Anti-choice and Republican Officials are Trying to Take Advantage of the COVID-19 Crisis to Restrict Abortion Access

As many of you probably have already heard, people who are against a woman’s right to chose whether or not she carries a pregnancy to term are trying to restrict abortion access during to COVID-19 outbreak. State officials in Texas, Ohio, Kentucky and Oklahoma are trying to claim abortion is not an “essential service.” As NPR reported on March 27th, 2020,

“State officials in Kentucky and Oklahoma are among a growing number of Republican officials who say abortion is a nonessential procedure that should be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Nonessential service.” Are you kidding me? According to NPR, hundreds of patients in Texas, and elsewhere seeking abortions have been turned away. This is disturbing. Abortion is absolutely an essential procedure. Whether or not to bring a pregnancy to term is not a decision to take lightly and preventing a woman from accessing this basic right over her own body is appalling.

How is the decision to prevent abortion access even legal? Let’s not forget that the supreme court case of Roe v Wade is the law of the land. It says the Constitution protects a woman’s right whether or not to have an abortion. It states that a woman has a right to do so without excessive government restriction.  THIS IS THE LAW of United States of America. Anti-choice politicians as usual are trying to bend the law to their own personal will. But it is particularly infuriating and wrong now because they are trying to use a crisis, this pandemic, to their personal advantage.

Politicians cannot quietly and stealthily chip away at women’s rights. COVID-19 should not be an excuse to deny women the basic right to make decisions over their own bodies, especially such a profoundly life altering medical situation. Abortion absolutely is an essential service.

As TIME reports,

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups also urged hospitals and clinics not to cancel or delay abortion procedures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care,” they said in a joint statement. “It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

Women have the human right to control their own body. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree: A study from 2019 found that 77% of Americans (over three-quarters of Americans) believe abortion should be legal and accessible. This is a basic right and it has been for thousands of years. I cannot believe we are still having to fight this fight!

What can we do?

  1. Make your voice heard. Talk to your friends about whats going on. Google Hangout or Zoom and bring it up with your friends and family. Bring it up over a phone call with your friends.
  2. Research more about the problem.
  3. Post info about it on social media.
  4. Contact your representatives.
  5. Click HERE if you would like to add your name and send a letter to contact Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and tell him he needs provide guidance to states declaring that abortion IS indeed an essential service. The form is through Naral Pro-Choice America. It only took me a minute and a half to add my name. 

Lynsey Bourke (below) works to make abortion accessible in West Africa and she is someone I knew from when I lived in Montana. She is a regional operations director for DKT International, the world’s largest providers of family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention and safe abortion services. She lives in West Africa, registering medical abortion pills in a many French-speaking countries. She cares about this issue, not just for women in West Africa, but for women in the United States as well.

Here is what she has to say:

 

 

 

Rwanda Girls Update

Here is Celeste, one of the students from the Gashora Girls Academy, rockin’ it at the United Nations for the summit on International Girl Empowerment. I would have loved to hear her speech. What an inspiration she is.

10373501_10152708928535539_2207767120383710794_n

 

And here’s a great compilation of photos from some of the students from the Gashora Girls Academy at their respective colleges around the globe. You go girls!10599250_10152650194720539_5182486934905369152_n

Grenade Attacks

I wrote this post on September 19th : I didn’t want people to worry about me, but now that I am safely back stateside, here it is.

IMG_2863
At the bus station

There was another grenade attack last night here in Kigali, Rwanda. Yep, there are grenade attacks happening here. I’ll admit, being in the city when there are grenade attacks happening at the bus stations and the markets I frequent is a little intense. And what’s crazy is that almost everyone I talk to about it is nonchalant. When I say “Did you hear about the grenade attack yesterday?!” their response is “Huh? Oh yeah I heard about that. So where should we get lunch?” For me I’m thinking. “I was just there an hour ago, at that market, where the grenade blew up and people died. I was just there.” Makes me pause and think about the people who were there just going about their daily lives when it happened and the fact that I could have been there too.

For the three months I have been here, there have been six grenade attacks. Six. All of the attacks are happening here in the city and three of those attacks were just this weekend while I have been here in the city. One of the attacks left dozens dead and injured many more. The only way we all even know about it is from the U.S and Canadian embassies that have issued information to us via email so as to warn us of the danger. This weekend they have issued a warning saying “…do not go out unless absolutely necessary.” But I have to get back to Gashora village somehow so I can get back to my students and go to work. Plus it’s safe there. But that means risking going to a bus station where many of these attacks have happened. No one is sure of the motivation behind the grenade attacks but they always happen at crowded areas.

Also, right now there is a conflict between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The M23s, (the militia group in the DRC) have been lobbing bombs across the border over here to Rwanda. Luckily, lately the bombs have subsided and they haven’t dropped where I live, but pretty damn close. It would be like someone bombing one side of New York City while you’re on the other side. So when you think about it that way, yes, these bombs are falling very close to where I live everyday. And yet, everyone around me is incredulously nonchalant about it and I find myself putting it in the back of my mind just as they are. What else can ya do? If it got to a point where it really was so unsafe and dangerous, I would have to fly back to the states. But that’s really not something I need to do. But the thing that really concerns me is the idea of putting my mother in danger. My God that would be the worst thing. My mom is coming to visit next month and then we’re going to fly back to the States together. I think it’ll be an amazing adventure for her and I think she’ll have a great time but I don’t want there to be any risk of grenades or bombs. I’m just really hoping things calm down. (Update: Things did calm down and my mother and I had an amazing time.)

So Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa but… there are grenade attacks… and bombs coming from our neighbors to the west…and it’s all just part of the risk of being here I guess, despite the fact that things really are pretty safe in this country otherwise. Although I’m taken aback by the whole thing, my experience here is still amazing and of course I plan on continuing work at the school.

What Does This Experience Mean?

IMG_3544

What does this experience here mean, volunteering in Rwanda? One of our students posted a status on Facebook saying something like “all these white people come here to see how much better their lives are than ours.” She wasn’t talking specifically about any of the Muzungu (white) teachers, or anyone I know. She was talking about tourists in general. But it is an honest statement. Hmm… It’s important to really look at your own intentions while volunteering abroad. Luckily I don’t think I am just another white-honky seeing how good I’ve got it back home, although I certainly do acknowledge my white privilege. What I am developing is a way to be a positive indent on this planet. My intention is to be of help, to observe, to explore and to journey in order to come to understandings about my country and about myself  and to help others in the process. Education is such a beautiful part of life; I want to make sure everyone, no matter what country you come from or if you’re a boy or girl, has the opportunity to reap the benefits of equality through education. So far, I have had the pleasure of seeing what  life is like on a different part of the planet, I’ve formed friendships, taught great students and have met amazing people.

Frankly, my intentions were to be a giver in the me-Africa-relationship and give my all to the school, which i have, but wow if I don’t feel like a kid at Christmas ripping open my presents because of what I have inadvertently been given while volunteering here: My soul has deepened: My feeling of family has grown from across the Atlantic ocean to the continent over here: My eyes and heart have been opened, my mind broadened and I have learned about the raw-ness of life: I am now rooted in knowing my connection to the planet and more so than ever and I know that the whole of humanity is my family: The girls have welcomed me to their amazing school and they have made me adore each of them for their uniqueness of spirit and incredible intellect. So again, what does my experience mean?  I’ll just briefly look back on these past several months, as the experiences pop into my head, whether they were good experiences or unfortunate ones.IMG_1002

I have rooted myself to the Gashora school and have traveled. I have looked on as people from the village “steal” drinking water. (Think about that for a second. to “steal” drinking water.) I have observed my dinner being carried to the back of a building, it’s eyes blinking unknowingly. I have picked up trash in people’s backyards along with students for the national community day and then burned the trash into billowing, engulfing clouds of toxic smoke. (hmm…) I’ve met Masai women in Tanzania who have undergone female genital mutilation and have met the young British girls in Zanzibar, hours before they were attacked with acid. I have bought avocadoes for less than a nickel from sweet old women at the market under acacia trees. I have been chased by giggling children in bare feet and dusty dresses. I have seen the dedication of hard working students who yearn to be doctors and scientists of their own country that so recently told them no, “people like you” stay in the home and should not go to school. I have learned about the long journeys my students have had to overcome just so they can get their education. They were beaten, run-down and teased by their previous teachers. They have walked hours on bloody feet just to get to school and their families crops have been burned to the ground just because they were girls and wanted an education. They have stood up to the old ways and voiced their opinions against child marriage. They have fought for their rights as women/girls/humans. I am in awe and ever grateful for my experience here.

IMG_2821

So what’s next? I don’t’ know. But I DO know I will continue on a positive path. No matter what I’m doing, my love for humanity, particularly women’s rights, will flow through me. I see that there is this giant, wonderful transformation underway world-wide that is starting to enable women to rise up in equality and have their rights. As you may know, a world movement for women’s rights is still very needed: unequal pay for equal work, objectification of women, victim blaming, bride burningssex slaveryfemale genital mutilation and acid attacks, just to name a few, are reasons a women’s rights movement is so important. (Click the blue to find more info about each.) The fact that this list is so abhorrently long is reason enough for us to say, no more.

IMG_1010

It’s unfortunate it has taken this long for a world-wide movement but I am so grateful to be involved in it. So how do I stay involved in this women’s rights movement that is, I believe, underway? Well, sadly, in my very own country, we still need to fight the good fight: Women’s rights are being chipped away in the States: The human right to have control over one’s own body is being challenged by certain governmental figures. If a woman is told that a bundle of cells growing in her uterus essentially has more rights than she does, what does that say about our country? The USA is a giant role model for the world and if they’re not enabling women’s rights, who will? In Rwanda, I see first hand the huge impact that the USA has on other countries in the world. So if the States can’t get their shit together, then what? If the States won’t pay women an equal salary for equal work then we’re all screwed. If they don’t offer proper maternal and paternal care then who will? If my own government in the States will bend over backwards and jeopardize their own people and economy and shut down the government in large part due to their opposing opinions about birth control, where is my country and this world going? So to answer the question I had at the beginning of this paragraph: How do I stay involved? Well, my own country needs a lot of help too. I will stay involved in the women’s rights movement where ever I go.

Torn Between Worlds

IMG_3693

I’m torn between worlds. I now have two true loves: Missoula Montana and Kigali/Gashora Rwanda. It is hard being in love with two different places. The countdown for returning to the states is 2 nights. One arm is being pulled back into America where I live in the mountains and walk out my door to hiking trails and a comfortable life and friends. The other arm is pulling me to Rwanda where adventure waits around every corner and bright African students anxiously absorb their education. One arm offers a comfortable lifestyle, relaxed and at ease. The other offers challenges needing to be overcome, but an enveloping, ever-present sense of purpose. I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I get back to the States. I honestly didn’t think it would happen but I really am a very different person now than when I left. I have molded like clay; obtained insight and wisdom. But I also feel as though I have aged several years and the weight of the human experience has made my load heavier. With each step I take getting closer and closer to the states I feel my heart ache for both places at the same time. But what I should really be looking at is, “wow, look at what I have accomplished.” So instead of gazing starry eyed or fearful-eyed into the future I’m just going to say, “Wow. This has been an amazing 5 months.”

IMG_2953