Anyone who reads this blog for more than five minutes knows I am a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. All of them. All forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, surrogates, tubal ligation, vaginal birth, home birth, planned cesarean, and abortions.

I’m Pro-Abortion, no apologies, no restrictions. Abortion is a medical procedure.  To deny one women access to a medical procedure because another woman (or man) thinks that procedure is a sin is one of the most fucked up things we do as a society. Electoral power being used to promote religious beliefs is obscene.

Denying, limiting and restricting abortions does not make us a people who value life. Denying abortions makes us judgmental and cruel.

I am reposting this mans blog post about a tragic time when he and his wife should’ve been allowed access to the abortion they wanted. Read it and tell me you have any right to make decisions for this couple.

Abortion is a compassionate choice.

Denied.

In 2013, a bill was introduced in the Texas Congress that drastically changed the access and availability of abortion services in the state. Among requirements of hospital admitting privileges and outdated procedures for administering mifepristone, was a change in when an abortion could be performed, down from 28 weeks to 20 weeks. The logic in this change was that a woman has enough time in 20 weeks to make a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy. More than enough time, the bill’s supporters said, to make that decision.

Throughout the debate on the floor of the house and senate, I saw an amazing example of how Texas politics can work: Wendy Davis filibustered, for 11 hours, Leticia Van De Putte put the senate in its place, asking “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room,” hundreds of the bill’s opponents were in the gallery and the halls of the capitol building, chanting to delay the vote. Texas Republicans lied, claimed the vote happened, rescinded, and it was all a weird mixture of joy, confusion, and confoundedness that there was a group of mostly men attempting to making decisions about reproductive rights of women.

I attended the next voting session in the gallery. My mother gave testimony. We watched, and we waited, and hoped that reason would prevail. In the end, the damned thing passed. Currently Texas has eight clinics remaining.

Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a father. Raising a child, watching someone grow into a being of personality, instilling values and love, to better shape a human and a generation is incredibly humbling, scary, exciting, and rewarding in ways unimaginable.

In late 2013, we found out our dream of becoming parents was coming true. We bought two pregnancy tests, they both were positive. We facetimed our parents, our friends, and were overcome with joy and planning and love for our unborn child. My wife, a prenatal yoga teacher and doula, made sure our preparation was immediate and immaculate.

At 8 weeks, we did our first ultrasound and saw our little gummi bear, its heart beating inside. I squeezed my wife’s hand, and cried with such joy. This was happening.

Just before 20 weeks, we had our anatomy ultrasound. We discovered we were having a boy. I kissed my wife, and cried with overwhelming happiness. He was happening. We did everything right that we could.

The day after our anatomy ultrasound, I get a text from my wife – she was having some spotting, and some cramping, and was headed to the midwives. She’d had periodic spotting throughout, due to a benign polyp, but this, it seemed was different.

It is my first day at a new job, but I (of course) drop everything and leave, to be with her. I’m on my bike, and have to find a cab or rental car to meet her. From her voice, I can tell she thinks it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope.

I find a car, I scramble, I call my friend on the way to meet her, sobbing that I think it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope. I arrive, and the midwife says she’s already dilated. From her face, I can tell that it’s over already. But I hope.

Through multiple ultrasounds, we find that there is a condition called (offensively) Incompetent Cervix, and we’re on our way to an inevitable early term birth. This is not a miscarriage. He is healthy inside. He is fine inside. He doesn’t know. He will just be born well before he should. The question is just: when?

We go to the hospital. We talk to specialists.

We have options – a cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix closed), medicine to reduce contractions, waiting to see what will happen. Our fear and our wish is that we keep our child free from a life of pain. At 20 weeks, he will not survive. At 24 weeks, he will be a micro-preemy who may not live outside a hospital. There is a terrible window, and we are rapidly approaching it.

Any option that pushes us into giving our son a life of misery is one that terrifies us, not for us, but for him – we want him to live.

After what feels like an eternity in the hospital, going over every scenario, we find out we might be a good candidate for cerclage–only to find out hours later, that due to her cervix’s current dilation, a cerclage is likely to fail, to buy us only enough time to thrust us directly into that zone where he, due to even more laws and policies, would have to be resuscitated–and must live the life of pain from which we are desperately trying to save him.

A cerclage failure would force us beyond 20 weeks, and, due to the passage of the bill, into the time where we legally have no option but to give birth to a child who would likely not be able to live on his own, or would live with suffering we enabled by pushing him past that point. We would be forced into a time where our options had been stripped, as the legislature has told us “no more”, “this body, and this decision are no longer yours.”

We speak with our doctor, and are given the option that was previously unthinkable, completely out of bounds of possibility. Our doctor gives us the option — that if we feel this is over, if we have said goodbye, and we are ready to make the decision, that ending the pregnancy is a humane option. Our doctor, our medical doctor, tells us that it is a “reasonable decision”. Doctor speak, for “yes”.

We would have to make a decision that we never thought we would ever have to make. Whether to induce, and end a pregnancy that we both wanted so desperately, to save our child from suffering; to not inflict that agony on our unborn son.

The next day, still at the hospital, before we had been able to even begin to come to grips with such a final decision, we talk to another specialist, and we’re told they can’t do it. The bill had passed, and well, it’s just against the law. Sort of. Technically, it’s a a termination, and technically, we’re past the limit. Sort of.

The law itself says 20 weeks “from fertilization” (vs. “gestational age”), and we’re actually only 18 weeks from fertilization–my amazing wife tracked her cycle to a T. The hospital acknowledges it isn’t against the letter of the law, but it is a grey area their policies won’t let them touch. Too risky, too hot button a topic.

We are denied the opportunity to even make a humane and doctor sanctioned medical decision by a bill that we never thought would affect us. I was there at the capitol, fighting for the rights of women. It never crossed my mind I would be fighting for my own. Our last resort had become a no-man’s land.

We are sent home, to let things happen “naturally”. What this means, practically, was to spend days pacing the house, walking the neighborhood, waiting for our son to be born, so that he could die. We let him taste our favorite foods, we play him our favorite music, we show him Veronica Mars, we read to him, we tell him how much we love him. We wait for days, pace, wait, and wait, and we wait, so our son can be born, so that he can die.

The midwives come and see that our dilation is the same – maybe he can be saved? We go to an OB for a final ultrasound, who sees the amniotic sac bulging through the birth canal. The doctor describes the birth as “imminent and inevitable”. So we go back home, to wait for our son to be born, so that he can die.

Our midwife visits again and can feel our son’s foot hanging through the birth canal. Contractions begin, continue for hours and hours. Then stop. For a day.

We wait, for our son to be born, so that he can die.

The next day, contractions pick back up, my wonderful, beautiful, incredible wife labors for hours, breathing, heaving, so strong and powerful as only a woman can be in birth, so that our son could be born.

So that our son could die.

When some men think about abortion rights, they think about unwanted pregnancies. Some think about those victims of incest, rape, and terrible situations of abuse. Some think about those who may have a medical need for an abortion to save the life of the mother. Some think about access to medical services, the right for a woman to control her own body, the implications for women who live in remote locations, the impact on low income individuals.

Rarely, as a man–a man who wanted children more than anything in the world–did I ever think about how abortion rights would affect me.

In the end, we spent 3 days in the hospital, and another 7 days at home, waiting for our son to be born, and to die.

In the end, we had to force ourselves to will our son to be born, and to die, the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of which cannot be overstated.

In the end, the bill intended to save lives, didn’t save a life at all, but shattered two in half. Two that will heal, with friends, family, and time, but two hearts torn apart.

In the end, the bill did nothing but cause pain and anguish as our options narrowed and our decisions stolen.

In the end, our son felt our love for a few brief moments, and our son died.

In the end, our son was born, and our son died on April 10, 2014.

In the end, his name is William.

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Over dinner the other night we had one of those twisty turny conversations that kept us at the table an hour longer than it took to eat our food. During a discussion at school a bunch of my daughters classmates argued that there is no such thing as depression. It’s all in your head.

My daughter and her friends were furious. They know people personally who suffer from depression and know its no joke. In re-playing the argument for us the kid started rattling off statistics and data about how we know that depression is genetic, and when you stigmatize people they wont get help and it all gets worse.

All true unfortunately.

I asked if the teacher corrected the students when they were expressing opinions that were false and she said no, the teacher said she doesn’t want to push her opinions on anyone during discussions.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking. Correcting a FACT that someone has wrong is not “pushing your opinion.” Facts are objective and verifiable, opinions often judge facts, therefore opinions can sometimes change.

Beliefs are different. No evidence required for a belief which makes it inarguable. And this is exactly what makes it inadmissible as any part of a logical argument or defense of an opinion.

And then there’s bullshit, which is just prejudice hiding behind beliefs put forth as “my opinion.” People arguing from belief often try to say the facts are false and usually close with “we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

If I could wave a magic wand I would make deductive logic part of every K-12 curriculum in the US. And part of teacher training while we’re at it. I blame the creationists and the Koch Bros., but that’s a whole other discussion.

Anyway. We started digging into various social stigmas from the past like having acne, left-handedness or being Irish. Unfortunately it takes a couple of generations to reduce stigmas in society at large. There are still lots of stigmas in US society: mental illness, poverty, disability, abortion, HIV-AIDS, and of course obesity. I’m sure I missed a few.

It’s somewhat less common now for people to use words like “retard” and “fag” as pejoratives but few would hesitate to call someone fat. Or “fat bitch” – those two seem to just go together don’t they? Like peanut butter and jelly.

When we finally had to stop the conversation because homework was waiting, the kid was quite impressive tying together depression, stigma, gender bias, body image and the evils of Reddit in her closing remarks. I’m sure that wasn’t the final word on these topics.

Our talk reminded me of a book from the 1970’s that I once owned and foolishly lent out “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. And one recommended by a very thin friend that I read recently “Two Whole Cakes.”

Unfortunately being fat is something you can’t hide like mental illness, your abortion or your HIV status. It’s all out there and its an easy target. Fat is one stigma we will not overcome anytime soon. That statement is both a fact and an opinion.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion and Pro-Reproductive Justice. The objections people raise about other people having an abortion don’t move me. I find it ludicrous that a stranger can disagree with, and try to influence, a medical procedure I elect to have.

Given this is an issue I have been championing for 30+ years, I thought I had read and/or heard all possible arguments for and against abortion. I was wrong.

I recently found myself listening to a broadcast called “Station of the Cross” while driving through a rural area. A project I am working on is requiring a bit of driving and when I am alone in the car I tend to cruise the radio stations rather than listen to music or pod casts.

Station of the Cross is a Catholic station that alternates call in talk shows with liturgy and religious music. The talk show I came in on was talking about a demonic possession in Gary, Indiana. A reporter, and supposed eye-witness, was relating the exorcism preformed on two boys under ten who it turned out were being infected by a demon that was actually possessing their mother.

The possession, with its details of children talking in demonic voices and floating to the ceiling at the pediatricians office was bizarre enough, but the explanation the talk show folks gave for the cause of the possession was even more bizarre.

The host asked the reporter how the priest discovered that the mother was the conduit for the “The Evil One” and she related the following story.

The mother had been engaging in extramarital sex with a boyfriend who was not the father of her children. This created a moral crack in her soul that allowed “The Evil One” to come in. It was this kind of sin that the demons were looking for when they were flying around trying to find a host.

The host went on to discuss at length how “The Evil One” especially hates and targets women for possession because the Virgin Mary defied him. Because he hates Mary he goes after women and tells them its okay to kill their children. He sets traps for women by making them think that killing your baby while its inside you is okay. He uses the so called Women’s Movement as a way to create cracks in women’s souls.

Women have to fight “The Evil One” by refusing to use birth control or having abortions, which lets him into your body.

That was a neat trick getting from possessed children to don’t have an abortion.

What really struck me about the discussion was their matter of fact acceptance of the existence of devils juxtaposed with feminism being a tool of Lucifer. I knew in theory that people literally believed in these things but I had never heard anyone in real-time admit it.

There is no space for rational discussion of reproductive rights if your belief system supports sins as means for the devil to enter your body and steal your soul.

That, my friends, is the ultimate reason that abortion must be protected by law.

Happy Valentines Day.

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The other night I watched a movie about lateterm abortion. It was a documentary called “After Tiller” that followed four doctors who were colleagues of Dr. George Tiller the abortion provider that was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in May 2009. These four doctors perform abortions at 25 weeks and later.

The procedure is controversial because a baby might be considered “viable”, or able to survive outside of the uterus, after about 27 weeks. But viable is a word with a lot of room for interpretation.

The movie showed the women, often with their baby’s father, seeking this procedure because their baby had horrific fetal anomalies discovered through testing. I remember from when I was pregnant that bone-deep fear during scans if the technician hesitated a moment too long.

These women were living that nightmare fear.

They were grieving and distraught and very relieved there was a clinic and a doctor that could help them. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not just Pro-Choice, I’m Pro-Abortion. This movie reinforced those beliefs and made me notice where and when my judgement kicked in. When I thought a woman was making a bad choice, or a doctor should have been more authoritative, or what I would have done.

That’s what the question always comes down to when we cut through the rhetoric. What would I do in that situation? My answer won’t be the same as yours. My decision today may be different than what my decision would have been 10 years ago.

And why exactly should my decision about my life and my baby have any impact on your decision? I will never understand that bit.

The thing that really struck me about what I saw going on in those clinics was the mercy and compassion offered to these women in profound need. A stark contrast to the judgement and ugliness they passed through on the sidewalks outside the clinic.

You hear people say sometimes “No one wants an abortion” but I think that’s backward. What no one wants is an unplanned pregnancy. What no one wants is a baby with profound complications. Lots of women want an abortion.

And when they do want an abortion, for whatever reason or no reason at all, having a kind, compassionate doctor trust that they can make their own decision is a mercy.

See “After Tiller” if you can.

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I got into an interesting discussion with my daughter about the custom of women taking their husband’s name when they get married. She was for, I am against. My position is that if the name change were more than a custom it wouldn’t be optional, it would be required or automatic.

When we got married neither my husband nor I changed our names. This was not a difficult decision. I suggested that I would be willing to add his name to mine if and only if he added mine to his. The deal breaker to this potential compromise, other than the fact that a man has to actually petition the court to be allowed to do it,  is the amount of effort it takes to legally change ones name. In addition to having to print all new stationary you need to notify:

  • Federal agencies: IRS, Social Security, passport
  • State agencies: BMV, voter registration,
  • Businesses: insurance companies, banks, credit cards, credit reporting agencies
  • Groups: charities, memberships
  • Employer
  • retirement plans & investments

One big hassle that for practical purposes makes no sense.

The philosophical issue is much more complicated for most folks. My birth name is a through line for my identity and is separate from any joint accomplishment with my spouse, namely creating a child.  Keeping my name doesn’t indicate I am less commitment to my marriage any more than my husband keeping his name signals lack of commitment on his part. And our daughter has four names.

My Aunt famously asked me what would be on our checks if we have two different last names to which I replied ‘we each have our own checking accounts’. It honestly didn’t occur to me to have a joint checking account with my husband until several years ago at which point we had checks printed with both our names. Problem solved.

Everyone has their own reasons for keeping or changing their name. In addition to societal pressure there can be family, peer and religious pressure to change or not change your name. I think it also makes a difference if you have “made a name” for yourself before marriage.

I don’t have a problem with either choice but I do have a problem with folks assuming there is only one right way. Taking the husbands last name upon marriage is not done in all cultures and countries. Just like having the right to have an identity is not done in all cultures.

Ask women in Saudi Arabia who only gained the right to have their own ID card in 2001 and who still can’t travel abroad, open a bank account or work without permission from a male relative how they feel about identity. While Saudi Arabia is the most oppressive country in the world when it comes to women’s rights it still serves as an example of how identity can be tied to other personal rights.

Like abortion.

In my view its a slippery slope from not being expected to have a unique identity to being considered an incubator for fetuses. My name. My body. My choice in both cases. And I will fight till the day I die to protect my right, my daughters right, and your right to continue to make these choices for yourself.

The other day I attended a lecture hosted by the ACLU where Connie Schultz and her husband Senator Sherrod Brown were the speakers. Many interesting things were said about government, civil liberties and their life shared in the public eye. The most interesting comment to me by far was when the Senator answered a question about why the GOP hate people so much. I am paraphrasing as I don’t remember the actual question, but it was fairly mildly stated, even if it was provocative for a politician to answer.

What was interesting was that his response could have been self-aggrandizing or pointed up the differences between the party platforms, but instead he stated the ways that his GOP colleagues believe they are doing the right thing, even while we think they are wrong. And then he explained how he can get up and face it every day – he thinks about who he is working for and what he is working against.

An elegant reminder to keep your priorities straight.

Language is important to me. What we say and think we become. Being for something is infinitely more satisfying to me than being against. But its easy to forget, to get twisted.

My politics are pretty clear and consistent. I fall heavily to the left of center making me either a social progressive, liberal democrat, pinko commie, or socialist agitator depending where one stands on the political spectrum.  For instance, I am for women’s rights and reproductive choice, which might make me “against” a whole host of ideas, initiatives and traditions to some people. But there is a very important distinction in my mind. From my perspective the world I want to live in, the things I am working for, doesn’t exclude or obliterate the opposition. In my mind its not progress to restrict or limit others rights in order to assert your own. So as awful and abusive as protestors outside abortion clinics are, I support their right to be there exercising their free speech, as long as they don’t stop anyone from getting access to an abortion.

Its hard to not be resentful knowing that while I will defend and protect the protesters rights, they would likely strip me of me of the same rights if they had the chance. That’s when its useful to remember what you are for rather than what you are against.

I learned one other very useful thing at this lecture. I had stopped reading Connie Shultz a while ago even though I had admired and followed her for years in the local paper. Her columns became all about human interest stuff – her kids, her dog, her life being “The Senator’s lovely wife” – and I wasn’t much interested. Turns out she has been writing the same political, liberal, timely columns but they were syndicated and not being carried locally. Shame on me for not finding out sooner.

A plug for her book to atone. lovely_wife_200-s6-c30

So it all boils down to this.

The GOP does not believe health care should be a government responsibility. War, prisons, executions, walls to keep immigrants out, tax breaks and subsidies for billionaires, restricting and limiting voting, these are all the governments business, but not health care. Unless that health care has to do with women’s reproduction, that of course is an acceptable place for GOP noses to go poking. Continue reading

The umpteenth letter to the editor in our daily paper ranting how abortion is a moral failing that is ripping apart the very fabric of our country gave me pause. Its not that anyone was swaying my opinion that abortion is a medical procedure better performed in a clinic than a back alley, rather I thought “Really? Is there no other problem in the world? Nothing else to focus on but the thoughtless killing of innocent little lives also known as a blastocyst?”

I am firmly Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion and Pro Women (& Human) Rights in general Continue reading

Moral restrictions on medical procedures. That is the framework of the anti-abortion movement and other conservative positions. My God says “No”, therefore it should be “No” for the whole country. We have been down this road before in history, which is why we have separation of church and state. Or we used to.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has until 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 30th to make any line-item vetoes on the state budget before he signs it into effect for July 1, 2013. Politicians should not be making medical decisions or forcing doctors to lie. For your Friday reading pleasure I give you an Op-Ed I submitted to Ohio newspapers, which they unfortunately declined to publish.


 

My Hands Are Tied
“My hands are tied” is phrase Ohioans we will get used to if Ohio House Bill 200 becomes law. This is the outcome desired by anti-abortion activists, and the future feared by those who believe medical decisions must be between a patient and their doctor. The people of Ohio cannot let this bill become law.
Women have been preventing and terminating pregnancies for 4,000 years. Because women who desperately need an abortion for whatever reason will do everything in their power to get one, they have died for lack of a safe, legal abortion. Access to safe, legal abortions has been the law of the land since 1973.  Since then, anti-abortionists have found ways to limit access, intimidate women, and yes, even kill physicians who have abortion practices.  This means that today 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties have no abortion provider.
Now Ohio legislators are attempting to further thwart this legal medical procedure by increasing the waiting period before a procedure and requiring doctors to give untruths to their patients and perform an unnecessary, invasive ultrasound or face criminal charges.
By increasing the waiting period to 48 hours, and requiring two visits to a provider before she can secure a safe legal abortion, the legislators effectively “tie the hands” of many women who cannot afford to travel twice in two days to obtain their medical procedure. By adding the provision that doctors who fail to comply with the House Bill 200 rules would be subject to a first-degree felony charge (the same class as rape, aggravated arson and kidnapping) and a fine of up to a million dollars, the legislature has tied and double knotted the hands of Ohio doctors.
This bill is a textbook example of a slippery slope. A slope that would be all but impossible to climb back up if it becomes law.
Doctors who are oath-bound to “do no harm” will be forced to lie. The bill requires doctors to provide patients with the patently false information that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Good clinics already provide information and counseling through trained patient advocates who talk with women about their feelings and beliefs without pressure or judgment. The goal at Preterm Clinic in Cleveland is to ensure that every patient is informed and sure of her decision whether it is to have an abortion, choose adoption or continue her pregnancy.
The slope gets slipperier. This bill requires doctors to divulge in writing “their gross income and the percentage of that income that was obtained” by performing the procedure. Will we have the same declaration when from a doctor before an MRI or a hip replacement? How does this information help the patient? The theory that there is a multi-million dollar abortion industry exploiting and “tricking” women into having abortions they don’t understand or want is a lie.
By restricting abortion to a “medical emergency”, this bill removes the right of a doctor to decide what is medically necessary for a patient. How can we expect a doctor, under threat of a felony charge, to not hesitate when deciding if a situation has gone from “necessity” to “emergency”? The American Council of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly opposes legislative interference that “causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment about treatment in the best interest of the patient.” As women – as mothers – we oppose that interference as well.
Where does it end? House Bill 200 ruthlessly and viciously restricts a legitimate medical procedure, forces physicians to compromise their ethics, and treats women as incompetent. After abortion is effectively inaccessible, what will be restricted next because legislators don’t trust you and your doctor to competently decide your medical procedures? Will you allow your judgment to be overridden by lawmakers? Will doctors let their medical training be overridden by politicians? Will you trust politicians to make your medical decisions?
We must stop this bill – and the slippery slope it creates – before all of our hands are tied. Women, and men who respect the right of a woman to make choices about her health care, would be wise to contact Governor Kasich and demand that veto House Bill 200 in its entirety.
Call Governor Kasich at 1-614-466-3555 and tell him to veto this bill.
Tweet Governor Kasich @JohnKasich and tell him to veto this bill.
Contact Governor Kasich through his website and tell him to veto this bill.
Do something.
Please.
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I was going to call this post “My Republican Neighbors” but it is really about more than them.

During the election, and the rest of the time, I work very diligently to keep a hard line attitude about free speech. It only works if everyone has it so I support and protect your right to spew whatever illogical nonsense tickles your fancy. Few republicans, or tea party patriots, seem to appreciate what a tough stance this is.

In order to live by my values I have to make sure that Republicans/religious right/tea party yahoos, are able to work within the societal and political systems to undermine my civil rights.

For 72 hours this month I lost my ability and desire to do that.

I worked all day Sunday the 4th so I didn’t get back until after dark. The next morning I saw that my republican neighbors, courtesy of the Catholic diocese, had put another sign next to their Romney sign – “Protect Religious Freedom”. That felt like the final straw, the last insult, the point of no return. I lost my mind and descended into 72 hours of venom laced swearing and vitriol.

The idea that republican catholic religious freedom was somehow in jeopardy when in reality their version of religious freedom means imposing their religious views on me – well lets just say that frosted my cake.

I know it’ss business as usual to accuse the other guy of what you’re guilty of, but this seemed especially egregious. I have a personal dislike for the Mother Church with its special political status, unlimited funds and hypocritical, damaging policies crafted by men, in the name of God.  So to have the catholic contingent act as if the democrats would limit their rights (the flat out lies about the ACA contraception rules) made me lose all patience.

I remember saying to my husband. “I can’t talk to them ever again, they have crossed a line.” All I could focus on was the fact that my political views and values do not force anyone to do anything, but support every ones right to make their own choices.

Have an abortion or don’t! Use contraception or don’t – hope you can afford all those “rhythm method babies” without government assistance. Marry who you want – or don’t! Ain’t none of my business!

My neighbors values however want to impose on, limit, or remove my rights.

  • Their religion does not believe in abortion, therefore no one should be allowed to have access to an abortion.
  • Their religion does not believe in gay marriage, therefore no one should be allowed to have gay marriage.
  • Their religion does not believe in separation of church and state, therefore everyone should have to pray and acknowledge God.
  • Their God of course.

Thankfully Obama won the election and the neighbors took down their offensive signs the next day. I calmed down a bit and by the following weekend I made a point of making neighborly chit chat with them.

I helped the man carry his wood rack to the porch and inquired after the health of the wife. We made nice for a bit and went back to our yard work when the husband came out and asked if we wanted any fresh herbs from their garden. I thanked him and said we would use some parsley which he picked and left in a bag on our front swing. It felt very much like  a peace offering and I am back to my high road tolerance of their opinions.

Unfortunately, other people in the neighborhood have left their religious freedom signs in their yards so I still have to look at them. They are allowed. Because my side won.

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Sometimes labels are a drag, like when it allows someone to reduce you to a single characteristic, and sometimes they are useful, like when a single word can convey your world view.

I am a Feminist. Its a regular tag on this blog. I have been, and always will be, adamant and unashamed of using the word feminist to describe myself. You get reactions of course. The most prosaic being that I must be a lesbian, and the most ludicrous being the women who respond by saying “Oh I’m not a feminist.”

I can almost understand and forgive this if the woman is under 21. Usually at that age you still think the world is fair and that your own hard work and merit levels the playing field. Maybe they don’t know women’s history (its a non-starter in our school system no matter how much I agitate), or maybe they haven’t experienced any gender based discrimination, I mean we are all equal now right? Most likely they just don’t know what it means.

Synonyms, which they are likely to be familiar with, include: Bitch, Feminazi, Ballbuster, Man-Hater, Lesbian, Dyke. Accompanying adjectives like ugly, shrill and humorless increase the need to for the average woman to distance herself from the label At All Costs.

But we still haven’t talked about the definition. Being a Feminist, in its simplest form that an 8-year old could understand, means that you believe that women are entitled to equal political, social and economic rights. Fair should not be dictated by sex organs. 

I propose an experiment: Try telling a group of third grade girls they only gets 3/4 of the candy that the boys get because they are girls and see what happens. I predict girls will shout NO FAIR! and the boys will be split between those thinking “Cool!” and those asking “Why?” 

Because gender based behaviors start at birth, we can ignore the results as they play out around us. We can pretend that inequality is not gender based until we are adults. Once you are an adult, it is harder to ignore. I continue to wonder why anyone says they are not a Feminist. Answer these questions:

  • Do you think women should have the same political rights as men? 
    • Should women be allowed to vote and hold public office? 
    • Should women be allowed to sit on juries and serve as judges? 
    • Should women be allowed to make laws?
  • Do you think women should not have the same economic rights as men? 
    • Should women be paid the same amount for doing the same job as a man? 
    • Should women be allowed to apply for jobs if they are qualified?  
    • Should women be allowed to own and inherit property?
  • Do you think women should have the same social rights as men? 
    • Should women be allowed to attend colleges and universities and study what they wish?
    • Should a woman be allowed to file for divorce from her husband? 
    • Should a woman be allowed to prosecute her abusive husband? 
    • Should women be allowed to have custody of their children? 
    • Should a woman be allowed to make decisions about her reproductive health (using birth control, when to have children, having an abortion, being sterilized)?  

If you answered yes to any of the above, congratulations, you are a Feminist. Don’t be afraid to use the label. I would bet 8 out of 10 people would end up being feminists if you ask them the yes/no questions above without using the label.

I continue to be amazed when I encounter people who do not understand the significance of voting in this country.

The work I do depends somewhat on federal funding, which is highly competitive and has gotten increasingly so over the last 10 years. The people I work with depend almost exclusively on federal research funding, not only to fund the science they do, but to demonstrate their value to their colleagues. The reasoning goes like this – funding is so tight only the best get funded, if you are any good you will get funded. Prima facie it sounds logical. In reality the funding pool has shrunk significantly each year so the quality is not the issue. Congress is.

Here is an example: the funding stream that supports my work in 2004 gave 20 awards. In 2012 they gave out four. For the whole year. Now those awards not only have to go to top candidates but have to take into account additional variables like size of institution, population served (and other unknown variables), so the actual pool for possible awards in my category is now 1. One person/institution will receive this award to conduct essential, knowledge-producing research in this category. Why is this? Because research federal funding was severely cut during the Bush years and is not a priority to a GOP congress.

So when I talk to academics and they tell me they are too busy to vote, or the hours don’t fit their schedule I want to shake them until I hear their giant brains rattle.

I want to shriek at them, “Who is in office matters to your livelihood and the intellectual progress of our WHOLE FREAKIN COUNTRY you over-educated IDIOT!” But I don’t. I patiently (I hope) connect the dots for them so they understand that people in office who do not believe in science will not fund pure research. Knowledge generation is not the priority of people who say things like “Jobs, jobs, jobs” or “Drill, baby, drill”.

I explain that they have a right to their opinion on abortion but that a Romney/Ryan ticket with its person hood stance also means that IVF is no longer possible. You see all those extra embryos created so your sister-in-law or best-friend can have a successful implant would be people to a Romney/Ryan administration. “People” created in a petrie dish would be prohibited from being destroyed, and doctors would be prosecuted. Those are the kind of policies that loom if the intellectual crowd, always purported to be liberal anyway, doesn’t get out and vote.

Think. Your vote matters and has wide-reaching implications. Locally, regionally and nationally.

Think. How will you fit a visit to the Board of Elections into your busy, busy day?

That’s it for today. I have a three grant deadlines breathing down my neck that I need to go work on. Because one, really amazing research project is too much of a gamble, gotta put in three simultaneously. So really, one person not voting is too much of a gamble in my opinion.

Since I only have a few minutes, I am only going to focus on a few minutes out of the Vice Presidential debate last night.

If you put aside all the “malarkey”, distortions and ideological nuances, what the debate last night gave us was a very clear picture of two forms of government. Answering the question asked by Raddatz, “What role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion”, the candidates gave voters a fundamental choice between systems of government. Continue reading

As it gets harder and harder to cobble together the time I need to put coherent thoughts in a blog post I am reminded of what a friend says about her writing – “I write a blog post every day in my head.” From head to page (or post) can be a big leap some days. So my new tag line is “Sent from my head, please pardon any typos.”

I was recently in a group of women who were talking about how women constantly judge each other. I could have pointed out that we should substitute “humans” for women, because men judge themselves and each other as well, but that would have derailed the topic. Another time.

People brought up how we judge how other women raise their children, or where they send them to to school, or if they are a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom. This landscape is so familiar that someone piped up immediately “As if a stay-at-home-mom is not a working mom!” The problem, an older woman postulated, is that women are their own worst enemy, tearing each other down when they should be supporting each other.

Now I am all for sisterhood, but that just sounded like one more freakin thing to add to my to-do list. Maybe I was just tired. Luckily someone else raised the level of discourse away from its-our-own-damn-fault to how women being unsure of their choices allows them to be more manipulable by society, media etc. The conversation swirled for a while but what caught my attention was someone naively asking, “How do we make it safe for women to talk about topics without judgment?”

The context for this was how do we talk publicly about abortion so that it is de-stigmatized. A simplistic answer was offered: “Wear a button that says I live in a glass house and I don’t throw stones.” I’m thinking I would not be inclined to talk about the weather to someone wearing that button, let alone abortion.

The question of safety included an unacknowledged shift from the visible to the invisible. We can judge a woman’s choices in child rearing and work because they are visible, we can only judge her choice to have an abortion if it is revealed. Hence the de-stigmatization efforts. I wholeheartedly agree having an abortion is nothing to be ashamed of, and most women experience relief rather than shame. So what else is behind the silence? I think we are back at judgment.

Judgment influences behavior because of its complexity. Whether it is internally or externally imposed it can be a verdict (You are a bad person), or an opinion (You are that kind of person), or a statement (This is who I am). We make choices every day about what we make visible because we know we are judged. Revealing information is like pouring Kool-Aid into water –  it can’t be unmixed. So to talk about your abortion in our society calls for either a whole lotta trust or a whole lotta nerve.

As one woman said the fear of judgment is less about her feeling bad about the abortion than about what crap is going to blow back from the other person –  “I don’t feel like dealing with their 92 different feelings about my choice.” Interestingly, as the conversation continued, people revealed other seemingly taboo information kept invisible because of its potential to shape how we will be viewed:

  • I had an abortion and didn’t feel bad (the implication being you should feel bad)
  • I don’t have children because I can’t have children (the implication being you are a failed woman without children)
  • I don’t want children (see above)
  • I am an atheist (too many implications of bad badness to list here)
  • I was sexually molested (the implication being you are a victim)

The list could go on and on, especially around less political but still volatile issues like “I slept with a married man.” How many currently married suburban women do you know that will reveal that to their currently married friends?

I think we all live in glass houses and we all throw stones. So to the question, “How do we make it safe for women to talk about topics without judgment?”, my answer is we need to find ways to build trust into casual friendships so the invisible can be visible. Invisible parts revealed are not a burden, they are the bits that turn a casual friend into a true friend. So we need to trust first, reveal first. I need to trust first. Hmmm. Lot more to think about.

I wanted to call this post “F-you Chris Christie” and leave it at that. However, there was so much in his keynote to take offense at I thought folks might need the specific reference that made me so furious. And I quote:

“Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.” Emphasis added by me.

This is not the first, and will surely not be the last, instance of doublespeak by GOP candidates, but I count it as one of the most insulting. I cannot think of a clearer example of a federal bureaucrat coming between a woman and her doctor than the platform plank that calls for eliminating abortion without exception. A woman’s doctor would not be allowed to prescribes abortion for any reason if republicans are able to continue their state by state assault campaign to create ever more restrictive abortion laws. The Guttmacher Institute chart (below) speaks volumes.

Abortion used to be legal in the US. The really dirty truth is that the American Medical Association became seriously focused driving the “untrained” out of the profession, to justify professional credentialing and build private practices.  So they had to stop midwives from dipping into their profits. An easy way to do that was to criminalize abortion unless a licenced physician judged it necessary.

Which meant that rich women got abortions, poor women got back alley hatchet jobs, the midwife tradition was lost for generations and we went from Comstock laws to Roe v.Wade to the 2012 Republican Convention.

And along the way the republicans never bother to let the truth get in their way.

After the doctor/patient doublespeak by Mr. Christie, I want to know why the stage didn’t erupt in hellfire from the force of the lie. Isn’t God (or the Devil) supposed to be paying close attention to every little detail of all of our lives? There should have been some smiting going on last night if you ask me.

I just saw an interesting program on the American abortion debate on FaultLines on Al-JazeeraEnglish. The premise of the show is that they examine the role of the US in the world from the AlJazeera perspective. I think there were a few places they could have provided additional viewpoints (its pretty heavy on the anti-choice rhetoric & plays into a few stereotypes I could live without), but it was refreshing to see someone at least attempt to be balanced about presenting why this is such a divisive issue for the US.