My Abortion Story & Why I Do This Work

I was 18 years old when I had my first abortion. Staring slack-jawed at the two pink lines of the pregnancy test, which seemed to appear shockingly fast, the positive result did not compute.

My boyfriend at the time, the son of an Ivy League dean who always got his best marijuana from his father’s stash, wore a tiny spoon around his neck. In my naïveté, it never occurred to me that it was for meth until he dumped a small mountain of white powder onto the table one night and proceeded to snort all of it with more determination than I’d ever seen him apply to anything in his life.

It wasn’t a difficult decision that carrying a pregnancy to term with this person was out of the question. It wasn’t fraught. I didn’t agonize. I knew immediately and without hesitation.

At 18 years old and living on my own, I considered myself an adult. Still, the first thing I did when I saw those two pink lines was to call my mother. To this day I am thankful for her kindness and quick action. Within a few days, she had secured me an appointment at Crittenton Hastings House (a clinic that has since closed) and verified that my procedure would be covered under her insurance.

With a feeling of dread I called my boyfriend to explain what would be happening. His first reaction was to curse at me and accuse me of becoming pregnant on purpose. After I repeated that I was ending this pregnancy he changed gears and proceeded to accuse me of shaking him down for money. After I explained it would only be a $15.00 insurance co-payment, I will never forget what he said:

“Wait a minute… Ummmm… OK that’s $7.50 each, but I’m not coming over there to bring it, you can come get it yourself.”

Abortion is frequently described as a difficult and agonizing decision, and it can be. This does not mean that it must be. When I hear people make that statement, it is this response that I think of, and the feeling of absolute clarity I felt, knowing I wanted this abortion to happen as quickly as possible.

The day of the procedure I had no idea what to expect. It was the mid 1990s and the glorious information superhighway that is the Internet was not part of my life. I’d heard vague warnings about protestors and as for the procedure, could only summon a few terrifying movie scenes to mind.

I did not anticipate warmth. I did not expect understanding and support, but this is what I received. I received kindness from my counselor as she explained the procedure and reassured me as I vomited into her waste bin that she was used to it and that my nausea would fade in a few days.

The room where my abortion happened was bright and sunny. I remember my doctor, whose name I wish I could recall, making small talk with me during the procedure to put me at ease. We talked about cooking and commiserated over our shortcomings in this area. I remember my nurse’s eyes, because she kept them on me the entire time, holding my hand and reassuring me though the process, while reminding me to take some deep breaths when my cramping felt strong.

I remember crackers and ginger ale in the recovery room from caring staff who never once made me feel like a criminal. I remember feeling understood and cared for and realizing how much I needed that.  I know now what a rarity this is. That clinic is long gone now, along with so many others.

To this day, I try to return the kindness they showed me. During my work as an abortion counselor, I’ve had the honor of holding countless hands through the same procedure and sharing many of the same words of encouragement. Throughout this work I’ve encountered women shown by their communities that because of their situation they do not deserve such consideration.

As women we are all worthy of this respect. But it is not enough that we are all worthy. Women worldwide have been denied the basic right of control over what happens to our bodies. It is not enough that we deserve control over our reproductive destinies. We must demand it.

This is why I work with Women Help Women.

Carrie

Original source: Brave NEW Pro Choice World – Coming Soon

Original source: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2014/10/coming-soon-brave-new-pro-choice-world

An important day just went by, marked by hundreds of events and campaigns and lots of noise around the world. Some of you may have never heard of it before, but to an abortion rights activist like me, it’s practically a statutory holiday.

September 28 is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. The day originated two decades ago in Latin America and the Caribbean where women’s groups have been pushing governments to decriminalize abortion and provide safe and affordable access. The date itself commemorates the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1871, and came to be adopted by Brazilian women as the day of the “free womb.”

In 2011, the day went viral and global, thanks to the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, and later the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion. Thousands of groups and partners around the world support and promote the day, with a wide range of activities happening in over 50 countries each year. The 2014 focus was on addressing abortion stigma as one of the main obstacles to improved access.

This year, a new international foundation called Women Help Women launched itself on September 28 in honour of the day. (Full disclosure: I’m proud to be part of this new feminist organization.) The group is a global forum to advocate for access to improved reproductive health services, while providing those services at the same time. Women can order contraception and medical abortion pills directly from the WHW website, while receiving expert counselling and information in multiple languages. WHW invites all pro-choice, feminist and human rights organizations to endorse the initiative, and to partner with us.

Although abortion is still illegal in many countries around the world, “do-it-yourself” (DIY) medical abortion means that it has become much safer compared to traditional methods such as inserting foreign objects in the uterus or ingesting poisons. However, there are still dangers when women buy dubious medication on the black market and take it without any instructions or medical supervision — hence, the urgent need for groups like WHW, as well as Women on Web. The latter group courageously piloted the online provision of medical abortion in 2006, proving the viability and safety of this model.

The number of illegal and mostly unsafe abortions in the world has not declinedsince 2003, but the World Health Organization has documented a substantial 48 per cent decrease in the number of preventable maternal deaths from unsafe abortion — most likely due to DIY medical abortion. In 2008, 47,000 women a year died unnecessarily compared to about 70,000 in 2003.

Reproductive rights as human rights

As the global community continues to adopt a rights-based framework that recognizes women’s rights as human rights, it’s becoming more difficult for anti-choice groups to prevail. This is especially the case in regions with high death and complication rates from unsafe, illegal abortion — particularly Africa.

I track abortion news around the world, and just five years ago, the typical story out of Africa favoured anti-choice views and the criminalization of abortion. A sea change has been occurring, because a more typical story today is about a health professional in Uganda advocating legalization to stop the carnage of unsafe abortion, or this one about the Ghanian government implementing a safe abortion provision program.

That’s not too say there aren’t many horrendous laws and injustices still happening in Africa — like this nurse who was recently sentenced to death for helping a woman get an abortion in Kenya. But overall, things are slowly improving.

In July, the African country of Mozambique passed a ground-breaking law that legalizes abortion under a range of circumstances, including to protect the woman’s physical or mental health. Since 1994, at least 14 African countries have liberalized their laws to allow one or more exceptions, with several countries passing quite liberal laws, including South Africa, Tunisia and Ethiopia.

That reflects the steady progress since the adoption of the Programme of Actionat the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, which recognized reproductive rights as human rights. In part because of the commitments that nations gave at that conference, a total of 30 countries have liberalized their abortion laws since 1994.

Restricting abortion access

Still, progress is slow. In the past 20 years, more than one million women have died and over 100 million have suffered injuries due to complications of unsafe abortion. A handful of countries have passed even stricter laws since 1994, including the United States, Russia, Poland and Hungary. Sixty-six countries still prohibit abortion entirely or permit it only to save a woman’s life.

Five countries in the world explicitly ban abortion for any reason whatsoever: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, and Malta (in southern Europe). The four Latin American countries have all become quite infamous for either imprisoning women for having abortions or miscarriages (Mexico does this too), or just letting pregnant women die when they have obstetric complications or require a life-saving abortion. However, Chile is planning to liberalize their law soon as a result of international pressure. Other Latin American countries maintain restrictive laws except for Uruguay, which legalized abortion in 2012.

Turning to Europe, Ireland pretends to be “pro-life” with its 1983 constitutional amendment that subordinates women to fetuses, but the government and “pro-lifers” look the other way while thousands of Irish women travel to other countries every year to have abortions. Similar “abortion tourism” takes place out of other European countries with restrictive laws, including Poland, Hungary, Malta and Monaco.

The latest Irish barbarism (after the horrible death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 because she was denied an abortion) is the case of Ms. Y, a refugee who was raped in her home country before discovering she was pregnant after moving to Ireland. She felt suicidal but was denied an abortion at 8 weeks, even though Ireland had just passed a new abortion law specifically to allow abortion in cases of suicide risk. Lacking papers, the woman was unable to travel outside Ireland for an abortion. She attempted suicide at 16 weeks. After repeated requests for an abortion, she finally went on a hunger strike in hospital, where she was still suicidal and six months pregnant. The hospital’s response was to forcibly hydrate her until they decided to perform an emergency Caesarian section to save the baby. In other words, the young woman was treated as an incubator with no rights or dignity of her own.

These horror stories out of Ireland, Latin America and Africa make for scandalous headlines that do no favours to the guilty country’s reputation. It also results in increased pressure on those countries to live up to their human rights obligations. That pressure doesn’t just come from the many strong reproductive rights groups operating internationally. Some new “heavy hitters” have begun advocating for the decriminalization of abortion in recent years, including the United Nations, World Health Organization, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

Raising the political stakes

Further, anti-choice governments at least in western countries are beginning to discover they are in danger of losing elections if they try to restrict abortion or reduce access.

Activists across Spain celebrated a major victory — on September 28, ironically — after the Spanish right-wing government was forced to shelve their proposed anti-abortion legislation due to widespread opposition from both within and outside Spain. Women carried out wonderfully creative campaigns and rallies across Spain and Europe. The proposed bill even divided the government itself, ending with the prime minister backing away from the bill due to election loss fears. The justice minister was forced to resign.

Here at home, the reigning Conservatives in New Brunswick were ousted in the provincial election on Sept. 22, after the abortion issue played a key role in the campaign (right up there with shale gas and forestry). The Conservatives tried to coast through on a “do nothing” promise, even though abortion access had been dangerously limited after the July closure of the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic. The Liberals swept to power with a promise to eliminate barriers to access.

Access to safe and legal abortion is increasingly seen as a human right. Global progress towards that goal continues unrelentingly, despite setbacks, anti-choice opposition, and the United States. Fewer women are dying because they are taking pro-active control of their own lives by obtaining safer abortion pills. The harms of criminal laws are being recognized more and more, especially in Africa and Latin America. Ireland is embarrassing itself on the world stage. The United Nations has been calling other restrictive countries to account for their violations of women’s rights. Human rights campaigners are getting stronger and more numerous and more optimistic about the future. The tide is inexorably turning in their favour — and in women’s favour. The clock will not be turned back. Welcome to our brave new pro-choice world.

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada’s national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services.

Partner post: Youth Advocacy Institute of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP)

In December 2014 Youth Advocacy Institute of ASAP is coming back to town! ASAP is one of the most vocal advocates in Asia and Pacific very dedicated to mobilising young people. Women Help Women is proud to partner with ASAP. Our staff, as well as many partners, have had the honour to participate in the previous editions of the Institute. Trust us – it was awesome. The approach is unique and sessions varied from deconstructing patriarchy and social images around women and reproductive health, through participatory workshops and hands on social media training. If you are a young, passionate person living in Asia that would like to get trained and involved, contact ASAP. Below read the recap from the Institute in 2012.

Original source: http://asap-asia.org/blog/youth-advocacy-institute-day-1-deconstructing-patriarch

Youth Advocacy Institute Day 1: Deconstructing Patriarchy

Why is it easier for women to wear a pair of trousers than it is for men to don a dress?  What toys should we buy our children? How has capitalism molded gender constructs? Can a woman marry and refuse to have children? Can she refuse sex in a marriage? If patriarchy does not work, should we campaign for matriarchy instead?

These are some questions that our Youth Champions discussed on the first day of ASAP’s Youth Advocacy Institute. The first session, on gender and sexuality, began a little after half-past nine, and was chaired by Dr. Manisha Gupte, the founder of MASUM. Soon after ASAP’s Coordinator Dr. Suchitra Dalvie joined in with questions that sparked insightful conversations, and challenged the participants to think outside of their comfort zones.

Participants at ASAP’s Youth Advocacy Institute pose with Dr. Manisha Gupte, and the staff of ASAP

Dr. Gupte’s sessions were rife with case studies, and stories from ancient, medieval, colonial and modern history. Out of the many stories she told, one stood out. A female Spanish Olympian was asked to undergo medical examination before she participated in the contests. Tests showed that she carried  a Y chromosome, in addition to two X chromosomes. She was immediately told she could not compete as a woman. She was sent home stripped all at once of her gender identity, and her opportunity to further her career.

Dr. Dalvie’s session came next, and challenged the students to wonder how pro-choice they were. Most of them agreed that abortion should be a woman’s right, but there was a strong debate about a husband’s right to divorce a woman for having an abortion. Dr. Manisha weighed in, “If she felt the need to be discreet about her abortion, then their marriage already has a crack. The crack was not created by abortion, only widened by it. So a man can leave her if that is not what he wants, but he cannot blame it on the abortion. It is the relationship that had problems.”

Participants debate values that restrict women and men within the patriarchal framework

There were other debates on the institution of marriage. Why do people marry – to have children who can then go on to inherit their property, or to be in a long relationship? Why are there rules about who one can marry or have sex with? Can a woman be in a marriage and not want to be a mother?

Dr. Dalvie and Dr. Gupte also urged the students to deconstruct patriarchal rules that controlled women’s fertility, and to recognize its ties to the capitalistic idea of inheritance   They also spoke about gatekeepers. If in olden days, priests were allowed to use religion as their means of exercising such control, today lawyers, doctors and geneticists do the same using law, biology and genetics as their cover.

Dr. Gupte also asked the students to wonder how often the law is old patriarchal rules in a new sophisticated avatar. A good law would protect its vulnerable citizens, but instead most laws, make it easy for men to inherit property, condemn women to a life of dependency, forge rules that enable families to control a woman’s fertility, and makes it difficult to live outside a normative marriage.

The heavy discussions were intertwined with lighthearted games that gave the students a chance to get to know each other, and for the ASAP Staff to understand their expectations and aspirations.

We wound up around 6 p.m., after watching Bol, a Pakistani movie where a stereotypical patriarch controls the lives of his children and wife. We look forward to discussing this with the participants today!

You can take part in the discussions and write to us anytime. We are planning to tweet updates from the YAI using the hashtag #ASAPYAI. We are also posting photos to Facebook, and report to our blog!

Do read for more information. For regular updates from ASAP please subscribe to our blog.

Hotlines Can Give You Information on Safe Abortion Locally

In many countries Safe Abortion Hotlines give practical, friendly information how to use misoprostol in many languages worldwide. Their work is no short of a miracle for many women.

Yes, we at Women Help Women are huge supporters of the hotlines. They are run by women’s groups and give the callers friendly, comprehensive information about safe abortion (and often other topics, such as contraception, safe births etc).

Mobile phones are very popular, and for many women to be able to call, speak their own language and get very friendly and empowering information means a world.

Click here to see the list of various hotlines worldwide and check out if there is a hotline in your country.

Not in your country yet? Would you like to start one? If so, don’t hesitate to email partner@womenhelp.org

Right to give and receive information is a human right. Women everywhere have a moral right to this information.  Those restricting their rights are violating our basic rights.

Women Help Women partners with many hotlines. Their work is inspirational for us. Some of our team members have worked with local activists on hotline trainings and we continue to do many projects together.

Check out the pictures we received from our partner GIWYN in Nigeria from the launch of the Ms Rosy hotline on the 28th September (the same day we launched Women Help Women). We are happy to report we collaborate on that project, and WHW visited Nigeria in July.

launch nigeria 1
launch nigeria 2

Partner blog: Aborcyjna Doula

Jesteśmy aborcyjnymi doulami. Słuchamy kobiet. Tekst opublikowany prez Kobiety w Sieci, organizację partnerską Women Help Women.

Jesteśmy aborcyjne Doule, kobiety które są z innymi kobietami i pomagają mi przejśc ciężki czas jakim jest własna aborcja. Doula, daje nie tylko informacje, daje pomoc psychologiczną,  współczucie i dobre słowo. To soba, która z racji znajomości tematu może uspokoic kobietę w trakcie tego nerwowego czasu.

Doula, to przyjaciółka. Chce nią być dla innych kobiet. Dzielenie tak intymnego doświadczenia jakim jest aborcja zbliża kobiety. Często z tego powstają przyjaźnie na długie lata.  Nikt nie zrozumie nas lepiej (oprócz nas samych) jak ta co przeszła już tą drogę.

Zaufajcie Doulom, zaufajcie nam przyjaciółkom od aborcji. Nie tylko powiemy Wam jak ją wykonać środkami dostępnymi w Polsce. Wirtualnie będziemy Wam towarzyszyć, podpowiadać co trzeba zrobić, jak sie zachować by nie zrobić sobie krzywdy.

Telefony do nas funkcjonują od poniedziałku do piątku.

oto one:

725 892 134 (Plus) od poniedziałku do piątku do godziny 22.

503 937 745 (Orange) od poniedziałku do piątku w godzinach 8:00-9:00, 16:00-22:00, 9:00-16:00 tylko sms.

730 861 724 (Play) od poniedziałku do piątku do godziny 22.

Nasze telefony są  uruchomione za własne pieniądze, jeśli czujesz, ze ci pomogłyśmy i chcesz nas wspomóc to miło nam będzie jeśli w doładujesz nam konto telefoniczne symboliczną kwotą 5,00 zł.

Z góry bardzo dziękujemy.

Zachęcamy również do „polubienia” fb’owego potralu Kobiet w Sieci, na którym będą pojawiały się aktualne informacje dotycznące działalności Grupy.
https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pag…40?fref=ts

Partner Voices: GIWYN Nigeria

Sybil Nmezi, the dynamic Director of GIWYN Nigeria talks to Susan from Women Help Women about the work in Nigeria.

Women Help Women: What are your main projects focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights right now (or what is one that you are working on now that you are particularly excited about)? 

Sybil Nmezi: GIWYN’s work is focused on increasing access for women to information on safe abortion services including the availability of misoprostol locally and to reduce abortion stigma.

We have started a hotline to provide free, safe and reliable information, in a confidential and non-judgmental way, about contraception, the prevention of unwanted pregnancy, abortion and post abortion care, and prevention of postpartum hemorrhage.  Callers can choose to talk one-on-one to a trained operator or can listen to pre-recorded information on the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The IVR makes information available to women 24-hours a day. GIWYN and allies named the hotline Ms Rosy Hotline.  Ms Rosy Hotline (08097737600 or 08097738001) empowers women with knowledge about women’s health and safe choices. It is an information service, not a medical service itself, and all the information provided is based on resources from World Health Organization.

hotline nigeria pic 1

To prepare for the hotline, GIWYN organized a workshop that was facilitated by non-medical trainers (consultants in international reproductive health) from Women Help Women, TICAH (Kenya),  and sponsored by Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF)/

During the training, a misoprostol song was written. It was very exciting to sing it.

miso badge nigeria

GIWYN and Allies were excited to launch Ms Rosy Hotline publicly with marches, music, and promotional materials like banners, stickers, buttons, aprons and T-Shirts in Lagos  on the 27th September 2014,  using  the momentum of 28thSeptember, the Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion. The launch involved the National Coalition for Safe Abortion member organizations and individuals. link: https://www.facebook.com/msrosyhotline

hotline march nigeria

What drew you to do this work?

In Nigeria, effective programs and services to address the need for safe abortion are missing on the ground, with serious consequences for women´s health and lives. Under the Nigerian law, abortion is prohibited unless it is to save the life of a woman whose health is at risk because of complications of pregnancy. Although abortion is restricted by law, there is overwhelming evidence that it is widely practiced in the country. Studies show that illegal abortion is one of the major causes of the maternal mortality worldwide. As a result,  there is need to create a space where  women can  have access to reproductive health information, including safe abortion and post abortion care information  in this country to save their lives, and this is why we established the hotline.

What are some of the biggest challenges to working on sexual and reproductive health/safe abortion in the context that you work in?

The biggest challenges to working in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights are the religious and cultural beliefs of the Church that women do not have the right to deal with their bodies as they want and that abortion is a sin. Others are the clamor of some politicians and community leaders that abortion is a taboo, which have resulted to misconceptions, abortion stigma and high risks   faced by women rights’ defenders. A typical example of this is the death treats faced by the GIWYN coordinator in 2011. I thank Women Global Network For Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) who  immediately came to my rescue by supporting me with security measures. Another challenge we face is a diverse group of stakeholders with different levels of ability to understand information on medical abortion. It is challenging to produce informational resources that are suitable for everyone, and that is why the hotline is in two Nigerian languages and other resources are translated as well.  Another challenge is finding the funding needed to keep our work going.

Is sexual and reproductive health and rights the primary focus of your organization? Was it always?

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights is always the primary focus of GIWYN though linked to Gender Equality and Empowerment, HIV/Aids, Maternal Mortality and Sustainable development.

The Answer

I have been working as an online abortion and reproductive health counselor for 8 years now. I rarely have a pleasure to look in the eye of the people I counsel. Sometimes I hear their voices, but usually what I see are letters they type to my screen.

Yet we manage to build a relationship.

Sometimes people ask me how it feels to communicate by email with people in need of reproductive health service? Does the written form limit the conversation, or does it actually make it easier? Can you support women without seeing them? Is it even safe?

Internet knows no borders and email seems to give an impression of certain anonymity. I have an incredible privilege to correspond with people from so many places in the world. I would never be able to meet them otherwise, and hear their stories. A lot has been written in the last years about undeniable added value of the online communication for health issues, especially for more difficult or stigmatised ones.

Some women write me asking for an advice what to do in their situation and expect me to suggest a solution.

But I am not an advisor. I am a counselor. It would not be fair to decide for you.

I might have more factual knowledge on the subject of reproductive health, but you, out there on the other side of the screen, have knowledge of yourself. I provide information in most comprehensive way I can and in relation to what you ask me and tell me, and I will support you, but I will not diagnose, I will not recommend what you should do. You make your own choices. There is no secret knowledge I have that anyhow positions me as the one with THE answer that can solve your dilemma. YOU have the answer. You really do.

At times you feel the urge to tell me how it happened that you are in this situation. You give me the reason why you have an unwanted pregnancy.

I listen and am grateful that you share with me. But I do not need to know. I will not write to you differently, there is no better more ethical reason than other.  I will say though is that 1 in 3 women has an abortion in their lifetime, it is a common fact of our lives that we should embrace. Abortion is health care and your right, no matter why or how many times you need it.

As a counselor I try to frame my communication in a way that is responsive, supportive & non judgmental, clear & concise, medically accurate and empowering.

The empowerment is not in a moment of having found the best solution for you. It is not just a concrete, single event in time, it is rather the process of finding it and acting upon it. It surely was for me.

And lastly – the safety of medical abortion has been extensively proven, and you can read about it in the Questions and Answers section of Women Help Women website.

The follow-up model based on self-assessment is steadily used more and more for provision of early abortion with pills. Women call, text or email the personnel that support them in case of questions.

Here is a link to a recent excellent scientific article: Cameron S.T. et al., Can women determine the success of early medical termination of pregnancy themselves?

The short answer to the question in the title of the article is: yes, they can.

And they often prefer to do so, themselves.

I trust them.

proud to support your choics