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.


July is turning into a brutally hard month for blog writing. Too many competing writing projects means ranting stays (mostly) in my head rather than in my blog.

I overheard something last night that is driving me to my keyboard. At my exercise class – Fit! Fusion! Fun! – one woman was telling another about how she might treat her headache. Helpful woman was going on about neti pots and herbal supplements and how Dr. Oz just had this on his show last week. The headache woman asked ‘Who is Dr. Oz?’. Continue reading

My husband and I were talking about the BRCA gene mutation the other day after a visit from a cousin. She has the gene, got breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. While she only had cancer in the one breast, the odds of developing it in the other are so high with the gene that she prohalactically chose to have the other breast removed as well.

I said I would instantly do the bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. If my insurance covered it. My husband asked if my insurance covered the test and I didn’t know.

Genetic testing is a relatively new field, but becoming more common. People are already familiar with paternity tests and prenatal tests and now with Angelina Jolie talking about her surgery, the BRCA test may run a close third.

BRCA was in the news before Jolie because it’s the topic of a case the ACLU argued in the US Supreme Court recently. A company (Myriad) has patented the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. The ACLU says these patents (2 of the 20,000 patented genes!) violate the constitution and prohibit free speech. I was shocked when I read about this case and saw that the gene patents keep scientists other than the owners from studying the gene without permission, controls what mutations they are allowed to study, and most importantly controls the market and the cost for all testing which must be done through the gene owners labs. That cost is $3,000 if your insurance company does not pay for it.

Again I dont know if my insurance company pays for this but you can bet I’ll ask my OB/GYN at my next appointment. I do know that ACA is supposed to cover the test when/if it is fully in effect in the US (repeal vote 37 – do I hear 38? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?)

Gajillions of dollars are at stake in this formerly obscure Supreme Court case because of the potential to bill the federal government for the testing. And since its their gene they prohibit any cheaper labs from competing. Its called a monopoly. Myriad, the company with the BRCA patent saw their stock spike with Jolie’s unusually well-timed People Mag cover and NY Times Op-Ed.

If one were inclined to consipracy plots, one might speculate as to the decisions around Jolie’s outing herself a month before the SCOTUS decision on the patent case is due. One might even speculate that the Jolie/Pitt portfolio could feature Myriad stock, among a broad spectrum of other health related investments of course.

One might even go so far as to say that Myriad – and a lot of other folks – are very heavily invested in making sure that they continue to control the price of BRCA testing, soon be available through ACA. A PR campaign with a movie star fits the bill nicely.  

I am very happy Jolie was able to get the BRCA test she wanted, choose her treatment, and afford her reconstruction. I would be a lot happier if her “brave narrative” included statements about how no one person (or corporation), should be able to restrict this kind of important research or testing by “owning” a human gene. I might be holding my breath on that one.

The ACLU should put out a call for their own fiesty star to out herself about her bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction to make some noise about this patent case. Keeping my fingers crossed for the decision in June.

I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

I confess I am a fan of WebMD.

It is an invaluable tool for those among us that embrace self-diagnosis and self-treatment. You just click open that symptom checker and start choosing body parts and you are on your way to determining if your condition is, for instance, a tick bite or mango flies. Very simple.

My husband does not agree with this practice. Its pure speculation, but I do believe that my use of the symptom checker actually causes his blood pressure to spike. He grew up in a medical family. His grandfather was a doctor and treated the entire family.

I grew up in a non-medical family where sickness was viewed as weakness and my father treated everything with a butterfly-bandage and an ice pack. I have a long history of self-treatment, so my first impulse is home remedy.

But now I have the privilege of having health insurance. I have sick time I can use to leave work and go to the doctor. I have friends who will look after my kid at a moments notice. And most importantly, I can count on my husband for sympathy and support.

So I will go to the Doctor and get a professional opinion. And only look at WebMd when he can’t see me.

A friend and I were comparing notes on how people react to direct communication. On account of us both being very direct “pushy” women. This is not a bad thing. I seek out women friends who are pushy, strong, aggressive and otherwise fabulous as a balm for my grated nerves.

Seems like roughly 85% of the people I interact with anymore communicate indirectly. Not just body language, vocal tone and nuance of language, I mean they construct verbal parabolas and tuck the meaning safely inside the cone. (See Fig.1 on right)

So speaking directly, getting to the point or trying to not waste other peoples time can be construed as unfriendly and intimidating. Especially for a woman. And being perceived this way is down right exasperating.

I decided the other night my best strategy to get people to accept me as I am might be to claim a disability. I could say I have psycho-social disorder, I am “on the spectrum” for autism. I bet folks would be falling all over themselves to understand my “disability” (rather than disinclination) to make them comfortable.

I have tried, and still do, to manage and improve my emotional intelligence and social interaction. I am chatty and make small talk. I remember to inquire about children, spouses and pets. I bring in random treats. And I am still called humorless, intimidating and serious. And told that I should smile more. To that I usually answer that I am smiling on the inside.

Will my “disability” make these people cut me some slack? Will they get to the point in their emails or on the phone if they think I am incapable of understanding indirect communication? Will they stop holding agenda-less meetings? Or will they speak louder or more slowly as if I’m foreign? I am foreign to them when it comes right down to it. A stranger in a strange land.

Time to cook up a little “bad girl” cocktail party with all the pushy women I know. Rejuvenate. Maybe take over the world.

I have a cold.

Sore throat, sneezing, stuffy head, blocked ears and fuzzy thinking. Its a drag and an inconvenience and I have too much work due at the moment to stay home and indulge in tea & TV.

A further insult is that my preferred daytime sinus meds are only (sometimes) available through a pharmacy because they contain an ingredient used to make meth. So I have crappy drugs that don’t really manage my symptoms because some kitchen sink chemist is now making more money in a month than I do in a year. If I am sick next week I’ll go in for a strep test.

Once upon a time, before I had health coverage, my first cold of the season would turn into bronchitis that would last several months. Granted I was a smoker in those days. And making $13K a year working at a small nonprofit, the cost for single person coverage was roughly equivalent to my rent, so I didn’t have health benefits. Instead I used the poor people’s pharmacy. Echinacea. Goldenseal. Garlic. Vitamin C. Slippery elm tea (blegh).

Turns out that Echinacea does nothing to prevent colds or reduce their duration. Its just a nasty tasting hippie placebo. And Goldenseal under the tongue will convince anyone to get better so they can stop taking it.

Maybe these home remedies would have worked better if I didn’t smoke, got a decent amount of sleep and had a diet that consisted of more than just feta omelettes, grilled cheese and coffee. Who knew. I do know that if you have to live without health care the best time to do it is in your twenties when your body will forgive a lot and keep on going.

Now I have health care. I have money for antibiotics and doctor copays. Its a big leap from how I grew up. My parents didn’t believe you needed a doctor unless you were unconscious or a bone was protruding. I know we got vaccines when we were kids, and saw a dentist once in a while, but until I was in high school when my dad got his dream job, doctor visits were infrequent.

I don’t know if that is a generational attitude or a poverty/depression child attitude. Both my parents came up hard during the depression, so maybe its a bit of both. Doctor’s just give you bad news and hospitals are where people go to die. A lot of truth in those statements.

I am happy to report that I have not had bronchitis in winter for several years now. I started smoking when I was 13 and smoked for 16 years. Now, I have “been quit” for 17 years, which supposedly means that my lungs are back to base zero, like I had never smoked.

I am happy to deal with this cold and not bronchitis. And, even with the sub-par decongestants, I am ecstatic to not be dosing with Echinacea and Goldenseal.