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.

There seem to be some misconceptions going around about birth control, so let's get a few things straight:

  • For the majority of birth control methods, there is no correlation between the amount of sex a person has and how much birth control she uses or what it costs.
  • Shaming a person for using birth control says a lot about you and nothing about them.
  • Birth control is often used for reasons other than pregnancy prevention, such as to treat ovarian cysts (Sandra Fluke, the woman being slammed on the right as a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her pro-contraception testimony, was telling the story of a friend of hers who lost an ovary because she couldn't afford the treatment for a cyst). I'm not saying those uses are more legitimate than preventing pregnancy, just pointing out that they do exist.

Got any others? Please feel free to share in the comments or on our Facebook page.

The "prolife" movement as such, at least in the US–and probably elsewhere–miserably fails the sexual and reproductive rights and needs of young women. Instead of helping young women to prepare for and live healthy, happy sex lives and prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions, its sex-negativity and slut-shaming put them directly in harm's way. This story by Andrea Grimes is one bit of evidence. Realistically, what can those of us who believe in nonviolent sexual and reproductive choice do to serve young women's needs and undo the considerable harm done in the name of "respecting life"? Personally, I have been speaking out on this subject for over 25 years now. And I feel like I'm just beating my head on a brick wall.

Thanyarat Doksone of the Associated Press reports from Bangkok, Thailand about the discovery of thousands of illegally aborted fetuses awaiting cremation at a Buddhist temple. The article remarks: "Although Thailand is home to a huge and active sex industry, many Thais are conservative on sexual matters, and Buddhist activists especially oppose liberalizing abortion laws."

But is there really a contradiction here?

I am someone who attempts to practice Buddhism. This religion like any other is divided between prolife and prochoice, and All Our Lives as an organization is open to people of all faiths and none. But Buddhist ethics do call for respecting both the unborn child's and the pregnant woman's lives.

Buddhist qualms about abortion generally have to do with reverence for life, not with sexual repression. Buddhist values call for sexual responsibility, to be sure, but modern understandings especially take such responsibility to include comprehensive sex education, the practices of contraception and safer sex, and LGBT rights.

And how is "a huge and active sex industry"–treating sex like a commodity marketed through a labor-exploitative industry–not simply the flip side of being "conservative on sexual matters"?

More to the point: many abortions worldwide, including those in Thailand, in places where abortion is legal and in places where it is not, are driven and historically have been driven by the intense shaming and ostracism forced upon single women and their children. At the same time that nonmarried women and any children they might conceive are subjected to these injustices–women's abilities to make their own choices, and informed choices, about having sex and preventing unintended pregnancies are often undermined by conservative sexual beliefs.

As a Buddhist I pray daily to relieve "suffering and the causes of suffering." I am praying for all who belonged in those small bodies– and for the women in whose larger, hopefully still living bodies these unborn children grew. For the unmentioned men who were partners to these pregnancies. For all who inflict miseries on women with "unauthorized" pregnancies, miseries so intense that abortion appears the only way out of being slut-shamed and trampled upon. For countries and cultures worldwide to learn, as quickly as possible, what precisely it means to respect the two profoundly interconnected human lives and bodies who are involved in each and every pregnancy, before, during, and ever after birth.

No doubt there are people of all faiths who pray for and nonreligious people who intend something very similar through their thoughts and deeds.

Surfin3rdWave at Feministing.com describes her vision of a feminist crisis pregnancy center.

It would:

  • Refuse to engage in "slut-shaming…'marry your baby's daddy'…fearmongering."
  • Foster choices in birthing, such as midwifery care, as well as in parenting.
  • "Offer realistic parenting classes that promote responsible parenthood while also encouraging women to view themselves as individuals–with personalities and careers" apart from their parenthood.
  • Give "free counseling services to women coping with anxiety and depression during an unplanned pregnancy," including access when needed to licensed mental health professionals.
  • "Encourage pregnant women to view their bodies as beautiful and sexy…provide information about maintaining a good sex life and a positive body-image before and after pregnancy."
  • "Help women find the financial and material resources needed to make it through pregnancy and give birth…[such as] the WIC program.  Donors could bring baby car seats, maternity clothes, cribs, nursing bras, breast pumps, and canned goods…"

All Our Lives cofounder Jen commented on this post, saying that she shared this vision of a feminist CPC and our organization would like to run one like this someday.  There are in fact ethically run CPCs who already engage in these services for women.  And to the above services, we might want to add:

  • Prevention measures such as comprehensive sex ed curricula, a full range of family planning options, and outreach tailored to groups of clients most at risk for unintended pregnancies, such as LGBT youth.
  • Male responsibility programming.
  • An advocacy department to work on systemic-level/collective changes necessary to alleviate the plight of so many pregnant women and reduce the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions, locally, nationally, globally.
  • Standards to help existing CPCs evaluate and improve their services, and aid in the creation of new ones.

 

Please also see the discussion of Surfin3rdWave's post on the All Our Lives Facebook group.