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Reflections On Being A Victim Advocate

Last September marked the second year of my volunteer work as a victim advocate with my town’s sexual and domestic violence center. It took me two years to gather the courage to apply, but the training and experience has been invaluable. I’ve learned a lot about people, their coping mechanisms, their values, and what they may need from me. I’ve also learned how to set healthy boundaries, how to practice self-care, and what loving myself means to me. Continue reading

This Year in Anti-Choice Tomfoolery: The West

We have come to the final chapter of this week’s series on anti-abortion legislation. It’s been relatively quiet on the western front, with only one bill requiring parental consent in Montana and a ruling on Idaho’s 20-week abortion ban.

You can find your state’s current reproductive laws on the Guttmacher Institute. You can also usually find current proposed bills on Open States, or on your state legislature’s website. Continue reading

This Year in Anti-Choice Tomfoolery: The Midwest

The Midwest has been busily restricting our reproductive rights this year! Get ready for some hot, old-white-conservative-man-on-woman* legislation.

This is just some of the legislation proposed in 2013. For a full list of your state’s reproductive laws, check out the Guttmacher Institute. You can also usually find current proposed bills on Open States, or on your state legislature’s website if they allow you to search by subject. Continue reading

This Year in Anti-Choice Tomfoolery: The Northeast

Welcome to the third installment in this series on anti-choice politics in 2013. The northeastern states haven’t had as much success in passing most of the proposed anti-abortion legislation this session, though not for lack of trying. Highlights include the loss of the entire Women’s Equality Act in New York, a stalled bill that would require crisis pregnancy centers to tell the truth about their services, and Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal to include additional funds for family planning in the New Jersey state budget.

Let’s see what’s happening in your state! Continue reading

This Year in Anti-Choice Tomfoolery: The Southeast

Prepare for the onslaught.

Highlights of anti-abortion absurdity in the southeastern region include a desperate attempt by Marco Rubio to pander to his base, a bundle of anti-choice amendments attached to a Sharia law ban (I know, right?) that was hidden from the public until the vote, and a bill so racist, five legislators just walked the hell out of the chambers during the debate.

Keep in mind, this is just some of the legislation proposed in 2013. There’s been plenty of anti-choice bullshit introduced and passed in past years, especially since 2011. You can find your state’s current laws on the Guttmacher Institute. Continue reading

How To Identify Fake Abortion Clinics

Crisis pregnancy centers, or pregnancy resource centers, disguise themselves as medical facilities, but usually have no licensed doctors, nurses or counselors. They often appear under “Abortion Alternatives,” and may have names similar to abortion clinics nearby in order to confuse patients into entering their buildings instead of the real clinics. Crisis pregnancy centers greatly outnumber abortion clinics in the United States, and the poorer the area, the more centers (and fewer clinics) there are likely to be. Continue reading

Facebook Pet Peeves

All right, crabby-pantses, it’s time for another vent session. After the wild success of our first pet peeves post, authored by the excellently-named Baconcat, who has successfully combined two of my very favorite things into one username, and bbqcornnuts’ post on parenting pet peeves I didn’t even know I had, I got to thinkin’. We covered the obvious sources of irritation: driving, social courtesies, roommates and spouses, grammar, and a curious number of annoyances related to the mouth.

What did we leave out? There was only one original comment that mentioned Facebook. I’m disappointed in you all. Surely we can do better than that.

Bypassing the easy targets, like Farmville invitations and TMI statuses (though please, don’t hold back if that is indeed what peeves you), I’d like to share a few of my pet peeves.

1. Overuse of ellipses. Punctuation an ellipses is not a substitute for:

  • Periods
  • Question marks
  • Commas
  • Semicolons
  • Spaces

Learn it. Live it.

2. Cryptic, attention-whoring statuses. The only things worse than these are the people who respond to them.

Image: Natalie Dee


3. Facebook status arguments. We’ve all gotten into at least one of these (let me pretend I’m not the only one, okay?). Now you’re arguing with someone you most likely barely know, but god damn it, someone is wrong on The Internet and you’re not going to bed until they see how right you are. Not only are you now wasting your time and blowing up your Friends’ newsfeeds, you’re embarrassing yourself and the person whose status you’ve hijacked.

4. Status updates from people I despise, but am socially obligated to stay Friends with. This may also apply to those I am Friends with to preserve my own sanity and avoid more DRAMA. I’ve amassed quite a collection of these since graduation, and oh, what a wealth of irritation I can mine from their status updates alone.

Seriously, what is this?

We’ve got our fashion design major, with regular uploads of “high-fashion” photos of her and her design major friends sporting ill-fitting clothes and awkward facial expressions. I was recently treated to a couple of her rather obnoxious updates. Yesterday morning, she posted this: “Tried on swim suits today…it is time to work out. Now.” Then, not more than 24 hours later, this: “No incorrectly scaled patterns, my waist is not 33 inches wide…try 9 inches less…” According to my calculations, that’s a 24-inch waist. Gooch says I’m allowed to sock her one if I ever see her again. You’re all witnesses.

This last one’s personal beef for me, but I have to get it out there. I have a Friend (formerly best) who unFriended me last summer, for reasons we don’t need to get into. She recently reFriended me with a long apology I accepted. I do not like her, nor do I like her ex-fiancé. When they weren’t fighting, they were sickeningly affectionate with seemingly no regard for who was in the room. I’m talking baby talk, PDA, the whole nine yards. That’s why her status today was particularly vexing: “IF THESE PEOPLE DON’T STOP BEING SO AFFECTIONATE RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME I’M GOING TO VOMIT INTO MY COFFEE.” She’s taken to typing in all caps recently. I suppose she’s forgotten about the hours of vomit-inducing PDA my boyfriend and I were subjected to. I now have to refrain from replying sarcastically, unless I want to get into a Facebook status argument, and we all know how I feel about those. The irony is quite delicious, though.

5. Anyone who says, “And that’s why I don’t have Facebook.”

Image of attention whore via Natalie Dee.

Music Therapy Is Fake, Right?

What is music therapy? Why, it’s the therapeutic use of music, provided by a board-certified music therapist! What does that mean? It can mean a lot of things, but today, with the help of my father, I’m going to tell you a bit about music therapy in hospice.

Back when my dad wasn’t in the fast-paced, jet-setting career he enjoys today, he volunteered at a hospice during his free time. For those of you not in the know, a hospice is a place that cares for terminally ill people, who usually have less than 6 months to live. My dad’s job was to keep a woman company for an hour or two a week. We’ll call her Anne. She was in her mid-nineties and as smart as could be, though unable to walk. Dad was very interested in her childhood growing up on a farm, and on the second or third visit, he brought his fiddle to play for her. He played polkas, jigs, and reels, though Anne was partial to waltzes.


Note: If you’re going to be a music therapist, you’re going to need to know this song.

In short order my father started getting requests from other staff members to play for their folks. “Most of my visits were in the morning. At some point, I stayed and played through lunchtime. Staff members told me that the residents were generally more calm and ate better when I was playing, although I remember some being distracted from eating by my playing too.”

One man in particular loved the music. He was in a wheelchair, and generally non-responsive, but when the music began, he would grunt and rock, and his eyelids would flutter, though his eyes stayed closed. Those who knew him knew what the movements meant and how wonderful the music was for him.

“Another patient, a very sad one, was an ex-physics professor who, I am told, was a professional caliber violinist.  He was clearly very far away mentally.  He did sit to hear me play and he held out his hands to touch the violin, but I do not know how much he was understanding.”

My father is not a board-certified music therapist. He just wanted to help make some people’s days a little brighter. But he inspired me to begin my studies in music therapy as an undergrad, and to pursue the wealth of research in music therapy and the use of therapeutic music. With my rich education, clinical experience, and soon, my six-month internship, I discovered how to use the different parts of music – rhythm, melody, pitch, lyrics, instrumentation, and especially cultural or personal significance – to achieve meaningful, nonmusical goals.

In hospice, this may be helping a patient manage their pain, reflect on their life, work through grief, and think about their own mortality. You’ll also find music therapists in schools, hospitals, physical and substance rehabilitation centers, psychiatric units, and in private practice. We work with people of all ages on social, emotional, physical, mental, academic, and spiritual goals – helping a child on the autism spectrum build a tolerance for noise, leading discussions on sobriety, motivating a patient with a traumatic brain injury through their rehab (Rep. Gabby Giffords made leaps and bounds with her music therapist), and so much more.

Music therapy can only be provided by board-certified music therapists, but that doesn’t mean we have a monopoly on music itself! You don’t have to take classes, or even know how to play an instrument, to enjoy and benefit from music. Just play your favorite song, or breathe deeply and hum your own tune. See? You already feel better.

I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap

You thought I was done yammering about abortion laws? HA. You are so naïve.

Welcome to Part Two of Chipping Away At Roe, or I Can’t Believe We Still Have To Protest This Crap. Today we’re going to look at a (very) small sampling of state laws and bills relating to abortion and reproductive rights.

We’ll start with my home state, Iowa. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Iowa had 11 abortion providers in 2008 in 9% of Iowa counties. They also have like a million crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). NOTE: Crisis pregnancy centers do not offer abortion, and in general will try their damnedest to keep you from getting one. A lot of them will also try to give you information that is either debatable or that they’ve just plain made up, like that abortion causes an increase in breast cancer (yes! no! yes! no!), or that Post-Abortion Syndrome exists and is common (Nope. It’s not recognized by the APA or American Psychiatric Association, though emotions after abortion vary widely), or that abortion providers will lie to you to get your money (highly illogical, Captain; they’d make more money off prenatal care). So don’t visit them unless you’re just looking to score some free baby clothes and cookies. If you want information, go to your doctor or Planned Parenthood. You can get free condoms for more baby-free sex, too!

Iowa requires parental/relative consent if a minor wants an abortion, except in a medical emergency or cases of abuse, incest and neglect. Some people may think that it’s only fair to let parents know what their child is up to, especially when it concerns something as serious as abortion. However, forcing children to notify their parents is harmful. It’s my firm belief that parents need to foster an environment where their kids will feel comfortable telling them they are pregnant and what they plan to do about it. If your daughter isn’t coming to you about this, she probably feels she has a good reason, whether she’s afraid you’ll be angry or disappointed or knows she might be kicked out of the house or even killed. Luckily, some states’ Planned Parenthoods offer volunteer attorneys to help with judicial bypass, which allows minors to get an abortion without telling their parents.

Here’s something cool about Iowa, though: we have the first telemedicine program for abortion. That’s right: abortion on demand (in a clinic with a nurse who does all the usual examinations, tests, counseling and ultrasound). This makes it much easier for those harlots to frivolously abort their precious pre-borns whenever they want, as they are wont to do. No, wait, sorry. It makes it easier for women hours away from the nearest abortion provider (quite common in Iowa; shocking, for a state that’s 86% farmland!) to get abortion pills, which induce abortions within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. This means they don’t have to take time off work, arrange transportation, find someone to take care of their kids, explain their absence, and deal with protestors outside the clinic. It’s also much less invasive than surgical abortion and allows women to exert more control over the prodecure. Go Hawks!

Oh, by the way: if you insist on calling fetuses pre-borns so they can have all the rights that born babies have, I’m going to go ahead and call myself a “pre-senior” so I can start getting all those sweet discounts.

I'm looking forward to it

Some current legislation that sucks:

HJR 3, or House Joint Resolution 3: Man, this right-to-life thing is a pain in the ass. Thanks a lot, Thomas Jefferson! This bill states that personhood begins from the moment of conception. They can’t even wait until the damn thing attaches to the uterine wall. Defining an embryo/fetus as a person is the beginning of giving them rights accorded to people, including the right to life.

But you know, I don’t really care about the whole is-a-fetus-a-human-life or is-a-fetus-a-person argument. Totally played out. Besides, two sets of rights can’t logically exist in one body. Eventually one set of rights will have to trump the other, as in the case of the previously mentioned Angela Carder. Even then, the woman’s rights will need to be prioritized over the fetus’. After all, she’s carrying the damn thing, and has all those pesky responsibilities to her family and career and school and whatnot. The fetus isn’t even autonomous, the lazy bastard. Look at it, just twiddling its little webby thumbs in the amniotic sac, mooching off Mom’s blood.


HF 153: Here’s where the trouble starts with that whole “personhood” thing. This would propose that life and personhood begin at conception, which means NO ABORTIONS, EVER. Well, it doesn’t really say that, in so many words. It says “life is valued and protected from the moment of conception and each life is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons.” This is a bit sticky. Obviously, it would ban all abortions, something the state can’t legally do because of Roe v. Wade (though the purpose of the bill is probably to challenge Roe v. Wade anyways).

If someone takes my birth control pill from me, I will cut a bitch

However, some are concerned that it would also ban certain forms of birth control that prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. This means contraception that contains progesterone, which prevents the endometrium from thickening enough to support an embryo, could be banned. This includes birth control pills, some IUDs, Implanon (implanted birth control), the patch, Depo-Provera….you get the picture. No hormonal birth control.

Moving on!

I know a lot of you are from New York, so next stop: Big Apple.

New York’s basically the best place to live if you need an abortion. The Guttmacher Institute says there were 249 abortion providers in 61% of counties in 2008. Remember kids: don’t go to crisis pregnancy centers! New York also doesn’t have any of the usual abortion restrictions like waiting periods, parental notification and required ultrasounds (the clinics do ultrasounds in the first place to discover how far along a pregnancy is, so this would be yet another cost added to the bill), and allows Medicaid to pay for abortions.

They have a few bills chilling out in the state assembly (largely pro-choice) right now. They don’t seem to be going anywhere, but here they are. I’m going to go ahead and apologize now for not having many details on the bills I mention here. It’s really f’ing hard to get information unless someone’s kicking up a fuss about them. A couple I found were A02128, which would require parental notice, and we’ve got A02244, or a right to know bill, which looks like it might require clinics to provide women with “full information and reflection time.” (24 hours)

Giving women alternatives to abortion, as well as full information on how the procedure works, what to expect, and how to take care of themselves afterward is important, and most clinics, especially Planned Parenthood, do a pretty good job with it on their own. Regulating abortion, making sure it’s safe, is also crucial. You’ll just have to understand that I’m a bit wary of bills like these when they come from anti-abortion legislators. The issue, then, is that they’re often biased against abortion, which increases the risk of false information being given and puts more pressure on women not to get abortions. Dudes. That decision is hard enough without making her feel like shit about it. And adoption is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy, and is therefore not always a valid argument.

The rest of the bills I found were all good stuff, like requiring CPCs to disclose they don’t perform abortions, aren’t medically licensed or a medical facility, and that pregnancy tests can be purchased over the counter and self-administered. Four for you, New York.

Let’s stop briefly in California, home of the courageous Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who spoke of her own 2nd-trimester abortion during the debate on HR 217 to strip Planned Parenthood of funding. The Guttmacher Institute puts the number of abortion providers at 522 in 78% of counties in 2008. They, like New York, don’t have any of the usual restrictions, and 2nd-trimester abortions are legal. I couldn’t find any current bills pertaining to abortion, so we’ll move on.

I imagine it's something like Mexico's Island of the Dolls, but less creepy

I hear a few of you are from Illinois, mostly hailing from The Only Part of Illinois That Matters. Illinois is also known as “an island of abortion in the Midwest.” Abortion Island has 37 abortion providers that practice in only 8% of Abortion Island counties, which seems a bit sparse, considering its nickname. It’s also got some anti-choice language in the state code that declares Illinois’ commitment to protecting the unborn and that, should Roe v. Wade be reversed, they will reinstate the abortion ban, with exceptions for the health of the woman. Illinois also doesn’t have most of the common restrictions, though the fight for parental notice has been going on since the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995 was enacted, then put under permanent injunction, which is now being appealed. Whoof.

So, you’ve made it this far, have you? Good on you. The last state I’ll go into detail about is Arizona. Arizona legislature is pretty much completely anti-choice; the House, Senate and Governor Jan Brewer all support anti-abortion laws. In 2008, there were 19 abortion providers in 13% of Arizona counties. Restrictions include parental consent, not just notification, as well as counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and a 24-hour wait. There are a couple of bills getting some press right now. HB 2443 (sorry about the blinding text color) would charge those who perform abortions knowing they are based on sex- or race-selection with a Class 3 felony. Oh, Arizona! It’s a little late to convince people you care about racism. There hasn’t really been any evidence that race-selection is the cause of some abortions, and most abortions happen before the sex is able to be most accurately determined, which is around the end of the first trimester. These bills aren’t about protecting disenfranchised fetuses, but creating more obstacles to abortion.

The other bill (it really needs to be easier to find bill names) would require that clinics that provide medication abortions be under the same state regulations regarding staffing and facilities of clinics that provide surgical abortions. This would also apply to satellite clinics that provide telemed abortions, which would be banned. Since only 13% of Arizona counties have abortion providers, this makes it much harder for women outside of those counties to get an abortion.

To wrap up, a quick word on trigger laws. Trigger laws are laws that, while currently unenforceable, would be automatically enforceable should other legislation change. Many states have trigger laws pertaining to abortion in case Roe v. Wade was someday overturned. Louisiana’s former governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco signed a trigger law in 2006 permitting abortion only when a woman’s life was threatened by pregnancy, and Mississippi’s governor Haley Barbour signed a similar one in 2007.

I wish I could go into greater detail, but we’d be here all week. I’m linking to some helpful sites at the end of this post. The Guttmacher Institute is a great resource for information on state laws and abortion in general. I got a lot of my information from the Media Center and State Center on their website.

Guttmacher Institute

FindLaw State Abortion Laws

Planned Parenthood (in case you don’t like the Googles)

Back to the federal level: Here are the ten Democrats who sponsored HR 3, which codifies the Hyde Amendment. They are, uh, not favorable reviews.

I didn’t add this at the end of my last post, but I should have. Guys, the reason I’m writing about this stuff isn’t just to work up some righteous outrage on your end. There’s enough of that out there already. I’m writing about this as a call to action. Look up your state’s legislation. They should have bills listed on their website, as well as your representatives’ information. Find out what’s going on in your state, and start calling people. Email, if you can’t call. Organize protests. Do something to remind your representatives who they work for.

If you do, there's a sugar glider bee in it for ya.