The last month has been particularly brutal for abortion rights activists and women’s health advocates, as state after state has proposed and/or passed various bills that restrict abortion access and undermine abortion care. In response, there has been a re-energized reproductive rights movement, with many across the nation stating that they “Stand With Texas Women” or “Stand With North Carolina Women.” But in this response, abortion rights activists have overlooked and dismissed a very important reality: Not everyone who has an abortion is a woman.

Abortion is so often framed as a women’s issue by both those who advocate for abortion rights and those who seek to dismiss abortion as frivolous. And for abortion rights, a movement that took root in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this makes sense. Prior to a deeper understanding and problematizing of gender and the way that it works, in our social construction, only women had abortions because only women could get pregnant. But in 2013, we should know better, and we need to do better.

At this crucial moment for reproductive freedom and abortion access, the abortion rights movement stands at yet another crossroads: How do we adequately address and include those who have abortions but are not women?

We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions. Trans men have abortions. People who do not identify as women have abortions. They deserve to be represented in our advocacy and activist framework. Honestly, I am guilty of perpetuating that harmful myth, both in my rhetoric and framing. I often frame abortion restrictions as misogynistic attacks meant to control women’s reproductive lives, and that is true. But abortion restrictions also affect the lives of people who aren’t women, and they hinder trans men and gender-non-conforming people and others who were Designated Female at Birth (DFAB) from accessing abortion care, as well. 

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'After Tiller,' a controversial award-winning documentary about the four doctors who openly perform third-trimester abortions despite death threats and the assassination of their mentor, is set to be released this fall.



In a bizarre tirade, a Republican state senator in Missouri lashed out at an Anglican priest over the issue of abortion and gun rights last week.

Missouri State Senator Brian Nieves (R-Washington) had posted a photo of a gun on his Facebook page last Friday, explaining that a constituent “brought some of his personal Arsenal [sic] for me to look at and Drewel [sic] upon.” The photo quickly generated comments, with one woman saying that Nieves was a “white racist redneck” and the priest saying he hoped Nieves would “realize that true patriotism is more than carrying a deadly weapon.”

In response, Nieves accused the two commenters of working for the Riverfront Times, a local publication, and called them stupid.

“There is NO Possible way ya’ll are real people who really believe what you’ve written on my page,” Nieves wrote. “I’m simply not falling for it. You two are obviously just people who are pretending to be that stupid in the hopes of drawing me in to some senseless argument and then try to snatch a quote for the RFT or some other lib-rag. Sorry, I’m on to you, you over played your cards and made your comments far too stupid.”

But Nieves quickly continued the “senseless argument” after the priest said he was “saddened that any elected official would reduce himself/herself to name calling.” Nieves accused liberals of being “bullies” and then questioned whether the priest supported a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. When the priest replied that he supported reproductive rights and opposed the death penalty, Nieves wondered whether liberals like the priest were suffering from a mental illness.

“A person commits a heinous crime, the kind we hear about in the news, and they are not allowed to be executed but an innocent baby who is wrapped in the comfort of his/her mother’s womb – Having been created by God – can be literally ripped apart, viciously murdered, and this ‘Man of God’ supports it?!?!?!” Nieves wrote.

Nieves continued to argue with the priest for another 30 minutes, writing that an abortion to save the life of the mother was “a matter of convenience” and that the priest made him sick.

“I am perhaps too old and tired for this debate this evening,” the priest wrote. “You don’t seem to understand, or wish to understand what I said about education or providing birth control so abortion is no longer necessary. But then again, you couldn’t scream your disgust at me if you did.”

Though Nieves said he was too smart to fall for the alleged plot to “snatch a quote for the RFT,” the Riverfront Times was the first to report his Facebook comments. The online rant was later picked up by The Huffington Post on Monday.

UPDATE: On Monday night, Nieves denied saying that an abortion to save the life of a mother was a matter of convenience.

“I never – NEVER said that an abortion to save a Mother’s life is a matter of convenience! In fact, I never even came close to saying such a thing!” he wrote on his Facebook page.

His full comment from Friday is posted below:

“Chris…. ‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience! Tell me this – Do you even know what a partial birth abortion really is? No, seriously, do you actually know what it is?? If so, explain to me what a partial birth abortion is.”

Tell Clear Channel you’ll #changethechannel unless they reinstate South Wind Women’s Center’s ads!

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked North Dakota’s new abortion law, which bans procedures to end pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks.

The law, the most restrictive in the country, was to go into effect August 1. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction blocking it in response to a lawsuit filed by Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in the state.

The clinic said banning abortions that early, before many women even knew they were pregnant, would bar nearly 90 percent of the abortions it performs.

The clinic argued that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and places the health of women in danger.

"The court finds the plaintiffs have established that they and their patients will be subjected to the threat of irreparable injury in the absence of a preliminary injunction," the judge wrote in his ruling.

If the clinic closes or is forced to stop performing abortions, the closest alternatives are about 250 miles away in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Governor Jack Dalrymple, a Republican in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature, said in March that it was not clear if the law would be constitutional but that money should be provided by the state to defend it.

The law, approved in March, is among a host of restrictions on abortion passed by Republican-led state legislatures this year. A dozen states have approved bans on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but none have approved restrictions as strong as the ones enacted by North Dakota and Arkansas.

In March, Arkansas banned most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge blocked the law in May, at least temporarily.

The GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature is currently attempting to push through stringent abortion restrictions by any means possible. First, they tried attaching them to a totally unrelated anti-Sharia measure. Next, they tacked them onto a bill otherwise related to motorcycle safety. But voters aren’t exactly pleased with those efforts.

According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP), just 34 percent of North Carolinians support the proposed abortion restrictions, which would impose unnecessary regulations on abortion providers and restrict access to medication abortion. Forty seven percent oppose them — and a full 80 percent think it’s “inappropriate” to combine abortion restrictions with unrelated measures on sharia law or motorcycle safety.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) made a campaign promise not to sign any additional abortion restrictions into law, in favor of focusing on economic issues. He threatened to veto the abortion restrictions attached to the anti-Sharia bill, which is what prompted lawmakers to add them to a transportation bill instead. Now, despite his initial promise to avoid reproductive restrictions, McCrory has suggested he might consider signing the motorcycle safety bill with the abortion-related amendments intact.

The governor might want to reconsider that stance after taking a look at his recent approval ratings, however. The PPP poll finds that McCrory’s popularity has taken a tumble. For the first time since taking office, he now has a negative approval rating — just 40 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing, compared to 49 percent who disapprove. And only 68 percent of the people who voted to elect McCrory still think he’s doing a good job.

The dissatisfaction with North Carolina’s current legislative priorities is widespread. For the past several months, thousands of protesters have been rallying against the radically right-wing North Carolina legislature in a series of “Moral Monday” protests. Over 60 pro-choice activists, including the president of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, were recently arrested during one of those protests. PPP finds that North Carolinians support the protesters over the legislature by a 47/41 margin.


Politicians pretend to value life while voting to take away funds for food from struggling families and children. 

While spouting a series of lies, Bill O’Reilly whined recently on Fox News that women in Texas are providing what he considers insufficient reasons for getting an abortion. The exchange between him and Fox’s official fake feminist Kirsten Powers went like this:

Powers shot back: “The current status quo in Texas that these people are fighting for, who are fighting the bill, is to be able to abort your baby up until the third trimester.”

“Yeah!” O’Reilly jabbed. “For any reason! Women’s health! ‘Hey! Look I sprained my hand!’”

“Yeah,” Powers said. “For any reason. For any reason. Yeah.”

To hear O’Reilly and Powers talk, one would think that in order to get a safe, legal abortion under the standards set out by Roe v Wade, one has to go in and provide a “reason” that you “deserve” this abortion, and some kind of authority figure determines if it’s good enough before you get an abortion—their only concern is that women are supposedly not giving good enough reasons. Obviously, these two pundits know better and are just being dishonest with the viewers, but that they are engaging in this rhetoric in the first place speaks to a serious problem in how abortion is discussed in this country.

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As court fights have become increasingly critical in shaping the nation’s abortion laws, here’s a look at 10 of the most important cases pending right now in state and federal court.

1. Wisconsin. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have challenged a law requiring every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital, arguing that the measure would force two of the state’s four abortion clinics to close.In Wisconsin. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the law, which Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed on July 5; the judge will hold a hearing on the case this week.

2. North Dakota. The state’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) garnered national attention in late March when he signed into law a bill restricting abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks. But he has also signed off on bills prohibiting abortion based on sex selection and genetic abnormalities, barring non-surgical abortions and requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging all of these bills, some in state court and some in federal court. The fetal heartbeat bill takes effect on Aug. 1, so there is a chance the federal judge overseeing that challenge would issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent it from taking effect in the state.

3. Virginia. NOVA Women’s Healthcare, the state’s busiest abortion clinic, just closed because its operators said it could not afford to comply with new regulationsrequiring costly upgrades in order to meet strict, hospital-like standards. A separate clinic, the Falls Church Healthcare Center, filed an administrative appeal petition in the Arlington Circuit Court in June challenging the new rules imposed by the Virginia State Board of Health. The Commonwealth has responded, so the case is going forward.

4. Arkansas. The ACLU, the Arkansas ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging a law barring abortions starting 12 weeks after fertilization, which was adopted after the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the law. In May the judge overseeing the casetemporarily blocked the law, which was set to take effect in July.

5. Kansas. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged a sweeping anti-abortion bill. Last month the center got a preliminary injunction blocking two provisions of the measure, ones requiring providers to endorse specific literature on abortion provided to patients and redefining what constitutes a medical emergency for a woman seeking an abortion.

6. Arizona. The ACLU, the NAACP and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum filed suit in May against an Arizona law that bans abortion on the basis of gender and race selection, arguing that it is based on stereotypes about Asian Americans and African Americans.

7. Alabama. The ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Southeast are challenging a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The judge in that caseissued a temporary restraining order late last month against the measure, just as a federal judge had blocked a 2012 Mississippi law challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights that requires any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.

8. TexasPlanned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Saturday that her group was “evaluating litigation options” regarding the just-passed Texas abortion bill, which would not only bar abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization but would impose an admitting privileges requirement and other operating requirements for abortion rules. Gov. Rick Perry (R) has pledged to sign the bill, but has not done so yet.

9. Oklahoma. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged both a law restricting non-surgical abortions and one requiring an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion. In both cases, the state supreme court has permanently blocked them. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider both cases, though it sent back a few questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the suit involving medication abortions.

10. North Carolina. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged a 2011 measure requiring abortion providers to show an ultrasound image to a pregnant woman, describe the features of the fetus and offer her a chance to listen to its heartbeat. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case in October 2011, and the case is still pending. Both the House and Senate in North Carolina have both recently passed more sweeping anti-abortion bills, and the governor has said he would sign the House version of that legislation. If signed, that bill could spark its own legal challenge.

On August 13, 2010, an 18-year-old New Jersey resident arrived in a clinic in Elkton, Maryland, to undergo a surgical abortion. She was 21-and-a-half weeks pregnant, and had driven just over an hour from a clinic in Voorhees, New Jersey, where the day before, Dr. Steven C. Brigham had initiated the procedure.

Just 15 minutes into the surgery in Maryland, the patient suffered major injuries. Her uterus was ruptured, and her bowel had been perforated and was protruding into her vagina.

Instead of immediately calling 911 for emergency assistance, her doctors—Brigham and his associate, Nicola I. Riley—waited nearly two hours, according to findings from the Maryland State Board of Physicians. They then dressed the patient, who was still sedated and slumped over, and lifted her into a wheelchair. They rolled her outside, put her in a car, and with Brigham at the wheel, took her to a nearby hospital. Her injuries were so severe that hospital staff had her airlifted to Johns Hopkins Health Center for emergency treatment.

The patient survived, and as was reported Thursday morning in the New York Times, her story now forms a key part of the evidence that is being used in an administrative proceeding brought by New Jersey’s attorney general to have Brigham’s medical license permanently suspended or revoked.

However, what has not yet been reported is the extent to which legitimate providers in the states where Brigham practiced went to warn state officials of the threat Brigham posed to the health of the women he served.

In numerous complaints, emails and phone calls over a period of more than two decades, legitimate abortion providers from New Jersey and neighboring states alerted authorities to Brigham’s dangerous conduct, furnishing warnings they say went largely unheeded. Doctors provided copies of many of these complaints, as well as extensive logs of their calls, to RH Reality Check.

An investigation by RH Reality Check shows that New Jersey officials responsible for overseeing healthcare in that state could have prevented injuries to this and subsequent patients, had they acted on warnings about Brigham that predicted this exact scenario.

“If they had listened right in the beginning and taken appropriate action, I think these harms would have been prevented,” Jen Boulanger, a clinic administrator who has spent years amassing complaints about Brigham and his associates, told RH Reality Check. “I think state agencies were afraid of raising eyebrows about abortion, but they just should have handled it like they do any other field of medicine.”

A spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which has ultimate oversight of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, said the office could not comment on Brigham, because of the ongoing dispute over his medical license.

Attempts to reach Brigham, as well as attorneys listed as his representatives on official documents, were unsuccessful.

Brigham has now had his medical license suspended or revoked in up to six states, but public records show that he remains at the helm of an abortion chain called American Women’s Services, which is based in New Jersey, and owns or is affiliated with 15 clinics in four states. There is no requirement that the owner of a medical facility actually possess a medical license, state officials said.

The issue of abortion has once again leapt to the forefront of state and national politics. Already this year, dozens of anti-choice laws have been proposed or have passed at the state level, and a 20-week abortion ban recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Anti-choice advocates, including activists, and state and federal politicians, have capitalized on the case of another rogue provider—Kermit B. Gosnell—to falsely claim that he represented the norm in abortion care.

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