A WKU Alumni: Crosses and Condoms

When a friend sent me photos of the anti-abortion display on the Collonades at WKU, I was flabbergasted. Who the hell do these people think they are? I asked myself. I told my friend that she should cover their sign with one that said “Each cross represents a woman who was free to make her own choice” or “This is how many women will die each day if totalitarians succeed in taking away safe, legal abortion.”

I also wondered just what were these anti-choicers thinking, completely taking over a very popular gathering space for students, for an entire week. People drink coffee, study, or just soak in the sun on the Collonades. Nor is it unusual for professors to hold classes there on a nice day.

The Collonades are one of the beautiful architectural landmarks of Western. It is also affixed to the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts building, which houses the Art, Theater, Music, and Language departments.

Let me tell you something. If you believe that this ridiculous little Hilltoppers for Life group didn’t pull this stunt not merely expecting a reaction, but hoping for one, then you are a fool. Western Kentucky University has a proud history of activism. Students are very involved on this campus. Students were not going to let this stand without responding. Frankly? I was expecting more. If this had happened in my time, there would have been much more than a few condoms draped over crude popsicle stick crosses.

During the weekdays, they set up tables, along with boards. They wanted discussion. They wanted students to share their thoughts. Elaina Smith did just that. Like I said, they set up in front of the Fine Arts building. They expected some kind of art display. They expected a response, so they could throw a hissy fit. As Dr. Molly Kerby pointed out in her brilliant response to this hissy fit, the anti-choicers set up the crosses to spell out “life” on the bleachers, which could only be seen from the windows of the art department. This was provocation. This was a challenge. In my day, many, many more students would have taken up that challenge. Including me.

Now look. They’re calling for Elaina Smith to be arrested. They’re calling for the university to force her professor to give her a failing grade.

They want the police to violate Elaina’s first amendment rights to free speech.

They want the university to violate the academic freedom of their faculty.

It’s absolutely outrageous, but entirely consistent with their primary goal of calling for the government to forcibly violate a woman’s right to control her own body.

Hilltoppers for Life is no different from the man dubbed “Preacher Man” that occasionally visits campus. If you’re unfamiliar, Preacher Man sets up behind the university center during the day, insulting and provoking students in the name of the Christian god. The more students engage this man, the more insulting he gets. Meanwhile, his companion circulates throughout the crowd with a camera, snapping photos of the students who engage with Preacher Man. This man hopes to provoke the students into assaulting him, so that he may sue the student and the university. And, of course, claim martyrdom for himself and his religion.

These fools kept someone hidden at the Collonades each night, hoping to catch someone doing something to their display, so that they could claim martyrdom for themselves. Did you notice that when Elaina showed up to place her condoms, Hilltoppers for Life member, Matt Sohl, called the Students for Life for America before he called the police? Apparently their parent organization failed to instruct them properly.

(Did these student plan to skip class the next day? Or show up exhausted and unable to participate properly in their classes?)

If you still doubt that their goal was for someone to mess with their display, let me tell you something else about Western Kentucky University. Students interact with campus art on a regular basis. There is a statue of Sergeant Guthrie, in front of the Guthrie belltower, his right hand uplifted, and cupped just so. Students regularly put items in the statue’s hand. Coffee cups, bananas, ice cream cones, to name just a few. Behind McLean Hall, there is a statue of a woman, mid-stride. She is regularly dressed up with hats, scarves, and dresses. The wooden bunny, beside Garrett, is regularly dressed up as well. The students aren’t the only ones who do this–the university participates in this pastime. The abstract art affectionately dubbed the “Big Red Vagina” had bushes planted around it last time I visited campus. And I’m sorry, but that was not a coincidence.

It is shameful that President Gary Ransdell has condemned Elaina. She is a student–participating in a campus pastime, exercising her right to free speech and self-expression, and creatively completing a class project. Aside from the Hilltoppers for Life, this people crying foul are not part of WKU’s community. They all, including HFL, are part of an organized effort to curtail other people’s rights, creating controversy and provoking others to reaction. Garbear, as an alumni, I am ashamed that you are not standing by a fellow Hilltopper. I am ashamed that you, blinded as you are by your desire for good PR, turned your back on the students and faculty, falling hook, line, and sinker for their manufactured martyrdom.

Today, as a Hilltopper, I am ashamed, President Gary Ransdell, that you represent my university. I am proud, Hilltoppers for “Life” excepted, of the students and faculty. I am proud of Elaina. I am proud of Dr. Molly Kerby for taking a public stand for student’s right to free speech, and academic freedom. (Though, of course, I expected nothing less from Dr. Kerby. She is a fantastic person.)

I expect SGA to pass a resolution on Tuesday, supporting Elaina Smith, and condemning HTL and President Ransdell’s efforts to silence and punish students for expressing themselves.

I expect the Faculty Senate to rally as well, supporting their colleague’s right to grade her student’s work as she sees fit.

I expect the campus community to stand up, and call this manufactured outrage for what it is: an attack on freedom.

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Doctors Against Anti-Abortion Laws: the Beginning of a Movement?

Last week, in the midst of a heartbreaking story about a woman who fell victim to Texas’ mandatory ultrasound law, we heard about the unwilling doctor forced to do the procedure:

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.”

“When you come back in 24 hours, the legal side is over. Then we’ll care for you and give you the information you need in the way we think is right.”

Then on Saturday, PalmD at WhiteCoatUnderground posted this:

“Doctors are notoriously poor organizers.  We generally operate independently.  The AMA represents less than thirty percent of American doctors.  When it comes to protecting ourselves and our patients, we are often on our own.  When it comes to the latest abortion bills we cannot afford to remain apart.  We must all speak out against this violation of our ethics and our patients’ rights.  How this might work isn’t clear, but perhaps we need target certain states, one at a time.  When one provider is shut down for honoring their patients’ rights, another must be willing to step up, and another.  There is a nationwide shortage of abortion providers so this probably isn’t realistic, but even so, we must try, we must advocate for our patients, we must defend them from the depravities of those who would violate their basic right to ethical, respectful care.”

Finally, yesterday, Anonymous Doctor at John Scalzi’s blog called for doctors across the country to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to perform mandatory ultrasounds:

“It is our responsibility, as always, to protect our patients from things that would harm them. Therefore, as physicians, it is our duty to refuse to perform a medical procedure that is not medically indicated. Any medical procedure. Whatever the pseudo-justification.

It’s time for a little old-fashioned civil disobedience.

When the community has failed a patient by voting an ideologue into office…When the ideologue has failed the patient by writing legislation in his own interest instead of in the patient’s…When the legislative system has failed the patient by allowing the legislation to be considered… When the government has failed the patient by allowing something like this to be signed into law… We as physicians cannot and must not fail our patients by ducking our heads and meekly doing as we’re told.

Because we are their last line of defense.”

We need more doctors to take a stand–to speak out, to share their stories, to call for and organize action. While the most important voices in this struggle remain the women who are affected by this anti-choice, anti-autonomy, anti-woman legislation, we need our doctors to speak up as well. We’re in this together.

If you’re a doctor, and would like to share your story, or your own call for action, I am glad to offer this space for you to speak. Contact me at brittanyannwick AT yahoo DOT com, if you would like to share your story, or if you already have on another website, send me the link–I’d like to share it.

Abortion: Not a Granted Right

I had an epiphany while reading Cunt this weekend. In Cunt, the author, Inga Muscio, talks about her abortions–all three of them. The first two were at a clinic, the third she induced herself.

My epiphany is this:

The Supreme Court did not grant women the right to an abortion. Nor did any of the other men in various parliaments and legislatures around the world.

Abortion is. It always has been, and always will be.

It is as much a fact of life as menstruation, masturbation, and sex.

This is so much more than “abortion will continue, whether or not it’s legal.” It will, it’s true, but more than that.

Abortion is not simply a medical procedure that doctors perform on women’s bodies. Only recently in human history have men been involved in abortion at all. Its had many names throughout history, in different cultures. But it was always the domain of women.

Women “kept their period regular.”

Women “brought on the courses.”

If you read carefully in literature, in myths, and in memoirs and histories, you will find it.

Men have not “given” it to us, nor can they take it away.

We will fight you in legislatures, and outside clinics, to keep abortion legal and accessible, absolutely. But abortion is ours. It is a part of our history. It is a fact of our lives. Abortion won’t go away. No more than you can take our monthly flow away. No more than you can keep us from masturbating.

Our uterus’, our ovaries, our vaginas, our cunts, cannot be taken away. Can’t have them. Our periods, our reproductive capability, our miscarriages and our abortions. Can’t take ’em.

Getting My Activism On: Contacting Representatives

I apologize for the light posting today. I am one angry feminist. Darrell Issa’s little stunt yesterday motivated me to get my activism on. I signed a number of petitions while I was at work yesterday. Today, I visited the One Million Pissed Off Women page on facebook and saw this:

“The asshole (OMG I’m shaking MAD) at ISSa’s office just told me that this is all about trying to get Obama out because of his persecution of traditional religious institutions. He just stuttered when I brought up ED and penile implants and had nothing to say about the fact that the largest Catholic institutions ALREADY provided birth control in their insurance plans. This is a fringe element push and has nothing to do with us. He also said (in a very Neener-neener, sing-song way) that the republicans were in power, they are going to stay in power and Issa has the control to have his hearings any way he saw fit.. Smarmy FUCKER!!!”

So I decided to give ol’ Issa a call myself. (202-225-3906!) An aide answered, and asked me where I was from. When I said Kentucky, I was immediately transferred to voicemail without comment or the opportunity to say much of anything.

His mailbox was full. I couldn’t leave a message.

I went back to OMPOW’s page, and read the comments. There are more similar stories of women calling, and either getting transferred or condescended to. I learned that Mr. Issa is up for re-election this year, and that his opponent is Jerry Tetalman. I visited his website, and lo and behold! He has, on his front page, pronounced that he is pro-choice.

I wondered if he’d responded to yesterday’s travesty. He hadn’t. So, I decided to e-mail him. This is my message:

“Jerry,

Hello, my name is Brittany-Ann. I just learned about your candidacy today. I am a pro-choice feminist, and it heartens me to see a man who is not only pro-choice, but believes so strongly in a woman’s right to choose that he is willing to put it on the front page of his website.

Yesterday, your opponent, Darrell Issa, convened a committee made up completely of extremely conservative religious men to discuss women’s right to access birth control. Women all over the country are mobilizing–calling Issa’s office, e-mailing him, and blogging about his actions. I tried to call myself, and got transferred to a full voicemail inbox.

I count myself as politically active, and indeed, I blog regularly about political issues. But the recent attacks on women’s rights to birth control, abortion, including Virginia’s new vaginal ultrasound law, have motivated me to become more involved than ever before. I know I’m not alone.

This is why I urge you to make a public statement in support of women’s rights. The Republican war on women is an ever-increasing part of their party platform. Progressives, in turn, need to become more aggressive as allies to women.

We have to fight back. We need every woman, and every male ally to stand up for our rights, publicly, and without shame.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Brittany-Ann Wick”

Leave It to the Experts

My body is twenty-three years old. It has been through a lot in that time. I have demanded much of my body. I have punished it. I have stretched its limits in order to become stronger. I have deprived it of its most basic needs–food, rest, water–because I gave higher priority to other things. Most of the time, my body endures. However, at times, it breaks. It collapses in exhaustion. It succumbs to seizures, which is its own unique punishment. It becomes dehydrated. Muscles are pulled and sprained. It aches and bleeds in response to the monthly cycle of my uterus. My stomach contracts and my throat is burned by stomach acid.

No one knows my body like I do.

No one knows all that it has suffered and endured, lost and gained. No one but me.

I know how much it can take. I know how far I can push its limits. I know when its time to stop and rest, so it can recover.

When it comes to my body, I am the expert. My body is unique. It’s quirky. It’s strong and weak. It’s powerful. It has endured things that you wouldn’t believe. It has accomplished things you could only dream of.

I am the best person to make decisions regarding my body. The many people who love me, and consequently my body–my family, my friends, my lovers–cannot ever be as intimate with my body and its workings and needs as I am. As well as they know me, and as much as they care about me–they cannot possibly know enough to make that decision for me. My country, as much as I love it, as much as I am willing to sacrifice for it–cannot make that decision for me, either. My loved ones may at least claim to be Beemer geeks, but the rest of the country cannot say even that. At best, they may know some vague caricature; at worst, they know nothing about me. Only I am the expert.

Only the expert can decide if my body needs an abortion. Me.

Trust the experts–they know what needs to be done. They know their art. Leave the fandom to support the expert’s work. Let outsiders stay out of it.

Women are the experts on their own bodies. Leave us to make the decisions. Do not hinder us in taking care of our own bodies. We need abortion to be legal, available, and affordable. That is not negotiable. That is not up for a vote. Our bodies are not up for a vote.

You are not an expert on me. You cannot make decisions for me. You cannot take abortion away from me.

I will defend every woman’s right to make the best decision for herself. I am pro-choice.

Bloggers United for Human Rights is a community of bloggers dedicated to the principle that all human rights are inalienable. Not to be voted, or debated, or negotiated. This post is a part of the Support Women’s Reproductive Rights blog carnival. Click the link to join.

Pro-Choice in Kentucky

I am pro-choice. I am a resident of Kentucky.

Being pro-choice in a state that is widely regarded as a lost cause is not easy.

Kentucky isn’t a lost cause. Considering it one is losing half the battle.

Pro-choice Kentuckians are perpetually on the defensive–trying to stop restrictive legislation, stop funding from being cut, stop anti-choicers from harassing patients outside of clinics, stop the hatred and vitriol directed toward reproductive rights, and the people who believe in them.

Simply being openly pro-choice in Kentucky is activism. After all, anti-choicers have long held the pulpit here, painting caricatures of baby-hating, cold, anti-life, anti-woman  “pro-choicers.” I am none of those things–by being openly pro-choice, I am showing everyone around me that those caricatures are lies. I’m opening the door.

I talk about being pro-choice. People ask questions; I answer them. I give my friends, classmates, acquaintances, and neighbors a different perspective–describing reproductive rights by framing it in a way that’s relevant, in language that they will respond to. For instance, I often say that abortion is a form of self-defense–it is an action women may take in order to protect their bodies from the multitude of harms that may come from pregnancy. I say that only I can decide what happens to my body–nobody can use it without my permission, just like no one may break into my home even if they need shelter.

I write to my representatives–even the infamous Mitch McConnell. He doesn’t agree with me, and he won’t vote the way I want him to, but I still write. He needs to know that I exist, that I care, and that his ideology is abhorrent to me. I will oppose them. In other words, I’m watching. I’m voting. Think about that.

I write and reply to pro-choicers outside of Kentucky–I appeal, I plead, I rant, and I call for support. Stop dismissing Kentucky. Help us. Rally with us. Support pro-choice Kentuckians in our fight. It’s not hopeless. We help you–it’s time to help us. Don’t wait for some really abhorrent, anti-choice legislation to jump in. Let’s work together to keep it from ever getting to that point. Let’s change minds. Let’s change budgets. Let’s change laws.

I am a feminist. I am pro-choice. I am a Kentuckian.

Escorts at Louisville’s Abortion Clinic

Kentucky has only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services–one of them is in Louisville, the largest city in the state.

Unfortunately, this clinic is regularly a target of anti-choice protesters. By regularly, I mean all the time. The protesters harass, intimidate, shame, and attempt to deceive women by directing them to the TWO crisis pregnancy centers on the same street as the clinic. (CPCs are fake clinics set up by anti-choice organizations. Their goal is to prevent women from having abortions, by either convincing them not to, or by giving them false information about, well, everything.)

Because of this, a bunch of really great people volunteer to escort women from their cars to the clinic doors. They get up ridiculously early to make sure women have a buffer between themselves and the protesters, and to give them support every step along the way.

The escorts have a blog–they post stories, photos, and video of everything that goes down in front of the clinic. Check it out.

The bullshit they deal with is incredible–the verbal harassment, the pushing, hitting, tripping, physical intimidation, and sometimes, even worse.

I’ve got to warn you, though: it will piss you off.

It pissed me off.

I can’t but admire the escorts–for doing what they do.

I’ve wanted to volunteer myself–but getting up so early, after working so late in the night, is out of the question.

I wonder, too, if I’d be able to keep my temper in check. I wonder if I’d be able to refrain from pushing back, hitting back, or kicking out the kneecap of the person that tripped me. As my regular readers know, I’m big on self-defense.

But then again, I read stories like this from the escorts, and I want nothing more than to go down there and help. I want to escort. I want to write and write and write. I want to write here, and on Pulse of the City. I want to write to the mayor, the chief of police, and anyone else and demand they post officers at the clinic to protect patients and escorts. I want to post endlessly on my facebook page, ranting and educating, and encouraging people to take action.

It’s so easy to hear stories and think, “wow, that’s completely fucked up” and perhaps write a ranty comment, and then go on with your day. Until I found the Louisville escort’s blog, I was like that, too. Reading their stories, talking to people I know that go down there, and seeing the photos and video of anti-choice protesters doing this in my city, to my people, made it so very real to me.

Oh, and by the way? What these protesters are doing is illegal. Obstructing access, intimidation, threats, violence, in order to keep women from obtaining reproductive services–illegal. Did I say it was illegal? It’s illegal.

But they do it anyway.

Not only are the escorts doing important work by escorting women, but they’re also exposing to the world what exactly happens in front of America’s reproductive clinics. Support and honor them by reading their accounts, viewing their photos, and watching their videos.