Rachel Held Evans asks:

So yesterday I complained about feeling stuck in the middle between pro-life idealism and those progressive policies I think are most likely to actually curb the abortion rate. But today I’m thinking about practical solutions. There are a few I’ve been advocating and supporting for a long time, but I want to crowdsource a bit: What are some key initiatives (both domestically and globally) around which conservatives and liberals could rally that would address the underlying causes of abortion: poverty, expensive healthcare, expensive childcare, lack of access to contraception and comprehensive sex education, domestic violence, etc? If I find the time I’ll share the best in a blog post. Thanks for weighing in! (And let’s keep it positive and practical!)

I love talking about ways to address the underlying issues that lead to abortion. There’s so much that we can do to prevent abortions — IF, as an early feminist wrote in The Revolution, “We want prevention, not merely punishment.” My reply:

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As other commenters have said, affordable and easy access to contraception is important. The less often people have to go pick up prescription refills, the better — there was a study in L.A. that showed that allowing low-income women to get twelve months’ worth of pills at a time decreased the odds of unintended pregnancy by 30%, and the odds of an abortion by 46%. Even better, IF a woman freely chooses them and can have them removed upon request, are long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants that don’t require any action to be taken once they’re in. In general, humans are not great at taking a pill at the same time every day (not just contraceptives). LARCs also can’t be sabotaged by abusive partners.

Speaking of which, we also need to do more to stop rape, and to help women out of abusive relationships. Early research shows that counseling women who come to family planning clinics about reproductive coercion (asking about whether their partners hide their pills, threaten to hurt them or kick them out of the home if they use contraception, etc.) not only reduces unintended pregnancies among women in abusive relationships, it also increases the chance they’ll leave those relationships. Men who father children by rape must not be allowed to have custody or visitation. This is already the case in 35 or so states, but we need to finish the job.

Comprehensive and accurate sex ed, including instruction about how to be safe and responsible about sexual activity if one chooses to use drugs or alcohol.

School and workplace policies that are designed with the idea that workers are human beings who have lives outside of work, not just productivity machines. No more just-in-time scheduling. No more pregnancy discrimination. Paid maternity and paternity leave. Affordable child care.

Nobody should ever be in a position where they don’t feel like they can bear a child because they won’t be able to pay rent or feed their other kids. More power for workers would mean better wages, and a real social safety net (one that’s not premised on the false idea of recipients as moochers who need to be humiliated) would alleviate some of the financial fear that often leads to abortion. Better yet, a guaranteed basic income and/or a child allowance. It’s disgraceful that in a country as rich as ours, hundreds of thousands of abortions happen every year because mothers are afraid they can’t afford to give their children life.

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The above comment was dashed off quickly, but I would also add perinatal hospice, so that abortion doesn’t seem like the only option for parents whose children are diagnosed in the womb with fatal conditions. Also, there needs to be community support for parents of children with disabilities. Asking them to go it alone, with all the added stress and expense and work that can be involved, overwhelms many parents. They can’t see themselves handling all that, especially if they also have other kids. They shouldn’t have to handle it without help.

And while it’s not a policy issue, in general we need to foster a sexual ethic that emphasizes care for the health and well-being of oneself, one’s partner, and for any child who might be conceived. Not just safe sex, but caring sex. Wise sex. Sex that acknowledges that we aren’t pleasure-seeking islands, but are connected to — and affect — our fellow human beings.

This is why it’s so important to push back against claims like “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Options for rape victims in Pakistan: Stay silent, get an abortion or set yourself on fire

I feel sorry for Pakistani rape victims who can never get the justice they deserve. In the first instance, going by what Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan said in an interview that a rape victim should stay silent and not report the incident to the police, or anyone else for that matter.

I asked another member of his party,

“What will she do if she gets pregnant?”

He replied,

“Impossible, a woman cannot get pregnant unless she’s willing”, quoting a US Republican Congressman who said the same thing.

 

The Christian Science Monitor ran a great article last week about the challenges faced by women who choose to give birth to and raise children conceived in rape. Unfortunately, laws are often slanted toward abortion or adoption, even if those aren’t what the mother wants:

It’s more common for states to provide rape survivors with emergency contraception, easier access to abortion, or quick termination of parental rights of the father when the child is being given up for adoption.

While some women choose those paths, sometimes because the thought of the child triggers a replay of the trauma, the Hope group says it’s important that society not stereotype rape survivors and end up ostracizing women who choose to keep their children.

“People ridicule you and distrust you because you chose to have your child – ‘Oh, you must not have been raped,’ ” Megison says. “It’s such a strange world we live in where you have to be questioned as a mother why you love the child that … you nurse and play with and pray with and read stories with.”

Hope After Rape Conception is an organization that was formed by women who had to fight rapists for custody of their children or grandchildren. They’ve written model legislation to terminate rapists’ parental rights, and are trying to get it passed in the 26 states that still have no such provision.

Beyond the law, it’s important to change societal beliefs about rape, women who have been raped, and women who bear children conceived in rape. That means calling out toxic attitudes about “legitimate rape” and assumptions that women frequently lie about rape. It also means that we have to stop looking at the child conceived in rape as an extension of the rapist. Every child is a human being in his or her own right.

From the Indianapolis Star comes a story of repulsive but sadly unsurprising behavior aimed at a 14-year-old girl who is due to give birth in early July after becoming pregnant as the result of rape:

 A former self-proclaimed “social bug” — she was a cheerleader and athlete — the young victim has become reclusive since learning she was pregnant.

“I can’t walk out the door without someone calling me a whore or slut,” the girl said. “I used to have a lot of friends, or people I thought were my friends, but as soon as this happened I just isolated myself.”

The repeated vandalism incidents at the family’s home — including the words “whore” and “slut” scrawled on the garage doors — were reported to police. But Green said no charges were filed because there were no witnesses to the acts.

Her daughter also has been the target of mean-spirited rumors and speculation that her pregnancy is the result of promiscuous behavior.

— Tim Evans, “An Elwood girl became pregnant in a sexual assault at 13, her case illustrates a growing problem in Indiana”

The girl and her mother discussed abortion, but “‘I just looked at my mom,’ the girl recalled, ‘and told her I wanted to keep the baby.'”

It’s hard for me to fathom the bravery this girl has shown in choosing to carry her pregnancy to term. And it’s not hard to understand why so many other people in her situation wouldn’t.

Much has been made of the fact that she’s being shamed even though she was raped, and I want to say one thing loud and clear: Even if she had not been raped, it would still be wrong to treat her this way. A woman or girl’s value does not depend on whether or not she has had sex. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and decency whether or not they have had sex. Even if they’re young. Even if they’re not married. Even if they have sex with half the people in town. People who have had sex or been raped are not chewed-up gum or ruined presents. They are living human beings, and if you say you respect life, respect them.

If you want to help:

  • A Facebook group, “Stop Slut-Shaming!!” has been started to support the Elwood girl and others who have been raped. Her mother, who was named in the Indianapolis Star article, is a member of the group.
  • The girl (I hate to just keep calling her that, but neither a name nor a pseudonym was used in the article) may not be protected if her rapist were to choose to seek visitation rights or custody of her child. Indiana law only provides for the termination of a rapists’ parental rights if the rape victim is both a minor and the adoptive child or step-child of the rapist. An attempt was made last year to amend the Indiana Code to terminate convicted rapists’ parental rights, but in the end the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee declined to recommend any change to existing law. Indiana residents, please contact your representatives and ask them to guarantee this protection for rape victims and their children.

A February 2012 report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center details the barriers faced by women who need emergency contraception from the Indian Health Service. One in three Native American women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and yet women are often denied access to the care they need to prevent pregnancy.

The only pharmacist on most reservations is within the local Indian Health Service. Women who need Plan B report that IHS pharmacies often do not stock Plan B, refuse to provide it without a prescription, and sometimes shame women who ask for it.

Please ask IHS director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux to issue a directive to all service providers that emergency contraception be made available on demand — without a prescription and without having to see a doctor — to any woman age 17 or over who asks for it.

In the debate over contraceptive coverage in the United States, many opponents have repeated the argument that they do not want to be forced to pay for "abortifacients," namely IUDs and hormonal contraceptives such as "the pill" and the emergency contraceptive Plan B.

But, as All Our Lives continually points out, this isn't what the scientific evidence says. Check out, for example, the references in our "Family Planning Freedom Is Prolife" slideshow.

In fact, these very methods are among the most effective reversible methods at preventing conception. So, they're not abortifacients. They are anti-abortifacients.

We have already discussed the grave real-life consequences of the misinformation here. Unfortunately, they go far beyond any blog post.

The Supreme Court of Honduras has just ruled that emergency contraception amounts to abortion and thus should be subjected to the same criminal penalties. Never mind that Honduran women's access to all kinds of family planning–pregnancy prevention–is severely restricted and the government.

If you appreciate the work of All Our Lives, please join us in challenging the rampant misinformation about how such methods of birth control work. Wherever you live, don't let it go unchallenged. Refer those who perpetuate it to our slide presentation, which lists specific scientific studies.

You will likely encounter complete resistance from some people, especially those who both categorically oppose birth control and want to interfere in others' right to make their own decisions about it.

But others will welcome the good news that these methods are anti-abortifacients. And if those of us who believe in family planning freedom say nothing, women will continue to suffer, and unborn babies to die.

Elise Hilton is the mother of an intellectually and psychiatrically disabled young woman who was recently raped. As Meghan discussed in a recent post, women with disabilities are at pronounced risk for sexual abuse and assault.

It fell upon Hilton to decide whether or not her daughter should take Plan B emergency contraception. As LifeSiteNews.com reports, Hilton decided against Plan B for her daughter on the grounds that the drug may "take the life of an innocent child."

But up to date, correct scientific information about Plan B probably could have saved Hilton a lot of her agony over this decision and alleviated her fears of endangering a very young grandchild. Levonorgestrel type emergency contraceptives work entirely before conception. In fact, they have no possible mechanism for hindering implantation or otherwise working after sperm meets egg.

How often do rape victims and their loved ones suffer unnecessarily because of the myths out there-spread by prolifers and prochoicers alike-about emergency contraception and how it does and doesn't work? How many unintended pregnancies and abortions happen?

We wish Hilton and her daughter healing. We call for people to rise up against the rape and abuse of human beings with disabilities and bring an end to it. And we will work all the more to replace misinformation about Plan B with the facts that rape survivors and their loved ones need and deserve to know in the midst of a crisis.

All Our Lives is preparing to take part in the National Women’s Law Center “Birth Control: We’ve Got You Covered” blog carnival on July 21. Please join if you too have a blog and support the inclusion of contraceptives as essential, copay-free preventive services in US health plans.

National Public Radio ran a story this morning called “Birth Control Without Co-Pays Could Soon Become Mandatory”. Unfortunately an interviewee for the story repeated an all too often repeated bit of misinformation, in the name of prolife.

As well as contacting this interviewee, All Our Lives sent this message to NPR.

 

–In your piece on [the effort to abolish] contraceptive copays, Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council explains her opposition with the misinformation that the emergency contraceptive Plan B causes abortions. Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptives like Plan B work *prior* to conception, by suppressing or delaying ovulation and possibly by altering sperm function. They do *not* prevent implantation. (Details: http://www.cecinfo.org/custom-content/uploads/2012/12/ICEC_FIGO_MoA_Statement_March_2012.pdf). Anyone who identifies as prolife has the responsibility to expand access to Plan B and indeed all contraceptive methods, because this is one of the most powerful ways to help women prevent crisis pregnancies and abortions.–

What explains the 160 million plus total girls and women gone missing from the world, largely because of sex-selective abortion? Why, explains New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, it isn't misogyny, not even misogyny internalized and perpetuated by women. It's the spread of "female empowerment." This dynamic is also operative in the Dominque Strauss-Kahn case, where an immigrant hotel room cleaner to the US from Guinea has accused the now former International Monetary Fund head of rape. The defense has rushed to the oldest trick in the book for discrediting rape victims: painting them as women of bad character. As if rape weren't a crime no matter who the victim is. Don't institutionalized structures of male privilege have anything and everything to do with sex-selective abortion, which has imbalanced gender ratios in the world's two most populous countries, and rape, suffered by one in three women globally?

Millions of girl children worldwide are forced into marriage. They are highly vulnerable to rape, battery, HIV/AIDS infection, and the complications of too-soon pregnancy. They lose out on their dreams of education, work, and family happiness. Please urge the US to take a stand against child marriage: http://www.thechildhealthsite.com/clickToGive/campaign.faces?siteId=5&campaign=StopChildMarriage