Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Different Kinds of Activism

"Around now, an adult man with gray hair and black clothes strode up to me, asking “Who are you. Who are you?” The kids, for their part, were mostly silent, mostly listening—quite a bit more polite than they are when swarming the annual counterprotest at the Supreme Court, but here they only had me outnumbered fifty to one, so maybe that was the difference. I ignored the man, and kept speaking to the kids."
—Pro-choice on Amtrak.

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Astounding. Thank you, to both the incredibly brave author and Nicole for bringing it forward.

Mom: Thank you for not letting me go to the March for Life with my Catholic elementary school because I wanted to get out of class for the day. (I dropped that request like a hot potato once I got older and actually understood what was happening down there.) I am eternally grateful.


@area@twitter On a similar note, I would like to thank my Mom for using that excused day off from school to take me to Natural History museum, and tell me in no uncertain terms that pro-choice was the right choice. And for backing me up in 4th grade when we were supposed to write an anti-abortion essay for class, and I wouldn't.


@LacunaKale You were writing essays that had to do with abortion in fourth grade?! Yeesh!

(Also, go you/your mom.)


@wee_ramekin yeah given how terrib;e/non-existent they want sex-ed to be, did the teachers even explain what abortion was?!


@iceberg Babies are fully formed from moment A. You wouldn't kill babies would you?!? Now lets all watch a sonogram.




@area@twitter BUT THE POPE!


@area@twitter Didn't you know that every time a woman gets an abortion, a Pope loses his mitre?


@wee_ramekin Oh, well in THAT case...


@LacunaKale My mom used to arrange a family vacation for the March of Life day, so I was always conveniently out of school!


I am feeling so, so thankful that my Catholic schools didn't participate in any of this crap. The only time abortion came up (except in a clinical way, in health class), it was a religion teacher sharing an anecdote about the horribleness of anti-choice activists.

Am I humblebragging? Yeah, some. But also, Catholic schools are not all terrible!


This is only mildly relevant but I'm glad she mentioned the littering. Those kids are slobs.


@Vicky And they ALWAYS STAND ON THE LEFT OF THE ESCALATOR. Always. I missed two trains home thanks to these massive gaggles of rude, smelly teenagers. I haaaaate March for "Life" weekend.

That essay was amazing and the author is a BAMF. I'm not brave enough to do anything more than pointedly refuse to give directions to lost out-of-towners in stupid anti-choice T-shirts, and I really admire her. I bet she got through to more of those kids than she thinks.


@Mira "You don't want me to have a choice about my reproductive health, but I damn sure have a choice about whether to give you directions." You win.


@Ophelia Or just tell them all friendly-like that whatever they're looking for is at "Connecticut and J." I normally use that one on CPAC attendees, though.

Lisa Frank

"Can you tell us how to get to the nearest Metro stop?"
"Do I have a choice?"


@Mira You are a hero. DC represent!



Kudos to the author. I am glad she is in a good place now, and I'm so grateful to her that she fights so hard for everyone's right to make the decision that she did, safely and legally.


@wee_ramekin THIS. I have a friend that was in a REALLY bad place in her life, and getting an abortion was a HUGE factor in being able to free herself and move on up.


Everything about this is lovely - her bravery, the hope that she made a difference - but I am somehow most impressed and pleased by her cool-under-fire answer: "I am a private citizen exercising my rights"

Kick ass.


@Hammitt Having read through the first-draft recapping of this story on twitter, my sense was always that since she referred to a history of loud street activism, that part was the only part that came easy for her.

Which seems even more BAMF-ery to me.


Yes, her ability to focus on being respectful & firm in the context is really impressive. I bet she reached some of the kids who had probably never even thought about *why* they are "pro-life" before.

I inadvertently walked across the Mall when this was happening a few years ago & heard a 10 year old kid yelling prayers on stage regarding fetal blood in the earth, etc. Highly disturbing.

This year, I sat next to a table full of Notre Dame students Friday night. They were talking mainly about normal college stuff, but one girl gave a speech to her friend that I completely agreed with - everyone should register with in the national bone marrow donor program.


table full of Notre Dame students Friday night. They were talking mainly about normal college stuff, but one girl gave a speech to her friend....wrecking balm

Tuna Surprise

This is great.

I'm such a firm believer that we all should be speaking up (in a calm, rational manner) to injustice in face-to-face scenarios.
What I think this story best illustrates is that you need to be prepared to preach when the opportunities arise. I have little speeches on welfare, immigration, gun control, etc memorized that I try to break out whenever the situation warrants (although it has never been with a train car full of strangers - so kudos to her).


@Tuna Surprise Would you mind sharing those here? I always aspire to this, but my natural discursive tendency is somewhat long-winded and laden with emotion. I'd love to have a short, to-the-point speech at hand for some of these situations.

polka dots vs stripes

@Tuna Surprise me too!

Tuna Surprise

Answer to anti-tax/"I built it" bullshit:

No one is denying that [you are hardworking]/[small business owners are hardworking] but it's a bit insincere to believe you built it 100% by yourself. I work for a small business that was started by 5 friends in the 1970s. They certain worked hard but they benefit by being able to hire employees that can [read/write/doing accounting/etc] because of a public education system funded in part by tax dollars. Those employees reliably get to work every day on roads and public transportation networks subsidized by tax dollars. Once at work, they use utilities that reliably supply our office building due to a public utility sector regulated by the government. If we have a dispute, we know our contracts can be enforced in a court system funded by tax dollars. If someone steals something from our office, we can call 911. When our employees retire, the business does not have overhead of healthcare because of the Medicare system. The men who started my company worked very hard, but their success was only possible because they built a company in a first world country that has a functioning government which is supported by tax dollars.


I understand how you can be opposed to the act of abortion. But I personally can't support laws that force personal moral preferences on other people. Being pro-choice doesn't equate to being pro-abortion. If we really want to make a difference, we should be supporting useful sex education, better access to birth control, better support for disadvantaged families.


@Tuna Surprise Thank you!

Tuna Surprise

Gun control:

I don't think anyone is seriously trying to outlaw guns but I do think we have to consider balancing the rights of gun owners with the rights of people be free from gun violence. Did you know you can't buy a car and register it in your name without having a drivers licence. We should at least have the same system for guns. Also, I assume as a gun owner you are being responsible? I was shocked that the last two massacres were committed by people with access to other people's guns. I assume you lock up your guns so no children, mentally ill people or thieves have access?


@Tuna Surprise I like your pro-life speech but I would worry about using this: "But I personally can't support laws that force personal moral preferences on other people." Because that is what most laws do, in fact, do. We give up some personal liberties to have an ordered society. The contentious question is whether our sovereignty over our bodies, privacy and right to self-determination can be overruled by other competing claims. I think putting it that way also cedes the moral high ground to pro-lifers, which I am not prepared to do. I think that having an abortions is often the ethically/morally correct thing to do.

Here's how I frame the issue: "Terminating a pregnancy is a choice that is best made between a woman and her doctor. There are a myriad of reasons to choose abortion, and you have no moral authority to arbitrate between them. Unless you have a magical machine that can defray the potential consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term (such as maternal morbidity) and are also willing to create a system that will take care of that child until he/she is 18 years of age (if someone mentions the foster system, you can laugh mirthlessly and talk about the homelessness rates for children coming out of foster care) then please refrain from trying to legislate on this issue."


@adorable-eggplant I agree. They'll probably just turn around say "Well that's what laws against murder do, why don't we legalize that!". Then you have to get into arguments about what constitutes personhood, which I think is a dead end, because nobody's working off an objective definition anyway. I think the violinist argument is best way to go. Even if a fetus is exactly morally equivalent to a 32 year guy living in Indianapolis, you can't force anyone to donate her body to keep them alive.

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

@Urwelt Whoa. Never heard it put that way. Brilliant!


@The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

Y'know another thing to think about? Ruminate on this: you have to sign up to be an organ donor. Yup, that's right. Even after you die, you have sovereignty over your body and when/how/whether it gets used. Though a strong moral argument could be made for enforced organ donation (have you seen how many people are waiting for transplants?), EVEN DEAD PEOPLE don't have to give up ownership and usage of their bodies if they don't want to. Yet many state legislatures would like to force LIVING WOMEN to give up that right.

I think thinking about abortion rights this way made me angrier than anything I'd ever thought before, and I've invested a LOT of rage in the abortion rights game.

fondue with cheddar

On the way to work every day, I pass by a clinic that performs abortions. Every day there is at least one person standing on the sidewalk in front of it, facing the building and holding a bible with their heads lowered in prayer. Today there was a young woman holding a sign with a grisly picture of a late-term aborted fetus, facing the road. It was a hell of a way to start the day (and I was already having a really bad day), and this post helped lift my spirits a bit. Thank you, Maya, for what you did and for sharing your story. I wish more people (myself included) could be so brave.

Better to Eat You With

@fondue with cheddar A group of old white guys stands outside the clinic near me with huge posterboards featuring images of dismembered bodies of what have to be photoshopped two-year-olds. This shit is so dishonest. I yell swear words at them from time to time.

fondue with cheddar

@Better to Eat You With You know there's something wrong with your position when you have to resort to lies and scare tactics in order to make a convincing argument.

Most of the time, the people outside the one I pass on my commute are pretty respectful. They just stand there and pray. They're usually senior citizens, and usually only one or two people. If they feel the need to pray for the aborted fetuses, that is their right and I have no problem with it, as long as they aren't harassing anybody. The poster people sicken me. Throwing gruesome images in the face of everyone who travels on that road (and it is a busy one) is harassment IMO.


@fondue with cheddar A year or two ago there was a protest outside the Planned Parenthood down the street from me. It was very well planned, the police put out barricades blocking the right lane of traffic for the protestors. They has a crowd of maybe 50 from a local church, mostly middle-aged. I saw them when I was walking my dogs and thought about letting them know that office was closed on Fridays, but I didn't want to actually talk to any of them.

Ladies Who Punch

@fondue with cheddar @Better to Eat You With Can I just say my favorite part about your exchange is that one of you is "Fondue with Cheddar" & the other is the "Better to Eat You WIth" Such a funny combination!!!


I don't know, I feel pretty torn about this story. I know the author had good intentions, but I find the method questionable--launching into a speech to a captive audience of kids? Imagine if the situation were reversed and an anti-choice woman decided she needed to intercede with a group of pro-choice kids by subjecting them to a speech about their baby-killing ways. Would she be in her rights to do that? Well yeah, same as the woman in this story. But I would be angry and find her approach totally off-putting and unnecessary. We shouldn't let our agreement with this woman blind us to the questionable wisdom of her actions.

Edit: I want to add that I ABSOLUTELY don't think think it's wrong to speak up and share your views with others, even total strangers. But this was not a case of equal conversation amongst adults, this was one woman deciding she needed to intercede with a group of children that she assumed were brainwashed.


@SuperGogo I think I'd be OK with someone telling a personal story about why she regretted her own abortion - which to me would be the equivalent "free speech" to this?


@SuperGogo You know, I felt that way a little bit when I first read this. But then I realized that:

a) She made her point politely, succinctly, and in a non-threatening way


b) Those children have an adult to help them process the interaction.

I can honestly say that while I would be a little shaken and feel awkward if I were a pro-choice teacher going to a pro-choice rally and this happened, I would use it as a "teaching moment". Like, "Okay, does anyone have any questions about what that woman said?". I think that if your position doesn't stand up to questioning and discussion in the face of some succinct, polite disagreement, then you don't have much of a position. I imagine that there was a discussion about what she said after she got off the train.

But yeah, I do see where you're coming from.


@wee_ramekin samesies.

polka dots vs stripes

@wee_ramekin I imagine that there was a discussion about what she said after she got off the train.

You have much more faith in people than I do, because I imagine the teacher poo-poo'd everything she said because she's obviously disturbed from her abortion and doesn't know what she's saying everyone be quiet and go pray now.


@polka dots vs stripes Ha. By "discussion", I meant that I imagined that the teacher/chaperon addressed what had just happened and tried to give an explanation/context (even if it was just "Crazy baby-killer and her crazy ways").

Also an add-on to my previous post, because I have continued ruminating over @SuperGogo's point: I think that the very nature of what these kids are doing is political, and if they are going to be involved in the political theater, this kind of thing is par for the course. I don't want to be like "if you can handle the heat, get out of the kitchen"....but, I mean, if you can't handle people saying stuff that you don't believe about abortion to your school charges, then maybe DON'T BRING MIDDLE SCHOOLERS TO AN ABORTION RALLY.


@wee_ramekin I had these same doubts @SuperGogo mentioned, but I actually think that it's not an unfair assumption that brainwashing is definitely at least being attempted on the kids in question, because we all know they didn't come up with the idea themselves, and also I think that being on the right side of the argument is not irrelevant - it's counteracting MISinformation they are being given.

I would be angry if an anti-choice person did the equivalent, but only because I disagree with their point of view, not because they shouldn't do it.



So, over on the Billfold, Michele posted a comment justifying why she thought it was okay to approach this group of students, which really resonated with me:

"These kids, on the other hand, were in DC completely as political actors. If they’re going to have a major world religion throw them a parade in the capital of the free world to tell me what *they* think, then they’re fair game in the course of doing that to spend two and a half minutes in a public space listening to what *I* think."

(you can see her whole comment over at the Billfold)

Springtime for Voldemort

@craygirl And I think that's really the crux of the issue - they're there, asking to be heard as adults (despite their technical age) on adult issues. So they get to be treated as adults by other people. But they don't get to have 12 year olds screaming that actual adult women are whores and baby-killers and then go "hey, why are you confronting us like this - we're just kids."


@iceberg I don't have any experience with the Catholic church, but I was raised in an Evangelical church and we were told to always bring any conversation around to Jesus and the chruch stance on current events. If someone from my church had been in a captive situation with a pro-life group, they would have been preaching, handing out pamplets, and offering to pray for their poor lost souls. The youth groups spent more time giving us scripts on various issues than they did talking about God.

fondue with cheddar

@SuperGogo I think it's okay as long as she's respectful about it, as Maya was in her encounter.


I like how easy it is to discern the old man's intentions of suppressing her voice from repeating a 3-word question. "Who are you, dude? You're an asshole, I can tell from the few sharp words coming out your fascist face." He barely said anything and I resort to name calling. In line with Hammitt's comment ^ being cool-under-fire isn't easy.

fondue with cheddar

@whizz_dumb If he asked me, "Who are you?" I like to think I would have replied, "Who, who...who, who!"


Sorry to threadjack, but in an update on the story of New Mexico House Republican Cathrynn Brown's Bill that would charge pregnant rape victims who seek abortion with evidence tampering charges, she has amended the bill. HB 206 would no longer charge victims, but would continue to prosecute abortion providers with felony evidence tampering.


@laurel UGH because doctors just are lining up already to perform abortions, it's almost TOO easy to get one, amirite?


I wish I had the courage to do that. Well, maybe I do and I just haven't had the chance yet. My voice shakes sometimes. Good for her.


Having read through the first-draft recapping of this story on twitter, my sense was always that since she referred to a history of loud street activism, that part was the only part that came e buy high pr backlinks

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