Book Club: Living in the Crosshairs

CrosshairsLiving in the Crosshairs is an important and terrifying book that was published last year by Oxford University Press. Its authors are David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who also sits on the boards of the Women’s Law Project and the Abortion Care Network, and Krysten Connon, who graduated from Drexel Law School in 2012, and is now an attorney in Philadelphia. In it, they look at targeted harassment of abortion providers. This is different from the protests we may think of outside abortion clinics, which are aimed at the clinic, or the women seeking abortions, or the issue in general. Targeted threats and attacks are aimed at individuals who work in the clinics. They are personal.

The title comes from a story of one provider’s dealings with the legal authorities. He describes one protest at the clinic where he works, where:

… a new sign displayed Paul’s picture in crosshairs. “I was just shocked that that was legal. I just can’t see how that’s fair.” Paul contacted the FBI about the targeted protest, particularly in light of the sign with the crosshairs. “They said it’s perfectly legal. The protesters could do that, and they could do worse.”

This incident shows the way abortion providers are targeted, literally and figuratively, by anti-abortion activists, and is a representative example of the stories told by the people interviewed for this report. In all, 87 providers were contacted, and 82 of them agreed to be interviewed at length. The authors included doctors, administrators, and other medical and non-medical staff who work where abortions are performed. Non-medical staff are also targets; as the authors point out, of eight providers murdered by anti-abortion killers, four were doctors; the others included two receptionists, a security guard, and a volunteer escort. And more recently, we’ve seen in Colorado Springs that people unrelated to a clinic can also be killed in anti-abortion violence. The danger is great; almost all of those interviewed chose to use false names, and to have details that could identify them changed as well. Continue reading

Movie Night: After Tiller

After TillerAfter Tiller is an award-winning documentary film that takes us inside the lives of the remaining four doctors who were openly providing third-trimester abortions in the United States after the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, a staunch defender and provider of those abortions. The 88-minute film, released in 2013, seeks to shed light, rather than more heat, and move beyond the national shouting match about abortion later in pregnancy.

You can see the trailer here:

Is this film for you? Probably, if you ponder the following:

  1. Why would a pregnant woman wait so late into a pregnancy to decide to have an abortion?
  2. Why would a woman who loves her unborn baby have a late abortion?
  3. After 24 weeks’ gestation, should abortion (always, sometimes, never) be illegal?
  4. What kind of people provide third-trimester abortions?
  5. Do third-trimester abortions differ much from premature, natural childbirth?

Continue reading

Dr. George Tiller’s Death: Five Years Later

Dr. Tiller's supporters remember him at a vigil in San Francisco, June 1, 2009. Image: Steve Rhodes

Dr. Tiller’s supporters remember him at a vigil in San Francisco, June 1, 2009. Image: Steve Rhodes

On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered by Scott Roeder while attending church services in Wichita, Kansas. This Saturday is the fifth anniversary of his assassination. From 1975 until his death, Tiller was an ob/gyn who also performed late-term abortions.


Dr. Tiller is remembered for the compassion he showed his patients.


A late-term abortion is a medical procedure in which a pregnancy is terminated during the later stages. The definition of “late-term” varies — even among medical journals — because of its correlation to fetus viability (i.e., when a fetus can survive outside of the uterus on its own). The medical community has not established an age at which a fetus becomes viable, as its survivability is contingent upon conditions internal and external to the womb; however, the survivability of a fetus greatly increases after 25 weeks, or almost 6 months from a woman’s last menstrual period. For reference, the expected gestation of a pregnancy is 40 weeks, or 9 months. Only 1.2 percent of abortions take place at or after 21 weeks.

Late-term abortions remain particularly controversial because of the issue of fetus viability, as well as the methods used to perform the medical procedure (e.g., inducing labor). Late-term abortions also have the potential to be more physically and emotionally challenging for the woman than those performed during earlier stages of pregnancy. While a woman should not be required by law to account for herself and the reasoning behind her medical decision-making, there are numerous medical reasons why a late-term abortion is a valid medical choice. Continue reading

2013: A Retrospective

wendy-davis victoryWell folks, 2013 has been quite the year when it comes to women’s issues and reproductive health. Anti-choice Republicans have made every attempt to strip us of our most basic human rights. We dealt with many a jackass. We won. We lost. We came, we saw, and sometimes we even conquered.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?

  • Trent Franks (from our great state, naturally) told everyone that pregnancies attributed to rape were super low and thus insignificant and not even relevant to the abortion issue.
    (The Daily Beast)
  • zero dollar copayThe Affordable Care Act made birth control available without a co-pay! (Planned Parenthood)
  • But that didn’t go unchallenged, of course. Domino’s Farms, Hobby Lobby, and a gang of other fools think the mandate to cover birth control for women in their insurance policies is a “violation” of their rights and values. That’s right. They believe the pills you take to exert control over what happens in your uterus is not only their business, but something they should have full control over! They also completely disregard the fact that birth control pills are often medically necessary. From PMS, PCOS, and endometriosis relief, birth control pills serve women’s health interests in many important ways. You think these a-holes give any sort of damn about that? NOPE. (RH Reality Check)
  • Plan B emergency contraception is finally available over the counter! (New Civil Rights Movement)
  • wendy davis tennis shoesTexas pretty much went anti-choice nuts this year. But little-known State Sen. Wendy Davis put on her tennis shoes and went to battle for the women of Texas in an effort to kill SB 5, a craptacular proposal that would pretty much annihilate abortion access in the state. This pro-choice dynamo stood on her feet for 11 hours to filibuster the bill. While her efforts were ultimately thwarted by “pro-life” governor Rick Perry (who’s so pro-life he facilitated the execution of more than 200 people), she became a powerful symbol of the pro-choice movement in Texas, and the rest of America. (NYT)
  • A majority of Americans now support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion! That’s the first time in the 10 years that NBC/WSJ has included the question in their poll. (NBC News)
  • Anti-choice legislators have latched onto “fetal pain” and “heartbeat” bills as their latest strategy to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Neither of those things can be proven as “real” by science, but they’re not going to let pesky facts get in the way of their women-hating mission. (The Atlantic)
  • Dr. Kermit Gosnell committed unspeakable horrors in his abortion clinic, the details of which are not only distressing, but almost physically painful to read. Despite that fact that this is astonishingly rare, he gave credence to to all of the anti-choice vultures and harmed the pro-choice movement in an immeasurable way. (Jezebel)
  • obama planned parenthood national conferenceMr. President had to lay the ultimate smack down on behalf of Planned Parenthood earlier this year. He told all of the anti-choice haters, “Planned Parenthood ain’t goin’ nowhere, chumps!” (OK, he didn’t say that exactly/verbatim, but kinda.) Anyway, thank you, President Obama, for being our advocate and BFF in Chief. (Salon)
  • Another big story this year: More women are purposely forgoing mommyhood and deducing that babies are better when they belong to someone else. It’s like a trend now. Childfree is the new black! (Fem2pt0)
  • 2013: Another year in which abortion clinics got shut down at an alarming rate. Less access to safe abortion. Just what we need. (Think Progress)
  • Lastly, some good news. Four years after his tragic, heartbreaking murder, Dr. Tiller’s clinic reopened this year. His legacy lives on. (Mother Jones)

What will 2014 hold? We can’t predict the future, but one thing is for sure: We will continue to put everything on the line to make sure women have access to the reproductive health care they deserve and have a right to. If we have to be relentless and unyielding in this fight, so be it. The lives of women matter.

We’re here if you need us.

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • 1_image-largeTexas is trying its best to reduce access to abortion and we’re not gonna take it. What does that mean, exactly? Can you say LAWSUIT?! #Boom (HuffPo)
  • Speaking of Texas, Pro-Choice Princess Wendy Davis is expected to announce her run for governor! (Politico)
  • Once-a-month birth control? Count me the hell in. (The Week)
  • *Sigh* The knuckleheads in Colorado will not give up on “personhood.” The voters have rejected this malarkey twice before, and last year it was rejected from even making it to the ballot. Some would call this “persistent.” We call it moronic. (RH Reality Check)
  • Why do women have abortions after 20 weeks? This article will tell you. (ABC News)
  • The new documentary “After Tiller” confronts one of the most volatile topics in American life: late-term abortion. (WSJ)
  • Medical miracle on the horizon!!! Eight Promising Methods of Male Birth Control (Popular Science)
  • The lack of access to affordable family planning services is exacerbated when 13 million women of reproductive age have no health insurance. (Think Progress)

When Metaphor Becomes Reality: The Abortion Battle and the Necessity of the FACE Act

PP entrance

Clinic escorts at a Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood. Photo: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño via Flickr

Serving as the medical director of a reproductive health clinic made Dr. George Tiller a lightning rod for constant vitriol — and more than once a target of violence. Picketers routinely gathered outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, a site of their protests because it provided abortions, including late-term abortions. In 1986, Tiller saw the clinic firebombed. Seven years later, in 1993, he suffered bullet wounds to his arms when an anti-abortion extremist fired on him outside the property. Finally, in 2009, he was fatally shot while attending worship services at a Wichita church.


Anti-abortion extremists can create life-threatening scenarios for those who seek reproductive health care.


In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death, many reproductive rights advocates argued that his assassination could have been avoided. The shooting was not the first time his murderer, 51-year-old Scott Roeder, broke the law.

Roeder could have been stopped prior to the shooting under a federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which was enacted in 1994 — 19 years ago this Sunday — to protect the exercise of reproductive health choices. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to intimidate or injure a person who is trying to access a reproductive health clinic. It also makes it unlawful to vandalize or otherwise intentionally damage a facility that provides reproductive health care.

Roeder’s ideology was the root of his criminality. Roeder subscribed to a magazine, Prayer and Action News, that posited that killing abortion providers was “justifiable homicide.” Roeder also had ties to a right-wing extremist movement that claimed exemption from U.S. laws and the legal system. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • In “wanting it both ways” news, a Catholic hospital is claiming that fetuses aren’t human beings in order to help themselves win a malpractice lawsuit. So, essentially, fetuses are only human beings when someone’s trying to abort them. Otherwise — NOPE! (Jezebel)
  • President Obama is here to remind you how pro-choice and awesome he is. (YouTube)
  • Religious women love their birth control as much as the rest of us. (Guttmacher)
  • In what will be a true victory for choice, Dr. Tiller’s former clinic is gearing up to start serving patients again. (The Daily Beast)
  • Taking time away from other controversies, the Catholic bishops have announced that they will not compromise with Obama on birth control. (NBC News)
  • Proving that all schools would benefit from giving students access to contraception, NYC has seen its teen pregnancy rate plummet. (Center for Reproductive Rights)
  • In nearly every state, the total number of abortion providers has dropped since 1978. (The American Prospect)
  • Guess what, naysayers, condoms won’t prevent you from having great sex after all! (New York Daily News)
  • Dear lovely lesbians, Pap testing is super important for you guys, too! (The Advocate)