Abortion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Gloria Steinem. Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill

Gloria Steinem. Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill

Anyone who has followed the dramatic reversal of public opinion about same-sex marriage in particular and LGBTQ issues in general knows that a big part of that shift has been due to people coming out of the closet. Whadayaknow — these folks, nearly 2 percent of the U.S. population, were our sons, our daughters, our co-workers, our friends and acquaintances, often people we already loved, liked, or respected. It became a lot harder to hold on to old prejudices, didn’t it?

But coming out was not an option for those serving in the military. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the U.S. military’s 1994 policy compromise to allow gays and lesbians to serve, so long as they stayed in the closet. When repealed in 2011, what adverse effects did our armed forces experience? A study one year later showed that military life went on as usual, national security was not compromised, and a new understanding and acceptance among soldiers and sailors ensued. The media became blissfully disinterested in the non-story.


When it comes to abortion, we’re not asking, and we’re not telling.


Noodling on this “familiarity breeds understanding” idea, I began thinking that the same might be true if those of us who have had abortions came out of the closet, too. Turns out, this idea is not my own brilliant insight, but has been around for years and is gaining traction: In 2005, Jennifer Baumgardner produced a film; in 2011, Congresswoman Jackie Speier told her story on the floor of the House of Representatives; the “1 in 3” website has published hundreds of personal abortion stories since 2011; Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis revealed her previous abortions in her 2014 autobiography; #ShoutYourAbortion appeared on Twitter in September 2015.

Mostly, though, we still live in the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” abortion world — yes, we know abortion happens for some women out there somewhere, but we avoid divulging the details of this reality of human reproductive life. Is abortion really too unpleasant or unfortunate or shameful or embarrassing to speak of in public? If 1 in 3 women (33 percent!) has had or will have an abortion, consider how many of your lifetime circle of female acquaintances would have had an abortion. Let’s do the math: Continue reading

A Conversation With Faye Wattleton: Part 2, Belief and Mission

Ms. Wattleton speaks out against George H.W. Bush’s gag rule, which banned any mention of abortion in federally funded family-planning programs.

Faye Wattleton was president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. She was generous enough to speak to me on January 7, 2013, and throughout the month of February we’ll be sharing her experiences and perspectives in observance of Black History Month. In this second installment, we discuss her religious beliefs and their influence on her work, which came up often in our conversation.

Religion was a strong influence during Faye Wattleton’s childhood and remains so in her adult life. She grew up in a fundamentalist family, and that religion, along with her experiences as a nurse, brought her to a belief in individual freedom that was absolute, including the conviction that every woman has the right to make her own reproductive choices.

When I asked about her work for reproductive rights, she said, “My view about that is perhaps most reflective of my religious upbringing, with respect to who shall judge. Judge not that you be not judged.”


“Our reproduction is still a proxy for the larger question of our full status as human beings and as citizens.”


That religious upbringing was shaped by the fact that her mother was an ordained minister in the Church of God, and her calling determined the course of Wattleton family life. While Faye was still little, this calling took her and her parents away from St. Louis and the safety of extended family. When she reached school age, her parents left her with families within the church, each year in a different place. During this time, she learned to rely on herself and think independently, perhaps preparing her to be a leader while keeping her within the protective bubble of the greater Church of God community.

The Church of God is Christian, Protestant, foundational, evangelical, and charismatic. Members believe in prayer, the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible, personal salvation, and the unique, individual revelation of the Holy Spirit.* Ms. Wattleton often heard her mother preach and witnessed the emotional responses of her listeners in churches and revival meetings.

While her mother evangelized, bringing others to what she saw as the only way to God, Ms. Wattleton’s sense of mission came from the conviction that each person acts within unique life circumstances that must be respected. When I asked about this difference between her mother and herself, she replied that it “probably was due to my early training as a nurse. I went to college as a 16-year-old, graduated at 20. And so I was really deeply influenced by my professional training and exposure [to other people’s lives and problems]. It’s possible that, had I chosen a different profession, I may have seen life differently, but this is the profession that I chose.” Continue reading

Roe v. Wade at 40: Lost Ground and the Moment to Reclaim It

As 2012 came to a close, one of the last attacks on reproductive freedom in Arizona was in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state of Arizona fought to defund Planned Parenthood. The state was appealing an injunction against HB2800, a new measure that would strip funding for family planning services from any health care facility that provides abortions.


The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade should serve as a call to action to defend reproductive freedom.


Following a year that saw more state-level legislation to restrict abortion access than any year in the last three decades, 2012 saw no reprieve. Besides HB2800, Arizona lawmakers voted on bills that barred employer coverage for birth control and access to medically necessary abortions. In response to part of the latter bill, the Arizona Department of Health Service’s website added a new section on abortion, which made its debut late last year, called “A Woman’s Right to Know” — a guide that employed scare tactics and other manipulation to deter women from seeking abortions.

Arizona reflected what was happening nationally. According to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, Arizona has joined a new majority of states that are “solidly hostile to abortion rights.” In 2000, a third of women of reproductive age lived in such states. Today, more than half do. Since 2000, the number of states considered hostile to abortion doubled from 13 to 26. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Michael Powell for State Senator, LD 20

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Michael Powell is a candidate for state senator for Legislative District 20, which is located in Maricopa County and covers parts of Phoenix and Glendale. Powell has contributed to civic life in Phoenix’s West Valley for many years. While he was with the City of Avondale, he worked on dozens of successful grant proposals to develop and improve the city, and for the last 12 years he has been an instructor at Estrella Mountain Community College, teaching classes in leadership, economics, and the U.S. Constitution.  His spouse of seven years, Patricia, is a registered nurse and medical case manager.


“Health care is a matter of personal privacy.”


Because of his positions on women’s health and choice issues, Powell has received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.  He generously took the time for an interview with PPAA on September 13, 2012.

Tell us a little about your background and how you feel it would inform your decisions as a member of the Arizona Senate.

First, I am an educator and workplace performance improvement professional. This background helps me study and communicate complex issues with a clarity that most people can understand.

Second, when I was younger I was in need of health services and had no insurance. I was fortunate to have Planned Parenthood health services available and found the staff helpful and thorough when discussing my options.

Third, I am not dogmatic in my views and do not seek to impose a singular worldview on others. As a man, I do not believe I have the right to dictate the type of health care women should receive. I do not have the right to dictate the type of birth control women use. I especially do not have the right to interfere with choices made between women in consultation with their professionally certified doctors. Continue reading

Amanda Is Here Because Women Deserve Better Than Forced “Choices”

Canvassing in LD17 with David Schapira

Canvassing in LD17 with David Schapira

“She heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin’ through the doors. They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore. God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes. ‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.”

I remember hearing those Everlast lyrics one day when I was a teenager. My thoughts were very different then, but I was at a different stage in my life. I was a devout Baptist.

As a doting follower, I felt that part of my salvation relied upon opposing abortion. What did that mean to me? That there were lost souls in the world “killing babies” and that it was my duty to stop this atrocity. It meant that I was right because I had the Bible and Jesus Christ on my side, and anyone who opposed me was blinded by Satan and obviously wrong. To be frank, I knew absolutely nothing about abortion; not what it truly was or the reasons for women seeking it. I opposed it because my faith told me to, and it wasn’t a big deal to me.

A few years later, I feel that I was given a dose of my own medicine. Continue reading