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June 30, 2008

Myth: Abortion is a Lucrative Industry

Abortion Myth #3:

Abortion is a Lucrative Industry

The anti-choicers would like us to believe that abortion is a huge money-making industry and that women are manipulated into killing their babies just so abortion doctors can make the big bucks. It doesn't take an accountant to recognize that this is absolutely untrue. Abortion is not a lucrative industry at all, especially not compared to the rest of the medical 'business'. The cost of abortion has risen at a much slower rate than the majority of medical procedures.

We will be linking to a lot of sources here - while many are unbiased, scientific or news sources please be advised that some of them have a pro-choice slant, while others have a pro-life bias. Please consider where you're getting your information from, before you accept it as 'fact' and please be advised that we do not necessarily advocate or condone the information you may find once you leave our page.

The Abortion "Industry"

"According to Care Net, a leading pro-life counseling and nurturing provider across America, Planned Parenthood's "services" result in abortions outnumbering adoption referrals and kept children by 180 to 1!

Surprised? You shouldn't be – this is a business, a money machine.
There is no profit in convincing young girls to keep the children they've created or give them up for adoption by eager parents that will love and nurture them. Though occasionally that is the outcome, and the staff and administrators of the slaughterhouses love to publicize those few incidents, the recently revealed numbers tell the true story: Their annual income now exceeds a billion dollars, including $336 million in taxpayer funding!" - Pat Boone ("Abortion, your tax-funded growth industry") [World Net Daily]
When you put it that way, yeah it sounds like abortion is a lucrative industry! Sign me up for medical school!! But really, you have to put it into perspective...

First of all, the author gives no references or sources to back up his claims, so I can only assume he's basing those 'facts' on their 2007 financial activities (due to the $336 million figure). According to their 2007 Annual Report, Planned Parenthood's income was $1,017.9 million dollars, however their
expenses were $903.1 million dollars. Do the math on that one.... this "billion dollar industry" actually only netted $114.8 million dollars.

You have to remember that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization, which means that the bulk of their "income" is going directly back into funding their programs and services. Yes, it's true that Planned Parenthood receives about a third of its money in government grants and contracts, but that helps to ensure that their services and programs stay as affordable as possible (and allow low-income women access to them). They also receive a chunk of money from private donations and sponsors.

Now $336 million sounds like a
lot of money, and it is... but think about these numbers for a moment: The federal government's budget was about $2.8 trillion for the fiscal year 2007, with $231.9 billion set aside for state and local governmental aid (not including Medicaid), a 2.8% decrease. And let's not forget that the Hyde Amendment restricts the use of federal funds to go to abortion. Any money going to Planned Parenthood would based on legislation passed at the state level or go towards the other 97% of their health care services, not just abortion.

Yeah, that's right we said 97%. Abortion was a mere 3% of the services provided that year. It's very misleading to suggest that they've made a billion dollars performing abortions, when only about $356 million of their revenue came from "health center services" and only 3% of those services were abortion procedures. The bulk of their services (39%) were for contraception, including surgical sterilization, which sort of is counterproductive to that whole "abortion industry" claim, seeing as if women (and men) have access to safe, affordable birth control they'll be less likely to need abortion services. 29% of services were for STD testing/treatment, 19% for cancer screening/prevention, 10% for "Other Women's Health Services" (pregnancy tests, prenatal care, midlife care, and infertility).

Another figure to address is the claim that the ratio of abortion to adoption was 180 to 1. It is true that adoption referrals from Planned Parenthood are much lower than the amount of abortions performed annually, but that doesn't mean that Planned Parenthood discourages adoption or encourages abortion. I think it's just indicative of the women who use Planned Parenthood's services...

I think that most women who have an abortion at Planned Parenthood went to Planned Parenthood
in order to get an abortion. That's not to say that everyone has made up their mind before walking through their doors, it's just that I don't think a lot of these girls have to be talked into an abortion. Planned Parenthood doesn't need to coerce them to abort... they're open to the idea already, that's why they're there. Now of course, that's a bit of a generalization, I know. I know that a lot of girls do go to Planned Parenthood for information and help in making their decision... so luckily Planned Parenthood gives unbiased, equal information on all the options. (Compare that with the crisis pregnancy centers that will give false information in order to scare women away from safe, legal abortion!) I truly believe that the majority of women who undergo abortion procedures at Planned Parenthood do so voluntarily. In many cases, women are pressured or forced, but not by Planned Parenthood staff... rather by their own families!

Abortion is not the most performed surgery in the U.S. According to National Eye Institute, cataract surgeries is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States (over 1.5 million cataract surgeries performed each year).
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, heart bypass surgery is the most frequently performed major surgery in the U.S. (over a half million are done each year). The most frequently performed surgical procedure for women of reproductive age in the U.S., is cesarean section (with hysterectomy at a close second) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This isn't really that important, except to show that some anti-choicers have no problem twisting the truth - or outright lying to make their points.

Also the suggestion that the abortion industry is under-regulated at all is laughable, let alone the one of the most unregulated industries in the nation. For just a glimpse at the myriad of laws and regulations on abortion:

"Abortion is the most performed surgical procedure in the nation and is the largest unregulated industry in the nation, second only to illegal drugs." [The Forerunner]

The Actual Costs of Abortion

The cost of a surgical abortion in the U.S. varies, depending on what state you are in, where you choose to have abortion performed, and the length of gestation. A surgical abortion in the first trimester can cost anywhere between $300$700. Typically it is less expensive if the abortion is performed very early in the pregnancy, at a low-cost clinic (vs. a hospital) and the patient is low-risk.

The cost of abortion has risen much less than most other medical procedures. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, the cost of a first-trimester abortion would actually less than it was 20 years ago. If abortion had kept up with medical inflation, it is estimated that a standard first trimester abortion would cost $1,000 (that's more than double the current price!)

If a typical abortion is usually under $500, how exactly are these abortion clinics allegedly making $1,000 profit per abortion? Although the price of abortion has not risen with inflation, unfortunately the actual costs of providing abortions have risen an extreme amount, especially when you take into account the additional costs of security and liability insurance (thanks to anti-choice 'terrorists'). Abortion providers actually maintain lower than average fees for their services (compared with physicians in other specialties). In many areas, reimbursement rates are the same amount for an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, despite the increased costs that a later abortion requires. Current prices of abortion barely cover the cost of the procedure, let alone leave room for copious profits. Many clinics and providers have absorbed the increased costs and rely on donations to subsidize procedures, in order to not increase their prices.
"Doctors often receive more that 50% of the money, which can take him or her less than 20 minutes to perform. The math adds up to major income for any medical doctor or associate executing these procedures. God's Word warns us against get rich schemes, and to gain substantial finances from a practice that God finds appalling is quite unbelievable."  [ChristiaNet: The Worldwide Christian Marketplace]
"Abortion clinics make, on average, $1,000 profit for every abortion they perform. ...That's where the money is. That's what is really happening here." - Manuel Miranda (former Republican counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee) [Cybercast News Service]
When you also consider the dangers involved with being an abortion provider nowadays (you know, being harassed daily and potentially getting killed by some 'pro-life' extremist), it's a shock that doctors are willing to do that job at all when they could be bringing in the big bucks performing boob jobs or removing tonsils or something else 'safe' like that.

"...providing abortions in a hostile climate is not simply delivering health care; it is also a political act." - Marlene Gerber Fried, founding president of the National Network of Abortion Funds [Catholics for a Free Choice]
"Low Cost" Vs. "Affordable"

Even though abortions are relatively inexpensive when compared to other medical procedures, that still doesn't mean that they are affordable for many women.

Many insurances companies will cover abortion (at least partially), however many still do not. Some states actually restrict insurance coverage of abortion in private insurance plans, while others limit coverage to cases or rape/incest or where the mother's life in at risk. In many cases, abortion coverage is permitted only through the payment of an additional premium.

As we already mentioned, the Hyde Amendment restricts the use of federal money to pay for abortion. First passed in 1976, it ended the provision of abortions for low-income women in the U.S. through Medicaid. In the first few years after Roe v. Wade, federal Medicaid paid for about a third of all abortions. The original measure made no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother, but fortunately wording on that was later added. Unfortunately, these 'exceptions' are often not enforced properly or at all, leaving victims of assault still being denied coverage. Since the federal Medicaid funds were not allowed to go towards abortion, some states have begun providing public funding for abortion (some voluntarily, others by court order), but for the most part, that still leaves most women out. Thousands of women and teenagers are denied abortions each year or are forced to have later abortions because federal law and most states withhold Medicaid funding; it is estimated that as many as one in three low-income women who would have an abortion if it was covered by Medicaid are instead forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Other studies estimate that between 18-35 percent of women on Medicaid would have had abortions if government funding were available to them (that's at least 64,000 women a year).

What's interesting, is that the federal Medicaid program often does cover the cost of sterilization. It's kind of messed up that poor women have only two choices: have a child that you are not currently able to care or give up your reproductive abilities permanently.

The fact of the matter is, the right to choose abortion is guaranteed by the Constitution. As long as abortion funding is denied to low-income women, they are limited access to a legal medical procedure. A lot of people feel that this is discriminatory and unfair, because reproductive health is something that all women should be entitled to, not just the wealthy ones.

There are many potential costs of denying abortion funding. Aside from the potential 'cost' of being forced to bear children that they are unable to support or unprepared to raise, some women take on great sacrifices in order to afford an abortion. They may work excessive hours or go into debt. They may sacrifice other expenses such as food or rent, putting themselves at risk for illness or eviction. They may end up having a later-stage abortion, putting themselves at greater risk for complications because it took them too long to raise the money needed. Or even worse, they may attempt an illegal self-induced abortion which can be very medically dangerous and even life-threatening.

Many people who oppose public funding for abortion call it an unfair burden on taxpayers. However, restricting abortion funding actually costs taxpayers more money every year, because the costs of prenatal care and childbirth (as well as the additional costs of unplanned births) are much higher than those of abortion. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (a 1996 "welfare reform" law) includes many punitive policies to discourage women from having another child while on public assistance (such as welfare caps that prohibit increased payments). This does little to reduce the rate of abortion, but rather it just increases the amount of women and children living below the poverty level.

More recently, even more attacks on abortion access have been made. The Weldon Amendment of 2004 (also knows as the "federal refusal clause") allows federally funded institutions - including insurance companies - to refuse abortion care, referrals for service, or even options counseling! Violating this provisions may result in a loss of all federal funds. No health care providers are ever forced to provide abortions or other procedures against their religious/moral beliefs, however they are legally entitled to restrict women's access to other providers with dissimilar beliefs. (Some people refer to this as a "conscience clause", but I don't like to call it that because I think that it is unconscionable to deny women their constitutional rights).

Laws like these, only further increase the cost of abortion for women, because they may need to travel in order to find a facility that will help her or she may be delayed in obtaining an abortion until it is later in the pregnancy and therefore more expensive/risky (or she may be unable to get the abortion she wants at all and be forced to have a child that she can't afford). Almost 9 out of 10 U.S. counties have no abortion provider at all, forcing women to either travel or go to a hospital for an abortion (where it is more costly).

In addition to low-income women, the federal government's lack of funding for abortion also impacts women in the military, federal employees, residents of the District of Columbia and women in federal prisons (because their health care is funded by the government).
The Bottom Line

Abortion is not a big money-maker. In fact, it's exactly the opposite... I don't know how abortion providers and clinic workers can even afford to continue doing the work they do. It's their compassion and commitment to women's health that keeps them in such a stigmatized, dangerous, and unprofitable career. The anti-choicers can say "they don't care about women, they just want your money"... but the fact is, the way things are today, no one would do that job unless they truly cared about women. Abortion is not an 'industry', it is a woman's constitutional right.

For information on how you can help keep abortion both legal and affordable, check out:
(Definitely AVOID ProChoice.com which is full of anti-choice propaganda disguised as pro-choice information!!)

June 24, 2008

The Sexies

The winners of this year's Sex Positive Journalism Awards were announced last week, and we've been having fun working our way through the list. The Sexies honor stories from the media that cover sex-related issues in a way that's straightforward, accurate, and fair rather than the ignorance and judgment and stereotyping that so often occurs with stories about sex.

More often than not, sex seems to fall outside of the media's standards for objectivity and fairness: The spectrum of sex-education opinions is assumed to run from abstinence-only to abstinence-primarily. Science-based information on sex, sexuality, and the diversity of human sexual practices is lacking, and sometimes misleading conventional wisdom is reinforced. A man in a court case who participates in BDSM is described as having "unsavory habits" and a professional domme is described as an "admitted" dominatrix. No sources are sought to counter the government officials who proudly describe how they are manipulating local ordinances to shut down a sex toy store or a venue that hosts "swingers" parties. Stories that treat sexuality as something other than a problem or prurient curiosity are few and far between...

...To recognize the times when journalists stick to the standards of their craft in the face of such challenges and produce good, informative journalism that spreads accurate sexual information, stays fair in covering highly charged topics, and celebrates healthy sexuality as a positive force in people's lives, the Sexies advisory board decided to launch the Sexies.

Here are some of our favorites from this year's list:

~Never Too Old for Sex,” by Jill Bauer, Miami Herald
The Sexies judges said: “This journalist challenged conventional assumptions about geriatric asexuality and undesirability, and did some excellent reporting on a sensitive, sometimes-taboo subject. She also did a fine job of rendering her subjects' humanity without making fun of them or lapsing into stereotype.” “Super matter-of-fact, with both a cultural slant and plenty of sex information. Terrific use of a ‘lifestyle’ piece to address real issues.”


"I'm very healthy and my husband is relatively healthy and, yes, we do have an active sex life, as do most of our friends," said Boynton Beach Bereavement Club producer Florence Sei-delman, 76. "When I got older I think my sex life got even better. When the kids were around we'd lock the door but we always thought they would barge in. When you get older you become freer and more honest and we can get away with more."

"I lived in China for three years and there were no partners there for me and I forgot my toothbrush but not my vibrator," Manulkin said. "But we're not open to that stuff because it's not normal. Everyone has a driving force to be what normal is and there ain't no normal. Anything between consenting adults is normal."

~Let's Talk About Sects,” by Omar Mouallem, Vue Weekly
The Sexies judges said: “Eye-opening and timely. We rarely get to read about Muslim sexuality, and almost never from an unbiased, objective point of view.”

This piece is about a custom called mutah: "Imagine getting married and knowing that your vows will eventually expire. After a year, a month, three weeks, maybe just an hour, you will part ways from your spouse, no strings attached. It has nothing to do with irreconcilable differences and everything to do with mutah nikah, or “pleasure marriages,” a rare but still prevalent 1400-year-old Shi’a tradition of marrying temporarily, sometimes just for sex."

~“Abstinence 1, S-CHIP 0,” by Amanda Robb, New York Times
The Sexies judges said: “A quick but effective jab at the silliness of abstinence-only education policies.” “Her article is scathing, and her wrath is in proportion to the outrageous damage being done by a government in thrall to Christian fundamentalists.”

"Abstinence-only courses, the only form of federally financed sex ed, teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to cause psychological and physical harm. If that were true, our health care system would be not only broken, but besieged. A 2002 survey found that 93 percent of American adults had had premarital sex by the age of 30."

"By dropping the financing for abstinence-only sex ed, Congress could save enough money to insure 150,000 children a year."

~“The Bareback Controversy,” by Joanne Cachapero, XBIZ
The Sexies judges said: “[Barebacking] is such an important issue in porn, and generally gets pretty short shrift inside the industry; this piece expands the discussion substantially and the author gets great quotes/perspective from each side of the controversy.”

We can't say that we spend all that much time reading articles about the gay porn industry, so this piece was an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes that also touches on some important issues about STDs and how pornography might influence the lives and choices of the people that watch it.

~“Hot and Bothered,” by Emily Bristol, Las Vegas CityLife
The Sexies judges said: “Pieces about prostitutes almost always follow the cliches of ‘exploited womanhood.’ This one takes a more balanced look and makes readers smarter for it.”


"It was at her next gig, a more upscale French club where the women were called ladies and wore evening gowns, that Lopez says she overcame her initial fear. Over time, Lopez says, she learned the tricks of the trade and became a popular and successful dancer in the clubs. The experience was empowering, she says, but for a long time she couldn't bring herself to tell people she was a stripper without making excuses.

'I really needed to decide, 'Do I like the work? Do I like what I'm doing? Am I ashamed?'" she says. "I made a decision to embrace it. I'm a stripper. I stopped lying about it. If you say it with power, people can't judge you.'"

"'You can be a feminist and be pro-sex work," Brents says. "It's not a contradiction. ... Many prostitutes are great about claiming their own sexuality. This has been an arena denied to us -- the good girls. Sex work does allow women to be sexually free but it may or may not allow women to create their own freedom.'"

Check out the full list of winners, along with some background on the panel of judges and resources on healthy sexuality at the official site for The Sexies. You can also keep up with them and keep talking about sex in the news on their LiveJournal blog. And when you read a sex-positive story in the media somewhere, contact the publication and give a little positive feedback. It's encouraged more often to write when you see something negative or misleading that pisses you off, and that's definitely important too, but we've got to remember to let the media know when they've done something right so that The Sexies will always have plenty of nominees to choose from.

June 23, 2008

Myth: Post-Abortion Syndrome

Abortion Myth #2:

Post-Abortion Syndrome

The term "post-abortion syndrome" was first used in 1981 by psychologist and trauma specialist Vincent Rue. The term has now been widely used by anti-choice activists to describe the emotional reactions and alleged post-traumatic stress disorder developed in response to abortion, however the efforts to popularize the term are mainly political.

Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize Post Abortion Syndrome (or "Post Abortion Stress Syndrome" or "Post Abortion Trauma") as an actual condition or mental disorder.

Some studies have shown a correlation between abortion and depression, anxiety, or sexual dysfunction however these correlations are likely due to preexisting issues and other factors (including a lack of familial support).


We will be linking to a lot of sources here - while many are unbiased, scientific or news sources please be advised that some of them have a pro-choice slant, while others have a pro-life bias. Please consider where you're getting your information from, before you accept it as 'fact' and please be advised that we do not necessarily advocate or condone the information you may find once you leave our page.

The Alleged Syndrome

There are a number of emotional and psychological "symptoms" that anti-choicers have associated with abortion. These include guilt, anger, anxiety, depression, grief, shame, numbness, low self-esteem, helplessness, suicidal thoughts, anti-social behavior, eating disorders, broken relationships, codependency, etc.

If these symptoms seem familiar, it might be because they are the same as the common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that is triggered by an extremely traumatic event. PTSD may affect survivors or witnesses of traumatic events such as physical assault, torture, war, natural disasters, mass casualties, etc.

It's misleading to label these symptoms with the name Post-Abortion Syndrome, because having an adverse reaction to a stressful situation can occur after any traumatic event. The name implies that that abortion is typically traumatic. The actual evidence says otherwise. Now I suppose abortion could be considered a traumatic event for some people, but to suggest that PAS is worthy of its own diagnosis is a gross over-exaggeration.

Although the medical mainstream does not feel that the facts merit classifying adverse symptoms after abortion as their own syndrome, it is possible for some women to experience negative psychological feelings prior to abortion. (That's not to say that abortion necessarily causes these problems, but for a moment let's accept the argument that it does). Even if you accept that PAS does exist, there has still been extreme misrepresentation.

The anti-choice advocates would like us to believe that PAS is a common occurrence and probable risk of elective abortion. However the overall medical opinion is that adverse reactions after abortion are rare.

How Common are "PAS" Symptoms, Really?

This is what we tell our patients: abortion is a common life event similar to having a baby, getting a divorce, getting married, or losing a loved one. A range of emotions is normal. Most women do fine. ...Almost a third of US women have had abortions. If severe emotional reactions were common, it would be an epidemic and not a debate!" - Janet Colm, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood [Planned Parenthood]
"Some women who have abortions feel peaceful about their decision beforehand, have a pain-free and physically easy experience, feel relieved afterwards, and then live the rest of their lives with no problems or regrets." [AfterAbortion.com]
"Severe psychological reactions after abortion are infrequent" - Henry P. David, PhD, internationally known scholar in this area of research, 1996 [National Abortion Federation]
"About 20 percent of women who have abortions experience symptoms of depression that pass fairly quickly. ...Up to 10 percent of women who have abortions experience lingering symptoms of depression. This is also true of 10 percent of women after childbirth." [Teenwire.com]
"...for a vast majority of those who have voluntary abortions, 'sever negative reactions are infrequent in the immediate and short-term aftermath'... The greatest distress, it found, 'is likely to be before the abortion.' 'Severe negative reactions after abortions are rare and can best be understood in the framework of coping with a normal life stress'" - The Associated Press, 1990 [The New York Times]

"In general, the studies on the psychological sequelae of abortion indicate a low incidence of adverse mental health effects." - C. Everett Koop, U.S. Surgeon General, 1989 [Popline.org]
"...does not create psychological hazards for most women undergoing the procedure" - American Psychological Association [ReligiousTolerance.org]

Who Might Be at Risk for "PAS" Symptoms?
At the end of an eight-year study of 5,295 women, researchers concluded that the most important predictor of emotional well-being in post-abortion women was their well being before the abortion. They determined that women with preexisting emotional problems are at a slightly higher risk for negative emotional responses after an abortion.
Several studies have been done on this subject, and the bulk of the evidence indicates that factors other than the abortion itself plays the strongest role in what a woman's emotional state might be following abortion.
"Significant psychiatric illness following abortion occurs most commonly in women who were psychiatrically ill before pregnancy, in those who decided to undergo abortion under external pressure, and in those who underwent abortion in aversive circumstances, for example, abandonment." - Nada Stotland, M.D., former president of the Association of Women Psychiatrists, in JAMA [National Abortion Federation]

"The major predictor of a woman's well-being after an abortion, regardless of race or religion, is level of well-being before becoming pregnant [National Abortion Federation]

"...in women with no past psychiatric histories there was no significant difference between comparison groups in rates of psychiatric illness... women with a previous history of psychosis were more likely to experience a psychotic illness than those with no such history... termination of pregnancy did not appear to increase the risk" [Spiked Health]

"Post abortion syndrome would be a reflection of an unstable mindset at the time of abortion. Women who regret their decision and still undergo an abortion or those who are compelled into having an abortion due to undue pressure are maybe at a greater risks to be affected." [Buzzle.com]
"...even if mental health problems are more common among women who have had an abortion, abortion may not have been the real cause." [Guttmacher Institute]
"...the women most negatively impacted by abortion are those who have lower self-esteem to begin with, those who underwent the abortion in circumstances of extreme pressure or abandonment, and those who had a mental illness before abortion." [SearchWarp.com]
"How well a person copes with this stress depends on the individual's resiliency and the conditions under which the stress occurs. When a woman's psychological state is already fragile, the stress of an abortion can more easily overwhelm her. ...The risk factors for post-abortion psychological maladjustments can be divided into two general categories. The first category includes women for whom there exists significant emotional, social, or moral conflicts regarding the contemplated abortion. The second category includes women for whom there are developmental problems, including immaturity, or pre-existing and unresolved psychological problems." [AbortionFacts.com]

Distress after an abortion is often connected to another unresolved painful event in your life. " [Peace After Abortion]
"Women are not randomly assigned to have abortions... Women who are having abortions are having them in the context of an unwanted pregnancy, which usually has some other very stressful aspects. Their partners may have left them. They may have been raped." - Nancy E. Adler, PhD, a professor of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco [American Psychological Association]
"The truth is that most studies in the last 25 years have found abortion to be a relatively benign procedure in terms of emotional effect — except when pre-abortion emotional problems exist or when a wanted pregnancy is terminated, such as after diagnostic genetic testing" [Planned Parenthood]
Other factors that may contribute to negative feelings about an abortion, include going against your own beliefs about abortion, being heavily pressured into having an unwanted abortion, or having a lack of support before and after the abortion. This still doesn't prove that there is a legitimate syndrome related to post-abortion stress, however it does explain some of the 'evidence' supporting PAS.

A lot of the PAS advocates claim that symptoms of PAS might manifest years after the abortion and victims might not even realize that what they are experiencing is related to a past abortion. Yeah, because maybe in some cases it isn't. It might be comforting to find a 'reason' for emotional distress or to give your feelings a name, however, it's not fair to use abortion as a blanket excuse for an unexplained diagnosis of depression or anxiety. That's not to say that some women don't feel distress after an abortion; it's just unfair to treat abortion as a scapegoat for all your unexplained distress.

Is Abortion Actually to Blame?

"As with any trauma, individuals often "forget" the ordeal and deny or ignore any pain that may result. Many simply don't relate their distress to the abortion experience." [Ramah International]
"...she may even become vocally defensive of abortion in order to convince others, and herself, that she made the right choice and is satisfied with the outcome.

...unacknowledged post-abortion distress is the causative factor in many of their female patients, even though their patients have come to them seeking therapy for seemingly unrelated problems.

...Other women who would otherwise appear to have been satisfied with their abortion experience, are reported to enter into emotional crisis decades later" [AfterAbortion.org]
"Many simply don't relate their distress to the abortion experience. At some point, however, memories resurface and the truth of this loss can no longer be denied." [PostAbortionSyndrome.org]
"...listening to those who treat PAS in men, you realize that they are leading men to blame their abortion experiences for pre-existing and subsequent problems" [The Nation]

"..women who have experienced it are urged into denial so they do not talk about and process the normal feelings of anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and grief which often follow the abortion. When such emotions are denied and buried, they will often resurface having been magnified by time...

...Very often, she will not relate her anxiety to a past abortion...

The woman is not aware of any negative feelings that she may have had about the abortion. Suppression. This occurs when a woman erases any negative feelings about abortion from her mind and will not allow herself to contemplate her personal feelings." [Texans United for Life]

"The first stage in post-traumatic stress is denial. People will refuse to admit that they have a problem, or will blame their problems on something else." [Pregnant Pause]
Isn't it possible that if a woman is "unaware" of negative feelings about her abortion, it is because she doesn't have negative feelings about her abortion? Maybe if they're blaming their problems on something else, it actually is about something else? Where do you draw the line between denial about Post Abortion Syndrome and the absence of Post Abortion Syndrome?

The Truth Behind the Research

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the massive amount of information you can find when you do a search for "Post Abortion Syndrome". It's not always easy to decipher which sources might offer helpful information for someone who is struggling with the decision to have an abortion and which are merely anti-choice scare tactics.

Sources With an Agenda

We found a lot of websites that claim to want to help women deal with their post-abortion feelings, however we noticed a trend... Aside from the obvious (obvious to us at least, now that we've done the research) indicators like the misinformation and stretching of the truth, we found that the 'advice' given by the anti-choice sites are all about accepting that your abortion was wrong and forgiving yourself for it. (Now that might be helpful advice to women who feel that their abortion was wrong and have to come to terms with feelings guilt or shame, but that does not describe all post-abortion women).

"Bring this back into her consciousness and admit she was a party to killing her own baby. She must grieve over her lost child — tears, mourning as for another loved one. Seek Divine Forgiveness." [AbortionFacts.com]
"It is crucial for the post-abortive woman to come to a point of understanding that she aborted a real human baby. ...allows herself to lead a fulfilling life, despite her past sinful choices."  [Texans United for Life]
"Through healing you will become a better person in spite of your bortion." [AfterAbortion.org]

"One woman said that holding onto a belief that it was not a baby, from the time before her abortion until now, had enabled her to frame up the abortion in a reasonable (able to be reasoned) way and enabled her to cope with it, until she came to the realisation it was her ‘baby’ she lost, and then everything began to cave in on her, and the grief and guilt that surfaced soon gave way to despair." [Post Abortion Trauma Healing Center]
"... there is no healing outside of Jesus Christ. From many years of working in the crisis pregnancy ministry area, and from sharing with thousands of other ministry leaders, I know that God is the only healer." [Ramah International]

"Women become mothers at the moment of conception. Post abortive women commonly take many years before they begin to consider acknowledging that fact even to themselves. Though the acknowledgment of murder is repressed, the buried reality remains." [Life Enterprises]
There is a lot of loaded language being thrown around here and we think it's important that if you do seek out information about PAS, that you recognize what their biases are and accept their 'facts' with a grain of salt.

I know that if I was feeling a little bit sad about an abortion I'd just had, the last thing I need to read is that I'm a sinner because I killed my baby. I can also imagine that having people accost me on my way into (and out of) an abortion clinic might exacerbate any feelings of stress I might have had about my decision. Who knows how much of this alleged syndrome is due to the way that anti-choice protestors treat women who are seeking elective abortions?

We've already touched on the issue of false reporting last month, when we discussed another myth (Myth: Abortion Causes Breast Cancer). Abortion usually is a very personal and private subject. Therefore women do not always properly and honestly disclose their complete medical histories when it comes to abortion. Women who have had abortions might not always feel comfortable disclosing this information and healthy women are less likely to report their histories of abortion than those with medical problems. Additionally, depression and mental illness are also very personal and private matters to many people, so there is even more potential for recall bias.

Flawed or Inconclusive Findings

Overall, mainstream medical sources deny the existence of PAS as a legitimate disorder. In 1987, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (upon the direction of President Regan) issued a report on the health effects of abortion. After reviewing over 250 studies on the psychological impact of abortion, Koop described the risk of significant emotional problems following abortion to be "minuscule" and reported that the quality of existing evidence was too poor to prepare a report that could "withstand scientific and statistical scrutiny".
"...scientific studies do not provide conclusive data about the health effects of abortion on women." -- C. Everett Koop [JSTOR]

"...obstetricians and gynecologists had long since concluded that the physical sequelae of abortion were no different than those found in women who carried pregnancy to term or who had never been pregnant." - C. Everett Koop [Guttmacher Institute]
"APA research review finds no evidence of 'post-abortion syndrome' but research studies on psychological effects of abortion inconclusive." [National Abortion Federation]
"Assessments of the physical effects of abortion, and assessments of the relationship between abortion and a woman's emotional state, must be approached differently. The key to assessing the emotional impact of abortion on a woman's emotional state is context-dependence. Where a discussion is to be had of women's emotional responses to abortion, attention must be focused on the social and personal situation in which abortion takes place. It therefore to makes no sense to contend that abortion has a particular, uniform mental health outcome." [Spiked Health]
"A review of methodologically sound studies of the psychological responses of U.S. women after they obtained legal, nonrestrictive abortions indicates that distress is generally greatest before the abortion and that the incidence of severe negative responses is low. Factors associated with negative response are consistent with those reported in research on other stressful life events." [Science Magazine]

"Studies that have concluded that terminating a pregnancy leads to an increased risk of anxiety or depression are often methodologically flawed. Their study populations are often at an increased risk for anxiety or depression before the abortion procedure" [Planned Parenthood]

"...women who had an abortion following an unintended pregnancy were not at any higher risk of subsequent mental health problems than were women whose unintended pregnancy was carried to term." [Guttmacher Institute]

Even Vincent Rue, the man who started the whole PAS controversy, concluded in his article "Post-Abortion Syndrome a Growing Health Problem":

"Attributing a woman's emotional problems to the simple fact that she had an abortion can detract from a full understanding of what is going on with her..."[Ms. Magazine]
"...at present, it is impossible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the incidence of Post Abortion Syndrome" [The Forerunner]
Can Abortion Be a Positive Experience?

While some women may experience sensations of regret, sadness or guilt after an abortion, the overwhelming responses are relief and happiness. Women who have had one abortion overall have higher self-esteem, greater feelings of worth and capableness, and fewer feelings of failure than do women who have had no abortions. The positive relationship of abortion to well-being may be due in part to the empowering aspect of being able to control one's own fertility.

According to in-depth interviews performed by Dr. Paul Sachdef, professor of social work at Memorial University (Newfoundland, Canada), almost 80% of women felt "relief and satisfaction" soon after the abortion. He also determined that elective abortion was often less traumatic than giving a child up for adoption.

One study indicates that 95 percent of birth mothers reported grief and loss after giving their child up for adoption. Researchers speculate that the psychological risks for adoption are higher for women than those of abortion because they reflect different types of stress (abortion-related stress is often acute, while the stress of adoption may be chronic for women who continue to worry about the fate of their child).

Research studies indicate that emotional problems resulting from abortion are less frequent than those following childbirth. (Postpartum depression is more widespread than this alleged PAS, but no one is suggesting we should all stop having children because of it). Mothers with unwanted births often have lower quality relationships with their children, which in turn can effect the children's development, self-esteem and mental health.

The Bottom Line

Whenever pro-choice advocates or medical experts try to refute PAS, anti-choicers jump to say that they're "blaming the victim" and telling women to "deny their feelings". This is not our intention. Even if we don't believe that PAS exists as an actual syndrome, if you are experiencing feelings of regret or sadness prior to an abortion those feelings are legitimate. By classifying it as a disorder, makes it seem as though there's something wrong with you if you feel a mix of emotions after a big decision. (Maybe it makes you feel better to give it a name, but it's not a mental illness).

It's not unusual for women to experience a range of contradictory emotions after having an abortion, just as it wouldn't be unusual for her to experience these emotions after giving birth, after getting married, after changing jobs, after moving to a new city... To anyone experiencing post-abortion distress, we recommend that you seek counseling in order to deal with these feelings. There appear to be tons of resources out there for women who are having difficulty dealing with a past abortion, however many seemingly well-intentioned organizations have anti-choice biases and judgmental viewpoints that might make you feel even worse.

You might be better off contacting Planned Parenthood and asking them to recommend a post-abortion counselor in your area. In our search for a non-judgmental post-abortion resources, we found Exhale, an after-abortion counseling talkline.
You may experience a range of feelings after an abortion; this is entirely normal. Women often experience feelings such as sadness, happiness, empowerment, anxiety, grief, relief and/or guilt. There is no “right” way to feel. Feelings are different for everyone and they often change over time.
We know your abortion can be hard to talk about and that finding the right person to talk with can be even harder. If you are looking for ideas about how to talk with your friends or family, take care of yourself, get through this experience or find peace, Exhale can help.
:: If you’ve just had an abortion, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally, after the procedure is over. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat complete meals and do things you enjoy like going to the movies, spending time with friends or taking a walk. Calling Exhale can be a part of how you take care of yourself. Be sure to read and follow all the after-care guidelines from your abortion provider.
:: If some time has passed since your abortion, it’s never too late to find a way to express your feelings or talk with someone who listens. Many women have found writing about their experience, whether in a journal or as a letter, a helpful tool for working through their emotions. Calling the Exhale talkline, praying, cooking, making art, adopting a pet or climbing a mountain have been known to work as well. What’s important is that you find something that works for you, and that fits your life, beliefs and needs.
:: If you have been diagnosed, or have self-diagnosed, as having Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome, Exhale understands that having a name for what you’re feeling and experiencing can feel important. Many women find the experience of identifying with this syndrome as positive and affirming. It is also important to know that having feelings about a significant life event doesn’t mean that you have a major psychological condition that requires medical care. For many women, naming and expressing their emotions, and having the space and support to do so, can be more empowering than being identified as having a disorder. Whether or not you think you have PASS, the most important thing is that you get support for what you’re feeling, not what someone else thinks you should be feeling. Exhale trusts you to know what feels right for yourself.
Exhale follows the findings of the American Psychological Association, which has not found a link between feelings that follow an abortion and a psychological condition in need of medical care.
Call Exhale to talk freely about your experience with abortion.

1-866-4 EXHALE
Monday – Friday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Pacific
Saturday – Sunday: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. Pacific
Exhale serves women who have abortions, and their partners, friends and family. They respect the cultural, social and religious beliefs of all our callers. All calls are confidential.

"...the best clue to a woman's mental well-being after an abortion is her state of mind before the pregnancy--in particular her level of self-esteem. In other words, those who found the procedure traumatic were generally troubled long before they showed up at an abortion clinic. ...much of the stress experienced by women who get abortions may stem not from the procedure itself but from the simple fact that the pregnancy is unwanted." [Psychology Today]
Some women may experience sadness or regret after undergoing an elective abortion, however that doesn't mean that they are suffering from a mental illness and it doesn't necessarily mean that the abortion caused those feelings.

There have been no studies that prove a causal relationship between abortion and negative psychological symptoms and no credible evidence to suggest that Post Abortion Syndrome is an actual disorder.

June 19, 2008

Evil Sluts & the International Women's Writing Guild

This past weekend, the Evil Slut Clique went to the International Women's Writing Guild's summer conference at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.
The IWWG, founded in 1976, is a network for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing and open to all regardless of portfolio. As such, it has established a remarkable record of achievement in the publishing world, as well as in circles where lifelong learning and personal transformation are valued for their own sake. The Guild nurtures and supports holistic thinking by recognizing the logic of the heart--the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events and emotions- alongside conventional logic.
In the course of this past quarter century, IWWG has empowered thousands of women to grow personally and to follow their calling, which, inevitably, also leads to changing the world in myriad ways. What was new and in the air when IWWG was born were three movements: The Human Potential Movement, The New Age with the notion of transformation through spiritual practice, and The Women's Movement. The Guild fused these movements under the umbrella of Writing.
The women of the IWWG span several generations and cultures... so we weren't sure what kind of reception a group of girls who call themselves "evil sluts" would get. We were pleasantly surprised. We do so much complaining and ranting on Evil Slutopia, because there is a lot to be outraged about in the world today, that we almost weren't sure how to write an entry that was just so bursting and overflowing with happiness and love. (Wow. Did I really just write "bursting and overflowing with happiness and love". See what I mean!? That is so unlike us).

The weekend had a slightly rocky start due to our Amtrak train being delayed 2 hours or so. We later came to realize that Amtrak is always delayed; next year we will definitely be driving up. We especially enjoyed the fact that no reason was ever given for any of the delays that we (or our fellow conference attendees) experienced...well, unless "we're going to be extra late because of the fact that we were late before" counts as a reason.

The other bonus of making it a road trip next year would be that we'd have more room to bring our own pillows. Like we said, the conference takes place at Skidmore College, which does have a very nice campus, but dorm rooms are still dorms rooms. We were mostly okay with our room, and we didn't actually go to college together so this was our chance to pretend for a weekend. We knew the beds weren't exactly going to be comfortable, but we weren't prepared for the ultrafirm marshmallows masquerading as pillows. Eventually we worked out a system for sleeping diagonally on them, but our necks and shoulders will thank us next year for bringing our own. (Of course, knowing how the ESC rolls, this probably means I'll [Jezebel] be doing all of the driving, but it will be worth it because a. road trip! and b. no marshmallows!)

But even stiff necks and train delays couldn't ruin this wonderful weekend. The slogan of the conference is "Remember the Magic" and it was indeed magical. It would be impossible to write about all the amazing women we met at Skidmore. We could fill pages and pages and pages of just names, let alone descriptions. We hope to put a spotlight on many of our sisters in future blog entries, but for now, here is a very incomplete list of a few of the people we were lucky to spend our weekend with.

We have to start with Hannelore Hahn, because the Guild itself starts with Hannelore Hahn. The Executive Director and Founder of the International Women's Writing Guild, Hannelore is a tiny little woman with a very big essence. There is something very childlike and innocent about Hannelore, yet at the same time she has a wisdom well beyond her years (but we would never dare to ask her age). Hannelore is completely precious and that is meant in the least condescending way possible; she is simply adorable. Some people just give off a good vibe or something. You don't even really have to talk to them much to know that they are special. It's as though you just recognize their energy on some level. Hannelore Hahn is one of those people. We weren't able to sit and chat with her obviously, but she did sit in on a few of the same classes as us and just knowing she was in the room was a good feeling.

Another woman who (unbeknownst to her) I just connect with on some unexplainable level is Jan Phillips. Just walking around the campus and seeing her across the Quad, I knew that we were in the right place; we were where we belonged. Of course Jan Phillips doesn't know this. She runs a brief orientation meeting for first time attendees and although I [Lilith] had gone to the conference once a few years ago, Jezebel was new so I sat in on the meeting again with her as a refresher. I vividly remembered Jan Phillips from last time, even though we barely spoke then either. (We only had a weekend so I had a feeling I would not have a chance to take her class and I was right; next year I finally will).

We actually took one class solely because we got such a good feeling from the instructor Carol Chaput - when she stood up to give a one minute presentation on her course, Image Writing: New Ways of Seeing and Processing Story Ideas. Being both writers and visual artists (well sorta, don't let our comic I Read While He Plays Video Games fool you, sometimes we do produce actual art work) we didn't really need help with non-linear thinking. We just wanted to be in a room with Carol Chaput for an hour. It was well worth it - we loved her course and both produced work that we're proud of.

Our first workshop of the weekend was Investigative Journalism with Cari Scribner. She dropped the phrase "evil slut" quite a few times during the hour and fifteen minute discussion. We were inspired to make an impact by Anya Achtenberg's Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World workshop. Also, being us, we really related to what she had to say about ignoring the people who caution you against being over the top, because over the top is awesome and sometimes necessary.

We found ourselves scribbling away in our notebooks furiously during Giving Our Word: Five Paths to Personal Essay with Marsha McGregor. We went even further with our personal essays at Susan Tiberghien's The Mosaic of Creative Non-Fiction and enjoyed Glenda Baker's Fiction: Short, Shorter, Flash!

Carren Strock's The Smart Writer's Guide: What to Know Before, During and After Writing a Book (what Lilith described from her first year at the Skidmore conference as "hands down the most important workshop ever!") was, much to our delight, jam-packed with even more useful information due to Carren having recently released a second edition of her book Married Women Who Love Women.

We learned so much about the financial aspects of publishing a book from Coloring the Numbers: Your Book Business Plan with Hope Player (Best. Name. Ever!) and learned an even bigger lesson about ourselves: When we told the group about Evil Slutopia, we were quick to explain the name... "It's tongue in cheek... we're taking it back..." She stopped us short, "Stop apologizing for it. It's great!" (Hope Player, we love you!)

Quite possibly our favorite quote of the weekend came from author, Lauren Small, who made us feel a little better about our name when she produced a business card for ScrewIowa.com (an amazing writers website that we suggest you check out).
Lauren: "I'm not sure about this goal you have listed on your postcard"

The ESC: "Oh really?" (We thought we were about to hear a critique of the ESC's mission statement).

Lauren: "Yeah... I don't think 'world domination' is quite big enough".
The last workshop we went to was How I am Promoting My Book: What You Can Learn From My Experience, given by Heather Cariou, author of Sixtyfive Roses. We couldn't have picked anything better to end off with; we spent the bulk of our (also delayed) train ride home brainstorming and planning projects that were inspired by Cariou's discussion.

Honestly, every woman we spent any small amount of time with this weekend (either in a class or just around the campus) had an impact on us, both as writers and women. We tried to cram as much as possible into our limited weekend and were overwhelmingly happy with the courses we chose. We felt a little bit cheated by only staying the weekend (next year: full week!) Of course, we pretty much expected to learn a lot. What we didn't expect was that we would have as much to offer back.

We quickly gained a reputation as "those young girls with a blog" (even though we weren't the youngest participants and we definitely weren't the only bloggers). One of the themes that kept coming up in classes on book planning and promotion was the importance of using the internet for promoting and networking. This proved to be a pretty intimidating thought for some of the women and so it was an opportunity for us to share what we know about blogs, PayPal, myspace and other social networking sites, etc., and also to be encouraging about how easy it all is once you jump into it.

It was kind of cute to hear things like "Oh! I need you...you're young!" or "Myspace...I can ask my granddaughter about that!" or "Google... how do you spell it?" and we were more than happy to help. We were asked by workshop leaders for the 'blogger's perspective' and we were approached by workshop participants for advice. That's part of what we love so much about the IWWG. There is such a vast array of women in the Guild and we can each help each other in our own ways. It really made us feel like we were actual beneficial members of the group; we were really among our peers.

It reminds us of something Jan Phillips said this weekend: "There's somebody out there who needs you. Live your life so they can find you." (We're not sure if she was quoting someone else or just being profound on her own, but she's the one we heard say it, so... yeah). We came to Skidmore to get what we needed; we never imagined that we would be able to give something back as well. Who knew that part of what we needed... was to be needed by someone else. We're actually looking forward to assisting the many women we met with their web issues. And our To-Do list is a mile long now, but we're okay with that.

We've also got another mile long list - the list of awesome women that we met (or just observed) at Skidmore. We're going to write more about many of them - and hopefully even interview a few - over the coming weeks, but for now we just wanted them in one place... (We've already mentioned a few of them earlier in this post, so in addition to browsing the list below, please scroll back up and click on all those links too! You won't be sorry!)

We know we left a lot of people out. Partly because we're still not even done unpacking (so there are likely business cards and fliers still floating around the bottom of our suitcases). For even more IWWG women... Workshop Directors and Trail Mix. We had also wanted to give a "recommended reading" list of IWWG authored books, but that would be a zillion pages, so for now... Guild Online Bookstore and Published Authors List.

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June 18, 2008

California Gay Marriage In Pictures

"In the mid-fifties, lesbian and gay couples certainly didn't talk about getting married. People were far too preoccupied with fear of losing their jobs. . . Back then, it seemed as if marriage was wholly unobtainable in our lifetime." ~Phyllis Lyon (below right), who this week was finally able to legally marry Del Martin, her partner of 55 years

[Images are from Yahoo and SFGate.com]

Congratulations to the happy couples!

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