‘Abortion Recovery’ Month? How About ‘Abortion Wellbeing Month’?

Amie Newman

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's political decision to declare April "Abortion Recovery Month" for the women of Minnesota is unwelcomed by many, to say the least. Now Exhale, a nonprofit promoting well-being after abortion, has declared April "Abortion Wellbeing Month."

As Robin wrote about in her Roundup post this morning, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s political decision to declare April “Abortion Recovery Month” for the women of Minnesota is unwelcomed by many, to say the least. Women, reproductive health and rights advocates and journalists from around the country have a lot to say about how little he must actually understand about the full spectrum of women’s abortion experiences and how much he clearly understands about anti-choice zealotry.

One of the most personal and heartfelt voices in the crowd comes from the anonymous writer who details her personal abortion experience on Salon.com. As Robin quotes in her post:

Now, weeks into my recovery process — I’m still bleeding, cramping, underweight, emotional, grappling with my need for children and a partner with whom to raise them — I see my experience grossly manipulated by Pawlenty, a man who doesn’t, can’t, know how I feel. But it’s always like this, the moralists and proselytizers stealing the microphone because I, and millions of other women, didn’t make the choice they prescribed.

Enter Exhale, the non-profit “pro-voice” organization created by and for women who have had abortions to promote emotional well-being post abortion, Exhale feels it can make the most impact keeping the attention focused on “creating a climate where each woman’s abortion experience is supported, respected and free from stigma.”

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In that vein, Exhale has declared April to be “Abortion Wellbeing Month.” It is important to Exhale, says founder and executive director Aspen Baker, to recognize that what often happens “in discussions about the emotional experiences of abortion” is that “politicians pick and choose the stories that fit their own political beliefs.”

Using words in the proclamation like “aftermath” in relation to women’s post-abortion experiences, it’s not hard to see that Governor Pawlenty is not interested in acknowledging the full range of women’s abortion experiences in order to support women as decision-makers. He is making a political plea.

Still, Baker does say that she agrees with Governor Pawlenty that “many women have been helped by agencies that provide counseling and support after an abortion.” The problem is that deciding that only women who have had a difficult time post-abortion have stories that are valid results in, as Aspen says, “some women feeling seen and heard and leaves others feeling left out and further marginalized by abortion politics.”

Women have different experiences after an abortion, of course. Even women who are entirely sure that they are doing the right thing for themselves, their families, their lives, may still acknowledge that it was a difficult decision. While, for others, the decision is sparkling clear with very little turmoil before, during or afterwards.

Overwhelmingly, however, there is still societal stigma and controversy related to any decisions women make about our bodies whether it’s about sex, childbirth, breastfeeding, or abortion. Express fear of parenting or dissatisfaction after you’ve given birth, even with a wanted, cherished pregnancy? Taboo. Decide to breastfeed in public? Be prepared for judgement. One experience becomes the “should” and the rest become the “shouldn’t.”

The truth is you can feel many things at once, or over a period of time after an abortion, childbirth, a miscarriage, etc. But the more we can provide honest portrayals of the full range of women’s experiences, the better off all women are.

We are all human, making the best decisions we can for ourselves. Allowing women to be the final decision makers over questions about our own bodies and lives means trusting women but it also means acknowledging the full range of women’s experiences: good, bad and in-between. Instead of pitting women’s experiences against each other, as Pawlenty and other anti-choicers do, or, as Baker says, “hold up one experience as the only experience of abortion, we [Exhale] believe in building connections and understanding diverse abortion experiences. We believe that every woman, every story, and every voice should be seen and heard. We believe that every woman can experience wellbeing after an abortion and that we all have a role in creating a social climate that is supportive and respectful of each person’s unique experience with abortion.”

So, this month, instead of acknowledging abortion as an experience that can only be recognized as a sickness or illness from which women need to ‘recover’, it’s immeasurably more helpful to women to talk about abortion without stigma or judgement, to promote emotional strength and wellbeing, so all women are supported in the way they need.

Herewith, we will declare April as ‘Abortion Wellbeing Month.’

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.