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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

This Pride, the lesbians in Palm Springs have scheduled tons of fun!

But first, a little background.

The first official “Dyke March” event in the United States was part of the 1993 LGBT March on Washington, D.C. It boasted around 20,000 lesbians—and the women who marched got inspired and energized. Later that year, New York and San Francisco had their first Dyke Marches, and today, they’re held in various places, including Palm Springs.

By the way, try not to get hung up on the fact that this was started by and continues to be led by women who are proud to call themselves “dykes.” This event is designed for all women-loving-women, and every kind of human who loves women is welcome! And dogs, too!

I was lucky enough to be at the ’93 marches in Washington and San Francisco. There were markers and paints and big poster boards to make your own signs. I remember wandering around the National Mall, looking at the signs other women were making, and then plopping down in the grass to make my own. 

This brings us to today. Over the last few years, the lesbian community in Palm Springs has made great headway in organizing their own business and entertainment opportunities. The now-4-year-old Dyke March, for example, has grown from a mini-march into two days of events. This year, it all starts with a picnic, rally and march during Greater Palm Springs Pride, on Saturday, Nov. 3, from noon to 4 p.m., at Frances Stevens Park. That’s between Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon drives at Alejo Road. Bring a blanket, and stake your claim on the grass for a picnic with simple, catered lunches available for $5 (cash only). You can also bring your own feast—and make everyone else jealous! Sprawl out in the dreamy sunshine to enjoy an afternoon of women’s music, dance, speeches and comedy—with me as the emcee. There will be shade tents and some chairs and tables, in case you’re not the sprawling-out-on-the-grass type!

Also at the park: Lighting up the dance floor will be young DJ Ash, from Los Angeles, spinning so you can tea-dance your hearts out. A local favorite dance teacher, Jan Alden, will even teach a couple of country-Western line-dance lessons. This is a kid-friendly day, so plan to bring the whole family, as there will be fun and games … and face painting! Joanne Thompson will lead a drum circle, so bring your instruments, too.

Between music and raffles, you’ll hear brief yet brilliant speakers, including spoken word from Nalani Hernandez-Melo, a founder of the Wyld Womxn Collective. Also on the schedule: a melodious tease from Sweet Baby J’ai as she lures you to the Sunday Lesbo Expo Launch Party. (More on that in a bit.) Leslie Price, a lead nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood, will share insights on women’s health, and the ever-powerful orator Kate Kendell, who led the National Center for Lesbian Rights for more than 20 years, will rally a bit of energy as we’re about to march. Finally, there will be a few words from Bella Barkow, a producer of Lezathlon, the largest and intentionally most ridiculous lesbian sporting event in the world! (We’re hoping to convince her to bring one of their lesbian “field days” here to Palm Springs next year.) 

The short march to the Pride Festival area will step off from Frances Stevens Park at 4 p.m.

Later that night, you can dance the night away at the L-Fund’s annual Women's Pride Dance in the ballroom at Hotel Zoso, at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, with DJ T-LA Storm. Tickets are $20 in advance at www.l-fund.org, or $30 at the door. All are welcome!

On Sunday, women can show up—first come, first served—to watch the Pride parade from the patio of the not-quite-reopened Alibi Room, at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Drinks and catered eats will be available for purchase. When the parade has passed, stick around on the patio for a free drag king show with emcee Jesse Jones and the Inland Empire Kings: King Phantom, King Caux and Sir Labia.

The headliners and big names can be found after the parade inside at the Lesbo Expo Launch Party, from 1 to 4 p.m. This ticketed event includes awards, music, comedy, a taco bar and beer, all for $30. The superstar show features acclaimed comedian/emcee Marga Gomez from San Francisco, and a short concert with Sweet Baby J'ai and her Women in Jazz All-Stars from Los Angeles.

Kate Kendell will receive the Legacy Award; other honorees include Susan Unger, the project director at Get Tested Coachella Valley; Lucy and Gail, producers of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival; and Michelle Castillo, co-founder of Wyld Womxn Collective. A special Palm Springs City Council resolution will also be presented by Councilwoman Lisa Middleton to Lynn Segerblom, a co-creator of the original pride flag. The whole event will serve as an introduction by the Palm Springs Dyke March Steering Committee to the planned day-long Lesbo Expo, slated for Pride in 2019.

As a young comedian, waiting on the National Mall at the first Dyke March in ’93, I was intimidated by the strong emotions voiced on many of the signs. I finally drew flowers and peace signs around the words, “Issue-Free Dyke!” Through the whole parade, lesbians yelled back at me: “No such thing!”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/psdykemarch.

Published in Local Fun

On this week's illegal-payoff-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles throws out the "few bad apples" argument; This Modern World talks abortion prevention; Jen Sorenson ponders climate-change dystopia; Apoca Clips chats with Kevin Spacey about his new film's actual, real opening-day haul; and Red Meat goes to pick up the kid from camp.

Published in Comics

With a small brown paper bag in her hand, Julie walked out of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Roseville with a new supply of birth control. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have health insurance.

“It’s awesome to have Planned Parenthood,” said Julie, who did not wish to give her last name. “To go to a regular health clinic like this would have cost $100, which would make you think twice about having to go.”

It’s the kind of clinic that President Donald Trump and conservative Republicans in Congress hope to cut off from receiving any federal funds. The federal government already prohibits any federal dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. But this effort seeks to block federal funds from paying for any other kind of health care by providers who also perform abortions.

If the effort succeeds, the impact would be particularly strong in California—a state where legislators over the years have interpreted federal laws and rules in ways that have allowed more federal dollars to flow to Planned Parenthood clinics. Roughly half of the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives nationwide currently goes, mostly via Medicaid reimbursements, to cover health care and family planning services for Californians, mostly in the lower-income brackets.

Ironically, Planned Parenthood officials say if they were to lose all their federal funding, their California abortion clinics would remain open; those already are funded by private sources and by state reimbursements for poorer patients. Instead, what would be at risk are all the nonsurgical sites that provide other medical and contraception services.

The state’s progressive state policies, put in place 30 years ago under Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, created a friendly environment for Planned Parenthood to expand and offer family-planning services to low-income men and women above the federal poverty level. That’s in stark contrast to states such as Texas and Mississippi, which unsuccessfully sought to ban their state Medicaid healthcare programs for the poor from channeling any money to health care providers that perform abortions.

As a result, Planned Parenthood today is one of California’s major health care providers, operating 115 clinics that serve 850,000 mostly low-income patients a year who rely on Medicaid (in California, Medi-Cal) for health care. That’s nearly a third of the 2.5 million patients who visit Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide for basic health-care and family-planning services.

“Planned Parenthood is a major safety-net provider at a time of increased health care demand,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University. “In a state like California, with more Planned Parenthoods, the reliance would be that much greater.”

The Republican-controlled Congress, bolstered by President Trump’s election, is eyeing several strategies to stop the flow of federal funding to Planned Parenthood. That money—roughly $500 million a year nationwide, through Medicaid reimbursements, Title X family planning money and grants—pays for services such as cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, prenatal care and the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Although Trump has frequently acknowledged that Planned Parenthood helps millions of women, he also has said he would support congressional efforts to ban funding.

“I would defund it because of the abortion factor,” he said at a February 2016 GOP presidential debate. “I would defund it, because I’m pro-life.”

A draft House GOP bill obtained by Politico would eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood as part of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. While that provision is likely to clear the House, its fate is uncertain in the Senate, where several moderate Republicans could side with pro-choice Democrats.

If the effort were to prevail, California Planned Parenthood would lose $260 million a year in federal funds—approximately 80 percent of its operating budget. Unless it found a way to replenish that money, the organization warns that it could have to close its 82 California sites that furnish basic health care and family-planning services to mostly low-income patients.

Meanwhile, its remaining 33 surgical abortion sites—which don’t get federal funding—would remain open, said Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of California Planned Parenthood.

“The irony here is that they are going to put in place more barriers for women to gain contraception, and that will lead to more abortions—and by the way, all the abortion sites will stay open,” Kneer said.

The House recently voted to reverse an Obama administration regulation that requires states and local governments to distribute family-planning funds to health centers, even if they perform abortions. President Barack Obama issued the rule in his final days in office after more than a dozen conservative states directed those funds only to community health-care centers.

Such an 11th-hour move by an outgoing president, Republicans argued during the floor debate, was an affront to states’ rights.

“I know that vulnerable women seeking true comprehensive care deserve better than abortion-centric facilities like Planned Parenthood,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.

The resolution is now awaiting a vote in the Senate, where California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is working to defeat it. It would have no effect on California, given that it is not among the states that have tried to limit those Title X dollars. Nonetheless, she noted that Planned Parenthood provides the only Title X family planning services in 13 California counties, and that any effort to strip federal funding would take a toll in other states and leave “huge numbers of women across the country (with) no place to go for essential health services.”

Trump on the campaign trail vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, and then he appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a former Republican congressman from Georgia who has supported cutting off taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. Both men have suggested the federal government could reallocate taxpayer dollars to community health centers. But many experts and health care advocates say those health centers cannot absorb the significant number of patients who now rely on Planned Parenthood.

That concern was echoed in January when the Democratic-controlled California Legislature approved resolutions opposing any congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. They did so after Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards met with Democratic senators at their annual policy retreat in Sacramento.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, proclaimed: “California stands with Planned Parenthood, because Planned Parenthood stands with California.”

But his sentiment was not unanimous. Several Republicans spoke out against the resolutions, with state Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, saying he could not support an organization that provides abortions. 

“I have no war against women,” he said. “But I also do not have a war against babies created in the image of God.”

With a Democrat-controlled state Legislature, California Planned Parenthood is hopeful it could ask lawmakers to backfill any federal shortfall. However, Medicaid funding is already strapped in the state, where a record one in three Californians are receiving Medi-Cal benefits. Given the potential for other federal cuts in health funding, it’s unclear whether the state would be able to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is drafting contingency plans.

“We are looking at scenario planning. These are all very difficult decisions,” Kneer said. “Closing any location is the last thing we want to do.”

One option is to more aggressively raise funds, but Kneer said private donations can’t possibly make up what they would lose. She also raised the question of whether private funds should be required to pay for a government reimbursement that other organizations receive.

Even if President Trump receives and signs legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of all its federal funding, Planned Parenthood could still challenge in court whether such a restriction is constitutional.

In the last few years, federal courts across the country have denied other states’ efforts to block Planned Parenthood as an eligible provider of taxpayer-funded health, ruling that such moves violated the First Amendment right of free speech and free association to choose a medical provider, and the right of a clinic to provide abortion services under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, said Julie Cantor, an adjunct professor at UCLA who teaches a law class on reproductive medical ethics.

“The government’s behavior has to comport with the Constitution,” Cantor said.

Samantha Young is a contributor to CALmatters.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in National/International

On this week's wetter-than-usual weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat wants meatloaf to get in the mood; Jen Sorenson eavesdrops on some thankful women; The K Chronicles talks race and crime; and This Modern World is appalled about Hillary's pneumonia.

Published in Comics

It’s difficult to find the right word to describe coming together to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade becoming the law of the land.

Celebrate? That doesn’t feel right, because even pro-choice individuals don’t think abortion should be “celebrated.” Commemorate? Yes, we do remember and memorialize the decision that affirmed women have a right to privacy regarding when and whether to bear a child. But perhaps there’s an even better word.

Solemnize? To dignify with events or ceremonies?

That works for me.

Recently, a group of local women and men gathered to solemnize the 43rd year since the Supreme Court validated women’s sovereignty regarding their own bodies, on Jan. 22, 1973. How’s the legal decision working these many years later?

The total number of abortions performed legally in the United States has steadily been declining, particularly among teenagers, largely as a result of the use of birth control, sex education and fear of disease. That’s the good news.

The bad news is a record number of restrictive anti-abortion laws and regulations passed in recent years by state legislatures, justified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s statement in Roe that although the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abortion during the first trimester, the states also have an “important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life” (however that is variously interpreted).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the leading compiler of accurate abortion information, in about 87 percent of U.S. counties, there is no provider; 35 percent of women age 15-44 live in those counties. Some state laws require waiting periods, ultrasounds with forced viewing of results, and “counseling”—often with misleading or outright false information, designed to discourage the decision to abort.

With such limited access to providers, some women must be able to travel more than 100 miles, take time off from work, arrange child care and find a way to stay or return again to satisfy waiting periods. It’s estimated that more than 30 percent of all women will have an abortion by the age of 45, and based on Roe, it should at least be safe, legal and accessible.

In Texas, where very restrictive laws passed last year, more than 100,000 Texas women between 18 and 49 have either tried to end a pregnancy themselves, or have sought help in Mexico. (The Supreme Court has accepted a case this term to decide whether Texas created an “undue burden” on women.)

The local event, co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood, Democrats of the Desert (DOD) and Democratic Women of the Desert (DWD), featured the film Vessel, a documentary chronicling the work of Women on Waves (WoW). The Dutch organization, a pro-choice nonprofit created in 1999 by physician Rebecca Gomperts, estimates that almost 50,000 women a year worldwide die from self-induced abortions.

“Reproductive freedom should be seen as a fundamental human right, not as a benefit or privilege only available to some, but not all, women around the world,” said DWD President Amalia Deaztlan, a resident of Bermuda Dunes.

WoW took advantage of the fact that when a ship is in international waters, at least 12 miles offshore, the laws of the nation under which that ship is licensed prevail. Dutch law allows unrestricted medication abortions up to the 6 1/2th week of pregnancy. In 2002, to assist women in countries where abortion is not legally allowed, WoW raised money to charter a ship and set up a complete portable clinic. The organization got permission from the Dutch health minister, staffed the ship with medical professionals and volunteers, and set out to provide services to women in countries with restrictive abortion laws. The intention was to land, let women know the nonsurgical procedure could be provided, take appointments to bring women on board, and sail into international waters, where Dutch law would prevail.  

The first stop was Ireland, followed over the course of several years by Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Poland. In some locations, they were not even allowed to dock the ship: Loud groups of protesters, mostly men, often threatened them, but the protests and resulting publicity led to hotlines being established and, ultimately, to changes in some laws. At the very least, women became aware that there were nonsurgical means they could obtain and safely take on their own, regardless of the legality of abortion or the willingness of doctors.

According to Guttmacher, in 2008, medication abortion accounted for more than 25 percent of all U.S. abortions performed prior to nine weeks of gestation. Says the World Health Organization (WHO): “In countries where induced abortion is legally highly restricted and/or unavailable, safe abortion has frequently become the privilege of the rich, while poor women have little choice but to resort to unsafe providers, causing deaths … that become the social and financial responsibility of the public health system. Laws and policies on abortion should protect women’s health and their human rights. Regulatory, policy and programmatic barriers that hinder access to and timely provision of safe abortion care should be removed.” WHO has placed the drugs used in medical abortions on its List of Essential Medicines since 2005.

Since ships cannot reach all of the countries where women need access to safe abortions, WoW launched safe-abortion hotlines in Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Poland and Morocco. WoW trains volunteers who can staff local hotlines to give women information about how to obtain and use the drugs. They have even resorted to graffiti-tagging “Safe Abortion” with a local phone number on streets and walls so women can get the information they seek.

Seeing Vessel was a moving and inspiring experience, especially for those who often forget that what we may freely access in California is heavily restricted in places like North Dakota, and totally unavailable in places like Tanzania.

La Quinta resident Marlene Levine had a visceral reaction to some of the scenes in the film.

“I see big groups of angry men yelling at women who are trying to help each other,” she said about the film. “I keep wondering who in those gangs of protesters has ever sat up all night with their own sick child, or picked up a bottle to feed his baby, or changed even one dirty diaper. Do they even really care about a real baby? Or are they just out to show those women who is boss and let them know that their women must do as they say?”

We came together to solemnize the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, dignifying it by remembering that women all over the world deserve the human right to make decisions in their own best interest, acknowledging their sovereignty over their own bodies.

Some things should never be taken for granted.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's appropriately somber Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson looks at reactions to the Planned Parenthood shootings in an alternate America; The K Chronicles examines GOP fear; This Modern World ponders the War on Christmas; and Red Meat uses soda pop to soothe an illness.

Published in Comics

As a political talk-radio host, I am constantly dealing with people who don’t agree with me.

Some callers spout nonsense conspiracy theories. Others copy tried-and-true applause lines from their political heroes. Still others simply yell and shout their personal prejudices, uninterested in facts or reasonable discourse. Even those who agree with me often have skewed reasoning.

What’s a responsible broadcaster to do?

I learned a long time ago that I will probably never change the mind of the person on the other end of the line. I’ve also learned that trying to over-shout someone just leads to noise and no light.

I also have the luxury of being able to hit the “dump” button.

Alas, there is no “dump” button in real life. In this ever-polarized political environment, national and local, I know people who refuse to attend family dinners because of, for example, the brother-in-law who sputters the worst politically incorrect characterizations in front of young children. I know people who won’t go to their card-game group because one member likes to stir the pot. I know people who are frustrated about how to respond when they overhear ridiculous points of view pontificated in the next booth at the restaurant or the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

My friend Eileen Stern is not someone you would expect to ever throw in the towel on her outspoken support for causes and activism. So I was astonished to read a Facebook post by her recently: “Just like the alcoholic, the drug addict, the food addict, I have been binging on politics and I have literally overdosed. I am feeding on toxicity and it is taking me beyond where I want to go.”

Stern, a long-time desert resident, was born and raised in Chicago. She and her husband, Marv, were originally snowbirds here, but they have now lived in the Palm Springs area as permanent residents for more than 18 years.

“I’m very blessed to be in a financial situation where we’re able to be comfortable—but I didn’t grow up that way,” she says. “I lived in public housing and went to public schools.”

Stern became a buyer and marketing executive at Sears, a male-dominated environment where, she says, “I had to prove myself—but at least I had the chance.” That experience got Stern involved in support for affirmative action. Her subsequent involvement in other causes included opposing the Vietnam War, working on the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, supporting passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and participating in the March on Washington.

“I’m no activist, but I’ve been active my whole adult life,” she says, without appreciating the irony. “I got energized by the candidacy of President Obama, after a long hiatus of not really being too involved, and went to Nevada to work on his campaign with a couple of friends.”

In the Coachella Valley, Stern’s involvement has included participation with the Democratic Women of the Desert, the Hike for Hope and the Jewish Film Festival.

A few years ago, she became involved with Planned Parenthood. Stern and her husband agreed to host an event at their home featuring Sandra Fluke, the young woman who spoke out passionately about women having access to contraception—and was subsequently vilified by Rush Limbaugh, who publicly referred to Fluke as “a slut.”

The following year, Stern hosted another Planned Parenthood event, “and I realized the organization had no fundraising arm here in the valley.” October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Planned Parenthood affiliates in the Coachella Valley perform more than 1,800 breast cancer screenings each year.

“The group’s opponents have done a very good job of painting Planned Parenthood as a ‘one trick pony,’ focusing solely on abortion, when 97 percent of their activities are not abortion-related,” says Stern. “You don’t get to make up your own facts.”

That led her to help organize the Reel Women’s Movie Marathon, a local film festival designed to highlight Planned Parenthood’s focus on breast-health programs, featuring diverse films about women—from the “barefoot grandmamas” of India, illiterate women being trained as solar engineers, to stories of forced marriages and women fighting gender discrimination both abroad and in the U.S. The first festival was held last year; at this year’s second event, attendance doubled.

With this background, what led Stern to her post on Facebook?

“We can all become as entrenched as anyone on the other side of an issue,” she says. “I recently attended a political event for a local candidate and got into an argument with someone with whom I didn’t agree at all about a key issue. I’m not normally a confrontational person, but every time she tried to talk, I cut her off, and it kept escalating. I embarrassed her, and I embarrassed myself. I knew afterward that the way I handled it was over the top. It was so not me.”

That incident led to Stern’s post on Facebook.

“I post a lot,” she says, “so it seemed the most appropriate way to handle my feelings afterward.”

Eileen Stern is not someone you would expect to stop standing up for what she believes in. And the truth is, she hasn’t. Her Facebook post led to so many responses—mostly supportive and encouraging her not to step back—that she was astonished.

“I always try to be respectful,” she says. “I try to post facts and not make it personal. I don’t want to offend anyone.”

Stern’s heartfelt post is both cautionary and encouraging. “I am finding myself at odds with others, many of whom I never was at odds with before,” she posted. “I cannot allow myseIf to binge on it, lest it make me intolerant. I will try not to engage others in debate on what we do not agree with. I will fight for what I believe in, but in my heart I am a peacemaker … I am going to weigh and measure my political input just as we all strive to weigh and measure our lives.”

We need more people like Eileen Stern, who care passionately about issues and are willing to take an active role in the community, who constantly self-monitor to stay positive, listen to others’ points of view, stand up for what they believe and make a difference. Lucky for us, in spite of her Facebook post, Eileen Stern hasn’t given up.

On the radio, I’ve developed the philosophy that if I can at least convince others that there is a civil way to respond to those spouting off, and respect differences of opinion—to disagree without being disagreeable—then I’ve done my job.

Of course, for me, there’s always the “dump” button.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday at CVIndependent.com.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

My first husband died after we had been divorced for many years, and his involvement with our two children had been sporadic, at best. Yet they were there with him when, on a trip to Minnesota, he ended up in the hospital after a heart attack.

After his death, they called and wondered what they should do with his body. One lived in Portland, Ore.; the other lived in Dallas. Their dad’s family was in Hemet—with no apparent interest in being involved.

“Tell the hospital you want to donate his body for anything that might contribute to research,” I suggested, “and go home. You’ve done all you can.”

They took my advice, and both remarked afterward that they felt good that perhaps his death served some greater purpose.

I thought about that when I started hearing the reports about Planned Parenthood “harvesting and selling” fetal tissue for research. The reports were the result of undercover videos, taken over an extended period of time, and obviously edited, by a group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress. The “center” started in 2013 and includes people claiming to be “citizen journalists” focusing on medical ethics and preservation of life. The center is linked to Operation Rescue, whose mission is “taking direct action to restore legal personhood to the pre-born and stop abortion in obedience to biblical mandates.”

Both organizations’ ultimate goal is to once again criminalize abortion, regardless of circumstances, and to overturn existing constitutional protections for women to make their own decisions about when and whether to continue a pregnancy.

With the media covering the videos, including characterizations of “illicit baby parts sales,” the calls to defund all federal support for Planned Parenthood’s numerous clinics throughout the country began anew. These clinics, two of which are located in the Coachella Valley, primarily provide women’s health services like pap smears, breast-cancer exams, contraception, testing for sexually transmitted illnesses, family-planning education and pre-natal care. In Riverside County, Planned Parenthood clinics provide health services to more than 40,000 patients—19,000 in our eastern portion of the county alone. Approximately 20 percent of all American women report that they have gone to Planned Parenthood at some time, and abortion accounts for only about 3 percent of all provided services—without any use of taxpayer funds for those procedures.

The aforementioned videos depict representatives of a fake biomedical research company wanting to obtain fetal tissue for research; Planned Parenthood is characterized as “price haggling over baby parts.” According to FactCheck.org, the unedited video shows that the Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly said its clinics wanted to cover “only the costs (and) not make money when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.” Of course, that part was omitted from the released videos.

The description of how abortions are done—and how specific fetal tissue is identified, segregated and preserved—sounds gruesome, even if you’re pro-choice. On the other hand, a detailed description of almost any medical procedure is also gruesome; we just don’t often talk about such things too graphically. For example, my daughter had a serious accident, with third-degree burns on her hand and arm. If I were to describe in detail the laborious procedures that were done to her over almost a year’s time, it would made you very uncomfortable. I still can’t erase the sight of the charred skin and exposed bone and skin-grafting. Ugh.

The donation of fetal tissue for medical research began in the mid-20th century. As abortion became legal and more available, fetal-tissue donation became more common. Before that, hospitals treating women for miscarriages or compromised pregnancies were the primary sources of such tissue—which is highly valuable for research, because it grows more rapidly and is less likely to be rejected by immune systems. It can be transplanted into diseased organs, such as the brain or pancreas; tests have shown positive results with Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses.

In 1974, one year after Roe v. Wade, President Reagan’s administration imposed a temporary moratorium on using federal funds for fetal-tissue transplantation. That moratorium was extended indefinitely in 1989, partly on the argument that it might encourage women to have abortions.

In 1993, President Clinton ended the moratorium, and Congress passed a bill permitting the tissue from any type of abortion, spontaneous or elective, to be used for research. There are specific consent and documentation requirements, and the sale or purchase of fetal tissue, or the designation of any specific individual to receive such tissue, is considered criminal. The same stipulations apply to organ donation, another strictly voluntary act that can save lives. (Have you indicated on your driver’s license that you consent?) Direct costs for the transfer of such tissue, which requires special handling, are reimbursable. Those are the costs the Planned Parenthood representatives were discussing with the phony researchers on the video tapes.

Planned Parenthood’s procedure requires that a woman is presented with a consent form to donate fetal tissue only after she has made the decision to terminate her pregnancy. Abortion decisions are seldom made easily, and it may be some consolation to know that her decision could facilitate a stranger’s ability to receive a benefit.

If fetal-tissue research has been shown to be valuable and is already yielding results in treating everything from ebola to polio to rubella to spinal cord injury, what’s all the shouting about? Why did the Center for Medical Progress go after Planned Parenthood instead of our local hospitals, which may also provide fetal tissue for research?

Therein lies the politics of abortion: The goal of the center is to shut down Planned Parenthood and deny it any federal funding, even for services unrelated to abortion—in other words, to put them out of business. Federal funds are already prohibited from paying for abortion, but by characterizing Planned Parenthood as tearing apart babies and selling their body parts, the center hopes to disgust people enough that they’ll support defunding and closing the clinics, where 83 percent of patients receive health services unrelated to abortion—women who may have no other access to medical care.

According to U.S. News and World Report, human fetal cells “are used as incubators to replicate viruses for the production of vaccines against chickenpox, rubella, shingles, rabies, and hepatitis A.” Anti-abortion groups maintain that nobody should profit in any way from what they see as the killing of a baby—yet the members of these groups don’t seem to mind receiving the vaccinations or treatment that fetal tissue research has enabled.

As a community, we all benefit from discoveries that come from fetal-tissue research. Our neighbors work in Planned Parenthood clinics. Our neighbors access their health services. Instead of being politically manipulated by hyperbolic descriptions of a legitimate surgical procedure, people need to recognize there are women making a difficult choice that might save a life instead of merely ending the potential of a life. Let’s not let politics replace facts.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's Trump-y Independent comics page: The K Chronicles finds unwelcome visitors at a new home; This Modern World focuses on a terrible person who will never be president; Jen Sorenson stands up for Planned Parenthood; and Red Meat shops for some pants.

Published in Comics

Those who have been in the desert less than 15 years or so don’t remember when the anniversary of Roe v. Wade prompted anti-abortion and pro-choice counter-demonstrations along a major intersection in Palm Desert every year. Or the 1992 Desert Lights for Choice candlelight vigil along Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, when pro-choice supporters lined up three deep from Tahquitz Canyon Way to Alejo Road. Or the besieged abortion clinic in Palm Desert where local activists walked women through shouting protesters and helped keep the doors open.

Many of us have become blasé about the right to decide for oneself whether and when to birth a child. Some 42 years after the Supreme Court decision in Roe, it seems unthinkable that the constitutional right to own your own body, including whether to end an unwanted or problem pregnancy, could be revoked. Statistics indicate that about 50 percent of women will at some point in their lives experience an unwanted pregnancy, and one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45.

I was 17, single and pregnant, before Roe. I was given three choices: Go into a home for unwed mothers and get rid of the baby; go to a sanitarium and get my head shrunk; or marry the man involved, leave him immediately, and then be allowed to come home. I chose the head-shrinking and gave the baby up for adoption.

My experience was not unique. In high school, some girls “went to visit their aunt” for a while, unable to stay in school if pregnant. Many of my girlfriends got married quickly after getting pregnant. Some had illegal abortions. Some opted for adoption and spent their lives wondering, as I did, whether the decision had really been the right one for the child.

After Roe, I once again found myself facing the choice of ending an unwanted pregnancy, based on failed contraception. That time—already divorced and raising twins on my own—I opted to terminate the pregnancy. I have never doubted that it was the right decision for me at the time.

I was reminded of all that at the screening of a movie, Obvious Child, presented by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the Desert Stonewall Democrats and the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage on this year’s Roe anniversary. About 60 people saw this movie, which follows a feisty young woman struggling with how to deal with an unplanned, unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.

Before the film, Elizabeth Romero, local director of community and public relations for Planned Parenthood, introduced the co-sponsors. Ruth Debra, president of Desert Stonewall, unexpectedly walked up on the stage, took the mic—and spoke publicly for the first time about her own experience with illegal abortion.

It was a heartfelt and intensely personal statement. “No one should EVER have to go through what I did,” she said.

The film is not going to win any Oscars, and some in the audience were uncomfortable with the coarse language. However, it does explore how difficult it can be to decide whether to have an abortion, and shows the kind of support any woman needs while going through the experience. I admit to tears when the young woman in the film finally tells her mother, who then shares her own story of an abortion at 17.

I finally told my mother when I realized she had begun advocating for pro-choice policies and would be able to understand. She confided to me, before her recent death, that her greatest regret was that she didn’t take a stand vis-à-vis my father so that I might not have needed to give up my first-born son. (My son and I were happily reunited about 10 years ago—but not all such stories end well.)

Life is complicated. Pro-choice advocates need to acknowledge that there are too many unwanted pregnancies, and that what is being aborted is, in fact, living human tissue. We all need to support comprehensive sex education in the schools, and men need to educate boys about their role in all of this. Contraception and prevention are not exclusively the responsibility of women, but gestating that fetus is.

Anti-abortion advocates need to recognize that if abortion is once again made illegal, it won’t stop abortion—it will just take us back to when women resorted to any means necessary to address the problem, and all too often died as a result. How “pro-life” can you be if you’re willing to sacrifice women’s lives?

Republican leaders, after their recent takeover of Congress, have talked about the need to prove they can govern, not just oppose, and to appeal to women voters, especially in light of Gallup’s findings that in every category—single women, married women, divorced women—the political gender gap is real and persistent. Yet one of the first things the House did was try to push through the so-called Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks—regardless of reason (assuming a woman should have to give a reason). They also wanted to reclassify what constitutes rape as an exception, a move that went too far even for Republican female members of the House, who pointed out the vote “could threaten the party’s efforts to reach out to women and young people” who clearly do not support such restrictions.

Pregnancy is not a punishment, whether it happens to an underage young woman preyed upon by an older man, or a prostitute, or a young wife expected to push out a baby per year, or an older woman who cannot afford another child, or one who got pregnant because she didn’t insist on contraception, or a woman wanting to escape an abusive relationship, or one who finds out her wanted fetus has catastrophic deficiencies and that a continued pregnancy may mean she can never again have children—or for any other reason particular to each woman’s life.

If you don’t support abortion, don’t choose to have one. But if you are one of the many women who has made that difficult choice or supported another in that choice, heed the words of Katha Pollitt, a feminist activist and writer, who recently wrote: “Why are we so afraid to talk about it—or to acknowledge that our lives would have been so much less than we hoped for without it? Why are we pressured to feel that we should regret our choice, and that there's something wrong with us if we don't?”

In a new play, Out of Silence, produced by the 1 in 3 Campaign, one character says, “I, too, had an abortion that I do not regret. Sometimes I think that I should feel remorse or shame, but I don't. Still, I don't talk about it with anyone."

Own your own history. Share your stories. You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Know Your Neighbors