Tag : abortion

The Lilith Blog

March 3, 2021 by

Lynn Paltrow on the Prosecution of Pregnancy

Over the past 40-plus years, state and federal lawmakers have doubled down on efforts to not only restrict abortion, but to scrutinize pregnancy — zeroing in on low-income women, women of color and drug-using women, allegedly to protect the “right to life of unborn babies.”

Already, 18 states have laws equating drug or alcohol use while pregnant with civil child abuse. Two states, Minnesota and South Dakota, allow civil commitment — mandatory institutionalization — when someone who is pregnant poses a danger to her embryo or fetus. At the initial hearing, the fetus is entitled to counsel but the pregnant woman is not.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which seeks to secure the civil and human rights of pregnant people and their families, argues that these efforts mistakenly treat both pregnancy and substance use as criminal — rather than as public health — matters. Worse, NAPW says that these tactics actually undermine rather than improve maternal and child health.


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The Lilith Blog

February 10, 2021 by

A Reproductive Shabbat

On a Saturday afternoon many months ago, I leaned across the center console of my car and pushed open my passenger side door to welcome in a stranger. I only knew her first name and cell phone number, and that she was having an abortion later in pregnancy. 

This was my Shabbat, bringing her back and forth between one of the five clinics that would perform the procedure she needed and the modest hotel a mile away. 


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January 27, 2021 by

My Anger at the Kavanaugh Hearings Inspired Me to Take Action

Two years ago, I was walking on the street during the Kavanaugh hearings and noticed that almost every woman I walked by was glued to her phone; their faces reflected my disgust and my fear for the future. The brutality of the hearings, the callous dismissal of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations, the general smugness of Justice Kavanaugh and his elected supporters knocked me back in a visceral way. I finally snapped. 

I needed to channel that frustration and anger into something productive, so I decided to combine that post-Kavanaugh fury with nearly 20 years of work in reproductive health and develop a program to improve access to birth control in rural and underserved communities.  

I went down a rabbit hole of research on models for improving access to such care, and found that in rural communities around the world, mobile clinics are a proven means of delivering care directly to healthcare deserts.  

Next, I needed the where.  

In 2018, four states—Mississippi,  Louisiana, South Dakota, and North Dakota—had “trigger laws,” meaning that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion immediately becomes illegal. More states have since joined them in passing similar legislation. Among them, Mississippi has some of the poorest reproductive health and sexual health outcomes in the nation. In the Mississippi Delta, one of the most rural areas in the state, 62% of pregnancies are unintended and publicly funded clinics are unable to meet 60% of women’s needs for reproductive health care. I reached out to institutions and organizations to understand if what seemed like a good idea in my head—using mobile clinics to increase access to care effectively in birth control deserts like the Delta—would work in the reality of rural Mississippi. I quickly found a community of allies passionate about reproductive health care eager to help launch a new local program in an area where the existing infrastructure is unable to meet the overwhelming need for care.  

Two days after Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, I founded Plan A.  

Patients living in rural areas are less likely to receive reproductive health care than their urban counterparts. The nation’s healthcare disparities are particularly stark for women of color. Residents of some small towns are forced to travel far distances for healthcare with few or no public transportation options; telehealth is often unavailable due to poor broadband access. Care is prohibitively expensive for the uninsured, or for those unable to afford their deductibles. The legacy of racial and economic injustice in the healthcare system creates additional barriers to care.  

For all these reasons, for the past two years Plan A has focused on residents in the Mississippi Delta. Our conversations with local organizations and community members brought us from an idea into a fully formed organization rooted in the priorities and needs of the community we serve. We are opening our first mobile clinic early next year, expanding services beyond my original plan: the mobile clinic will now offer free birth control from condoms to long-acting reversible contraception, STD and HIV testing, PrEP HIV prevention, and primary-care screening blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, depression, and more to uninsured and underinsured residents. And we have plans to expand this program to other high-need areas in the future. 

Political change and advocacy often feel like a devastating game of one step forward, two steps back. 

Working on issues constantly on the precipice—healthcare, social justice, climate change, education—is emotionally and physically draining. When I founded Plan A, I was driven by what a friend called “divine feminine fury.” Unfortunately, that fury is constantly being replenished, although my anger is coupled with excitement for the impact Plan A’s clinic will have on improving access to care.  

The Amy Coney Barrett hearings set off more shockwaves of fear and uncertainty for the future. While politicians litigate the right to reproductive health, women throughout the country face insurmountable barriers to getting birth control. As we rally behind radical change and lobby the new administration, programs like ours will provide essential services to people left out of the conversation. I’m inspired by the momentum created by tangible victories from movements and organizations like Plan A across the country that are improving lives despite the policies crafted to destroy them.  


Caroline Weinberg, MD, MPH, is the founder of Plan A Health. 


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January 25, 2021 by

The Fight for Reproductive Rights: It Never Ends

As a new 6–3 Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett begins hearing cases
about reproductive rights in 2021, and Roe stands on ever-shakier footing, here is
a look back at highlights from decades of Lilith reporting on abortion: much of it
as urgent and relevant as if it were published today.

The battle against abortion is only the first step in an attempt by the New Right to reshape the American political system in its authoritarian image… anti-civil rights for minorities and homosexuals, anti-labor and anti-sex education.

Annette Daum, “The Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights”

A California State Senator has been stripped of a committee chairmanship and fired from a state commission on women after describing abortion supporters as “bulldykes,” “lesbians”
and “murderous marauders” who are hard, Jewish and “arguably” female.

Annette Daum, “Anti-Choice and Anti-Semitic”

1989                                                                                                                                    If the forces seeking to restrict abortion win out, Jews who follow Jewish law on matters of abortion which says that a mother’s well-being takes precedence over that of the fetus, and
never equated abortion with murder will have that freedom of religion abrogated.

Miriam Arond, “At the Center of the Storm: Jewish Women in Politics Talk About the Issues”

I often claim each woman who gets safely into the clinic for an abortion—18 to 22
each Saturday morning—as a small victory, a vindication for having to interrupt my Shabbat by waking at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the distant reaches of Northeast Philadelphia and stand in a
parking lot, at least six months out of the year in darkness. Escorting is the most concrete form of activism that I know.

Christie Balka, “On the Picket Lines: Defending Abortion Rights”

The abortion issue has become—as, in another way the “JAP” issue was—a pernicious amalgam of anti-Semitism and misogyny.

Susan Weidman Schneider, “The Anti-choice Movement: Bad News for Jews”

Clearly whoever wrote the “One nation handles the problem of abortion in an
intelligent way” piece was either doing shoddy journalism or misguidedly glorifying Israel—or both. The health care system’s view of patient rights is lousy, women’s rights here are lousy, and the abortion issue is no exception.

“Gagged by Red Tape: Israeli Bureaucracy Limits Women’s Access to Information on Abortion”

While many women celebrated January 22nd, 1993, as the twentieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision protecting a woman’s right to abortion, others, in a horrifying and dangerous manipulation, labeled the date as the beginning of the “American Holocaust.”

Hadar Dubowsky, “Anti-Choice, Anti-Jew”

While Catholic tradition focuses on the soul of the fetus, Jewish law focuses on
the life of the mother.

Leila Bronner, “Is Abortion Murder?”

2003                                                                                                                              One of the first acts of George W. Bush as President was to bar health organizations abroad that receive U.S. aid from offering any abortion services.

Alice Sparberg Alexiou, “Bush’s War—The One on Women”

2003                                                                                                                              Many women who are now in their 20s and 30s have little historical and no visceral
knowledge of the crises an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy often precipitated in the pre-Roe v. Wade decades… With Washington now trying to pack the courts with anti-choice judges, and with many states restricting access to abortion, we had better be vigilant.

Susan Weidman Schneider, “Letter from the Editor”

The primary obstacle for Israeli women is the “abortion panel,” a three-person committee consisting of doctors and social workers—including at least one woman—that must approve all abortions. Irit Rosenblum, an advocate for reproductive freedom, says “It’s chauvinistic…a relic from the dark ages.”

Elana Maryles Sztokman and L. Ariella Zeller, “Abortion in Israel”

The president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, told a House
committee, “We object to the use of drugs and procedures used to take the lives of unborn children,” referring not to abortion, but to contraception!

Elana Sztokman, “Confusing Abortion with Contraception”

Legal abortion split the world open to the realities of women’s lives, laid bare in my counseling rooms. They had made the choice to abort, but they still couldn’t believe it was safe and legal. “I won’t be butchered?” they asked. “I won’t die?” They were sure they’d be punished. “Can I really do this thing and go on with my life?” I saw so much vulnerability: legs
spread wide apart; the physician crouched between white, black, thin, heavy, but always trembling, thighs: the tube sucking the fetal life from their bodies, the last thrust and pull of the catheter, then the gurgle that signaled the end of the abortion. Over and over I witnessed women’s relief that their lives had been given back to them. It was a kind of born-again experience.

Merle Hoffman, “Abortion Foremother”

“Livchor”—“to choose.” The first time I went to the abortion clinic, I couldn’t go through with it and left with my pregnancy still intact. During the six days that followed, I came to terms with
the awesome charter of my choice. Okay, this is inescapable, I told myself. I can’t pretend I’m not doing it. “Pro-choice,” “pro-life”—I was taking responsibility for my power.

Deborah Eisenbach-Budner with Rabbi Susan Schnur, “A Ritual for Abortion”

The mountain of anti-choice laws grows ever higher: mandatory waiting periods; mandatory ultrasounds, some of which must be done via vaginal probe; measures that restrict medical students from learning how to perform abortions; building codes that make freestanding abortion clinics adhere to the same strict standards as hospitals. Anti-choice activism has become enviably creative.

Sarah Erdreich, “Don’t Say ‘Vagina’”

2013                                                                                                                          Midwifery has been part of the reproductive justice movement, in which Jewish women have been consistently active. Fully one-third of the students in my midwifery class are Jewish. We think in these terms: How do we improve women’s status, women’s lives?

Jessica Angelson talks to Susan Schnur, “Generation Midwife”

Women who were denied an abortion were associated with mental health difficulties, specifically anxiety and depression. Women who were able to access the abortion they wanted had more positive outcomes so much for the accusation that women regret their abortions.

Chanel Dubofsky, “Abortion Doesn’t Harm Your Mental Health”

Despite the evidence that Jews support pro-choice candidates for public office, do we think “good” Jews don’t have abortions?

Chanel Dubofsky, “What’s Missing When Jews Talk About Abortion”

2018                                                                                                                            Extra-legal abortions will look different from what they did in the 1970s. A “medication abortion,” or a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, allows for a safe FDA and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists-approved and more private way to terminate a pregnancy. Misoprostol can also be used on its own, inducing bleeding
and symptoms similar to a miscarriage.

Kira Yates, Five Things You Can Do Right Now for Abortion Rights

There’s a difference between abortion being legal, which it technically is as of now in the U.S., and being able to get an abortion if you need one.

Chanel Dubofsky, “Worried About Roe Now? Welcome to the Fight”

What commentator Rachel Maddow describes as the Trump administration’s “performative cruelty,” includes decidedly anti-“life,” anti-child policies like the separation of infants and children from their parents at the southern border of the U.S.

Susan Weidman Schneider on the Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights

So Jane did what thousands of young women were forced to do in the 1960s— she underwent a back-alley abortion. Though she had worried about going through with it, other young women she knew had used the same abortion doctor and had been fine… Unfortunately, afterward Jane was not fine at all: she developed sepsis and multi-organ failure…Though the team tried everything they could to resuscitate and stabilize her, she did not make it. We all cried.

Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D., “In Med School Before Roe v. Wade”

Let your friends know that everyone loves someone who’s had an abortion. Be explicit about your support for abortion, about listening to and loving your friends who’ve had them, and about your commitment to protecting abortion access. We need you now more than ever.

Steph Herold, “Everyone Loves Someone Who’s Had an Abortion”

One of Trump’s campaign promises—fulfilled—was to nominate fervently anti-choice ideologues to the Supreme Court. Indeed, Trump’s fawning over social-issue conservatives has been blatant.

Eleanor J. Bader, “The Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion”


Post-Covid, I want to imagine that abortion will be accessible in the ways I’ve always
dreamed: The option to seek care in a clinic or self-administer abortion medication wherever a person feels comfortable. The abortion will be free.

Steph Black, “Abortion for Anyone Who Needs It”


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July 27, 2020 by

Abortion for Anyone Who Needs It

STEPH BLACK is a writer, activist and clinic escort in D.C. who is passionate about the intersections of Judaism and feminism. 

Post-Corona, I want to imagine that abortion will be accessible in the ways I’ve always dreamed: The option to seek care in a clinic or self-administer abortion medication wherever a person feels comfortable. The abortion, whether by medications taken at home or by a procedural abortion done in a clinic, will be free. Information around abortion care will be holistic, demedicalized, and demystified.

At this moment, we are at a crossroads. Telemedicine options for many kinds of healthcare have spiked. Yet this has not been true for abortion: the FDA’s stonewalling on accessible abortion medication is baseless. Its refusal to relax medically unnecessary restrictions on the accessibility of these medications is life-threatening to those who need it. As an educator trained on how to self-manage abortion with pills, I know that access to these medications, and information on how to take them, is vital and urgent. Being able to manage an abortion yourself at home during Covid-19 is lifesaving.

Even as more people seeking abortion care turn to this option, I’m hoping others will understand how safe and necessary it is. I envision a time when these medications are available in pharmacies, for free, for anyone who needs it—no questions asked.

Right now, abortion is essential. In a post-Corona world, it must be freedom.

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July 27, 2020 by

Now. Next.

A cross-section of activists and thinkers weigh in on the present and its future— what perils we face, and what we might build from this epidemiological, social and political crisis.

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The Lilith Blog

April 27, 2020 by

Abortion Under Threat: What You Need to Know

While many of us are at home, anti-choice politicians and their supporters are exploiting the anxiety around COVID-19 by attacking access to abortion rights. (Here’s a great graphic from NARAL Iowa depicting the intersection between the politicians who tried to ban abortion in 2019 and those trying to do so now.) 

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The Lilith Blog

March 13, 2020 by

When the Jewish Fight for Abortion Came to My Own Backyard

 My mother likes to say that I’ve been involved with social justice since I was in the womb. I trick-or-treated for UNICEF and tagged along with her to B’nai Brith Women meetings and pro-choice rallies starting in the 1970s. 

I am now Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Southwest District President, where I lead Reform Jewish sisterhoods in eight states across the Southwest. It has been so meaningful to lead this group of women and build power to fight for our rights in a time when Southern lawmakers seem more eager than ever to restrict them.

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March 3, 2020 by

When a Fetus Gets Legal Rights, Guess Who Suffers?

At the center of the new documentary film Personhood is Tammy Loetscher, a Wisconsin woman who, after losing her health insurance, experienced debilitating depression from a thyroid condition. Without access to prescription drugs, Tammy turned to self-medicating with meth, which she stopped after learning she was pregnant. After she reached out to her doctor for help, the result was Draconian in ways that, unfortunately, you can imagine. (Spoiler alert: A lawyer was appointed for Tammy’s fetus, and not for Tammy.) 

Let’s start here: reproductive justice is the right to have children or not have them, and to raise the children you have in a safe environment. Reproductive justice, a framework founded by Black women, goes beyond notions of “choice” and “rights” to remind us that without access to reproductive health services, such as prenatal care, abortion and contraception, these services and the laws that make them available may as well not exist. Keep this definition in mind when you’re watching Personhood,  the documentary film about what happens when a fertilized egg is given the same rights as—sometimes even more rights than–a fully formed human being, making the person carrying that egg vulnerable to a barrage of laws which take any opportunity to punish her.  unnamed

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The Lilith Blog

February 19, 2020 by

Becoming an Abortion Doula

Earlier this year, Lilith asked me what my pro-choice New Year’s resolution was for 2020.

Without hesitating, I knew what my answer would be: I would become an abortion doula, who guides folks through the procedure. It is a very straightforward and simple goal on the surface, especially since I had already sent in my application to become a trained doula with the DC Doulas for Choice Collective (DCDC).

But there’s a lot of meaning to this choice. I’ve wanted to be an abortion doula for years, since I learned what it meant. Like a birth doula, an abortion doula is someone who is dedicated to guiding the patient through the abortion procedure. This can include answering their questions, remaining with them during the procedure even if they are under anesthesia, and remaining with them in the recovery room. It can mean acting as an advocate, getting water or snacks, praying with the patient, or just chatting about the Bachelor. Being a doula can take a lot of forms, but my primary goal is to support the patient with whatever they may need at any given moment.

Why go this extra mile in support of patients? Because I’m not only pro-choice, but I am pro-abortion and pro-access. That means going beyond supporting someone’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy but fighting to remove the barriers that may prevent them from doing so.

I do not believe that abortion is a necessary evil, but a moral and social good. It’s what has led me to become not only a doula but a volunteer in other ways as well. I am a clinic escort with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF) and I walk patients to and from their vehicles among anti-choice protestors who can be loud, in the way, and occasionally violent. I am also a volunteer with the DMV Practical Abortion Support Network, DAPSN, an organization that provides rides or walks to and from a patient’s hotel and the clinic and housing, all for free.

Washington, D.C. is one of the few areas in the country where someone can get an abortion throughout pregnancy, so there are hundreds of folks who travel from often very far states to access care here. Many of those folks rely on abortion funds to pay for their travels and expenses but can’t afford to bring someone with them. That’s where DAPSN and DCDC come in. Our job is to be the stand in for folks who cannot be with the patient.

This work is very different than fighting a political campaign. I am a proud volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice America where I sit on their all-volunteer Action Council. I show up to protest whenever I can. I have even spoken out at the Supreme Court and been arrested for civil disobedience over abortion. But this year, I want to focus on the patients who make the choice to obtain abortion care. Often, lost in the noise of the political struggle to keep abortion safe and legal are the patients themselves who have to navigate complicated TRAP laws, legalese, and financial barriers to receiving care but who are human beings and moral agents like the rest of us, and who deserve a friendly face and sympathetic ear during their medical procedure.

It is easy to forget that the fight for abortion means fighting for real people, with jobs and families and social lives. They have names and faces, beyond a statistic. These are the people I am committing to supporting and getting to know.

Since my resolution was published, I successfully made it through the interviews and will begin my training in March. This year, I will not only fight for the right to abortion access, but hopefully sit with people and be their support as they exercise that right.

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