Kourtney’s Choice

Sarah Seltzer

In America, abortion is always a choice "someone else" makes. But this is a myth and we need to face reality. Those who choose "the other option" aren't selfish, desperate or "someone else." They are our friends, our neighbors and, often, us.

Kudos to reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian for honestly sharing the
process she went through deciding whether to keep or terminate her unexpected
pregnancy, a revelation that resulted in headlines on all the gossip
blogs. She could have played the happy "always wanted this"
mom card, and lovingly patted her bump. Instead, she admitted that she
had skipped birth control pills and considered abortion. She gave the
world a peek into the messiness of women’s reproductive lives and decisions.
Her openness may go with the reality TV territory, of course, but even in our exposed celebrity-laden
world, a glance into that particular aspect of women’s existence is
a rarity. 

However, it’s also almost needless
to say that the end result of Kardashian’s decision is that she’ll be
keeping the pregnancy. If she had decided on abortion, we would never
have heard about it, because no stories about celebrity abortions–even
though they’re allegedly having them left and right–make it to the
surface. People would not have written a long piece about her choice,
and the story wouldn’t have been picked up by CNN. So while women ostensibly
have freedom of choice, one choice brings attention and a fawning spread
in dozens of magazines, while the other choice means silence. (To be
clear, it appears that Kardashian has certainly made a decision she’s
happy with. Analyzing her story and
the coverage of it isn’t meant to criticize her decision in any
way, but to talk about the way the "choice" process is framed
in women’s lives and reflected the media.)

Here’s what Kardashian told
People in her own words:
 

"I definitely thought
about it long and hard, about if I wanted to keep the baby or not, and
I wasn’t thinking about adoption. I do think every woman should have
the right to do what they want, but I don’t think it’s talked through
enough. I can’t even tell you how many people just say, ‘Oh, get an
abortion.’ Like it’s not a big deal." 

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Funny, but if there are tons
of people out there saying "Oh, get an abortion," in a flip
or casual way, I’ve never seen or heard of them. Instead
of hearing about abortion being a casual choice, lately, I’ve seen more and
more stories like hers.

And that’s because Kardashian’s story fits in to the mainstream narrative
about abortion, popularized in movies like "Knocked up" and
"Juno" and even on TV shows like "90210" and "The
Secret Life of the American Teenager." Stories like these and celebrity
stories like Kardashian’s (and even, to some extent, Bristol Palin’s and
Jamie Lynn Spears’s stories, too) all pay lip service to the notion of
another option
besides carrying the pregnancy to term. The "Knocked
Up" narrative acknowledges the importance of the ultimate choice
belonging to the woman–this, at least, is a victory of the pro-choice
movement. But the flipside of this narrative is that there’s a right
choice and a wrong choice, particularly if you’re a white, middle-class
or otherwise privileged woman. In that case there appears to be no legitimate
reason not to want kids, and if you want kids, no legitimate choice other than to
carry a pregnancy to term.

In this new paradigm a woman becomes pregnant, agonizes over her options,
gets dismissively told to "get rid of it" by a callous pro-choicer
(the mom in "Knocked Up," the lollipop-sucking clinic worker
in "Juno" and Kardashian’s "oh get an abortion"
masses) and ultimately decides to go forward with the pregnancy, earning
smiles and attention. In America, abortion is always a choice that "someone
else" makes–except in this case someone else is a huge percentage of
the population. Kardashian’s story advances an
anti-choice agenda while being ostensibly pro-choice. No wonder Americans
are so
confused
about
where they stand. The acceptable position is to frown on the practice
but begrudgingly insist on its legality in case "someone else"
desperately needs it.

The problem with this popular narrative is that if "the other option"
always gets presented as the bad one, how do we view the women who are
picking it? The answer is that they’re either desperate or selfish.
Here’s what Kardashian said.

For me, all the reasons why I wouldn’t keep the baby were so selfish:
It wasn’t like I was raped, it’s not like I’m 16. I’m 30 years old,
I make my own money, I support myself, I can afford to have a baby.
And I am with someone who I love, and have been with for a long time. 

If Kardashian, with all her financial advantage and a supportive relationship,
had nonetheless genuinely felt that she was not ready to have a child,
why would it have been selfish for her to have an abortion? Having children
is a risky, life-changing high-commitment. It’s not selfish
to defer it or decide not to do it. Compounding the
aspersion cast at those who may choose "the other option,"
it appears that Kardashian may
have come across some suspect information

"I looked online, and
I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories
of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion," she recalls.
"I was reading these things of how many people are traumatized
by it afterwards." 

According to Kardashian, her
doctor encouraged this point of view, saying that she would not regret
having a child, but might regret having an abortion. He was incorrect. Both decisions are liable for regret. Furthermore,
post-abortion syndrome has been debunked but postpartum depression is
very real. Pregnancy brings health risks, both physical and mental,
and a lifetime of commitment and concern about another human being. Asks Anna N at Jezebel,  

But is it really her
doctor’s place to tell her what she will and won’t regret? Many moms
have some occasional regrets about having children, even if they love
these children very much, and to promise Kardashian that motherhood
will be a totally uncomplicated decision seems unrealistic and irresponsible.

Kardashian’s "on again
off again" boyfriend also urged her to keep the pregnancy–and
it’s effected a reconciliation between them. So it seems like even Kardashian’s
doctor and partner are buying in to the "Knocked Up" narrative
wholesale. And that’s a problem.

While Kardashian’s forthrightness should
be praised, we need to start facing the reality. The women who choose
"the other option" aren’t selfish, desperate, or someone else.
As Lynn Paltrow reminded
us
, "Sixty-one
percent of women having abortions are already mothers. By the age of
45, 84% of all women in U.S. will have become pregnant and given birth
and 43% will have had an abortion."  They are our friends, our neighbors,
and often, us. 

The "Knocked Up" narrative isn’t true, but
it dominates the way we talk about abortion. And in order to win more
legal rights, we have to get rid of the stigma that spreads so quickly
it’s even reached reality TV royalty. We have to not only paint abortion
rights as a necessity, but the right to make a choice as a moral good. 

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

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