Ponnada: Celebrating Emma Goldman


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On Oct. 18, the Emma Goldman Clinic — located at 227 N. Dubuque St. — celebrated its 40th anniversary. The clinic, named after the early 20th-century American feminist anarchist, opened its doors eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court made a historic ruling that abortions were constitutionally protected in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. It was the first outpatient abortion clinic in Iowa and the first feminist health care center in the Midwest, and serves more than 2,000 people annually.

Now, some people may not think that the clinic being open for 40 years is that big of a deal. Perhaps to these individuals, Emma Goldman Clinic is just another abortion clinic (although there are not even that many abortion clinics in America to begin with). However, the role that Emma Goldman Clinic has played in our Iowa City community is a lot more significant than many people may realize.

In 2008, there were only 11 abortion providers in the entire state of Iowa. Those 11 providers represented a 22 percent increase from 2005, when there were nine. Ninety-one percent of Iowa counties had no abortion provider, and more than half of Iowa women lived in these counties.

Unfortunately, since 2010, there has been a dramatic decline in abortion access in the United States. The heavy wave of attacks on abortion providers, particularly in states like Arizona and Texas, have led to the closing of over 50 abortion clinics across the country.

Furthermore, access to certain services that have been developed in order to address the lack of clinics, such as telemedicine abortions, is being severely limited. Earlier this month, a legislative committee voted to move forward with a new rule that bans telemedicine abortion in Iowa.

Currently, telemedicine abortions are provided by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland at 15 clinics around the state. Physicians consult with patients via teleconference prior to remotely administering drugs that terminate pregnancies. The organization has dispensed the pills at least 3,000 times since 2010.

The problem with this is that women end up having to face serious consequences when clinics close (because they are, after all, here to serve women – right?). For example, women who live in rural areas have to travel long distances in order to receive family planning or abortion services. And as if that isn’t bad enough, currently, 26 states require that women wait at least 24 hours after a consultation to have an abortion procedure — so they may have to stay in that area overnight or travel the distance once again.

But no one wants to talk about all of this.

When I was younger, I hated talking about periods (they were gross), pregnancy (it was scary), and abortions (the procedure that must not be named). I don’t think I started to feel comfortable talking about these things until I got to college. But now, when I reminisce about those good old days, I realize that it was pretty ridiculous to be afraid.

My feelings definitely weren’t unique or unnatural. There is a stigma in our society surrounding any discussion of women’s bodies and women’s health. Even the toughest people transform into coy Victorian maidens the second someone brings up yeast infections.

Given the fact that our culture was at some point rooted in Victorian ideals, I can understand this coyness. But, it’s been over a century since we’ve made out way out of that time and into (seemingly) a more progressive one. Roe v. Wade was ruled 40 years ago, women got the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, and we still tie ourselves to outdated beliefs and ideals.

We need to have more discussions about women’s health, and more women need to be a part of this discussion if there is to be any progress in the services that are afforded to women in this country. And that’s where places like Emma Goldman Clinic come into play. They have been serving women and empowering women with a choice for years.

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