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
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
, "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 Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.