“Law and Order’s” Anti-Choice Propaganda

Kate Harding

Law and Order failed to balance the most egregious anti-choice propaganda with anything resembling the reality of people who choose late abortion or providers who endure constant threats to honor women's personal medical decisions.

This article originally appeared at Salon.com, and is reprinted with thanks to Kate Harding and Salon.

Friday night’s "Law & Order," the abortion debate was represented
by two separate, yet equally important, groups: The anti-choicers, who
believe fetuses’ rights trump women’s, and the pseudo-pro-choicers, who
are conveniently persuaded to agree with them by the end of the episode.

That sound? It’s my head exploding.

the usual "This story is fiction, any resemblance, blah blah blah"
disclaimer, the episode was blatantly "ripped from the headlines" about
Dr. George Tiller’s assassination
by an anti-choice activist in May. Our fictional victim, Dr. Benning,
is a late-term abortion provider who’s already survived one attempt on
his life and is shot to death at his church, just as Dr. Tiller was.
But in an episode titled "Dignity," Tiller’s memory, remaining
late-term abortion providers, and women who choose to terminate
pregnancies are afforded none. The writers made a weak pretense of
"balance" by having two of the series regulars — Detective Lupo and
Assistant D.A. Rubirosa — espouse pro-choice views, but both are
ultimately shamed into thinking they just might be wrong. See how

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After Lupo’s partner, Detective Bernard,
goes around asking questions that underscore anti-choice propaganda
(e.g., late-term abortion providers are indiscriminate baby killers who
aren’t too fussy about staying within the law; women choose abortion
because the irresponsible men they stupidly spread their legs for won’t
step up and offer to help), Lupo calls him out, mentioning that perhaps
a murder investigation might not be the most appropriate context for
arguing with strangers about abortion. And here we learn the moral of
this episode: The question of whether it’s morally correct to kill a
living human being just for doing his job actually cannot be
separated from the question of whether it’s morally correct to
terminate a pregnancy! This message will be delivered repeatedly
throughout the episode, via a series of painful blows to the head the "edgy" "dialogue" representing "both sides" of the issue. 

Sample exchange: 

Lupo: If you think forcing an 11-year-old rape victim to give birth is OK, then you and I got nothing to talk about. 

Bernard: You got it backwards, man. The horrible thing is the rape, not the bringing of a life into the world!

(according to the writers): Bernard. Seriously. Rape is bad and all,
but an 11-year-old child enduring pregnancy and life-threatening labor
to give birth to her own sibling is totally cause for celebration.

Lupo, to his credit, is unconvinced — until Bernard hauls out the big guns. His mother didn’t want to have him!
He was born two months premature, because she threw herself down a
flight of stairs in hopes of ending the pregnancy. There is no mention
of what drove his (poor, single) mother to such a desperate act — no
money for an abortion? Was Bernard born before Roe v. Wade? — or who
paid for the medical care such a premature baby requires, or how lucky
he was to grow up with no apparent complications, or how the hell his
mother got by in the years between her risking her own life because she
felt so ill-equipped to raise a child and his becoming a productive,
upstanding citizen. He lived, ergo, happy ending!

Lupo hangs his head in shame, imagining a world without Bernard. And the episode’s just getting started.

Over the course of the investigation and trial, we will learn the following:

As long as a man offers to "get three jobs" to pay for round-the-clock
healthcare, there is no reason on earth why a woman in her right mind
would consider terminating a pregnancy just because the fetus has been
diagnosed with a rare, devastating, potentially fatal illness.

The tide has turned! The majority of Americans are pro-life now! This
news comes from Executive A.D.A. Cutter (who, incidentally, believes
"an unborn child is a life and a soul.") Here are a few points
Rubirosa, representing the pro-choice viewpoint in this scene, might have made in response:
1) And yet abortion remains legal in New York, whereas murdering
doctors in church is not; 2) That’s based on a Gallup poll in which 51
percent of those surveyed self-identified as "pro-life," yet only 22
percent believed abortion should be illegal in all circumstances; 3)
What do you expect after 30 years of rhetoric and laws designed, as
Frances Kissling put it, "by anti-abortion advocates eager to play up
the public distrust of women, teens and poor people"? Here’s what
Rubirosa actually says in response: "Most Americans don’t live in New
York. I doubt we’ll draw an anti-choice jury here." Because everyone
knows that all 8 million people in New York City are godless liberals,
LOL! And that is so totally what a committed pro-choice woman would
point out!

— Big boss (and "L&O" moral center)
Jack McCoy’s "daughter was pro-choice until she taped a sonogram of
[his] grandchild-to-be on her refrigerator." Here is one salient point
Rubirosa, still representing the pro-choice viewpoint in this scene, might have made in response:
That’s nice, but about 60 percent of women who have abortions are
already mothers, so it turns out even having hard evidence that fetuses
sometimes turn into real, live babies doesn’t make every pregnancy a
wanted one! Here’s what Rubirosa actually does in response: Look

— Dr. Benning once (or was it only
once?) botched a late-term abortion, causing the woman to go into labor
and deliver a live baby. So, as any good abortion provider would, he
asked the accidental mother if he should "finish the job" and then
stabbed the live baby in the head with a pair of scissors. We learn
this from the nurse who attended the homicide, then subsequently left
the clinic and went to work in a neo-natal unit at a hospital,
symbolically converted to the pro-life cause. No one representing the
New York criminal justice system ever thinks to ask this nurse why she
didn’t, you know, report the murder she witnessed. The
important thing, obviously, is that the experience changed her heart.
(Also, may we remind you that this story is fiction, any resemblance,
blah blah blah? Because this is totally not meant to
viciously assault the memory of Dr. Tiller or confirm anti-choicers’
deranged fantasies about him or anything. The disclaimer was right there, people!)

— Speaking of which, when Dr. Hern Carhart
Something or Other, one of the only remaining late-term abortion
providers in totally fictional America, takes the stand, we get about
30 seconds on the reality of late-term abortion — only to set up the
big question from the killer’s lawyer: Be honest, doc, would you
perform an illegal abortion? The doctor loses it: "Even if the politicians bow to the hypocrites and fools, it won’t stop us!"
Then he twirls his mustache, leaps over the witness stand, and runs out
of the courtroom screaming, "You’ll never stop us! Not until all of
your precious babies are dead!" OK, maybe not all of that happened — my eyes were so sprained from rolling by that point, I couldn’t see clearly — but enough of it did.

It’s wrong to kill doctors and stuff, but the good news is, if an
abortion provider is murdered the day before a woman is scheduled to
have an abortion because the fetus was diagnosed with a rare and
potentially devastating illness, and you live in a country where there
are almost no late-term abortion providers to begin with? That baby
will get itself born and be so damned cute everyone will be
thrilled and see no point in even thinking about how ill he is, how
young he might die, how much care he’ll need, how that care will be
paid for, how his single mother will cope with being his constant
caregiver, how she’ll earn an income, or how her choice about her own
body and life was made irrelevant by a homicidal zealot. JUST LOOK AT
THE FACE! Oh, and if you’re a woman whose fetus is diagnosed with a
fatal disease and you don’t choose to terminate the pregancy?
Your baby will live for 21 hours and die painlessly in your arms, after
which you can mourn her death and "feel clean." Because that’s exactly
how it works when you don’t choose a dirty abortion: The child never
suffers, her life ends peacefully in less than a day, and everyone goes
home grieving but changed for the better. It is just that simple.

for how none of it is anywhere near as simple as this episode makes it
out to be. Late-term abortion providers are not murderers by every
possible definition, removing any doubt about the morality of their
work. They do not operate outside the law or announce in court that
they believe they’re above it. Women forced to give birth do not just
magically find the will and resources to care for a child — in many
cases, another child — no matter how sweet a baby’s face is.
Lifelong pro-choicers are not often hit with the epiphany that golly,
fetuses can turn into babies, after which they can no longer
be sure where "[their] privacy ends and another being’s dignity begins"
— but you can bet that’s what happened to Rubirosa, just like McCoy’s
daughter. Babies born two months prematurely to poor women of color who
tried desperately to end their pregnancies do not automatically grow up
to be New York’s finest, and never you mind the in-between stuff. An
11-year-0ld rape victim’s pregnancy is not some unexpected yet joyful
miracle. And a woman who gets a terrible fetal diagnosis late in a
wanted pregnancy will not clearly be better off, emotionally,
physically or otherwise, if she gives birth.

But hey,
this story is fiction, after all. The writers had no obligation to
balance out the most egregious anti-choice propaganda with anything
resembling the reality of people who choose late-term abortion,
doctors who endure constant threats on their life to keep offering it,
or doctors who are murdered in cold blood because they dared to trust
women’s personal medical decisions. If you’re interested, though: These are their stories.

News Law and Policy

Texas Lawmaker’s ‘Coerced Abortion’ Campaign ‘Wildly Divorced From Reality’

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice groups and lawmakers in Texas are charging that coerced abortion has reached epidemic levels, citing bogus research published by researchers who oppose legal abortion care.

A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.

White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy. 

“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.

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White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.

Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.

“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”

White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.

During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.

There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.

‘Extremely common but hidden’

“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”

Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.

“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said. 

There were 54,902 abortions in Texas in 2014, according to recently released statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The state does not collect data on the reasons people seek abortion care. 

White and Parker referenced an oft cited study on coerced abortion pushed by the anti-choice movement.

“According to one published study, sixty-four percent of American women who had abortions felt forced or unduly pressured by someone else to have an unwanted abortion,” White said in a statement.

This statistic is found in a 2004 study about abortion and traumatic stress that was co-authored by David Reardon, Vincent Rue, and Priscilla Coleman, all of whom are among the handful of doctors and scientists whose research is often promoted by anti-choice activists.

The study was cited in a report by the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, an anti-choice organization founded by Reardon. 

Other research suggests far fewer pregnant people are coerced into having an abortion.

Less than 2 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 2004 reported that a partner or parent wanting them to abort was the most important reason they sought the abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.

That same report found that 24 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 14 percent surveyed in 2004 listed “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” as one of the reasons that “contributed to their decision to have an abortion.” Eight percent in 1987 and 6 percent in 2004 listed “parents want me to have an abortion” as a contributing factor.

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.

“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.  

White sponsored or co-sponsored dozens of bills during the 2015 legislative session, including several anti-choice bills. The bills she sponsored included proposals to increase requirements for abortion clinics, restrict minors’ access to abortion care, and ban health insurance coverage of abortion services.

White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.

The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.

State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’

White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”

There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.

“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”

A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.

Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.

‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’

TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”

One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”

The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.

“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”

“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.

Among the other resources that TJF provides is a document produced by Life Dynamics, a prominent anti-choice organization based in Denton, Texas.

Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”

Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.

Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.

“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.

Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.

“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”

“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.