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Results tagged “montana” from Blog for Choice

Honoring America's Dedicated Abortion Providers

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Doctors office_small.jpgToday is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day!

Any woman who experiences an unintended pregnancy and chooses abortion deserves the same care and compassion as any other medical patient. That's why the role of abortion providers is essential to women's reproductive-health care.

Abortion providers across the country risk their lives to ensure women can access abortion care with compassion. Not only do they put their safety on the line, some also travel thousands of miles to make sure they can provide care in areas where there is no abortion provider on staff. That's why we work every day to protect women's reproductive freedom and abortion providers across the country.

We hear every day from women who are grateful for their provider's compassionate care and assistance when choosing the best reproductive-health option:

Nicole, 32:

I never thought I would have an abortion. Last summer I made the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a very much wanted pregnancy. At our 12 week scan we discovered that our baby boy had an 11 mm cystic hygroma and further genetic tests confirmed that he had trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is not compatible with life. Our baby had a less than 5% chance of even making it to term and if he did he would have died shortly after birth. We couldn't bear the emotional distress of knowing that each day could have been the day our baby would die in the womb and if we made it to birth it would only be to bury him shortly after. I still cry every day for our baby we lost but I know we made the right decision for us and I'm so thankful that we had the option to make that decision. I am also so thankful for the compassionate doctors and genetic counselors we met along the way.

KC, 30, Massachusetts:

At 35 weeks in a very wanted pregnancy, my baby was diagnosed with serious brain malformations. Her prognosis was grim. It was not known how long she would live, but it was certain that she would suffer for all of her brief life. My husband and I were devastated.

It was so late in my pregnancy that there was only one clinic in the entire country that could legally take us. We knew what our choice was and didn't need more time to think about it. We knew this was right. We scrambled for the money and hopped a plane the next business day to take us to our procedure. Our care was incredible. Everyone was so compassionate and very serious about keeping me safe. I miss my baby terribly, but I know that I did for her what I would want my parents to do for me. We saved her, and there is great peace in that.

I am so thankful to our clinic and caregivers for helping me and my baby, but at the same time I am angry that, had we found out only one day later, all doors would have been closed. I'm hurt that we had to leave our home and support network to get our care. I'm enraged that this option rested on fast access to $30,000 for trip and care. It is incredibly unjust that a family without contacts to such resources would have no choice at all. I am deeply saddened that being open about my loss might risk harassment or even violence against my family and clinic. I despair that something so close and personal and poignant be subjected to a raging war over women's rights. I am scared that other loving families in my place will run out of safe and humane options that they can live with.

Eve, 37, Alaska:

We were using birth control and it failed. I found out I was pregnant after I missed my period (at five weeks). I live in one of the larger cities in Alaska, but because the clinic does not have an abortion provider, they fly one in at regular intervals. I waited four weeks for a provider. The clinic was wonderful, caring and understanding (to the point of letting me make a backup appointment just in case the doctor was weathered out and could not fly in). I am lucky because I do not live off the road system and have a supportive family. I can only imagine what the wait might be like for someone with little support out in a village somewhere off the road system, especially with all the scary self-help advice out there on the internet. I am grateful for action groups working to keep access to abortion open and the procedure itself safe and legal. Finally, I cannot thank the clinic and the providers enough for their time and caring when I needed it.

Halina, 21, North Dakota:

While switching from different birth controls I became pregnant. I was not mentally or physically ready for a child. I chose to have an abortion. My husband and I are very grateful we had a choice in this decision. The clinic we went to was the only one available in North Dakota, they were very nice, very helpful, they made sure I was fully educated with my choice and I am very thankful for that. Banning abortion gives NO choice for women and to me, that's just wrong.

Erica, 32, Texas:

I thought I was doing everything right....

While I was certain that I was using the pill correctly, I did manage to get pregnant. I called him and we decided that we were far too young and not financially able to have a child together. I was working two jobs and I was a full time student. I was paying my way and helping pay bills for my parents.

In the end, the abortion was performed with a lot of guidance from the clinic. They made sure I was absolutely informed of my choices and I made the right one for myself and my body. Looking back, I never regret my decision for one second - other than getting pregnant in the first place. Now, I'm successful and married to a wonderful man and we are trying to have our first child. The panic I felt when I found out I was pregnant really made me understand the women who retreated to back alley abortions - I would have done ANYTHING to have my abortion and I am so thankful that I didn't have to make that kind of a decision.

Evie, 30, Texas :

My boyfriend knew before I did, and it was just a side comment from him about how beautiful I looked that made me even think to buy a pregnancy test. When I told him, he was his usual supportive and gentle self, and apologized. Then promised to support me however I wanted to proceed.

He did all the research, found me the best abortion clinic in the state...The doctors were a husband and wife team, a loving pair of caregivers who were so obviously in this practice for all of the kindest reasons.

The doctor who performed my exam apologized, seemingly humiliated, before using the vaginal ultrasound probe to show me the pea-sized [pregnancy].

About 48 hours later, my seemingly constant "morning" sickness was over and I was no longer pregnant. It was painless. I felt supported. I had an excellent team of medical professionals to support me and answer my questions.

Even though abortion care is a critical part of reproductive-health services and lets women's control their destinies - one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime - anti-choice forces work hard every day to close down clinics and force abortion providers out of business.

Anti-choice groups do whatever it takes, from passing laws like the one in Texas to close clinics, to using harassment, intimidation and even violence. As recently as last week, an anti-choice activist vandalized and forced a reproductive-health clinic in Montana to close in order to intimidate patients and providers. In 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church by an anti-choice extremist.

We're honored to recognize some of our current and former NARAL Pro-Choice America board members who are also abortion providers, Dr. Sara Imershein, who provides care to women on the East Coast, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, a retired provider and author of "This Common Secret" about her experience as a provider in an extremely conservative part of the country.

We thank abortion providers across the country who risk their lives and safety to ensure that women have access to essential reproductive-health services and abortion care.

Happy National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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Senate Race Watch: Montana

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While everyone is waiting with bated breath for the presidential election, we aren't forgetting the importance of the U.S. Senate elections.

The Senate is critical in the fight to defend the right to choose, so we must protect every senator who fights for women's freedom and privacy. Right now, there are only 40 reliably pro-choice votes in that chamber. It takes 41 to block bad legislation.

Back in 2006, NARAL Pro-Choice America's PAC was thrilled to endorse Montana Sen. Jon Tester for election. We're excited to stand with him again in 2012 as he runs for re-election!

NK_phonebank_Tester_MT.jpgNancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, joined volunteers to make calls in support of Sen. Jon Tester!

Sen. Tester has proven to be a pro-choice leader time and again. He's voted against defunding Planned Parenthood which would deny millions of Americans access to contraception, cancer screenings, and other basic medical care.

He also voted against a spending bill that would cut funding for contraception and cancer screenings, and eliminate family-planning programs for the world's poorest women.

Right now, Sen. Tester is locked in a tight race against an anti-choice opponent Rep. Denny Rehberg (R). Rep. Rehberg has a terrible record on choice.

In 2011, Rep. Rehberg voted twice to defund Planned Parenthood. He also voted to allow hospitals to deny emergency abortion care to women who could die without it.

These extreme anti-choice policies are completely out of touch with the needs and values of Montana women.

This race is personal for NARAL Pro-Choice America. When our own Nancy Keenan ran for Congress in 2000, she was narrowly defeated by Rehberg.

If you have friends in Montana, urge them to vote for the pro-choice candidate who will fight for women's freedom and privacy: Sen. Jon Tester.

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.ProChoiceAmerica.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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June 5: Vote Pro-Choice on a Big Primary Day

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On Tuesday, June 5 voters in six states will head to the polls for congressional primaries.

If you live in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, or South Dakota, check out the NARAL Pro-Choice America primary voter guide for your state!

California

The Golden State is home to some of our greatest champions of choice in Congress. Let's send them back to Washington, and score some pro-choice pickups, too!

Californians are lucky to have many strong pro-choice candidates running.

NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorsed Sen. Dianne Feinstein for re-election. She's been a consistent champion of choice, and we need her in the U.S. Senate!

NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC also endorsed a number of candidates for U.S. House of Representatives:

Pete Aguilar in District 31
Ami Bera in District 7
State Rep. Julia Brownley in District 26
Rep. Lois Capps in District 24
Rep. Judy Chu in District 27
Jose Hernandez in District 10
Rep. Barbara Lee in District 13
Leader Nancy Pelosi in District 12
Rep. Jackie Speier in District 14
Rep. Henry Waxman in District 33

If you live in California, check out our voter guide so you can vote pro-choice down this line.

New Jersey

In the Garden State, NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorsed Rep. Steve Rothman in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.

Rep. Rothman is a consistent champion of a woman's right to choose. Right now, he's locked in a primary battle with Rep. Bill Pascrell, who has cast 21 anti-choice votes during his time in Congress.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorsed Rep. Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate. He's been fighting to stop the War on Women in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, we need him to bring his pro-choice values to the U.S. Senate!

Check out voter guide for your state, and if you live in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, or South Dakota, be sure to vote pro-choice on Tuesday, June 5!

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.ProChoiceAmerica.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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Montanans call their state the "last best place," and if you've ever been there, you know why. Montana is home to majestic mountains, clear lakes, and wide prairies.

It's also home to some strong pro-choice leaders, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer and U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus.

Last week, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and a native of Anaconda, Mont., visited her home state.

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She joined activists from NARAL Pro-Choice Montana in thanking Gov. Schweitzer and Sens. Tester and Baucus at rallies in Helena and Missoula.

Last year, Gov. Schweitzer stood up against an anti-choice legislature and blocked four anti-choice measures from becoming law. Because of this, we honored Gov. Schweitzer (along with Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota) by dedicating our Who Decides? report to them.

Montanans are lucky to have a pro-choice governor and two pro-choice U.S. senators!

That's why Nancy called for the re-election of Sen. Tester and another governor women can count on to reject extreme anti-choice attacks.

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.ProChoiceAmerica.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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Standing Up for Women, Montana Style

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The great state of Montana has a proud pro-choice tradition. The Treasure State has two pro-choice U.S. senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and it received an A- grade in last year's Who Decides? report.

But Rep. Dennis Rehberg, Montana's lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives? Not such a treasure. He's been a loyal foot soldier in House Speaker John Boehner's War on Women.

Fortunately, pro-choice Montanans are not ones to keep quiet in the face of attacks on their freedom and privacy.

Julianna Crowley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, wrote an op-ed in The Montana Standard blasting Rep. Rehberg's attacks on a woman's right to make personal, private medical decisions:

As a woman who would be directly affected by the anti-choice policies Rep. Rehberg supports, I am offended and disappointed that Rep. Rehberg dismisses freedom and privacy -- two values that we Montanans hold dear.

Rep. Rehberg's actions reflect his lack of respect for women's ability to make private medical decisions with our doctors.

Recently, Rep. Rehberg cosponsored and voted for H.R.358, the "Let Women Die" bill. Shockingly, H.R.358 would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she will die without it. In addition, the bill would ban insurance coverage of abortion in state health-insurance exchanges, denying abortion coverage to millions of women.

Montanans need to let Rep. Rehberg know that his obsession with attacking choice--at the expense of addressing our economic challenges--is out of touch with our values and priorities.

Thanks, Julianna, for spreading the word on Rep. Rehberg's terrible record!

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More on that Montana Birth-Control Battle

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On Tuesday, we reported that the commissioners of Ravalli County, Montana were threatening to reject Title-X funds, putting nearly 500 residents' access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other care at risk.

Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher summed up his thoughts on the matter:

In my mind, pregnancy is not a disease state. An unplanned pregnancy doesn't make it anymore so. You can say it's a social problem, and you can argue there is a role for government to take some action in that. I don't believe that's the case.

Well, we have some good news to report from Big Sky Country.

After an outpouring of public support for Title X, the county commissioners voted 3-2 yesterday to accept the federal funding and keep the clinic doors open for another year. (It may not surprise you that Commissioner Kanenwisher was one of the two voting against.)

Special props go out to NARAL Pro-Choice Montana for rallying the community to save family planning.

Julianna Crowley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, praised the vote:

The county commissioners' vote to accept federal family planning funds was a victory for the residents of Ravalli County. These funds provide medical services crucial to good health, especially for women who have no other access to medical care. For many women in the Bitterroot, this clinic may be their first point of entry into the health care system, thereby serving as a bridge to other services. The strength and collective will power of the women and men who turned out in large numbers to support their local health department and the services it provides has made it possible for the clinic to remain open.

Still, she noted that it's not a total victory: the county accepted Title-X funds for one year only. Next year, the clinic will be forced to find alternative sources of funding.

So, a couple of lessons from Ravalli County: elections matter. Even on the local level--anti-contraception politicians at all levels of government can do real damage.

And grassroots activism matters, too--as Julianna said, it was ordinary women and men speaking out who saved this clinic.

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Ninety-eight percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives.

Think about that. Ninety-eight percent. There's no TV show that's watched by 98 percent of American women, no sports team that can count on 98 percent of the population as its fans. In an age of polarization, there is perhaps nothing so universally used and accepted as birth control.

This week, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that, as medical experts advised, newly issued insurance plans must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraception without a copay. In a country where one in three women finds it difficult to pay for birth control, Secretary Sebelius' decision was a victory for women's health and common sense.

The reaction from right-wing politicians and commentators? You'll have to see (or read) it to believe it.

On Monday, Rep. Steve King of Iowa spoke out against birth control on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. He called the new no-cost birth control regulations "bizarre," "Orwellian," and said that they would make us "a dying civilization":


Bill O'Reilly of Fox News doubted the importance of no-cost birth control, saying, "Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex. They're not going to use birth control anyway."


In June, New Hampshire's Executive Council voted to cut off state funding for family-planning services at Planned Parenthood, forcing the state's six clinics to stop providing birth control.

Councillor Raymond Wieczorek expressed his feelings on women who use contraception:

If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?

Not to be outdone, the commissioners of Ravalli County, Montana are threatening to reject Title-X funds, putting nearly 500 residents' access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other care at risk.

But no problem, according to Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher:

In my mind, pregnancy is not a disease state. An unplanned pregnancy doesn't make it anymore so. You can say it's a social problem, and you can argue there is a role for government to take some action in that. I don't believe that's the case.

Back in the world of "fair and balanced," Sandy Rios, vice president of Family PAC Federal and another Fox News contributor, had this to say:

Is the White House out of their mind? Does the West Wing not know what the left wing is doing? We're $14 trillion in debt and now we're going to cover birth control, breast pumps, counseling for abuse? Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well?


Let's review what they oppose...again.

Insurance plans will cover contraception without a copay--improving women's access to family-planning services and thereby reducing the need for abortion.

As more of these anti-contraception extremists speak, I'm confident it will spur even more Americans to side with us. Do you agree?

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Somehow, the prospect of women using birth control has caused a giant conniption fit among right-wing politicians and commentators. (And 98 percent of American women use contraception at some point in their lives.) 

From politicians in Montana and New Hampshire to Bill O'Reilly and his concerns over women who are "blasted out of their minds," the right wing has gone into an apoplectic rage over birth control.


Is the White House out of their mind? Does the West Wing not know what the left wing is doing? We're $14 trillion in debt and now we're going to cover birth control, breast pumps, counseling for abuse? Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well?

Thanks to ThinkProgress for sharing Ms. Rios' comments. 


One in three American women struggles with the high cost of birth control at some point in her life, and the United States has a far higher unintended-pregnancy rate than other industrialized countries.

Making family-planning services available at no cost will help millions of women prevent unintended pregnancy and thereby reduce the need for abortion.

You'd think they'd be for that. 

But I guess not. 

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Birth Control Battle in Big Sky Country

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Another state, another set of politicians trying to block women's access to birth control. 

Last month, it was New Hampshire, where a member of the state's Executive Council quipped, "If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?"

Now, NARAL Pro-Choice Montana tells us that the commissioners of Ravalli County, Montana are threatening to shut down the county's family-planning clinic, which women depend on for access to birth control, cancer screenings, Pap smears, and other basic health care. 

The clinic receives federal funding through Title X, the nation's family-planning program. If the county commissioners follow through on their threat to reject these funds, the program will probably be eliminated. 

But that's not a bad thing according to Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher

In my mind, pregnancy is not a disease state. An unplanned pregnancy doesn't make it anymore so. You can say it's a social problem, and you can argue there is a role for government to take some action in that. I don't believe that's the case.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) doesn't share Commissioner Kanenwisher's backwards views on women's health. Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that newly issued insurance plans must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraception without a copay starting next year.  

In the meantime, the Ravalli County commissioners will meet again on Thursday to discuss whether to reject the Title X funds. 

Politicians like Commissioner Kanenwisher remind us why no-cost birth control is so important for all American women. 


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While the political landscape in the states is hostile to a woman's right to choose, we have some good news to report out of the upper Rockies.

On Tuesday, the Wyoming state House defeated a bill that would have interfered in the relationship between a woman and her doctor. State Rep. Lisa Shepperson, a Republican, explained why she voted "no":

When I go to the doctor, it is the most private thing you can imagine. I want myself, I want my husband, and I want my doctor there. I don't want any government.

NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming lobbied heavily against this bill, and the great and wonderful Sharon Breitweiser, the organization's executive director, praised its rejection. Kudos to the 32 Wyoming legislators who voted against this attack on women's freedom and privacy!

Moving north to Montana, pro-choice activists packed the halls of the state Capitol in Helena on Monday to show the strength of the pro-choice majority in Big Sky Country. It's just one way NARAL Pro-Choice Montana is fighting back against the anti-choice politicians who recently took control of both chambers of the state legislature. Julianna Crowley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, said these anti-choice lawmakers are outside the Montana mainstream: 

They are not close to being moderates at any level. They have an extreme agenda, which aims to strip women of their ability to make private medical decisions.

Well done, NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming, and all of our affiliates fighting to protect choice in the states!

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Anti-Choice Politicians Can't Handle the "Truce"

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels recently called for a truce on social issues. (That means choice.) Even more recently, lawmakers in the Hoosier State ignored him. 

Just this week, anti-choice politicians in Indianapolis were abuzz with ideas on how to attack a woman's right to choose. One anti-choice leader was rather blunt about his intentions:

We all recognize the focus will be on education and budget issues. We will not neglect those responsibilities. But we can multitask.

Oh, that's rich. Political intrusion into private decisions is the new multitasking. Apparently, it's an epidemic as anti-choice lawmakers in Montana, New Hampshire, and other states roll out their plans to attack choice. The same people who campaigned on so-called "limited government" are racing to be the first ones to give politicians more control over our personal, private decisions. Perhaps they're figuring out that creating jobs is hard, and that the only way for them to pacify their right-wing base is by attacking choice.

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Vision to Win, Day Two: Missoula, Montana

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We were in Grizzly yesterday. That's Missoula, home to the University of Montana Grizzlies.

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana brought together a diverse group of young leaders, from campus activists, to staff at the Blue Mountain clinic, to a candidate for the state legislature. We even had a fabulous student activist from the Flathead Valley Community College who traveled hours to join us.

The energy at the roundtable was fantastic. We learned from campus activists about their experiences talking to students about how being pro-choice means supporting women in all the decisions they make, including accessing contraception and abortion as well as having a healthy pregnancy.

Much like the conversation in Helena, we heard a lot about the need to give people space to process their views on choice and speak to their hearts.

We know that Millennials have grown up during a time when abortion has been legal. That means that the pre-Roe v. Wade stories about the dangers of illegal abortion may not connect with younger people because it's not their experience. One activist told us about how he speaks to friends who are anti-choice about what it would be like for women if abortion weren't legal. He said they had to think about the risks illegal abortion would pose to women.
Another participant advised us to look for ways to engage people outside the the context of threats to choice. She acknowledged that anti-choice legislators are attacking choice everywhere, but for some people, the legislative process is so far removed, and they're used to hearing about potential threats year after year. How can we better reach people who don't believe the legislative process affects their lives?

We had a great discussion, and there are many things we will continue to mull over. I left Missoula inspired by the thoughtful and creative advice we received from the 18 people who joined us yesterday.

Now, it is on to Livingston, where I will see my friend, Dr. Susan Wicklund, an especially amazing and heroic abortion provider.

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As I type this for Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, she is on her way to Livingston, MT where she will visit pro-choice champion and friend, Susan Wicklund.

In the meantime, Nancy wanted me to share with you the slideshow of pictures from her trip to Montana for the first stop on NARAL Pro-Choice America's Vision to Win tour across the country:

As you can see, Montanans really know how to turn out, tune in, and support their pro-choice legislators! Reports from the field are filled tales of valuable lessons from young pro-choice activists, a lot of laughs, a little press, and Mabel the pro-choice puppy. Oh, and if you're on twitter, you can follow our twitter stream or search for the Vision to Win hashtag: #v2w

One final note: Nancy was on Montana's NPR station, KUFM, last night. You can download and listen to the radio show on the KUFM website (Nancy's segment begins at 11:56 minutes in).

More from Nancy's visit with Susan Wicklund will be posted later. Stay tuned!

 

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Vision to Win, Day One: Helena, Montana

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Looking back on day one of Vision to Win, it's clear that the rest of the country can learn a lot from Montana on how to cultivate and engage young leaders. NARAL Pro-Choice Montana's staff is comprised of Millennials, as is nearly half of its boards.

We joined with young progressive leaders representing LGBT allies, civil liberties, and many more important causes. We shared the findings from our research project and then turned the floor over to the attendees. Here's what he heard:

  • Keep the personal focus on this issue.

  • Relate the issue to your community (such as a what is it like for women in your immediate area).

  • Talk about choice as a value; don't forget that to appeal to people's hearts, not just their heads.

  • Access to abortion is not separate; it is part of the decisions women make, like accessing birth control.

We can't wait to hear more from young leaders in Missoula. (BTW, going across the continental divide is like driving through the clouds.)

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A Vision to Win Begins in Big Sky Country

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In the next 24 hours, I head to my home state of Montana. It will be great to breathe crystal-clear air and be wrapped in the arms of the Rocky Mountains.

I am looking forward to seeing friends who were colleagues and fellow political junkies. I will get to visit with some former classmates at our reunion. (Please, don't ask how what number this reunion is.) And I can't wait to float the North Fork of the Flathead River and watch a Big Sky Sunset.

But this isn't a regular homecoming. I am also there because Montana is the first stop in NARAL Pro-Choice America's multi-state Vision to Win tour, a partnership with state affiliates to further engage grassroots leaders and elected officials in the efforts to protect choice.

Please join us back here or on Twitter and Facebook, as I meet up with pro-choice leaders in Helena, Livingston, and Missoula.

What will we be talking about, exactly? What is the Vision to Win? Why are we starting in Montana? All of these questions are good ones, so let's start from the top.

The election of a pro-choice president and gains in Congress, the defeat of seven anti-choice ballot measures since 2005, and the advancement of multiple pro-choice policies have spurred an intense reaction from our opponents. As we face a galvanized anti-choice opposition, we are committed to strengthening our ties to our pro-choice activist base and inviting even more Americans to join our cause.

In particular, our vision includes focusing on the emerging Millennial Generation (those under 30). This generation is the largest and most diverse in our nation's history. We recently completed ground-breaking research on the attitudes of Millennials who aren't activists regarding abortion rights. That is the first step in an ongoing initiative to ensure that choice-related issues are relevant in their lives and that they connect how the political process affects their ability to make private health decisions or access the services they need. We already know that there are many young women and men actively engaged in protecting choice. The entire staff of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana is comprised of Millennials. We are partnering with the affiliate in meeting with additional young leaders in Big Sky Country.

Our focus on Millennials isn't a one- or two-year effort. It is part of a long-term vision. For example, Montana currently gets a grade of A- when it comes to protecting choice. We're proud of our strong constitutional protection of personal privacy. But, as my friends at NARAL Pro-Choice Montana will tell you, their legislature is evenly divided on choice. In the 20 years that the affiliate has been tracking choice-related votes at the Capitol, the 2009 Session brought the most anti-choice bills ever introduced. Plus, the anti-abortion forces aren't giving up on their quest to put a so-called "personhood" abortion ban on the ballot, even though they failed twice.

In the face of anti-choice opposition, the challenge is to keep Montana as an A- state or move it up to an A in the next five, 10, or 20 years. To do that, we have to listen to and learn from each other. Working together, we will build this roadmap to a pro-choice future and achieve our vision of winning for choice in Montana and across the country.

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Before the weekend comes, and the pending SCOTUS-palooza takes hold, I wanted to take advantage of the calm before the storm and keep you up-to-date with that latest goings on in the states. There's so much wackiness, craziness, and drama, all of which puts the health of women at risk. So much so, that the Center for American Progress Action Fund dedicated an entire Progress Report to the abortion wars stateside.

BTW - Fake bonus points and a virtual high-five will be rewarded to the first person who figures out the reason behind the ordering of the states in the update.

Florida: The Florida Legislature used all kinds of legislative shenanigans to pass an anti-choice bill, and it's now up to Gov. Charlie Crist to sign or veto it. Yep - that Gov. Crist. Naturally, Rep. Kendrick Meek and other pro-choice Florida state lawmakers encouraged Crist to veto the bill that basically trades women's dignity and privacy for a cheap election-year victory. We are mobilizing thousands of our supporters in the Sunshine State, so please take a moment to help us by sharing this news with your friends in Florida to help spread the word about why this bill is so bad for women.

Pro-Choice Progress in Pennsylvania: Looking for a sign of pro-choice progress? Who isn't? There's a bill moving forward in Pennsylvania that would ensure all public schools teach comprehensive sex education that is age-appropriate and medically accurate.

Tennessee Can't Catch a Break: We're sad to report that, in addition to the horrific and devastating flooding going on in Nashville and surrounding areas, politicians have made this week even worse by taking away choices from women. This week, Tennessee became the second state to ban insurance coverage of abortion in the exchange that will be established under the new health-reform law. The law prohibits abortion coverage even in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. We're outraged by this unfortunate news, how about you?

Mighty Missouri: At least there's some great news coming from Missouri. The anti-choicers failed to get a so-called "personhood" measure on the November ballot. Our colleagues at NARAL Pro Choice Missouri worked hard to fight this:

Clearly, "personhood" provisions are much too extreme for Missourians. Voters in Missouri value privacy and each person's ability to make their own health decisions. Anti-choice tactics like this one would make drastic, unnecessary changes to current law. Pro-choice and pro-privacy Missourians wisely rejected this proposal and will do it again should any more outrageous attacks on women's health surface.

A huge round of applause goes out to our friends at NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri and their allies.

Oklahoma, Okay... Sorta: Oklahoma women caught a break this week... at least for now. A new anti-choice law is on hold pending the results of legal challenges in the courts. This is good news, because it sounds like the law was really traumatic for some women. Check out this article to learn more.

The Drama Continues in Kansas: Last week, anti-choice forces in the House fell two votes short of reversing the governor's veto of an anti-choice bill. As we all know, a lot can change over a weekend - and it did. The House voted again, and this time they managed to overturn the veto. The bill then went to the Kansas Senate, where the veto override failed by one vote. Stay tuned for more Sunflower-State drama, and check out this article for more info.

Montana Columnist Says What??: Yesterday, a really, really egregious opinion ran in the Helena Independent Record. In it, columnist Randy Rickman basically says that the recent anti-choice bill from Oklahoma (see above) is a good thing. Just how bad? Well, read this excerpt:

Will understanding the full impact of an abortion, up front, mean there will be more consultation and soul searching before making a decision? Probably so. And if that decision is made only after evaluating all the information, won't that be a better decision?

Look - we know that women accessing abortion care have thought about their decision. They have the thoughtfulness and the intelligence to make private medical decisions without a state-mandated script or a viewing of an ultrasound against their will. So clearly, this bill serves no other purpose than to shame and demean women for making a decision that some lawmakers in Oklahoma would like to take away from women altogether. It is not about informing women of their options. The law's intent is to intimidate women from exercising their right to choose while questioning their decision-making. NARAL Pro-Choice Montana is on the case, and is working on responding via letters and other options, like Twitter and Facebook.

That's all for this week. Rest up, pro-choice nation. Something tells me that next week will be a doozy!

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Emily Gardner is a Policy Associate for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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(Dr. Wicklund, at the head of the table, addresses NARAL Pro-Choice America staff and guests.)

Last week, Dr. Susan Wicklund, a NARAL Pro-Choice America board member and an abortion provider based in Montana, spoke to NARAL Pro-Choice America staff and guests about her experience as a provider who assists Native American women with reproductive-health services.  Our Diversity Team organized the presentation as part of our ongoing diversity-related educational series.

Even though Montana is one of 17 states that allow state funds to pay for abortion care, Native-American women must clear additional hurdles, through HHS and others, that cause delays and, in some cases, put women's privacy at risk. Trying to maintain confidentiality while living on reservations or in communities with as few as 300 people is difficult, especially because of the stigma around abortion in many communities.

Dr. Wicklund also spoke of barriers to choice that many rural women face.  The sheer distance that women in places like South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming have to travel to receive abortion care is astounding, and sometimes prohibitive.  Dr. Wicklund used the example of Montana, which is hundreds of miles wide and contains only four health centers that provide abortion care.  Some women live as far as 400 miles away from one of these health centers.  For Native women living on reservations without cars, they have to rely on clinic volunteers to drive them to the nearest health center for abortion care.  The number of abortion providers across the country is diminishing - which disproportionately affects rural women.  Dr. Wicklund said that enacting pro-choice policies and electing pro-choice politicians is essential to protecting choice, but without providers, the right to choose is effectively meaningless. 

NARAL Pro-Choice America is very grateful to have such a board member like Dr. Wicklund, who provides much-needed health-care services to women.  Thank you, Dr. Wicklund, for taking the time to speak to us today, and for the extremely important work you do everyday.

 

(To learn more about Dr. Wicklund, please take a moment to read this story from The Charleston Gazette. You can purchase Dr. Wicklund's book, "This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor" at your local bookstore, or online here.)

My Friend, Dr. Susan Wicklund

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I'd like to tell you about my friend Dr. Susan Wicklund, and then I have a favor to ask.

wicklund_big.jpgDr. Wicklund provides reproductive-health care to women in my home state of Montana, and she is deeply dedicated to choice. She has driven as many as 352 miles one way to see patients at a women's health clinic in Kalispell (that's the distance from Washington DC to Cleveland, OH!). She and her staff endure the shouts of anti-choice protestors who come to intimidate patients, many of whom have driven for hours to get to their appointments.

In fear of her own safety, Dr. Wicklund frequently wears a bulletproof vest to work.

But Dr. Wicklund keeps fighting on. She recently opened a new clinic in Montana, which will bring reproductive-health choice to many more women in the state.

So here's where the favor comes in. The work that Dr. Wicklund and her staff do is exhausting, and they face so much negativity every day, including anti-choice protesters outside their doors. I know it would mean a lot to them to hear some words of support.

Would you please write a thank you note to Dr. Wicklund? It doesn't need to be fancy, just let her know that you appreciate the care she and her staff provide to women.

Here are a few things people have said already:

  • "I think you are an absolutely awesome person to do what you do, and never give up."
  • "I honor your devotion to Women's choice."
  • "Thanks to you, Dr. Wicklund, for all that you are doing in bringing good care to those who are in need."

Please write a note of support to Dr. Wicklund and her staff today. She (and I) would both really appreciate it. Thank you!

(I'm sorry that I'm a little late on this one - due to a cold I just couldn't shake - but it's important enough that I wanted to highlight it here.)

In last Saturday's Billings Gazette, Allyson Hagen, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, had an opinion piece where she reminded Montana voters to ask their legislative candidates where they stand on the issue of pharmacy access:

Three years ago, Montana women won a major victory when the attorney general issued a rule requiring insurance companies that cover prescription medication to pay for prescriptive contraception.

Montana became the 25th state to guarantee equitable insurance coverage, which is important since 98 percent of women, from all religious and cultural backgrounds, access some form of birth control during their reproductive lives. Birth control is basic health care.

As with all progress, however, this major step forward didn't stop anti-contraception groups from seeking new ways to block women's access to birth control in Montana.

The debate now goes from the insurance company to the pharmacy counter.

Last month, our state's pharmacy board refused to consider adopting a policy to guarantee that customers with valid prescriptions could walk into their pharmacy and get their medication - without intimidation, without inconvenience and without delay.

Read the rest of the opinion piece here and if you have friends or family in Montana, be sure to share with them this important message in anticipation of Montana's June 3 primary.

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