Commentary Abortion

Heading Toward Menopause, Still Caring about Abortion

On The Issues Magazine

I support abortion rights because I want keep my options safe and legal so I can continue running down my biological clock. All potentially child-bearing persons have the right to chart their own life course, at whatever age.

Originally written by Andrea Plaid for On The Issues Magazine.

I’m not an aberration because I’m a childless, employed, divorced, college-educated Black cisgender woman — regardless of what the promulgated stereotypes under-girding the media stories about women like me say. At this point in my life — I’m in my early 40s –I’m drumming my fingers waiting for my first hot flash. And I still deeply believe in keeping abortion legal.

Even with this profile, statistics about abortion render my realities invisible — which may lead some people to think that I may be an aberration.

When I researched the numbers about middle-aged Black women and abortion, I found very, very little — and I found even less on Black trans men and non-binary people and abortion. At most, I found alarmist and slut-shaming articles about 40-something women in the UK and Australia getting abortions and how, said a Sydney Morning Herald piece, “It was concerning that older women were either underestimating their fertility and pregnancy risk or failing to choose more effective methods of contraception, such as uterine devices.” These articles don’t have the racial breakdown of the older child-bearing people.

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I asked members of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network Facebook page, and one person suggested AARP’s study, Sex, Romance, and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults. Though the 2010 study did a great job breaking down race and gender as far as sexual attitudes of people my age and older, it has nothing about Black women and abortion — how often we obtain them, what are our reasons, whether we seek them at private practices or go to Planned Parenthood. The same person suggested using, but access to those articles requires academic privileges that I simply don’t have as someone outside academia and professional organizations who may offer such things to its members.

When I researched statistics on abortion and 40-something Black cis (non trans) women at reputable sites like Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most apparent fact is that the highest age accounted for is the late 30s. I saw very little mention of the abortion needs and reasons for women over 40 beyond this: “Women over age 35 had lower abortion rates (7.7 abortions per 1000 women aged 35-39; 2.6 per 1000 women over 40).”

The Guttmacher Institute studies — another good source about abortion — rarely mention any numbers about women my age, except for this: “At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.” A more accurate — and interesting — reflection would be stats on the numbers of abortions broken down by age group, like “women from 40-50 have x number of abortions.” Other than that, one would practically have to be a statistician to parse the actual numbers implied in Guttmacher’s study.

Our Bodies, Ourselves For a New Century, the venerable feminist-based health book, says this about middle-aged women and abortion:

“If you are sexually involved with men, remember you can still get pregnant; keep using some form of birth control until you haven’t had a period for one year. Some midlife women consider the chances of pregnancy to be so low that they rely on abortion as a backup. But if you are certain you do not want a child and would not consider abortion, continue to use birth control for two years after your last period.”

A post on explains this through numbers: Biologically speaking, my opportunities to get pregnant each month lessen as I age. My chance goes from 20 percent in my 30s to five percent in my 40s. However, that statistic does not mean that I can have sex without protection, as Our Bodies, Ourselves for a New Century advises.

Caring Goes Beyond The Numbers

Though more information is available about Black women and abortion in general, these numbers rarely reflect the ages of the women seeking the procedure.

  • 67 percent of Black women have unintended pregnancies. (Guttmacher; unfortunately, this statistic does not state if the Black women are non-Latina or not.)
  • 30 percent of non-Latina Black women obtain abortions. ( Guttmacher)
  • When it comes to the numbers, Black women have a higher ratios and rates than white women and other women of color; however, white women make up the largest percentage of women obtaining abortions. (CDC)

So, you may wonder why I still care about abortion when my story isn’t statistically reflected.

Though I’m not in the numbers, I’m in the reasons why some Black women seek the procedure, and why quite a few cis women — in solidarity with trans men, trans women and non-binary people of many races and ethnicities — fight so hard to keep it legal.

My mother did an excellent job of both encouraging me to get my education and discouraging me from having children while I was a teenager. My mom failed to convince me in my 20s and 30s to “have children.” My co-workers failed, too. The rare co-worker nowadays still tries to talk me into it — and yes, even my mom still tries — appealing to some notion of an impending spinsterhood if I don’t essentially create my future caregiver and “someone who’ll love me.” As I had to remind Mom, having children is, essentially, a crap shoot as far as their “loving you” and you “loving them”: how many stories have we heard of people who give birth but who don’t form that “nurturing instinct” with their newborns? How many stories have we heard about children disowning and getting disowned by parents, let alone loving you enough to want to take care of you in your old age? (The resentment and burnout of grown children taking care of elderly parents are real.)

My long-held reason, I tell them all, is that I simply do not like children enough to gestate or adopt and rear one (or two or more). I don’t have the patience to provide that long-term emotional support and don’t wish to share my material resources with a child. This is very much in line with a study cited by the Guttmacher Institute in August, 2011: “The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.”

Now that I’m entering the middle part of my life, a colleague summed up my new viewpoint about children: “She’s not just running down her biological clock. She’s taking the clock and throwing off the Empire State Building.”

So, I support abortion rights because I want keep my options safe and legal so I can continue running down my clock. And, on the real, I support keeping abortion — and other reproductive technologies — legal because I deeply, passionately believe that all potentially child-bearing persons have the right to chart their own life course, whether that means bearing children or not and being able to access those options.

At whatever age.

Andrea Plaid is the Associate Editor for the race-and-pop culture blog Racialicious. Her discussions on race, gender and sex have been featured on AlternetIn These Times and BitchWashington PostChicago Tribune, as well as on GRITtv’s “Chew on This” segment. Her work has been republished, among other online sites, Penthouse,WireTap MagazineNew American Media, and RaceWire

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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