twenty something american grad student living and studying in canada



back in michigan

A Mother in Jail for Helping her Daughter Have an Abortion

Whalen told me that in the winter of 2012, her daughter came to her and said she was pregnant. Whalen told her she would “support her in any decision she made.” Her daughter, who was in high school, took a few days to think and then asked her mother for help ending the pregnancy. “She said, ‘I can’t have a baby right now,’ and she asked me to look up clinics,” Whalen said.

Together, they looked online. The closest clinic was about 75 miles away. Pennsylvania requires women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure. The cost of a first-trimester abortion is typically between $300 and $600. Whalen works as a personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly. She didn’t have health insurance for her daughter. And she was worried about taking time away from work and her family to make two trips or to stay overnight. At the time, Whalen and her husband shared one car, which they both used to get to work. And she hadn’t told her husband about the pregnancy. “I knew he would be upset, and I was protecting the whole family,” she said. (Whalen’s husband, who waited outside in the car during our interview, declined to talk to me.)

Whalen called a local women’s center on her daughter’s behalf but was told no one there could help, she said. She and her daughter did more online searching, and a site popped up with misoprostol and mifepristone for sale for $45. Whalen hadn’t heard of the medication before. “I read all the information,” she said. “They said these pills would help give a miscarriage, and they were the same ones a doctor would give you.” She says she had no idea that buying them was illegal.

"But for many gay people [the gay closet] is still the fundamental feature of social life; and there can be few gay people, however courageous and forthright by habit, however fortunate in the support of their immediate communities, in whose lives the closet is not still a shaping presence." 

- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet pg. 68 

Science’s Sexual Assault Problem

In July, Kathryn B. H. Clancy and her co-authors Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford and Katie Hinde published asurvey of 666 field-based scientists in the journal PLoS One and reported that 26 percent of the female scientists surveyed had been sexually assaulted during fieldwork. Most of these women encountered this abuse very early in their careers, as trainees. The travel inherent to scientific fieldwork increases vulnerability as one struggles to work within unfamiliar and unpredictable conditions, but male respondents reported significantly less assault (6 percent).

I know several women with stories like mine, but more often it is the men of one’s own field team, one’s co-workers, who violate their female colleagues. The women surveyed by Dr. Clancy’s team stated that their “perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team.

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