect women who would do it for someone else. What I have problems with is with the fact that most women who would be surrogates are from undeveloped countries, that have huge necessities and are used as cheap vessels for couples from developed countries.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I’ve been suggested to preserve my eggs by some reproductive healthcare providers, to have the option if I change my mind later in life.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
It didn’t have any effect, but I believe this should be a conversation couples should have from the beginning of their relationship, so they know they are in the same boat together.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I don’t have enough experience living in the U.S. to have an opinion on what Americans feel like about people who don’t want to have children, but I think that any stigma created about women who don’t want to have children is originated from the social construction of women as mothers, not as people with the option to become mothers or not. As Françoise Héritier mentioned in one of her books, “to use mother in the place of woman, implies assigning her a single function that nullifies the person within her.”

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That they are making a mistake that will regret later in life, because our role in the society is to reproduce. This actually is a religious construction that is putting too much pressure over the world’s natural resources.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I don’t think so.

DSC00373Feminist Activist (aka Heather): I am a 30 year-old white, polyamorous, bisexual, currently nondisabled, atheist cis-woman from a small town in Northern California. I live in Austin, Texas with my monogamous cis-male partner of… gosh, 7? years and am employed full-time. I’ve never been married or in the military. I have a BA in Women’s Studies, Spanish and Linguistics and an MA in Gender & Peacebuilding… and I might be ready for more school soon. I LOVE to travel, learn languages and talk to people.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I never played will dolls as a kid and once my sister was born when I was five I begrudgingly played “house” with her, but aside from a few times when my partners’ half-desires to have children of their own clouded my judgement, I have never truly wanted to parent. I love the idea of naming a child, and have talked about how “if I was gonna do it” I would want twins, a boy and a girl, so I could raise them as gender-neutrally as humanly possible. But it’s totally unfair to have children for a sociology experiment. And even though I would be a great mother, it would be super unfair for me and the children if they started out life unwanted. There are so, so many things that make me not want to parent, I don’t think seeing how the experiment would turn out could ever outweigh the emotional, physical, financial, temporal and especially environmental factors that have shaped my decision.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
Most of the people I choose to surround myself with accept that I’m extremely liberal and feminist, and respect my right to choose if and when to procreate or not. I haven’t actually told my grandparents I don’t want kids–they may be too old to handle the shock. I’m the only woman in my family who has never been pregnant though, so there are lots of babies around. My partner though is his mother’s only child, and his grandmother’s only grandchild, so I think they still hope he’ll have kids. My dad still holds out hope that I’ll pass on his genes, telling me I have a responsibility to reproduce even though he waited until his late 30s to start. I told my mom I don’t want kids in a really roundabout way, hemming and hawing about how hard and expensive it is to raise kids, how I’ve seen what she and my grandparents and my sister have had to sacrifice, etc. until she said to me “Honey, you don’t have to have kids if you don’t want to,” and the whole weight of the world lifted from my shoulders.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Now that I’m “past my prime” baby-making years I don’t get told as often that I’m going to change my mind, which is nice. When my 15 year-old sister had my incredible nephew when I was 20 and I was holding him for the first time my grandfather chuckled at me “Practicing, eh?” and I remember my stomach dropping. My partner’s mother, when I called her this year to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, told me she hoped she could say the same to me soon–yikes! Most reactions I’ve had so far haven’t been offensive so much as people have been sad for me or lamented the fact that people who would be awesome parents choose not to have kids, but the women who tell younger women “When you’re X years old your clock is going to start ticking, you’ll change your mind,” infuriate me.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I included this question mostly to see how other uterus-owners feel about it, because I am entirely torn. One one hand I am completely fascinated by the idea of carrying a pregnancy to term and going through childbirth as a physio-social connection to all women throughout time who have carried on the human race. I would do the whole natural, midwife/doula childbirth thing, if possible. But I would have to be sure I was handing the kid off to someone/people who would raise it as gender-neutrally as possible, so there’s that. On the other hand all of the women in my family have hellacious all-day every day of pregnancy “morning” sickness, and I hate to vomit, so it’s unlikely.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Having been a reproductive healthcare provider for years I had the privilege of being able to pull my Nurse Practitioner aside whenever I wanted to ask questions about birth control. I’ve been the proud owner of three Nexplanon and will probably get another one next year. Before then Planned Parenthood was always where it was at, and just like any other franchise service, some experiences were better than others. I will say this, no matter how many times your provider rolls their eyes or tells you it’s unnecessary, if you want STI testing of any kind done, demand it. You are the one who has to live in your body so don’t be afraid to push for what you need.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
It’s funny, my partner is one of the reasons I ever considered having kids, because when we got together he said one day he’d like to have his own offspring. I was totally against it at the time. As time went on I was more open to the idea but the pendulum swung and HE was the one who didn’t want kids. My partner is the last male with his surname, so I do feel a twinge of can’t-let-that-history/heritage-die, but he doesn’t at all, so I guess I’m off the hook. If his sister decides to procreate I may encourage her to give the kid their last name so I won’t have to worry about it. Luckily now my partner and I are on the same page that parenting is not for us.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think the stigma of being fertile and not having children is really closely linked to slut-shaming. Women are still berated for controlling our own bodies, sexuality and fertility. But the stigma is gradually reducing, and the more we all share our explanations of why we don’t want children I think the more society will understand. What I want to hear more of is people of color who have uteri and don’t want to procreate because, like this piece unfortunately, most of what we hear is from college educated white women. For me even if there was paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, excellent schools and socialized healthcare, I still don’t think I would want to parent, but those things would give people who do want to parent a chance to be the kind of parents children deserve.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
What I always find missing from the conversation is that having a child is not a selfless act. People choose to have children for all kinds of awful reasons, and their motives are rarely questioned. The biggest factor for me in choosing not to have children is I don’t believe humanity can sustain life on this planet with how destructive we are, and I wouldn’t want my offspring (no matter how many generations down the line it may be) to bear the brunt of the end of the world as we know it. And as scared of death as I am for myself I can’t imagine the overwhelming fear or reality of losing a child.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I can’t think of anything specific that would make me want to have french fries in my backseat and to wipe snot and/or vomit off of every article of clothing I own. And even though genetics is supposed to take the “best genes” from both parents, what if the kid is a combination of our worst genes–illnesses, physical attributes, personality flaws? Plus you can be an awesome parent and still have your kid turn out to be a murderer…. Fostering and/or adopting an older kid isn’t 100% out of the question though, in the unlikely event I ever feel like settling down. And like Lauren and Heather if my sister’s kids needed a home I would absolutely change my life for them.

Hungry for more? Check out these 25 famous women on being child-free.


Reflections on Being an Abortion Provider

After well over two years with Austin Women’s Health Center providing abortion care and reproductive healthcare to the women of Texas I learned many lessons I’d like to share with you, dear reader, and to leave for myself as a reminder why I must always remain in the fight for Reproductive Justice and bodily autonomy. It was a lot to learn, and will be a lot to take in, so bear with me.

AWHC

Austin Women’s Health Center

  1. All women have abortions. Every age. Every race. Every religion. Every class. Every marital status. Every sexual orientation. Every ability. Every education level. Everyone has abortions. Period.
  2. If someone does not want to be pregnant she will go to extreme lengths, even risking her health or life, to terminate the pregnancy. All the ridiculous laws do is make it more difficult for women to obtain a safe, timely abortion.
  3. October 3rd 2014 was the worst day of my life. On that day my colleagues and I were forced to call, and face, patients who had scheduled abortion procedures with us to tell them the state of Texas would not allow it. We referred them to what was (and could be) the only provider in Austin-Planned Parenthood, and providers in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. It was utterly heartbreaking and many times many of us erupted into tears alongside our patients, because even though we were not the ones needing an abortion, we were also furious that Texas had allowed this to happen.20130712_195121
  4. While the cost of an abortion in Austin this year has gone up for the first time since the 1970s, the $600-1,200 it costs to have an ultrasound and terminate a pregnancy is insurmountable for so many individuals and families.
  5. Many, many women have more than one abortion. And that’s totally ok.
  6. A majority of women who have abortions already have children. They get it, they know how emotionally, physically and financially draining parenting is.
  7. The range of emotions around abortion is as varied as the human experience. For some women their abortion is the most difficult, tragic thing they have ever done; for others the idea of being pregnant is laughable and therefore their easy decision comes with overwhelming relief. I’ve learned that people who have abortions feel like they don’t have the right to grieve because they are choosing to end their pregnancies. This is just so wrong on so many levels. There is no “should” when it comes to emotions.
  8. Women expect to be treated like shit by their healthcare providers, both their abortion provider and their regular doctor, because they chose abortion.20130701_112707
  9. It takes an especially thick skin, a sick sense of humor, and a fierce passion to be an abortion provider, whether you’re “just answering phones” or the MD performing the surgery.
  10. All people deserve quality healthcare from providers who respect their choices and their knowledge of what is best for themselves, their families and their lives.
  11. Adoption is not an alternative to abortion. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. A huge number of women who have abortions do so because they do not want to be pregnant.
  12. The smallest bit of kindness, whether from healthcare providers, from friends or family, or just in general conversations about abortion, can make a huge difference to someone facing an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy. Try compassion, I promise, you’ll like it.
  13. A majority of folks who have abortions were using birth control when they got pregnant. I’ve talked to patients using every single kind of birth control from the pill to vasectomy.
  14. Don’t trust doctors who tell you that you cannot get (someone) pregnant. The human body is an incredible thing and folks who were told that their endometriosis or bike accident as a kid meant they would never have children can and do. Tubal ligation and vasectomies can and do heal. The only way for sexually active folks to prevent all pregnancy is to only engage in homosexual sex. Now if only we could prevent rape….
  15. The Republican Party does not care about women’s health, nor respect our individual autonomy as human beings, therefore if someone votes Republican they are saying that they too do not care about human rights. If you think that women deserve to make their own medical choices, that all consenting adults have the right to marry whomever they love, and that education and medical care should be prioritized over border patrol and prisons, it’s time to vote with your conscience.Where are the women
  16. Laws restricting abortion, birth control, cancer screenings and access to general reproductive healthcare are not really about women’s health given that abortion is one of the safest procedures in the country. Hell, they’re not even about abortion, or god, or the church, they’re about greed. Forcing women to give birth to children they cannot afford ensures a cheap labor force by perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This ties into for-profit prison systems, lack of solid public education, etc. The whole thing is disgusting.
  17. Women trust their doctors… and the internet. Factual, reliable, medically accurate information around abortion and its risks is not easily accessible, especially when doctors are forced by the state to lie to their patients.
  18. Women who have abortions for medical reasons are generally truly heartbroken. They are not looking for understanding or blessings from the Religious Right but silence would be appreciated.
  19. Protesters just piss people off. With the exception of umpires, referees and prison guards I can’t think of any other profession where people are yelled at and have their lives threatened just for doing their jobs.1469799_780493158693927_3089968049188411259_n
  20. A huge number of anti-choice protesters and outspoken opponents of abortion have had abortions!
  21. Most patients who choose to view their fetal tissue after a surgical (machine vacuum aspiration) abortion are shocked by it. Early in the pregnancy, under 9-10 weeks or so, they are shocked by how small it is. Later in the pregnancy they are shocked by what they can identify. As we know many of the photos of fetuses that end up in protesters’ signs were late-term miscarriages so don’t think that at 12 weeks you’re dealing with a newborn, but being able to identify appendages and facial features is normal. Viewing the tissue is an incredibly personal decision, and one that most patients don’t even consider, but anyone reading this who is going to have an abortion, I strongly encourage you to ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain from viewing the tissue, and prepare yourself for what you might see.
  22. The medical abortion, abortion pill, Mifeprex, Mifepristone, RU-486, Misoprostal, Cytotec or Cyto–whatever you want to call it–is a long, drawn out process for many people. I would not choose it unless a surgical abortion was unobtainable but for many people, this very safe, very effective method of termination is the preferred choice. For women who live in places where abortion is illegal or practically unobtainable Cyto may be a lifesaver.
  23. The ONLY good thing about a mandatory waiting period and Texas’ requirement that the same doctor who will perform the abortion is the one who does the ultrasound is that it gives patients a chance to meet the staff and the doctor and take some of that initial fear of the unknown away.20130701_122950
  24. Many women do want to see their ultrasound, some even want a copy of it. There are medical reasons for ultrasound dating of the pregnancy, but politicians want to force women to have –and view– vaginal ultrasounds to embarrass, humiliate and shame them. Does humiliating someone into becoming a parent sound like a good idea to anyone?
  25. The sentimentality around getting “a picture of the baby” and the fetal “heartbeat” are overwhelming. We forget, or were purposely never taught, that a single cell can beat like a heart in a petri dish, so the idea that a five-week embryo has a “heartbeat” does not mean what politicians want us to think it means.
  26. LMP vs. conception: When dating the pregnancy the doctor want to know when the FIRST day of a woman’s last menstrual period was, thus LMP. Doctors date pregnancy from this point, not from when a patient thinks conception was, because the date of sex ≠ the date the egg was fertilized. Sperm can live in the human body for up to three days, that’s why Plan B can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex (but seriously the sooner you take it the more effective it is!). Therefore when your doctor tells you that the pregnancy is measuring 6 weeks and zero days, that means roughly one month from intercourse. And at that point the embryo is about the size of a single grain of rice.
  27. Most people feel the need to justify their decisions to the staff at abortion clinics because there is so much stigma around abortion. While I love hearing people’s stories, and they all matter, why you’re having an abortion is none of my business, all I need to know is that you don’t want to be pregnant right now.Bedsider-Birth-Control-Effectiveness-Poster
  28. Women will always have abortions. BIRTH CONTROL WILL FAIL, partners will change their minds or leave or die, pregnant folks will change their minds, illness will come up, jobs will go away, partners will be abusive, etc. Even for women who planned to get pregnant, things can and do and will always come up that make continuing the pregnancy a non-option. Abortion will always be a necessity.
  29. I want science to figure out a way to put a pause button on pregnancy. Of course if the pregnancy is with the wrong person or there are health reasons or if someone simply doesn’t want children pausing it won’t do any good, but if someone just wants to finish school, or get ahead in their career, or make enough money to pay for diapers, being able to pause the pregnancy could reduce the number of abortions.20130701_111334
  30. No one gets pregnant to have an abortion.
  31. Not wanting to be pregnant, or not wanting to parent, or not wanting to be pregnant or parent *right now* does not make you a bad person. Sometimes… a lot of the time, abortion is the responsible choice.

Judgment Day

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Woohoo! I STILL HAVE A JOB! (For now.) Eat $#!+ Rick Perry.

Thank you Judge Lee Yeakel!!!

Champion for Women's Health

Champion for Women’s Health

#LaLuchaSigueYall #StillStandingWTXWomen #TX1YearLater #WeWillNotYield #ThankYouJudgeYeakel #NOHB2 #ProChoiceTX #TangerineVagilantes #UnrulyMob #ComeAndTakeIt

 


Terrific Tenacity in Texas

Wednesday September 25th, 2013 was the evening the Lilith Fund celebrated its 10th Annual Reproductive Equity Awards, honoring those who fought for Reproductive Justice in the recent past. This year’s winners were all familiar faces: representatives Jessica Ferrar, Dawnna Dukes and Mary Gonzalez, and activists Brittany Yelverton, Jessica Luther and Andrea Grimes. Each of these women was an integral part of the fight against abortion restrictions here in Texas this summer, and their speeches reminded everyone present how special it was to have thousands of concerned citizens band together at the Capitol. Although I am not a native Texan I could not be more proud of the women of Texas had I been born here. 

Heroes in the fight for Reproductive Justice

Heroes in the fight for Reproductive Justice

Tuesday June 25th I arrived at the Capitol, eager to hear new feminist icon Wendy Davis filibuster her way into history. At 4PM the line to get into the gallery already wound around the rotunda and down the stairs, and it would only get longer from there. 

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20130625_210517I joined my friends and colleagues in the auditorium serving as the overflow room and hunkered down for the evening. Politics is a lot more fun when you get to cheer and shout and commiserate with those around you. Who needs a gallery!? Davis had to delay vote on the bill until after midnight, when it would expire. There are many excellent accounts of what transpired during Davis’ filibuster, but my most vivid memory is the people’s filibuster, the last 15 minutes of the night when the Republicans decided to call the vote.

Something stinks. And it's sure not Wendy Davis.

Something stinks. And it’s sure not Wendy Davis.

The line to the gallery swam from the third floor around the rotunda, down the staircase and around and down to the first floor. When the hour was approaching my fellow activists in Get Equal Texas and I went up to the third floor to check the scene out. The left side of the hallway was open, so we walked directly up to the doors of gallery, where we were met by State Troopers who told us no one was going in and no one was coming out.

Get Equal Texas

#StandwithTXWomen

#StandwithTXWomen

We stood there, waiting, as a crowd gathered behind us, a sea of humanity, waiting, holding our collective breath. Before too long the entire hallway was jammed full of people in orange, going crazy with the pent-up feeling that “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” I was standing at the threshold of the door, holding onto a brass railing for the few steps that lead into the gallery itself, with the crowd nudging me forward. The drone of people talking in the hallway sounded like a beehive, and when a State Trooper grabbed me by the arm to force me away from the stairs all I could hear was Tiffani by my side shouting “SIT!” as she linked arms with me. So we sat, arms linked, and others from Get Equal Texas sat too, then more and more people near the doors sat, until it was clear to the Troopers that we weren’t going anywhere. #StandWithWendy became #SitWithWendy and people throughout the Capitol were staging a spontaneous sit-in. Then the texts came in from friends in the gallery telling us to make noise….

And make noise we did.

Lead by Brittany Yelverton, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ Community Organizer, the hundreds of us crammed into that hallway chanted, clapped, stomped, booed, and screamed our bloody hearts out. We had sounded the alarm for every person in that giant building who cared about human rights, and for fifteen full minutes we gave everything we had, thousands of us, crying out for justice. And it worked!

Unruly Mob

The clock struck midnight and we kept screaming, just to make sure we weren’t imagining things. Of course the politicians played their dirty tricks and changed the time stamp on the official documents to show that a vote in favor of the bill had taken place before midnight even amongst the chaos, but too many intelligent citizen journalists around the country had already taken screen shots showing that the vote did not take place before the deadline.

Total hours at the Capitol: 9

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We were satisfied with ourselves but as you know it wasn’t enough to stop the bill for good, so in the words of the late, great Governor Ann Richards “I’m hardly satisfied. I’m outraged most of the time.”

Join us next time for continued coverage of Texas women’s tenacity. There’s a lot more to come, I promise you.


Tedious Tastelessness in Texas

© David Thomas Photography

© David Thomas Photography

I’ve had my ear to the ground regarding these pieces of anti-choice legislation since the legislative session started, since this is the biggest attack on my personal human rights and bodily integrity I have ever faced, and the last gem of the previous post (ASC requirements) is one that could put me out of work. The dates and days and nights in orange at the Capitol became a blur, and I am still physically and emotionally trying to recover from these “Special” Sessions. I’ve gotta rest up so I can get back out there again for the THIRD! Thank science for time stamps so I can tell you that my journey into this fray started with a simple sidewalk protest on Monday June 17th, around 5pm, just as I was becoming aware that orange is now the color of Reproductive Justice. I made a sign that read: 

Perry, Perry you’re so scary
You’ve hit an all-time low
You took our voice, we have no choice
And you forgot all about Roe!

Total hours at the Capitol: 2

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

Thursday June 20th me and my co-workers from both of my jobs, as well as another 700+ pro-woman Austinites, spent our afternoons and evenings at the Reagan building, testifying against the First Special Session omnibus bills in the House. That night supporters from all over the nation bought pizza and coffee and donuts for us so we could carry on into the wee hours of the morning.  Since anyone in the testimony room had to respect all 175 pages of the rules of “decorum” jazz hands were initiated there. After waiting from 6pm to testify, when the Chair shut the whole thing down sometime after midnight for being “repetitive,” I just walked up and gave them the punchline to my testimony. And shortly after I left some vagilante male allies shone the bat signal for all the world to see. “Let her speak!” became our rallying cry and the #CitizensFilibuster was officially underway.

Total hours at the Capitol: ±6

Come when you can, wear orange, stay 'till the end!

Come when you can, wear orange, stay ’till the end!

Sunday June 23rd I waited in line with many other eager Texans in orange to bear witness to the Texas House of Representatives debate the Senate omnibus bill. I arrived around 1:30pm.  The House recessed for a long while, during which lots of us in orange, the #TangerineVagilantes and #FeministArmy gathered in the rotunda to chant, clap, stomp and hold up our ever-witty signage. 

Orange Line

The line to get in to the Capitol on June 23, 2013

The discussion had started with House Dems debating whether they were dealing with calendar days or legislative days, to which Austin’s own RH Reality Check Reporter Andrea Grimes tweeted, “We can laugh about counting calendar days, but when #txlege outlaws birth control, that’s a skill we’ll all need to bone up on. #hb60.” The House didn’t reconvene until around 6:30pm, I think. So I gathered with the raucous bunch in the auditorium overflow room, which was just as well, since we didn’t have to abide by decorum. 

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

I had to go to work from 4:45 to midnight but my co-workers and I (at a domestic violence non-profit) were watching the Texas Tribune live feed and guffawing at the risk of arrest for jazz hands and the ridiculousness that is ALEC’s newest It Girl pawn, “Representative” Jodie Laubenberg and #OtherThingsRapeKitsDo, and cheering for Representative Thompson hanging a hanger from her mic to punctuate her speech. By that time #TXlege #StandWithTXWomen (and variants) and #HB60 were also trending worldwide on Twitter.

Woo Wu!!!

Woo Wu!!!

I returned to the Capitol just after midnight and was in the gallery to see Representative Wu kicking ass. Kudos to Farrar, Dukes, Wu, Menendez, Lee, Mary Gonzalez, Dutton, Eddie Rodriguez, Howard, Burnam, Naishtat, Turner, Thompson and others for killing it on the floor and battling for women’s reproductive justice. Intersectionality at its finest. And kudos to the thousands of people who donated water, food, coffee and good vibes to keep us all going!

20130623_150911The reason we needed to prolong this process as much as possible, why hundreds of us came to add our voices at the Committee hearing and why our tireless Dems threw question after question around, was that the first special session was scheduled to end at midnight on Tuesday. If we could delay the vote on the bill so much that the legislature literally ran out of time, we would win, at least for a little while….

As predicted the bill did get through this second reading around 3:30am, so my activist friends and I from Get Equal Texas encouraged everyone leaving the gallery to stop on the 2nd floor outside where the representatives normally enter/exit so we could shame them to their faces. I led the charge with a classic borrowed from the LGBTQAI movement: I am somebody! And I deserve full equality! From there a huge contingent of people stood chanting pro-choice slogans like My Body, My Choice and We Won’t Go Back! The kicker was everyone getting fired up and chanting “Shame!” until some of the Reps who spoke up for us came out to thank us. That was the night I learned to use Twitter for real. 

Stairwells flooded with hope

Stairwells flooded with hope

Total hours at the Capitol: ±7.5

Stay tuned for the next exciting post on Texas’ woman problem: Wendy Davis’ filibuster.


Terrible Tragedy in Texas

The past month has been a whirlwind here in Texas, with severe, unnecessary and unconstitutional abortion restrictions being shoved down the people’s throat in the SECOND special session of the Texas legislature, to the tune of $800,000, called by our brainless leader Rick Perry. This post is the first in what will be a series describing my personal experiences in fighting for Reproductive Justice in Texas. 

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HB-1 and SB-2 have been signed into law already. They have four parts that combined make abortion almost completely inaccessible for the women who need them most. The first three parts, barring judicial action, will go into effect 90 days after Perry signed them. The fourth will go into effect in September 2014.

The 20-week “fetal pain” ban has been touted as “reasonable” by some but the current science does not show that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, rather it does show that with very few exceptions, a fetus is not viable outside the womb until roughly 24 weeks. And in a disgusting play of politics Texas legislators refused to consider exceptions for victims of rape or incest or women dealing with “severe mental health issues.” The only exceptions legislators conceded were if the woman’s life was in immediate physical danger (and to be clear, the author of AB-1 doesn’t believe a woman threatening to kill herself qualifies as immediate physical danger,) or if the fetus had such a severe abnormality that it would die within hours or days of being born. This language excludes parents from terminating a pregnancy where the baby would die within a week of being born, of course with the guise of the “health and safety of women” as their house-of-mirrors reasoning.  

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This new law also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility where they would be practicing. This portion of the law is a blatant attempt to restrict how doctors practice medicine with regard to abortion. To earn admitting privileges a doctor must perform a requisite number of surgeries every year which result in a patient being admitted to the hospital for care afterwards. For abortion providers this requirement means they must be working outside the abortion spectrum because abortion has one of the lowest complication rates of any surgery. And the decision of whether to grant admitting privileges to a doctor or not lies solely with the hospital. The doctor has no recourse if s/he is being discriminated against for the type of medicine s/he practices.

Additionally, doctors must now follow the outdated FDA protocol for administering the medications Mifeprex and Misoprostol to induce a medical abortion. As it stood many providers followed protocol approved by the National Abortion Federation, which calls for the patient to receive one pill of Mifeprex in the doctor’s office and then be sent home with four pills of Misoprostol which she would insert buccally (between the lip and gums) 24-48 hours after the Mifeprex. FDA protocol requires a patient to take three Mifeprex in the office and return two days later to insert two Misoprostol vaginally (a practice with higher incidences of infection) before going home to pass the pregnancy. Both protocols require the doctor to urge the patient to return for a follow up exam in roughly two weeks. The differences may not sound severe but FDA protocol would make this process nearly three times more expensive, and with Texas’ mandatory 24 hour waiting period after an ultrasound, would make for four separate days a woman would need to find childcare, take time off work, and drive or be driven to the Ambulatory Surgical Center.

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That’s right, the fourth prong of this law would require that even the administration of medications that induce abortions be performed in an Ambulatory Surgical Center. Don’t look for a logical reason behind that one, it absolutely doesn’t exist. In fact, there’s nothing logical or reasonable about anything in this legislation. The physical requirements for an office to be considered an Ambulatory Surgical Center include things like, having both men’s and women’s locker rooms, sterile ventilation systems, back-up generators, painted cement floors and hallways wide enough to spin a gurney. All of which are completely unnecessary to providing safe abortion care. Abortion is already at minimum 10 times safer than childbirth, and women are “allowed” to do that in their own living rooms. This provision alone is likely to cause 37 of the state’s 42 abortion providers to close their doors. And, combined with requiring admitting privileges, has the possibility of shutting down nearly all of Texas’ abortion providers, leaving our vast state with one destination for women who need to terminate, much like Mississippi or North Dakota. The glaring difference, obviously, is the huge size of the state and the overwhelming population of women of reproductive age in Texas.

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Here are some basic facts on abortion in the United States, just in case you were wondering what about this procedure that more than one-third of all American women experience by age 45 is so scary.

  • Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended
  • 42% of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level
  • 27% have incomes between 100-199% of the federal poverty level
  • 1/3 of all women seeking abortions travel more than 25 miles to access services
  • 54% of women who have abortions were using contraception when they became pregnant
  • 61% of women who have abortions are already mothers with at least one child at home
  • 88% of abortions occur before 12 weeks in the pregnancy
  • Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money
  • Fewer than 0.3% of abortions result in the patient being hospitalized for complications  
  • In 2006, publicly funded family planning services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions.  

In my next post I’ll get into my experiences at the Capitol. Be good to yourselves, dear readers, and love one another. 

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