"Abortion Hurts Women" Tactic Fails in Wyoming
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Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 02:17:42 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn 1869, the  20-member Territorial Legislature of Wyoming issued this revolutionary statement: "That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote." The women of that territory were the first in the United States to gain a voice in their own destiny.

And in the Wyoming Legislature of 2007 -- despite the anti-choice feminism insisting that pregnancy renders a woman mentally incompetent -- a woman's voice still counts for something.

Last week, two women legislators from opposite sides of the aisle united to help defeat Rep. Bob Brechtel's "Woman's Right to Know" bill, one of many assaults upon reproductive freedom already introduced in statehouses across the country. This bill attempted to impose upon the women of Wyoming the state-directed "counseling" and waiting periods that already hinder women's access to abortion care in a majority of states [pdf link].

Given that national trend, some expected the bill to pass with little real opposition. But that was before the women of the Wyoming House stood up to be counted.

The Casper Star Tribune reports that, by a vote of 32-28, the House killed Brechtel's bill on its first reading.

Representatives Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) and Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne) showed the courage of their foremothers when Brechtel's bill reached the floor of the chamber.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, said she considered having an abortion 20 years ago.

"Let's just say that the situation was not good," Wallis said. "I had a marriage that was going down in flames, and I had to face just this situation that we're talking about."

Although Wallis said she decided against having an abortion, she said she did contact clinics in Wyoming and elsewhere for information about the procedure. She said all the clinics provided her with the type of medical information that the House bill would have required women to receive.

"The idea that women today going for a very safe medical procedure would not have the same informed consent that you have to go through to have a hangnail operated on is just not something -- I don't have the words to articulate how that makes me feel," Wallis said.

And noting that the bill would require women to look at pictures of fetuses at different stages of development, Wallis said, "The only possible reason I can think of to force a woman to look at that at that point is intimidation."

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Rep. Throne defended the right of physicians to practice medicine without Wyoming Right to Life barging into their consulting rooms. She already had declared the bill to be a "solution that doesn't have a problem," citing testimony from a physician with the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center who said only seven abortions had been performed in Wyoming in 2003. She further remarked,"We should deal with the real issues affecting the women of this state when they're pregnant like ensuring adequate health care, ensuring adequate prenatal care."

"We are voting on whether the Wyoming Legislature has the right to tell doctors how to practice medicine, and in my mind, the answer to that is no," Throne said.

Throne said the obstetricians who helped bring her three babies into the world are united against the bill. And she noted that the Wyoming Medical Society, an advocacy organization for doctors in the state, had also come out against it.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSteven Ertelt (left) is president of Right to Life of Wyoming, and had the signal honor of initially presenting Brechtel's bill before a House Committee. After the bill's defeat, he issued the following statement: "Though doctors and physicians in our state do a great job of informing patients about risks when it comes to other medical procedures, abortion is the lone procedure where many women are left in the dark. Today's vote tells the women of Wyoming, 'The state legislature doesn't think you should know about abortion's dangers or other options.'"

It seems unusual that Ertelt, also proprietor of LifeNews -- an anti-choice propaganda organ as passionate as it is unreliable -- should have presented a state legislator's bill to a house committee in the first place. That irregular scenario becomes more understandable when one learns that Brechtel holds a seat on the Board of Directors of Right to Life Wyoming. However, that information also casts more than a little suspicion on Brechtel's repeated insistence that his bill was never intended to interfere with a woman's right to have an abortion.

The rest of what Brechtel had to say is just as suspect.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe bill would require doctors who perform abortions to give women "medically accurate information" about the risks of abortion, including what it states is the "increased risks of breast cancer."
The bill specifies that the Health Department materials should state that agencies exist that are willing to help women carry pregnancies to term. The bill would require the state materials to proclaim: "The state of Wyoming strongly urges you to contact one or more of these agencies before making a final decision about your abortion."

The Wyoming Department of Family Services has indirectly funded "crisis pregnancy" centers that have a strong religious orientation and try to steer women away from abortion.

Brechtel's bill would also require doctors to tell their patients about the anatomical characteristics of their "unborn child" at the time the abortion is to be performed.

"Some of the proponents of this are women who really feel they've been victimized by the abortion industry," Brechtel said. "This is not intended to take a way a woman's right to choose."

Brechtel protests just a little too much and too often. And the highly organized troupe of "victimized" women who travel the statehouse circuit, crisscrossing the country to testify for bills like this one, far outnumber the women who have abortions in Wyoming in an entire year. Known as Operation Outcry, the group is endorsed by all the usual suspects: Focus on the Family, D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, Richard Land, Fr. Frank Pavone, David Reardon of the Elliott Institute, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association and Carol Everett of the Heidi Group.

But what about the insistence of "feminists" such as South Dakota activist Leslee Unruh and the well-traveled Operation Outcry organization that women sustain emotional and spiritual damage through the experience of abortion? After all, those claims not only fueled last year's ban in South Dakota, but have supplied the ostensible basis for almost every anti-abortion bill that has been introduced since.

The American Psychological Association does not recognize the existence of "Post-Abortion Syndrome," but anti-choice organizations insist that untold numbers of women suffer its effects. Last week Marcy Bloom, writing at RH Reality Check, examined the real issues behind the simplistic propaganda slogan "abortion hurts women."

[Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Ms. Bloom and the physicians and others whom she quotes are my friends and colleagues. I can fully endorse what they say about this issue because their experiences so precisely parallel my own.]

I worked in abortion care for 34 years and have deep, enduring compassion for women's complex struggles, pain, and conflicts. From my years of experience, I know that the overwhelming number of women who have legal abortions experience relief, adjust well, and do not encounter notable emotional, spiritual, or psychological problems. If they did, I would certainly know--as would everyone else involved in the profession of reproductive health care and abortion medicine.
The major proponent of the "post-abortion syndrome" movement ... is David Reardon of the Elliott Institute. ... Reardon describes his strategy to create a new anti-choice movement as one that appears pro-woman and moves away from the focus on the fetus. "The whole dynamic of the abortion debate can rapidly change with this potential of post-abortion healing...we must educate the public about how abortion hurts women...stealth healers need to offer mercy and forgiveness to `post-aborted women' and then use them as compelling advocates for the unborn."
As William W. West, Jr., MD, an abortion provider and psychiatrist in Texas passionately expresses in an unpublished paper, "...Some women terminating an unwanted pregnancy may feel sadness and a sense of loss. It appears, however, that the overall negative social and political climate surrounding abortion has more to do with creating the psychological difficulties some women face than the abortions themselves. A lack of social support for an unplanned pregnancy, misleading anti-choice messages that are designed to inflict fear, guilt, and shame, and anti-choice groups that harass and intimidate woman at clinics have more to do with the experience of emotional distress than the actual abortion."

This week, Ms. Bloom discusses what women really want to talk about when they speak with a counselor after having an abortion.

When appropriate--if the woman raised the themes of faith--we would discuss religion and God. I referred to God as not punishing, but loving, and told them that he/she understands what we need to do to survive, live, and care for the others in our lives. I believe God grasps the profundity of our decisions and acknowledges abortion as a moral and loving choice.

Always, the women who wanted to talk about God were surprised by the discussion of God as loving and understanding in the context of their abortion choices. They were accustomed to any talk of God and abortion to be one referencing sin, hell, evil, and murder. Our post-abortion session discussing a kind and supportive God as part of the healing process was a new approach for those women who asked for this direction. It was always a focus on the choice of abortion as moral, compassionate, and loving, and about reclaiming trust, self-love, and healing to accept and reaffirm their decision. The women were always surprised by our validation and honor for their choices.
William F. Harrison, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist who provides abortions in Arkansas, writes: "In my opinion, `post abortion syndrome' is real...but only...to those counselors with a strong fundamentalist religious commitment who also claim that they are `pro-life' in their politics. Why are they seeing this syndrome while the vast majority of mainstream counselors are not?"

That's a disturbing question, one with an even more disturbing answer.

Ah, yes...the anti-choice tricksters, who refuse to really look at the complexity of women's lives, want to blame all of society's conflicts and pain on abortion, and, of course, ultimately, criminalize abortion.
 Lisa Littman, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and preventive medicine resident at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, observes: "I'm astounded that anti-choice people who claim to care about women's emotional health and safety think that illegal, unsafe abortion and treating women like criminals would be better for their emotional and physical health than legal, safe abortion with legitimate support services."

That is the core. Legal abortion saves women's lives. That is what we must preserve in our country. Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing--the anti-choice trickster, the manipulator, who stigmatizes abortion and strives to keep women trapped in their grief as a political weapon. They claim to care about women, but their movement and ever evolving tactics demonstrate otherwise. Their actions would ultimately cause us to suffer and even die.

Bob Brechtel posed this question on the floor of the Wyoming House: "Do we as a body see a value in having a tool in place by which we as a body can help women make good decisions about a very important and very private issue that may come up in their lives?"

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Faced with the prospect of having their very important and very private issues intruded upon by a "tool" created by the like of Steve Ertelt and Bob Brechtel, the answer of two strong Wyoming women, regardless of their political affiliations, was a resounding "NO!"

[Closing image © National Library of Australia 1995-2004, use permitted with attribution]

[Title image: Mrs. Smith of Glenrock, Wyoming poses with bobcat, circa 1890, Wyoming State Archives. Use permitted for informational and educational purposes.]

that Wyoming's rejection of David Reardon's plan for "stealth healers" to needlessly aggravate and perpetuate women's emotional distress begins a trend in the other direction.

Reardon has gotten away with far too much deception for far too long -- beginning with his so-called credentials.

by moiv on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 03:06:28 AM EST

At first glance I thought that woman was holding up a crocodile she'd shot, but it's clear she could have made short work of the likes of  Doug Philips and the Vision Forums' revisionist views on the role of women that you've recently written about in "A beautiful girlhood Christmas" :

The Vision Forum is pleased to offer our Beautiful Girlhood Collection of dolls ... Liberty ("Freedom in Christ"); Evangeline ("Proclaimer of Good News"); Abigail ("A Father's Joy"); and Fidelia ("Faithful One").

Liberty, Evangeline, Abigail and Fidelia aren't just any dolls, but training tools for little girls on the path to beautiful womanhood, as the time comes to fulfill their mandated role as Titus 2 women living by the godly principles of biblical patriarchy.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 06:47:17 AM EST
Can I throw up now?


(retired female locomotive engineer: childless by choice)

by Quotefiend on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 12:38:23 PM EST

Vision Forum probably could sell you an authentic Victorian reproduction barf bag, something appropriately feminine in pink gingham, maybe with a sweet little eyelet ruffle.

Sickening, ain't it?

by moiv on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 10:08:15 PM EST

What is that dead animal in your picture - a mountain lion ? A wolf ?

In any case we'd better alert Doug Phillips so he can fire up his time machine and go back about a hundred years to inform the woman in your photo that she is setting a very bad example that could lead countless women astray and contribute to the decline of civilized Christianity ; ladies most certainly do not shoot large predatory mammals, even to defend their farm livestock, nor would any proper lady ever consider being photographed in such an unbecoming display, brandishing a large dead animal as a hunting trophy ! Not to mention, is that woman even wearing a corset ? I think not, and Phillips would no doubt put her straight on that count.

If his time machine is in the shop for repairs, Phillips might opt to notify the good women of LAHA ( Ladies Against Historical Amazonianism ) so they could airbrush that appalling photo and safeguard any impressionable young ladies who might otherwise be lured into dangerous confusion about proper Biblical sexual roles ; the dead animal could be blended gracefully into the woman's skirt, the rifle artfully changed into a freshly picked bunch of wildflowers.

Mr. Phillips would also, no doubt, disabuse us of the silly notion that proper ladies would ever consider disporting themselves in crude hunting garb or trouble themselves with such matters excessively practical and best left to males of the species who -  in contrast with the mere demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and the rearing of children - are properly equipped with musculature and instincts suited for such manly and physically demanding tasks as grappling with wild animals or at least pulling the triggers of hunting rifles. Indeed, Phillips might ask, is that figure in the picture a woman at all, or could it be a sexually confused, cross dressing man who never properly bonded emotionally with his father ?  

Regardless, Mr. Phillips would most certainly put this culturally decadent, possibly satanic "female hunting" idea to rest by informing us that proper ladies take great care to never be caught up in such tasteless and un-ladylike enterprises as life-or-death struggles for survival that might require them to resort to dispatching wild animals with firearms because such amazonian exploits can lead to calluses, overly muscled forearms, excessive perspiration, and confusion over God's proper plan for the sexes and, indeed, the very notion of "female hunting" debases ladies everywhere ! Real ladies, eschewing such physical exertions, will politely ask their servants to dispatch such nuisances - marauding lions or wolves, or heathen savages for that matter - on their behalf, to retire to parlors for tea and scones and then proceed to their pianos to practice Chopin etudes and voice lessons whilst dreaming of husbands to be and of long, maximally ladylike lives of bountiful, Biblically mandated childbearing.

dear readers - lest there be any confusion over the matter, my comment, above is intended as satire.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 08:51:51 AM EST

circa 1890, displaying a bobcat.

I'll bet that given half a chance and decent windage, she could have "displayed" deserving bipedal varmints as well. And would have done so with dispatch.

by moiv on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:18:13 PM EST

There's no good way to automate sending a postcard w/that picture to the would-be theocrat of one's choice.

The title, in big block lettering, on the picture might read :


by Bruce Wilson on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 09:50:28 PM EST

Did you say there were SEVEN abortions in Wyoming in 2003? And the legislature is wasting its time on this?  Do you get the feeling sometimes that abortion is just one giant sideshow put up to take attention away from dealing with important concerns like job loss and bank credit ripoffs and better health care and decent education and an unwanted war?  Seven?

I was really glad to see the articles by Marcy Bloom on RH Reality Check, giving a good solid discussion of the made-up post-abortion syndrome -- not just because she referred to my article in Ms. on the topic, but because she so ably dismantled that misleading story in the New York Times Magazine.  Thanks for directing us to RH.

Great post.

by cyncooper on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 01:10:08 AM EST

Marcy's pieces are the best I've ever read on the subject, because she addresses the issue of how a woman's religious beliefs color her feelings about abortion -- whether her own or someone else's.

As providers of abortion care, this is a conversation we have with women every day. The persistent claim of the anti-choice Christian right that we, as pro-choice people and as providers, seek to avoid this discussion is one more among their many delusions. It would be impossible to ignore a woman's feelings about her faith, even if we wished to do so.  

That soul-deep conversation is an essential part of treating the whole woman, and we welcome it. In fact, we are honored to be trusted with it.

by moiv on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 10:04:01 PM EST

Although it's true that only seven were reported as occurring in Wyoming in 2003, the CDC says that 827 women who were residents of Wyoming had abortions that year.

It's so difficult to find a provider in Wyoming that most women travel out of state, often to Utah or Colorado

by moiv on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 10:24:37 PM EST

Thanks for the clarification.  Of course, 823 is a pretty small number, too, compared to the annual number of abortions in the U.S.

by cyncooper on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 12:35:14 AM EST
Here in Texas, for example, with some of the worst TRAP laws in the country, there still are somewhere from 75,000-80,000 a year.

But there are also only about 800-900 a year in South Dakota, where even that small number has provoked a firestorm of action.

by moiv on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 12:45:21 AM EST

Yes, and in South Dakota, one newspaper columnist noted that if the amount spent on the abortion ban campaigns last year in the state (pro and con - $4 million upwards) had been offered to every woman who had an abortion, each could have had $5,000 -- which he thought might be more able to convince a woman that she could afford a child.  Well, that's obviously not the sole reason a woman might seek an abortion, but it makes the point about the absurd waste of resources in pushing anti-abortion restrictions.

One corrections -- on my previous post, I meant "827" not "823."  

by cyncooper on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 02:22:05 PM EST

where we're wasting $2.5 million a year in state funds to support CPCs. So far, the agency that got that contract has blown a ton of money on nothing.

Texas Pregnancy Care Network
Fiscal Year 2006, partial (March 16-Aug. 31)
  • State money received: $638,000

  • State money spent (operations and services): $212,000

  • Funds remaining (no accounting available): $426,000

  • Funds allocated for direct client services: $131,000

  • Funds reported spent on direct client services: $50.98

  • Number of pregnant clients served: 11

  • Estimated cost per client: $58,000

Fiscal Year 2007, partial (Sept. 1-Dec. 31)

  • State money received: $1.1 million

  • State money anticipated (total, FY 07): $2.5 million

by moiv on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 10:58:13 PM EST

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