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Tag: abortion

Why I Don’t Want My Country Back

I keep hearing people say, “I want my country back.” I don’t understand why they want to regress rather than progress.

We have within our voting booths, email accounts, and voices the ability to make this country truly great. We should use them to make great things happen.

But, to go back?

I would not want to take my country back to a time when a state religion was mandated. The autodidacts of the Enlightenment gave us a gift when, first in the Virginia Declaration and then in the First Amendment, they mandated that states have to stay out of the religion business. By necessity this meant that religion also has to stay out of state business. The last “established church” (in Connecticut) was done away with in 1813 .

conn church

Congregationalist Church in Enfield, Conn. Remember Jonathan Edwards and his bombastic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“?

There are political leaders today who claim they want to take the country back to a time when religion invaded every nook and cranny of political life. They’re asking for witch trials, criminal prosecutions for wearing lace, fines for not going to church, taxes that support one church but not anther.

Whose religion will the state support in that scenario? And whose interpretation of that religion? Will we end up in a bloody civil war over predestination and evangelism? Will atheists be burned at the stake? We have a lot of work to do in this area so that the American public understands what the founding fathers did: a secular state is the only one that can possibly serve all of its citizens. I sure wouldn’t go back to a time when states were able to mandate religion, before the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1864 that finally required all of the states to abide by the Bill of Rights. I don’t want that country back.

Other important Amendments to the Constitution were also passed in those heady days immediately following the Civil War, like the one that abolished slavery and the other one that extended the right to vote to every citizen regardless of race. I wouldn’t want to take my country back to a time when an entire demographic was enslaved and marginalized, disenfranchised and dispossessed of even basic human dignity.

30VOTING-tmagArticle

Credit: Bob Daugherty/Associated Press, 1964

We’ve already lost some of the protections minorities had against the privileged majority with the loss of the Voting Rights Act. The ballot box is still under siege from people who would make it harder for the poor, the young, and the elderly to vote. We have to get more people to the polls on every election day, and we have to pass laws reforming campaign finance so that elections are actually decided on the merits of the candidate’s platform and not on the size of their sponsor’s bank accounts. Who wants to live in a country where elections go to the highest bidder? Not me.

As a woman, I wouldn’t want to take my country back to an era when I would not have  had a voice in politics. That means I wouldn’t go back to a time before the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919.

suffragettes

Suffrage parade, New York City, May 6, 1912

I wouldn’t ever want to go back to a time when a woman’s “place” was barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Shackling women to their homes and children, shaming them for working and for success in other endeavors, removing from them their rights to own property or even have guardianship of their own children does an extreme disservice to half the population. That means I wouldn’t take my country back to the time before World War II, when so many women joined the iconic Rosie the Riveter in the workforce.

apron and satan

Discouraging girls from achieving their dream occupation shortchanges not just them, but our entire society. We can all benefit from the power of a brain enthusiastically focused on doing something worthwhile. If we tell boys they can be firemen or doctors  but tell girls they’ll be someone’s wife, we effectively tell our daughters that they will identify themselves by someone else’s name and someone else’s achievements. We send our girls the message that they aren’t good enough tall by themselves.  If that’s what we would return to, I don’t want that country back.

MRS degree

We hear people say they want to return to the values of the 1950’s, when June Cleaver vacuumed her comfortable home in heels and pearls, when Wally and the Beav could roam the neighborhood without supervision, where Ward wore a suit and held the same white collar job for years without stress. I have news for those people: The Cleavers were fiction. They didn’t exist except on television. Neither did that perfectly well-adjusted, large, blended Brady family in the 1970’s. When we say we want our country back, we say we long for only the good parts of a fictional, idealized era where no bad happened. It doesn’t exist and it never did.

Now is better, but it still isn’t good enough. There aren’t enough women yet in positions of power.  Women are capable business and community leaders. There still aren’t enough female CEOs of major corporations, there aren’t enough women in politics, there aren’t enough women of high rank in the military, there aren’t enough women in STEM fields, and women still don’t have the earning power of men.

We made progress in this country when becoming pregnant didn’t automatically trigger wedding bells at the business end of the proverbial shotgun.  We made progress when not just women but men were given the option of leaving bad marriages without suffering social opprobrium. We still need to improve our laws so that single parents have more support from society, so that they can earn a living wage and still have time to spend with their children. Child care needs to be more affordable and widely available so that single parents as well as married women who want financial independence aren’t prevented from reaching for it because they can’t afford to. Truly, as a society, we can’t afford for them not to.

I wouldn’t go back to a time when Jim Crow was not only the unwritten law of the land, but enshrined in statutes. This means I wouldn’t go back to a time before Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, or even before Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

Let’s not take our country back to a time when a family was prevented from moving next door to us simply because of the color of their skin, or when our a playmates were prevented from going to the same school as we did – again, because of the color of their skin. This means I wouldn’t want take the country back to a time before 1968 when the Fair Housing Act became law. My hometown’s schools were integrated in 1968 – the year I started first grade – and I’m glad it didn’t take still longer.

No, I would not want to take this country back to a time when people I knew and enjoyed as friends were treated like second-class citizens, not considered good enough to drink from the same water fountain as I could or to use the same public restroom as I did. We got rid of those statutes and are still fighting an uphill battle for racial equality and equal opportunity. We still have to deal with privilege and marginalization. It’s better, but it still isn’t good.

We haven’t made enough progress in this department: we are incarcerating practically the entire demographic of black males, forever foreclosing their capacity to contribute to society or even to their families in any meaningful way. Young black men get profiled and executed in the streets. The sentences imposed for minor crimes are not only excessive,m they are applied disproportionately along racial lines. Our prisons are focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation and successful reentry to society. They days of lynchings aren’t really over – they just look different. We have a lot more work to do.

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Image from a 1920 lynching in Texas, via Wikimedia Commons

Our society made progress in my lifetime when women were finally granted the right to defend our bodies against unwanted intruders, be they marital rapists or unwanted pregnancies. We haven’t made nearly enough progress in this area, even though we thought we had won it 40 years ago; a woman’s right to decide how and when her body will be used is under a concerted and coordinated attack from those who would reduce women to incubators.  That means I don’t want to take the country back to a pre-1973 world, where Roe v. Wade didn’t protect my body from involuntary servitude to an organism that might kill me. I was eleven years old when that case was decided. No, I wouldn’t go back, even though summers seemed to last forever back then.

I would never, ever want to go back to a time where education of the young was the province of churches, or that religion was allowed in the classroom. We made excellent progress in this regard – again, within my lifetime – and it is under constant threat from teachers who tell children they aren’t Christian enough (this is a state mandating religion again) or who deny evolution and other proven scientific theories (because their preachers tell them to).

In fact, we as a society don’t do enough to ensure that our population is educated. There is a significant segment of the American population that is anti-intellectual and proud of it. (I’m looking at you, Sarah Palin.) These people not only stymie the efforts of good brains, they threaten our nation’s ability to compete in the world’s markets, our health, and our standard of living. We have a lot more work to do in this area. Until every person in the country has access to affordable higher education, we undermine our growth both intellectually and economically.

And this brings me to pseudoscience. We may not have stereotypical snake oil salesmen on every street corner, but we do have quacks on television and Playboy Playmates (TM), all of whom have large soapboxes from which to sell modern-day snake oil in the form of fad diets, homeopathy, and “nutritional” supplements, and who undermine and misrepresent scientific progress.

Polio has become almost nonexistent in my lifetime. Diphtheria has virtually disappeared during my parents’ lifetimes. Smallpox was eradicated in my lifetime.  I would never want to take my country back to a time before antibiotics, vaccines, and modern surgical techniques. That means I don’t want last year’s country back.

But we need to do more to improve health and welfare. We can’t do it if our teachers won’t teach the theory of evolution and idiots without scientific training claim vaccines cause autism. We also can’t do it if every poorly-tested drug is advertised to the uneducated masses. We need to make more progress in this area.

I’ve now brought us into the present. I definitely don’t want to go back to any of what I’ve described.

Moving forward is the only option I see.

country back

You can get this on a t-shirt. Click the image to order.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, Killer

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial in Pennsylvania on murder charges (among others)  because of  practices at his abortion clinic. In January 2011, Gosnell charged with eight counts of murder resulting from gross medical malpractice in treatment of patients at his clinics. The eight victims of his alleged murders were seven infants said to have been killed after being born alive during attempted abortions, and one adult patient who was administered an overdose of painkillers during an abortion.

Medical malpractice is the action of medical providers that intentionally or negligently injure or kill a person in that medical professional’s care. From all accounts I have found and read, Dr. Gosnell is at the very least guilty of egregious and frequent medical malpractice.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a real-life horror story.

The mistreatment and maltreatment reported by patients and even his own staff is hair-raising. Patients who change their minds about having an abortion, even if their feet are already in the stirrups, must be respected and treated with dignity. Unless the procedure has already progressed beyond a point of no return, it should stop immediately. This is true of any elective procedure, whether it is wart removal, plastic surgery, abortion, or hip replacement.

When I hear of patients infected with STDs because a doctor used unsterilized instruments on them, I am appalled.

When I hear that of bags containing at least 47 aborted fetuses were stuffed into a refrigerator, my stomach lurches. What the hell was the point of that?

My anger rages when I hear a 15 year old girl who changed her mind on the table was physically restrained and the abortion performed anyway. That is abuse. Assault. Battery.

When I think of a live baby’s spine snipped with a pair of scissors, my fury explodes.

Dr. Gosnell has been accused of all of these things. If they are true, he should never be allowed to practice medicine again. Ever. And he should go to jail.

I am not appalled that he was performing abortions. Women need a safe place to have abortions. But Gosnell’s clinic was not safe. Not for them, and not for the babies apparently born there after botched abortions. According to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, “The grand jury went to the scene wearing Hazmat suits.” The scene was littered with animal feces and stray cats had apparently had their run of the clinic.

Why Kermit Gosnell had Patients

Over the past 24 hours hours, the anti-choice media has been bewailing the fact that the case has not gotten much media coverage. I have seen it in my news feed daily over the last month, so until I investigated further, I didn’t understand why they claimed there was no coverage. Seems that the pro-choice media has covered it thoroughly – because Gosnell’s clinic is a harbinger of what will come if abortion is made illegal everywhere. The anti-abortion crowd has not covered it, because of the focus the case trains on illegal and unsafe abortions, which they know will happen with hyper-regulation and limited abortion access through safe, mainstream healthcare channels. Unfortunately, in today’s anti-choice climate, places like Gosnell’s clinic will become more common, not less. When abortions become illegal, vultures like him will be able to prey on more women.

The anti-choice advocates do not want this story covered, because this story will become more commonplace the harder abortions are to come by.

Women determined to abort the fetuses they are carrying will do so, one way or another. They should be able to do it in a safe, sterile environment that will prevent their own death or incapacity. This was where Dr. Gosnell failed. The women who sought treatment from him got rid of their unwanted pregnancies, but apparently often did so at the cost of their own health and safety.

Why should only the rich be entitled to safe health services? Why should abortion be readily available to wealthy patients, but not to poor ones? In one respect, Dr. Gosnell did indeed provide a necessary and desirable service. His method of purveying it, though, was devastating to his patients.

Gosnell is a symptom of a broken health care system. He is the poster child for why abortion services need to be safe, sterile, and sensibly regulated – not over-regulated so that only wealthy women can afford them.

Late Term Abortions for the Poor

When abortion is too expensive for a woman to be able to afford early in her pregnancy – when it takes her too much time to come up with the expense of resolving the problem of an unwanted pregnancy, she is forced to wait to abort the pregnancy. The longer she has to wait, the closer to viability or even to term she must have that abortion. By making abortion difficult to come by and expensive, we ensure that poor women must wait longer than wealthy ones to have abortions. We create the problem that a viper like Gosnell can take advantage of.

Elective late term abortions are not unheard of, even if they are rare. Late term abortions happen because women are either denied earlier access or because of medical reasons affecting wither the mother or the fetus. If a woman has to wait beyond the point of viability, but is still determined to end her pregnancy, she will still do so. And as long as it remains difficult and illegal for her to do so, she will accomplish her goal illegally. Outlawing late term abortions will not stop them. They are rare even without the legal restrictions. Women who are able to end unwanted pregnancies as soon as they can. They don’t wait for the opportunity to kill a baby.

If his patients had had the chance to go to a clean and safe clinic, Kermit Gosnell would not have had a practice. As someone I spoke with said recently, Gosnell’s clinic was “the template for underground and illegal abortion [mills]. As abortion rights get more restrictive, as people seek to find ways to make them even harder to come by, people looking to make money off this human suffering will find a fertile grounds on which to thrive.”

When a “Baby” is not a Baby

A pregnant woman talks about her baby in the present tense, but she has no offspring yet. We refer to saving the lives of babies when we talk about prenatal health care. The anti-choice crowd talks about saving babies’ lives when they talk about not aborting pregnancies. So when is a baby a baby, and when is it not?

A fetus is the unborn or unhatched offspring of  non-marsupial mammals – any non-marsupial mammal, including a human, a goat, a bear, or a platypus. (Marsupials do not have a fetal stage. They go from embryo to joey instead of from embryo to fetus.) A fetus is dependent on its mother for oxygenation, which is essential to life.

Viability, or the ability of the fetus to live outside the womb, is the measure the Supreme Court uses to determine the point at which the states may restrict abortions. Prior to viability the fetus cannot survive without its natural life support system: a woman. The point of viability is not a clear, bright line for every developing fetus. Some fetuses delivered earlier may live, while some delivered later may not. Medical advances have made it more likely that younger, smaller fetuses can live if their families choose to exercise those so-called heroic measures.

Until living tissue can oxygenate itself, it is dependent upon its mother and is not a baby. It is living tissue, but it lives a parasitic existence. As long as it lives a parasitic existence, its host may either accept it or reject it. We take steps to reject other parasitic lives dependent upon us, whether the parasite is a hookworm or a paramecium. The difference between these parasites and a fetus is that the fetus is a developmental stage of our own species, made with its host’s own DNA. We are more reluctant to reject our own species than we are to reject another. Once a fetus is born it becomes a baby that any other human can care for. After the umbilical cord is cut and the baby draws its first independent breath, it can be given to a wet nurse, it can be held by any other person or set aside in a crib away from other people completely. It is still dependent, but not for each moment of life. Its sustenance can come from anyone, not only from its mother.

Furthermore, after a fetus is born alive – that is, after it becomes a baby at the magic moment of birth – certain rules go into effect. Those rules allow us to remove terminally ill, dying, doomed, and comatose from the medical interventions keeping them alive. There is no legal requirement that heroic measures be taken for anyone, regardless of how long they have been breathing.

Why should there be a legal requirement that life support systems must stay in place simply because of the short length of time since conception? And why should anyone be legally compelled to provide life support for another person at the expense of her own body?

Someone pointed out McFall v. Shimp in a discussion today. In that case, McFall needed a bone marrow transplant and Shimp was the only suitable donor found. When Shimp refused to donate bone marrow, McFall sued. The court famously found that while Shimp’s refusal was morally indefensible, the court had no authority to order him to submit to personal, physical harm and bodily intrusion in order to save McFall’s life, and would not do so. Personal ethics are one thing. Demanding that another person put himself in harm’s way is yet another.

A pregnant woman unwilling to sustain the developing life within her own body is analogous. Every pregnancy has adverse health effects on every woman, Increased heart rate, edema, sepsis, increased blood pressure, hormonal surges…the list of physical systems challenged and even compromised by pregnancy is long and frightening. Then there’s death. Every woman fears death as a result of pregnancy. A woman may be under a moral obligation to provide healthy conditions for the tissue in her womb that has the potential to develop into a human being; however, she is under no legal compulsion to do so.

That is why women who use drugs and alcohol during their pregnancies are not incarcerated.

A fetus becomes a baby when it is born – when the umbilical cord is cut and it takes its first breath of air. At that moment, it is no longer dependent upon another creature’s continued life in order for it to exist. If a pregnant woman dies, the nonviable fetus inside her also dies, as does a viable fetus not immediately removed surgically.

Too often the terms “fetus” and “baby” are used interchangeably. I’m guilty of this, too. It’s the colloquial vernacular. These are not interchangeable terms, though. One means a creature that has not yet been born; the other means a creature that has been born.

A fetus does not become a baby until it is separated from its mother and living on its own, even if “living on its own” means that some degree of medical intervention is necessary. No one condones severing the spinal cord of an already-born baby who otherwise is healthy and able to survive. If the news reports of the testimony at Kermit Gosnell’s trial is accurate, he may have killed at least seven healthy babies – not fetuses.

There is a difference.

Valuing Human Life and Dignity

Valuing human life and dignity takes many forms. Personally, I value the life in existence more than the potential life. I certainly value the dignity of an existing person capable of feeling indignity more than that of a theoretical one.

The inherent point about abortion is that a woman who is determined to end her pregnancy will do so, no matter how much it costs, no matter what lengths she has to go to, and no matter if it may kill her.

I have witnessed abortion. The life, health, and future of my friend having that abortion while I held her hand was more important than the potential life that was then unable to live outside her womb. To this day, nearly 32 years later, she does not regret her choice, and I do not regret making sure she was able to have that abortion safely. I called home from college and asked my dad for the money. My friend could not ask her parents, but I knew my father would help me without hesitation and he did. I don’t know if he believed me when I said it was for a friend, but it did not make any difference to him. A young woman’s future was on the line.

I have also seen ultrasounds. I’ve seen different stages of healthy fetal development, and I have seen severely malformed fetuses in ultrasound after 20 weeks. One such fetus was also aborted. Less than a year later, performing that abortion would have made a felon out of the very humane and humanitarian doctor who performed it.

The fetal human being suffers no more and considerably less than the animals we humans routinely slaughter to eat, and does so with significantly less fear and trauma. It suffers less than a living human being whose artificial life support must be withdrawn because of health care directives. It suffers for a shorter period of time, too, and its death in safe, sterile surroundings does not compromise anyone else’s life or quality of life.

Abortion opponents want us to believe that abortions will stop if they are made illegal. They won’t. More people will suffer at the hands of butchers like Kermit Gosnel is reputed to be.

Butchers like Kermit Gosnell are the reason Roe v. Wade became necessary.

Butchers like Kermit Gosnell are the reason pro-choice proponents despair of ever-restrictive abortion laws.

Fetus Frenzy and Abortion Angst – NSFL

The fact is that women have been trapped. Reproduction is used, consciously or not, as a means to control women, to limit their options and to make them subordinate to men. In many societies a serious approach to reproductive health has to have this perspective in mind. We must seek to liberate women.

Dr. Nafis Sadik
Executive Director, UN Population Fund

abortion Arkansas logoI am a woman in the Bible Belt. In my state, Arkansas, the most restrictive abortion law in the country just passed. The governor vetoed it yesterday, but I don’t expect that to stop it from becoming law. As I write this, the Senate has already overridden the veto, and the House is expected to do so. For some crazy reason, our state legislature can override a veto with a simply majority – the same as they passed it to begin with. Arkansas gives only lip service to separation of powers.

Last week our governor vetoed another extremely restrictive abortion bill, HB 1037, but the legislature overrode the veto in less than twenty-four hours. HB1037 is a more permissive bill than the one at issue today. It prohibited abortion for any reason after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies. However, the term “medical emergency” under this new act “does not include a condition based on a claim or diagnosis that a pregnant woman will engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” That’s right. If she were so psychologically distressed that she attempts suicide because she wants an abortion, allowing her to abort the fetus does not count as a life-saving measure. In making the decision to terminate the pregnancy, the law specifically prohibits considering psychological harm to the pregnant woman. Doctors who perform abortions anyway become felons under this law.

This law makes no exception for severe fetal anomalies, even if the fetus will never be born alive. It does make exceptions for rape and incest. It’s okay to kill “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth” – that’s how the act defines an unborn child – if it was conceived in reprehensible circumstances, because … why? Is that collection of cells “less human” than one conceived intentionally or negligently? This exception makes no sense, except if we accept that there is something morally wrong with forcing a woman to bear such a pregnancy to term.

And who makes the judgment call about when forcing a woman’s body into service is morally reprehensible? Not the woman herself. She is apparently incapable of that.

Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.

— 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo

HB1037 stops abortions at 20 weeks except for cases of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother. It ignores completely the fact that the first ultrasound is not done until about 20 weeks into the pregnancy. At 20 weeks, doctors often get their first clues that an “individual organism of the species homo sapiens” might not be viable, or might have horrific defects. At 20 weeks, testing of fetal anomalies may just be beginning, because that may be when they are discovered.

I have a pair of young friends. Six months ago they were faced with an awful diagnosis and a horrific choice. The husband wrote a letter that was posted on the Arkansas Blog. He sent it there at my suggestion. He and his wife wanted to get the word out, in as visceral a way as possible, that this 20-week abortion ban was wrong.

The day they told me they were pregnant, love and excitement shone in both their faces. They are in their late 20’s, comfortable in their careers – he’s a pilot in the Air Force and she’s a surgical nurse – and their relationship is strong and committed. They were over the moon with the knowledge that they would soon be parents for the first time.

A few days before hitting that 20-week mark, they went for the ultrasound appointment. This was when they would find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. Whether the nursery would be pink or blue. Whether they should prepare for a son or a daughter. The husband, K, described the appointment:

Within moments we were looking at our baby girl for the first time. Her name was Amelia.

Imagine how we felt when our ultrasound technician stopped smiling. … Even flying in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had never fully understood the meaning of dread. Now I know, dread is what occupies the 15 minutes between an ultrasound and doctor’s return.

After a very long weekend, we were seen by a high risk specialist. Two new words were inked into our vocabulary: “encephalocele” and “holoprosencephaly.” Do not Google these terms; the results will break your heart. Of her numerous problems, these were the most serious. We had previously opted for every diagnostic test to ensure our baby’s health, and were one of the first couples in Arkansas to try a new screening of our baby’s chromosomes in blood taken from the mother. We had gotten a false negative. Amelia would not survive to term.

“Devastated” does not begin to describe their reaction to the news. Both K and his wife, A, have talked to me at length about that awful day, and the awful days that followed. Despite what K said in his open letter, I do think it is important to Google terms like “encephalocele” and “holoproencephaly.”

Encephalocele 2 encephalocele 1Encephalocele is a neural tube defect. After heart defects, neural tube defects are the most common congenital abnormalities. A common neural tube defect is spina bifida. Many children with spina bifida can survive, though. Those with large encephalocele cannot, because their brains protrude through a skull defect of the skull, usually in the back of the head. The protruding part of the brain is destroyed because of mechanical disruption of the tissue – it is not where it needs to be – and a restriction of blood flow to the protruding area of the tissue. Brain tissue around the defect is also malformed and disrupted. Large occipital encephaloceles are always fatal because of inevitable damage of the brainstem.

The embryonic forebrain fails to develop into two separate hemispheres in holoprosencephaly. Like with encephalocele, holoprosencephaly can be very mild, such as with a cleft lip and palate, or it can be so severe as to result in the facial features being seriously disorganized, the brain fails to develop, and brain function is severely compromised. Severe holoprosencephaly causes cyclopia – the fetus appears to have only one eye, usually where the nose would be in a normal fetus and instead of a nose, a tubular growth extends from the forehead. Even malformations that are not this severe result in miscarriage or stillbirth. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, most cases of holoprosencephaly cause malformations so severe that fetuses die before birth.

holoprosencephaly

Various Degrees of Holoprosencephaly

Amelia’s holoprocencephaly was not the most severe, but it was severe enough that the doctors did not expect her to be born alive. If she did make it out of the womb, she would likely live only hours, if that long. With a “reasonable degree of medical certainty,” as we say in the legal arenas, Amelia would never see the light of day. Her parents would never hold her, and if they did she would never know it.

My friend A, who was pregnant with Amelia, is a surgical nurse. She knew exactly how grim this prognosis was. From K’s letter:

Regardless, I cannot adequately describe our grief, fear, and anger, or the agony of days spent on hold with insurance companies and hospitals.

The genetic counselors in the high risk pregnancy center were patient and understanding, but the situation was bleak. We could allow the baby to die naturally, but my wife could feel the tiny baby kicking and that constant reminder would be emotionally unbearable.

“Emotionally unbearable.” What an understatement. Pregnant women are emotionally labile anyway, but knowing that instead of decorating a nursery she was waiting for a miscarriage that might not happen for months would emotionally cripple most women. Instead of decorating a nursery, K and A would be in a macabre waiting game with nature. But in the meantime, A felt the baby kick and turn. She described to me feeling the baby move inside her in the days after the ultrasound, as she and K waited to see the specialist. With every flutter inside her womb, she cried. K could not bear to bring himself to touch A’s swelling abdomen, even though they had spent hours feeling Amelia move in the weeks prior. His emotional response exacerbated hers. If this pregnancy continued for another five and a half months, K and A would suffer incredible emotional harm. It hurts me to contemplate the potential damage to their marriage – I really love this young couple.

The doctors did not tell them what decision to make, but they knew they had only one reasonable option: terminate the pregnancy. Or, to use the hot-button term in vogue, a second trimester abortion.

Again, K’s words:

We returned to the specialist center later and sat down in front of the ultrasound for the last time. The doctor placed a needle through my wife’s uterus to the baby’s heart, which stopped immediately. Two weeks later, our stillborn baby was delivered in a quiet delivery room. She weighed eight ounces, much smaller than I expected.

The two weeks between that last ultrasound and the stillbirth were two very long weeks, when A knew that Amelia was gone, but still with them. Her belly was still swollen, but the baby no longer  fluttered inside her. She didn’t stop crying as she waited for the miscarriage to begin. Neither did K. They still haven’t stopped crying, but not because of their decision to terminate the pregnancy – they know they did the most reasonable and humane thing for themselves and for Amelia. They grieve for the child that they had hoped would be their daughter. But, they haven’t stopped crying in part because of the pariahs they are made out to be for taking the best action available to them, considering the prognosis and the totality of their circumstances.

Many family friends and coworkers have since come forward with their own stories of abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths. We had never suspected. As one mentor put it to me, I had joined a secret fraternity of parents who had lost a baby.

The Arkansas legislature refreshed K and A’s pain beginning in January with its focus on abortion. The wounds from losing the child they had hoped for are still fresh. They do not regret their decision, but they are very angry. Had this pregnancy happened in 2013 instead of 2012, they and their doctors would be criminally penalized for doing what they believed best in a terrible situation.

As K has said, the 20-week cut-off is arbitrary and wrong.

Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.

The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.

The debate about abortion is personal for us. We wanted our child.

HB1037 ignores the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey which, because of technological innovations since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1972, moved the date of viability from 28 weeks of gestation to a less definite date. It defined viability as the point at which the fetus could be reasonably expected to survive out of the mother’s uterus. The Casey decision was very careful to point out that the decision of whether, when, and how many children to have was a very personal one, and the individual’s interest in such a decision outweighed that of the state before viability. This position in in line with

The Arkansas legislature apparently believes that if it redefines “viability” as something completely different than the stage of life anticipated in Casey and Roe, it gets around the holding in those cases.

At the capitol, the proponents of this bill were all about “saving children.” With complete disregard for the fact that some children can’t be saved and it is more merciful to end suffering, these people would have us believe that women are cavalierly having “recreational abortions.” Yes, that is an actual phrase that was used. Although there may be some out there, I cannot imagine any woman not thinking very hard about whether to terminate her pregnancy, no matter what stage of pregnancy and no matter what her reasons. Abortion is simply not undertaken lightly, no matter what the anti-choice advocates would have us believe.

They would have us believe that irresponsible women love getting knocked up just so they can have medical procedures done between their legs. Ask any woman: we so adore our trips to the gynecologist, because we get to put our feet in stirrups and have someone go digging around down there. For those people, the worth of a woman is measured solely by the reproductive capacity of her body. She does not have a brain to go along with her genitals, and therefore cannot be expected to use it to make ethical decisions.

There was much testimony pertaining to abortion from women who chose to continue their pregnancies despite fetal abnormalities. Those witnesses ignored the fact that they had a choice to begin with. About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions, and many more suffer infections and other consequences.

Much of the violence against women occurs in the context of sexuality and reproduction. The health consequences of violence often occur in the context of reproductive health and seriously contribute to the burden of disease in women and young people.

Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima
Director General of the World Health Organization

I am very skeptical that if their wives were four and a half months pregnant with a fetus diagnosed with severe fatal holoprosencephaly or irreparable encephalocele, each of the legislators – mostly males – who voted for this bill would require her to continue the pregnancy to the point of natural miscarriage or stillbirth, knowing that instead of decorating a nursery they would spend the next five months planning a funeral. I cannot imagine that someone with such controlling demands would soothe and comfort their pregnant wives, wives who would feel every fetal kick as a false promise of a child that would never live. I can easily imagine that they would refuse to touch her belly so they wouldn’t get attached to a child that would never draw a breath – never mind that their pregnant wives have no escape from feeling those fetal movements. And I suspect that they have no appreciation for the psychological trauma suffered by pregnant women in these situations.

We can make the decision to terminate the life support systems for our aged and infirm family members who are already out of the womb, but we can’t make that same decision until they do make it into the world, under these laws. With the passage of these two laws, Arkansas creates an unconscionable double standard that disproportionately affects the young, the poor, and women.

K says,

It is unfair to demand that parents like us come forward with stories of personal loss, now in the state Capitol or later in courthouses. The decision we had to make was painful, personal, and ethical.

After overriding the veto of HB 1037, which would have made A’s doctors criminals for terminating her doomed pregnancy, Arkansas’s Tea Party-dominated legislature once again proved that a half-baked legislation makes good PR sound bites to a party that eschews freedom and wants to micromanage other people’s lives down to the most personal decisions.  These laws make mockery of a Republican party that once championed smaller government and greater personal freedom. And mock them we do, as we quiver in terror for the freedoms they take away from us. The Arkansas legislature ramped up its war on personal choice to legislate morality even more restrictively in SB 134.

This draconian bill, which the legislature passed and the governor vetoed yesterday, defines fetal viability as a “medical condition that begins with a detectible fetal heartbeat.” Never mind that the fetus is neither truly viable at that moment, nor that Roe. v. Wade defined viability as the point at which a fetus, when delivered, can survive naturally outside the womb. At 28 weeks, or seven months, the fetus has nearly a 90% survival rate, even thought it often needs artificial support to aid its continued development.  At 24 weeks, the fetus has about a 50% chance of survival outside the uterus, depending on its weight, development, its mother’s health, and the presence of congenital defects. Viability does not begin with a fetal heartbeat, which begins at around 21 days into the pregnancy.

4 week fetus

Human Embryo at 4 Weeks:
The heart is beating, so it’s viable in Arkansas

Reproductive rights … rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so,and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence…. In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community. 

Paragraph 96, Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing.

The current version of SB134 was modified from its original form. It is now ever so much more permissive. At first, the bill  outlawed abortion as soon as the cells that will become a fetal heart started rhythmically contracting, at about five weeks into the pregnancy, if counted from the last menstruation. Many women don’t even know they are pregnant by this point, especially if they have irregular menstrual cycles to begin with.

This bill coerces women to bear children whether or not they want to, whether or not they believe themselves to be financially, physically, and emotionally capable of enduring a pregnancy or rearing a child. It disproportionately affects young and adolescent women, who tend to be in the least powerful position to do something about their situations.

It abuses women, it insults them, and it oppresses them.

The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

Paragraph 94, Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing

Roe v. Wade didn’t start abortion, it stopped women from dying from abortions. Women who don’t want to bring a child into the world will abort their pregnancies, one way or another.

As a woman in Arkansas, my stomach has been in a knot this entire legislative session. The Tea Party, with its proud anti-intellectualism, its hyper-Christianity, and its coercive tactics is in charge of the state capitol, and Arkansas women’s rights are getting flushed down the drain.

The fact that these bills make exceptions in cases of rape and incest tells me that their supporters are not truly focused on the purported rights of human tissue that cannot survive outside the womb. If that was they case, it would not matter how those cells came to start dividing and how that fetal heartbeat came to be. It tells me, instead, that they care more about controlling the behavior of women. Only when the woman is pregnant under circumstances they find to be morally reprehensible will they permit her to make a decision about the number, spacing and timing of her children, or give her the means to control it if her first line of birth control fails.

I’m too old to get pregnant, and definitely too old to be personally affected by this law. There is a bigger issue, though. What these two laws say about my worth as a woman, as a thinking human being, devastates me. Solely because of my gender, I cannot be trusted to make decisions about my health and the health of any unborn child I might carry. Nor can anyone else born without a Y chromosome.

I have never liked living here. So many of the people I encounter seem to be willfully ignorant, racist, homophobic, disdainful of education and suspicious of those who are educated, untraveled, and hyper-religious to the point of denying the reality right in front of their faces. But before this legislative session I never before have I seriously considered what it would take to move away from here, to go someplace like Vermont or Washington State, to live in a place where not only would I be respected as a thinking human being capable of making ethical decisions for myself, but surrounded by like-minded people for a change.

I’ve thought about leaving my extended family, who I know would not follow me. I have wondered how often I would see my son, who is my only child and still is the light of my life, even though he is a grown man. I have thought about leaving my comfortable home, making new friends in a strange place, and who would care, in this new place I would go to, if I lived or died.

I don’t want to live in a place where the law restricts me or people like me – my sisters in gender, if not in generation – from doing what we honestly think is best for ourselves. I don’t want to live in a place that has no respect for my brain’s ability to make decisions simply because of my chromosomal makeup.

I feel trapped. This is a dystopic nightmare.

handmaid's taleThe Handmaid’s Tale is not a fiction in every society of the world, even today. It will not be a fiction for long in America.

 

Mike Huckabee Displays Idiotic Christian Arrogance Again

Mike Huckabee was on the Daily Show again last night. He’s hawking his new book, but naturally he didn’t much talk about his book.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 1
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The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

“Why does anybody have to be automatically anything other than what they truly believe?” Huckabee asked Stewart in the first part of the interview (6:14). At that point, he was talking about letting black conservatives be conservative without calling them “pawns,” or worse. A good question, which begs the question put to him in the second segment of the interview: why do Christians who don’t believe what their fundamentalist preachers tell them to believe have to be consigned to the fires of hell?

Yes, the second segment of the interview is what’s really important.

Stewart started the second segment by asking, “When [conservatives] keep demonizing these groups, whether it be single women, black people, illegal immigrants, it makes it impossible to work with them as a collaboration. Why would you collaborate with evil people? And when you convince them that they’re evil, why work with them?”

Unfortunately, this question never got answered. Huckabee denied demonizing these people, and truthfully, he probably has not demonized most of them himself. His network and his party certainly have, though he won’t speak for either of those entities. Now, Huckabee has demonized the natures of gay people, but Stewart did not take him to task for that.

Instead, Stewart segued into an abbreviated version of the despicable two minute commercial Huckabee narrated for the Christian Right just before the election. You know the one.

In it, Huckabee quotes Psalm 127:1 and says that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” He then calls certain things “not negotiable:”

  • The right to life from conception to natural death
  • Marriage should be reinforced, not be defined
  • It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life

Against a backdrop of flames, Rev. Huckabee goes on to say that “Your vote will be recorded for eternity.” He asks, “Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?”

This commercial is so incredibly offensive on so many levels my stomach still churns with anger to watch it, and the election is over and done with.

Huckabee actually claimed that this commercial did not attempt to send the message that if Christians voted for the Democrats they would go to hell – unless they were biblically illiterate. I really cannot imagine how that wasn’t the message, since I don’t even believe in hell and that’s the clear message I got from it – and I’ve read and studied the Bible extensively. “Oh, no!” exclaims Huckabee. “If they know 1 Corinthians 10, they will know!” Then he claimed that 1 Corinthians 10 was about being tested in the fires of a forge, and coming out stronger or some such.

For the biblically illiterate, let me explain 1 Corinthians 10. There is not one word about forges or fire. It’s all about not worshipping false gods and not participating in idolatry. We all know that since there is only one true god, so there can’t be any other gods, no matter how true their own believers believe them to be, and no matter how false those idolaters believe the one true god to be. Frankly, the arrogance of the “one true god” thing just staggers me, especially when one considers that the adherents of the Abrahamic religions have no better proof of their god than the adherents of any other religion.

But let’s look at 1 Corinthians 10:29, which asks, “Why should my liberty be judged by someone else’s conscience?”

Why, indeed, Reverend Huckabee? Why should my freedom be judged by your conscience? You arrogant twit, I can cherry-pick Bible verses just as well as you can.

I think the Good Reverend Huckabee was actually referring to 1 Corinthians 3:13, which more or less says what Huckabee claimed this commercial meant to say, just without the forge part. Because that’s totally not in there. And the part about judgement day, and therefore hell, definitely is in that particular passage.

Again, this is what pisses me off about Christians. They want to spew their Bible at me, but then I have to correct them – even the supposedly learned ones – because they don’t get it right. If they want to beat me up with their scripture, they should at least know their stupid scripture.

Of course, maybe he really meant 1 Peter 1:7, or 2 Peter 3:7, or some other passage that refers to fire but not hell, even though most of the passages I find pretty much equate testing by fire with the Judgment Day and hell. So Huckabee’s protests that the reference to fire doesn’t also refer to Hell or Judgment hold about as much water as that colander I used to strain my spaghetti last night.

Let’s examine the the three points of that disgusting commercial.

The right to life from conception to natural death

Nowhere in the Bible does any religious authority, real or imagined, claim that life begins at the moment of conception. I’d cite verses where it says so, but there aren’t any.

Let’s face it: The Biblical God is not pro-life. He advocates and permits child murder, infanticide, child abuse, and, yes, abortion.  Fundamentalist Christians rely on such passages as “thou shall not kill” Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 (one of the commandments), and  If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no misfortune follow, he shall be surely punished according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.And if any misfortune follow, then thou shalt give life for life,eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Exodus 21:22-24. Although the Exodus passage seems to be a favorite among the anti-choice crowd, I would point out that the harm mentioned in it is harm to the woman, not to the aborted or miscarried fetus.

God’s favored prophets prayed for abortions. Don’t believe me? Read Hosea 9:11-16. This same favored prophet also advocated ripping the fetuses out of the wombs of pregnant women in Hosea 13:16, something the God-favored King Menahem of the Israelites proudly did in 2 Kings 15:16, too. There’s even a ritual to induce an abortion in a faithless wife in Numbers 5:21 (presumably done instead of stoning her, although when stoning and when abortion is the proper course of action, the Bible doesn’t say).

So God is definitely not pro-life, at least for fetuses. But what about hastening death? Apparently the fundamentalist Christians also don’t like euthanasia, mercy-killing, or assisted suicide, either. They want people to suffer. This is where compassion gets thrown to the wind by these Christians. Suicide is tantamount to murder, in their eyes.

The Bible reports several suicides (Ahithophel; Saul and his armor-bearer; Samson; Zimri, who was king of Israel for only seven days; and Judas Iscariot) and men who want to be stricken dead (Moses, the prophet Elijah, and Jonah – twice) but nowhere in the Bible does it condemn them for that. The Bible also reports mercy killings, without reference to judgment, except in the case of the Amalekite who lied to David about killing Saul. Saul himself was not condemned for asking to die. Abimelech begged his armor-carrying servant to kill him in Judges 9:52-54, because he lost a battle and could not bear the indignity of his inevitable murder at the hands of (gasp!) women. There was no judgment attached to Abimelech’s death.

So, there does not seem to be a problem with euthanasia, either. Huckabee’s first point fails, on both counts.

Marriage should be reinforced, not be defined

This one is so easy it’s almost a no-brainer. I cannot grasp why these wackjob Christians think that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Jon Stewart jumped on this pretty fast, pointing out that the biblical definition of marriage is polygamy. Although Huckabee tried to say it isn’t, he cited no biblical authority for his position other than the Adam and Eve story. Lots of biblical marriages came after that one. Furthermore, it’s not real clear that Adam and Eve ever actually tied the knot. They sort of hooked up because of the dearth of others of their same species to choose from, and apparently shacked up, never going that extra step of committing to each other monogamously. They had no other options but bestiality.

So it stands to reason that yes, marriage could stand to be defined. But to say it’s biblical marriage really leaves the door wide open.

Because if you let your servant get married, and he leaves your employment, his wife and children are yours unless the servant agrees to stay and have his ear bored through with an awl. (Exodus 21:6) I’m not clear whether this means the servant’s earlobe gets pierced, or if his eardrum gets pierced. Either way, it’s pretty barbaric. But, that’s one definition of Biblical marriage.

Exodus 21:10 reminds men who take second wives that they can’t neglect the first one. Oops, Mr. Huckabee. Guess there’s a new definition of biblical marriage implied here.

Deuteronomy 22 is a great place to look for definitions of marriage. I like the one where the guy marries the woman and decides he doesn’t like her. If her father can’t then produce bloody sheets proving that she was a virgin at the time of the wedding, well, she gets stoned to death. What a sweet marriage that makes.

One of my favorite definitions of marriage is the rapist and his virgin victim. Yeah, Deuteronomy 22:28-30 is all about that.

Now, Paul is not real keen on marriage at all. Despite the fact that the species will disappear without it, sex is gross, and women are … well, Paul’s misogyny is another issue altogether. Paul thought everyone ought to have a spouse, though, if they really want sex, whether or not he could fathom why they’d want it. My guess is that Paul was so undesirable he never got laid, and therefore had no idea what he was missing.

And that doesn’t count all the various marriages in the Bible that involved multiple wives, concubines, and slaves. Heck, Abraham had a wife (Sarah), his wife’s slave (Hagar), another wife (Keturah), and an unknown number of secondary wives.

Then his grandson Jacob had two sister-wives (Rachel and Leah), and two servants of his wives (Zilpah and Bilhah).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 secondary wives, in addition to the Queen of Sheba. That’s 1001, for those of you who aren’t good with math.

And the list goes on.

It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life.

Right.  Do I really have to explain this?

Most people in the United States who are lucky enough to have health insurance coverage have it because their employer provides it. If their employer did not provide it, health insurance would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, people are generally forced to accept whatever health insurance is offered through work, unless they are wealthy enough to afford it on their own – which most people are not.

Limiting your employee’s health insurance options based on your own religious beliefs, whether or not your employee shares your religious beliefs, is totally not forcing your religion on them. (/Sarcasm)

Until there is a single-payer system, or until health insurance is decoupled from employment and made affordable, employers are in a position to unfairly force their religious beliefs on their employees.

It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for anyone to limit our access to health care based on religious beliefs we do not hold. If the government permits this, the government is complicit in the establishment of religion.

Therefore…

Stewart nailed him on the thinly disguised guilt trip the Huckster attempted to foist on good believing Christians. The commercial was pro-life and homophobic, and it essentially told Christian voters, with the appropriate imagery of their religion of intimidation and threat, that if they were not also pro-life and homophobic, they would burn for all eternity. Sweet message, that.

Among the most disturbing things about these Christians who want to impose their Bible on the rest of us are:

  1. For a number of reasons, foremost among them its bizarre contradictions, we don’t believe their Bible to be reliable, and therefore object to basing our laws on it;
  2. Their Bible contravenes proven science;
  3. We do not agree that some of the crazy shit they think is good is actually, well, good;
  4. As a foundational document, their Bible is inconsistent, violent, bigoted, misogynistic, and homicidal, and none of those things are acceptable in modern society;
  5. If they cherry-pick only the “good parts” of the Bible to apply to modern life, we have to question why, if so much of it is dispensable, they consider it to be a legitimate authority;
  6. Why they think it is acceptable to force their dogma on people who do not accept their dogma.

Dissenting minorities and minorities representing different demographics will always need protection from the will of the majority. And right now the majority seem to be batshit Christians, who want to impose their will on the rest of us.

 

Because Raped Women are a Series of Tubes…

One of the pleasures of living in a world where anti-intellectualism rules a major political party is that it’s fairly easy to spot the political leanings of the shockingly ignorant.

Image courtesy of Matt Katzenberger (source)

These are the people who consistently vote against their best interest, and are completely immune to the cognitive dissonance that rational people encounter when they attempt to hold diametrically opposed opinions in the same brain.  They want to repeal Obamacare because socialized medicine is bad, while protecting Medicare because socialized medicine is good. They want the incredibly rich to get ever larger tax breaks, even though the very rich pay proportionately less than they – the working and middle class – do. They actually believe the obvious bullshit of the ultra-rich Romneys and Koch brothers of the world, who promise they would be creating oodles of jobs (Really!) if not for the unduly burdensome 13% or less that they now pay in taxes. They are the same people who are completely in favor of the death penalty, but anti-abortion no matter what the reason.

They support defunding government grants for poor students, since only snobs want their kids to be educated. The budget proposal put forth by Paul Ryan, the new star of Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket, would not only reduce the size of Pell grants and even eliminate access to them for tens of thousands of students, but would have cut the Head Start program to ribbons, too. Education? Our kids don’t need no stinkin’ education! We can compete with the educated workforce of countries like Sweden, Japan and Germany without all that schooling. It doesn’t take education to know stuff.

Just ask U.S. Senate candidate, and current U.S. Congressman, Todd Akin (R-Mo).  He knows stuff. Akin is the guy who has been all over the news in the last couple of days because of his cocksure knowledge that “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. He knows this because “doctors” told him. In his interview with Charles Jaco on a St. Louis television broadcast, Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole [conception] thing down.” (If you want the full context, watch the full interview. The abortion comments are in the second video, and start at 1:54.)

There are about 32,000 women in America who are now relieved to know that the rape by which they were impregnated last year wasn’t “legitimate” rape. They can now conclude that despite the non-consensual nature of that sexual congress, they actually enjoyed it. And that’s good news for this year’s approximately 32,000 impregnated victims of non-consensual sex, too. Thank you, Congressman Akin, for your words of comfort. All those women can stop going to therapy now that they realize that they weren’t really traumatized at all. That’ll save a bundle on their health care costs, seeing as how your party would prefer not to insure these women’s health, either.

To be fair, Akin did say that he misspoke. He meant to say “forcible” rape, not “legitimate” rape.  Because non-consensual sex with a drunk college student isn’t really rape, whether or not she’s cognizant of what’s happening. And it’s totally not rape if the parties are married, even if they happen to be going through a divorce. It’s not rape if one partner is under the age of consent, because children who have sex know what they are getting into and are making an intelligent, informed decisions about it. Especially children who have had abstinence-only sex education.

A woman's body can totally tell if this is rape or not.

Roulette determines the lucky winner. (Source)

 

Life starts at conception, according to Akin. (It’s right there on his website, so it must be true.) Or maybe it starts two weeks before conception, like Arizona recently legislated, which means that women are in a perpetual state of “pregnancy” because conception could happen two weeks in the future at any time. Akin must be right, because he knows this stuff. He sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and pregnancy is sciencey, right?

Oops. No. I’m wrong. It’s God stuff, not science stuff. Totally my bad. Sorry.

 

Where better to look than to God for guidance on, well, everything? Now, God doesn’t speak out loud, or even very clearly, but fortunately he wrote his completely unclear directions down for us. Reading the Bible for instruction on life is tantamount to reading the instructions from Ikea, except that once you’re done with the Ikea instructions you have a piece of furniture that either wobbles, or doesn’t.  Reading the Bible is tougher, so fortunately we have crowds of really, really smart preachers to tell us exactly what God actually meant when he dictated those mystifying instructions. Now, a disturbing number of those really, really smart preachers, especially the fundamentalist ones, haven’t been to college, much less seminary, but they can read Elizabethan English and understand it just fine because they’re touched by God. Yes, we’re back to the refrain of “We don’t need no education.” Thank you, Pink Floyd.

Yes, I said they are touched. Touched in their various God Spots.  (image source)

The Bible is crystal clear about when life begins, if by “crystal” you mean “obsidian.” If you don’t believe me, check out the Open Bible site, which has all the references its author deems relevant gathered carefully in one place. You can even vote for which verses make things clearest for you. Of the 40 or so verses excerpted from various English translations of the Bible (we know God meant the Bible to be in English), I found two that were absolutely on point and helpful. Oddly, they were the same verse, just in slightly different translation: Exodus 21:22-24, which says that if a bunch of men get together and hit a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, then they either get fined as the husband sees fit, or they get punished to the same extent that the woman was injured. Go ahead and click the link on that verse. Read it in multiple English translations. If you know other languages, read the translation in other languages, too. Now you tell me which one is the best translation, given your expertise in ancient Hebrew.

Now, just for funsies, look at the rest of Chapter 21 of Exodus. It’s all relevant and pertinent to life today, isn’t it? So it makes perfect sense to use it as our go-by.

The homepage of Akin’s campaign website opens with a religious statement that puts the cart before the horse:

First, I want to give thanks to God our Creator who has blessed this campaign, heard your prayers, and answered them with victory. Through the months we have seen frequent instances of His blessing and are reminded that with Him all things are possible!

Evidently he credits prayer and divine intervention with his success in the Republican primary rather than the hard work of his supporters. I suppose that makes sense, seeing as how his list of endorsers lean heavily toward leaders of conservative Christian religious institutions. (Surely there’s no impermissible politicking going on in the churches those endorsers represent. Surely. Because that would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of those churches.)

This situation with Rep. Akin demonstrates exactly why I have a huge problem with politicians using an inconsistently translated collection of  Bronze Age “wisdom” to guide modern government policy. This situation, among others, is why I advocate, agitate, and get politically active – not to mention write passionate blog posts – when elected officials decide it’s okay to blur the lines between church and state. It’s also why I get cheesed off when people want to base their lives on a book of superstitious tales and ancient customs we no longer observe.

When we allow our leaders to cherry-pick verses of this collection of ancient manuscripts, we set ourselves up to go back to that time. Me, I’d rather live in a world of universal health care than a world of leper colonies and plagues. And if that makes me a socialist, then I am a proud socialist.

Furthermore, when a page of platitudes masquerades as “clearly the Bible says life starts at conception,” then I think it’s way beyond time our elementary schools taught critical thinking and logic to children – because if their parents buy the crap on that page as “proof” of anything, they won’t teach their kids to think at home or anywhere else.

Apparently what makes a human different from other living creatures is that we have a soul. How religious people can tell whether we have a soul, and how they know animals do not, remains an insurmountable mystery. Science cannot say when the soul comes into existence, since there is no evidence that such a thing as a “soul” even exists. But ignoramuses like Todd Akin want to legislate matters pertaining to women’s health based on their Bronze Age “wisdom” without any proof whatsoever. If we permit this to happen, we will get the same draconian laws as places like the Dominican Republic, where pregnant teenagers are denied chemotherapy because the life-saving treatment might harm a 13-week old fetus. Yeah, that happened.

The problem is ignorance,  lack of education, and reliance on “facts” gleaned from questionable translations of Bronze Age texts.

The problem is that people with no more background in science that this Akin clown sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Presumably he would know something about science if he’s sitting on a major legislative committee devoted to it. Of course, his Bible-based philosophies are contravened by science, so he cannot possibly wrap his head around them. Like that other ignorant politician who attempted to speak about a subject he knew nothing about, Akin apparently believes that women are a series of tubes, tubes that can easily be rerouted just by the nature of forced intercourse, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

What complete jackassery.

 

 

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