4 September 2002
Once upon a time, I was actually married, which does much (though clearly not everything) to explain why I have two children. And I admit that I was taken by surprise when I was informed that the first one was on the way. For one thing, there had been no testing: no cutesy strips, no trip to the OB/GYN, nothing. It didn't matter: she knew. From the very moment of fertilization, somehow she knew.
And, of course, she was right. Delivery turned out to be something less than flawless, but what matters here is the terminology: at no point in those nine months, so far as I can recall, did either of us use the word "fetus".
And maybe that's some of what Susanna Cornett is talking about when she asks, "What is nine months for a life?"
Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
7 September 2002
Another look at Roe
"[S]urveys show pretty clearly that pretty much half of American women now generally classify themselves as 'pro life' and a firm majority of women would support more restrictions on abortion than Roe v. Wade rammed down the country's collective throat....if we held a special referendum where only female voters were allowed to decide the fate of abortion in the United States, the rabid pro-choice crowd would howl with rage at the result."
I doubt any such referendum would ever take place; the male of the species would howl with rage at being disenfranchised. But if Mr Esmay's numbers are correct, at least part of the philosophical underpinnings of the pro-choice position that opposition to abortion would scarcely exist were it not for a small core of activists has already started to disintegrate.
Permalink to this item (posted at 10:37 AM)
20 October 2002
Graven in stone
Members of a class of Joshua Claybourn's were asked to compose their own epitaphs. (I don't know what class, and I didn't ask him.)
I've thought about this myself on and off, and the following have occurred to me:
Permalink to this item (posted at 4:31 PM)
25 October 2002
I have never been able to make a decent case either for or against the death penalty; while I have no trouble thinking up a list of people I think deserve it, there's something vaguely disquieting about the process.
Woundwort is a bit less conflicted than I am, but only a bit:
I am somewhat indifferent of the death penalty, I donít really mind when people are put to death for horrific crimes, but I donít always wave the banner for them to be executed either. This is different for me and Iím not sure why.
There have always been killers in America, and a number of them have been put to death. I neither cheered nor mourned when these persons lost their lives, although it is a bit frightening to think of all the people put to death for crimes they might not have committed. But I find myself truly wanting the persons responsible for the shootings in the D.C./VA area to die for what they have done.
Certainly they'd make my list, and for about the same reason:
I wish my motivations could be described as being based on moral principles, and a greater understanding of the common good of community and man, but I fall well short of these things. I think I want them to die because I was able to picture myself in the situation that many of the victims found themselves in and it frightened me.
There, but for the grace of God, and all that.
Making the punishment fit the crime is one of the primary duties of the criminal-justice system; about the only way to make this one fit, I think, would require that we drop the perps on an island somewhere and then hunt them down with a varmint gun.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
3 November 2002
Amizadai from Girl Unravelling sets the scene:
On Friday, I visited a graveyard. It wasn't to visit anybody. I just came across it after a meeting with a potential client. I was crossing the over-head bridge on my way to the bus-stop, wondering what to do in the two hours left before my next appointment when I saw some graves on the other side of a fence. The graves looked really old, and some of them had been dug up and their headstones broken. It piqued my curiosity, and seeing how I had time to kill, I decided to try to get in and take a look [at] them.
It's a long story, but the story of a cemetery is inevitably incomplete without the stories of its inhabitants, and Amizadai's narrative, which touches lightly on what little she can know of those stories, is to me very moving, perhaps because it is simple and unpretentious and has no agenda to push. There's a peacefulness to it all, a gentle rebuke to those of us who scream in fear at the thought of our own demise, even as we pretend to accept it.
Permalink to this item (posted at 6:46 PM)
22 November 2002
Nashville nattering (follow-up)
On the 8th of October, I said a few things about Tim McGraw's recording "Red Rag Top", chief among which was a statement to the effect that it was not, in my view, an endorsement of abortion.
In a comment to that post today, a reader from the "100% pro-life" camp amplified this statement, and this was the clincher:
No woman can respect a man that would let her kill their child.
In response, I suggested (perhaps feebly) that it might not have been her idea in the first place.
I don't think this topic is quite dead yet, so feel free to weigh in, either here on on the original posting.
Permalink to this item (posted at 3:19 PM)
5 December 2002
A dispatch from Bizarro World
I admit up front that the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade is not marked on my calendar as a Day to Celebrate. Of course, I'm not Planned Parenthood. They, however, are going all out to commemorate the event.
Well, maybe not all out. I don't see any parades scheduled. But there is an art competition, in which they will select an "original piece of artwork or poster that celebrates these 30 years of choice and illustrates the concept that 'Behind Every Choice is a Story'."
Okay, fine. Until you read the Terms and Conditions, which contains this innocent-looking notice:
Children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission* to submit their designs and for us to publish it along with their name.
The asterisk points you to a Parental Permission Form.
Now it strikes me it certainly strikes Rosemary Esmay that Planned Parenthood gets their BVDs knotted every time someone suggests that children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission to have an abortion. "Oh, yes, vacuum out your uterus any time you like. Just don't get us in trouble with the Contest Police."
What's wrong with this picture?
Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
1 January 2003
Very much on a human scale
One of the reasons I have resisted getting a pet is that I know the poor creature's time on earth is short, and dealing with the end of that time is likely to cause me the sort of emotional upheaval I would prefer to avoid it's not exactly like losing a family member, but it's close enough.
A couple of weeks ago, Alan Sullivan described the last few hours of his beloved retriever:
I kneel to rub her head and neck, then I press my cheek against the soft fur of her shoulder. Long and rangy for a Labrador, Maud has shrunk from a robust eighty pounds to a gaunt sixty. Her limp flews tremble with pleasure at my attention, and the rotten teeth chatter. Those teeth are her bane. She can scarcely eat any more, and she wouldn't survive another major round of dentistry.
All right, I'm rationalizing. And I keep thinking that Steve or someone else might contemplate similar rationales over me some day.
The vet comes in three hours.
I had read that when it was a new entry, and I promptly put it out of my mind alongside the other things I'd rather not contemplate. And it stayed there until yesterday, when Bill Peschel reported on the death of the family's senior house cat:
Ever try to explain to a five-year-old girl about death? It wasn't pretty. Nor to hold your 12-year-old son, who grew up with the cat, as he's sobbing into your chest, full of understanding that, eventually, we all go, and that, if he's lucky, he'll get to bury his mom and dad before he, too, shuffles off into eternity.
There really isn't anything else I can say after that.
Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
17 January 2003
Hit me with your rhythm stick
I tend to give relatively little thought to the matter of contraception, partially because I had The Operation in 1981, but mostly because the number of sexual partners I have had in recent years can be counted on the fingers of no hands.
Patty at Pdawwg, however, has given it a lot of thought:
[I]f you ask me, getting rid of The Pill strikes me as a good idea. Who thought it was a spectacular idea to prevent conception by shutting women's bodies down from their natural functioning? Surely all the money spent on developing the birth control pill could have been better put into really good equipment (I'm thinking like those way cool blood sugar machines they make for diabetes monitoring that my dad had) that with 99% accuracy shows a woman's fertile time so all she need do is abstain to prevent conception.
Instead we take drugs that can lead to "nausea, vomiting, bleeding between menstrual periods, weight gain, breast tenderness, and difficulty wearing contact lenses" for the minor side effects and blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, worse migraines, faster-growing tumors, increase the need for insulin for diabetic women, increased depression, irritability (like we need more of that!), water retention, leg cramps.
If this is the best medical science can offer us, I'd prefer a vet.
I suspect that were something like this offered to us guy-type persons, we would run like hell. Of course, were we the half of the species that got pregnant in the first place, world population would be something like 300,000 and they'd give out two-for-one abortion coupons at the Hy-Vee.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 PM)
26 January 2003
One common complaint from abortion-rights advocates is that the opposition is unyielding, implacable and adamantine. I assume that by making this complaint, they wish to position themselves as flexible and open to compromise.
Karl Born, writing in Hoosier Review, describes one particularly warped incident at Indiana University. The IU chapter of Campus for Choice had posted a list of firms to be boycotted for supporting "anti-choice, anti-women causes." One of the targets was Wendy's. Why? "Dave Thomas is very anti-choice. Thomas was adopted and believes all women facing unwanted pregnancies should give their children up for adoption."
This contains, so far as I know, three words of truth: "Thomas was adopted." And also so far as I know, Dave's foundation has as its primary goal finding homes for thousands of children already born; adding to the waiting list is a secondary consideration at best. But that's not the real point. What I want to know is: Does Campus for Choice believe that if a woman decides to go through with the birth and give up the child, she has not made a choice? Or that she has made a wrong choice?
Maybe I'm missing something here, but on the face of it, this looks every bit as dogmatic and inflexible as the anti-abortion folks are supposed to be.
Oh, and Dave? I think I'll have a Classic Double with Biggie Fries and a Frosty. And if you would, see what Joshua Claybourn is having.
Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 AM)
22 April 2003
The manufacturer of Plan B, a so-called "morning-after" pill designed for after-the-fact birth control, has requested the FDA to take the drug off prescription status.
I don't have a problem with the concept generally please note, this is not RU-486, the so-called "abortion pill", or a variant (486DX?) thereof but one question gnaws at me: Plan B is, in essence, a standard contraceptive pill packing a very high dosage. Routine doses are still on prescription. (As George Carlin grumbled back in 1971, "You still need a note to get laid.") There's something slightly weird about having to get a prescription for a standard dose of something while the blockbuster dose is right there on the shelf next to the Pepto-Bismol. If the FDA approves the change for Plan B, shouldn't all contraceptives of this sort come off prescription? If your answer is something like "Good Lord, nine-year-old girls would be buying them," you can see why I might be concerned.
I hasten to add that my interest in this is purely academic: my children are grown and can make their own decisions, and, well, it's not like I'm going to be putting anyone in any particular jeopardy.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 AM)
1 June 2003
Doctors 1, Activists 0
This Newsweek/MSNBC piece buries its hook in the middle, but it's a serious hook indeed:
No matter what legislators, activists, judges or even individual Americans decide about fetal rights, medicine has already granted unborn babies a unique form of personhood as patients.
Which perhaps suggests that legal definitions of "viability" are, or at least are on the way to becoming, obsolete. And if "viability" goes, what becomes of Roe v. Wade, which specifies the point of viability as the point at which states may ban abortion outright?
For the first thirty years after Roe, it was assumed by both proponents and opponents that the issue would ultimately be settled in the judicial arena: Roe would either be strengthened or scrapped. Now I'm not so sure. If the medical technology advances, the legal definitions will likely change as well; before long, Roe may actually bar more abortions than it permits. I don't expect the hardcore activists on either side to be satisfied with this predicament, which is reason enough to look forward to it.
Permalink to this item (posted at 1:46 PM)
29 December 2003
The wrappings of misconception
To imply that women who do not carry condoms are failing to protect themselves from AIDS which is what amfAR's Web site explicitly states as it refers to the ad's "shocking statistics" is an insult to me personally and to every responsible, non-condom-toting woman I know.
The true message of the amfAR ad is that everybody's doing it, and those who don't "protect" themselves are just plain irresponsible. This is a valid message if one's target audience consists of B-girls, bags, bawds, bimbos, blowers, broads, call girls, camp followers, cats, chickens, chippies, concubines, courtesans, fallen womans, floozies, harlots, hookers, hostesses, hustlers, loose women, molls, nymphomaniacs, painted women, party girls, pickups, pink pants, pros, scarlet women, sluts, streetwalkers, strumpets, tarts, tomatoes, tramps, trollops, white slaves, whores, and working girls.
It is not a valid message if one is targeting ordinary single women.
(I break in here to note that I don't know anyone meeting the above description, and if I did well, never mind, you know the joke.)
If amfAR truly wished its ads to be "arresting," it would go against the pop-culture stream and take a stand in favor of sexual restraint. But scientists will find a cure for AIDS long before that organization dares to profess that people should be "responsible" for anything other than "protecting" themselves from the effects of their own irresponsibility.
Myself, I don't claim that my ongoing extended period of celibacy is any kind of moral statement. On the other hand, it is quite clearly effective in warding off HIV, not to mention substantially less expensive than other techniques. (Condoms cost money; dates cost even more money.) And while I have had my own doubts about abstinence-only programs, it's clear that at least some of them work, and I'm not inclined to sneer at the results they get: the age groups at which these programs are directed really should not be sexually active, for reasons which go beyond the simple Thou Shalt Not.
Then there's this:
I still have urges to do things that would require what amfAR so delicately calls "protection." But I know that even if such protection were 100% effective against HIV, it would still be 0% effective against a much more certain disease arising from sex without love: heartsickness. Loveless sex is a very poor Band-Aid against loneliness, and it ultimately keeps the wound from healing.
Twenty years ago, I probably would have scoffed. Not today.
Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 AM)
5 May 2004
Do as we say, but not here
Minus the buzzwords, this seems reasonable enough:
Adolescents tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers are participating in risk behaviors. In almost any functioning social system, the majority of individuals are making healthy decisions and are avoiding risky behavior. However, many individuals in the majority typically believe that they are in the minority i.e., that "everyone else is doing it." Such misperceptions can be harmful because they can provide a sort of false peer pressure, encouraging young people to take risks that they would rather avoid. Programs employing a social-norms approach attempt to correct misperceptions by providing accurate information about true peer norms, either through instructional activities or through social marketing campaigns. Developed over the past decade or so, this approach has been quite successful in reducing risk-taking behavior in the area of drinking and drug abuse.
William F. Bacon, PhD, who came up with this, is associate vice president for research and evaluation at Planned Parenthood of New York City, and his statement appears on the Planned Parenthood Web site.
You might assume from this that the organization actually seeks to reduce "risk-taking behavior." A glance at their Web site for teenagers, Teenwire, suggests otherwise. Dawn Eden has done more than glance, and she's appalled:
The main story linked on Teenwire's front page is "Be Prepared for the Prom," which informs teens that prom night is a big night to lose your virginity. It seems that all that talk on Planned Parenthood's main Web site about changing teens' "social norms" and upending the "everybody's doing it" philosophy is sooooo last year.
At the very least, there's a serious disconnect between what Planned Parenthood is telling adults, who write the checks, and what they're telling teenagers.
As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
13 May 2004
"They say I'm a killer"
Everyone's doing research in genetics and nobody's doing service. Because it's too controversial to help mothers so that they can give birth to healthy babies.
What's with this outburst? Totally unbidden, sneering all the way and anyway he thinks those mothers should abort those babies who aren't healthy.
Dr Watson has never been exactly secretive about his views, but there's a difference between merely reading about them and hearing them expressed at high volume on the other side of the room.
There was no way that I could argue with him it wasn't the time or place, and I don't believe I could have swayed him. But I'm sure he could see the emotions on my face the desire to be respectful, mingled with stifled horror and pity.
I could only wonder what would make someone whose work had brought so much healing decide that the best way to prevent sickness is to kill people.
For some reason, I find myself thinking of Ike Turner, unquestionably one of the major architects of rock and roll, and by all accounts someone you definitely didn't want to date.
If there's a Deep Truth here, it's this: doing good things, even great things, doesn't assure you a position on the side of the angels.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
1 July 2004
"Limiting access to the Pill," says this piece in Prevention, "threatens a basic aspect of women's health care."
(And please note that while there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of small-p pills, there is only one Pill.)
The piece is called "Access Denied," and you know it's serious, because Planned Parenthood is involved and because there's a hint of some shadowy anti-abortion cabal Out There Somewhere.
Dawn Eden thinks the piece, written by Caroline Bollinger, is ridden with paranoia:
Bollinger's fearmongering is based upon the presumption that the professionals who refuse to prescribe or dispense birth-control pills are unreasonable people. Like so many secular reporters covering religious topics, she assumes that no intelligent, feeling human being would believe that life begins at conception. One senses in her article the liberal paranoia that President Bush and his appointees, if given the chance, would turn America into an evangelical-Christian theocracy.
But I don't believe that Christians stop working their brains when they start working their faith. I believe that the very same person who would have the faith and courage to take a principled stand on a life issue, would also have the reason to see when it's fair to make an exception.
Even if one day I went to the drugstore and the pharmacist refused to fill my prescription, I still can't imagine being unable to find a pharmacist who would fill it. When one has faith in the reasonable nature of people in general, one does not fear the opinions of a few. The First Amendment, which allows Americans to remain faithful to their religion in the workplace, assures that this nation will not be a theocracy, because it protects the diversity of citizens' opinions and faiths.
The only thing I'd quibble with is in the second paragraph I quoted. I don't think it's implausible that our theoretical pharmacist could accept the possibility of an exception; however, since prescriptions don't necessarily contain the details of why a particular drug is being prescribed, the pharmacist may not have the information needed to make that sort of judgment call.
As for a national movement to outlaw oral contraceptives in general, don't expect it to go anywhere until there's a lot more research on the topic. For the moment, scientists are still perplexed as to how the darn things work in the first place; gauging potential side effects is another matter entirely.
And one larger question looms: Will people turn away from pharmacy as a career if they feel it presents them with an increasing number of moral or ethical questions?
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
19 August 2004
Next: codpieces with condoms
I mean, really, a pro-choice thong?
Is it just me, or does it look like they ("they" being Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, and its friends) are pulling out all the stops to make abortion not only socially acceptable but downright cuddly?
The ad copy for the thong shouts, "Buy your pair now before they are all gone!" I assume the "they" refers to the product and not future generations.
Actually, that was one of the milder things she said.
Some of us over the years have been uncomfortable with the whole idea of abortion but haven't been quite ready to call for an outright ban. But if its proponents are going to treat it as some sort of lifestyle choice, of no more importance than "Hmmm, flats or heels tonight?" well, let's just say they're setting themselves up for a lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Yeah, yeah, I know: it's a routine medical procedure. So is vasectomy, and they don't have thongs for that.
Oh, wait, they do.
Jeebus. Welcome to the Age of Trivialization. Please take a logo-branded seat and wait your turn.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
4 September 2004
Watching the defectives
I take my lunch at 42nd and Treadmill at about 12:25. There is a television set in the breakroom, and the advertising that pops onto the screen reflects the presumed demographics of viewers at that hour; there are lawyers, payday loan services, trade schools, lawyers, auto dealers promising no credit check, and lawyers.
I haven't decided which of the two legal firms who dominate this time slot on this channel is more of an irritant. The doughy guy who trots out every catastrophe known to man and then says "Call me, I know what to do" is certainly annoying.
But there's another spot in which a girl soliloquizes about facing an unplanned pregnancy, in which she notes, "I barely make enough money to care for myself." This ad, from an attorney who specializes in adoptions, is certainly lower-key, but what bugs me about this spot is the fact that the poor girl's situation is easily avoidable. Not that anyone will ever say so to the potential Jerry Springer guests who watch television at half past noon.
Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 AM)
11 October 2004
Grasping the obvious
October, says Planned Parenthood, is "October is National Campaign for Healthier Babies Month," and, well, who can argue with that?
Consonant with this month's theme, the organization is calling your attention to their articles in the "Having a Healthy Baby" series, which opens, logically enough, with Planning Your Pregnancy. It's a good-enough exposition of its type, though Dawn Eden notes that they missed one major point.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 AM)
29 October 2004
Run, Spot, run!
Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I see this: those wonderful folks at Planned Parenthood telling your kids my kids would simply laugh, but then they're grumpy and cynical like their old man that not only is it okay to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but we shouldn't overlook the erotic potential of livestock.
If you've been looking for a reason to avoid contributing to this organization (apart from the Federal dollars, which of course were yours to begin with, that it somehow absorbs on a regular basis), this stuff is the best you'll see all year.
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
16 November 2004
Now in the easy-Fallopian pack
Thirtysomething years ago, George Carlin was cracking wise about prescriptions for contraceptives "You still need a note to get laid" and hinted that someday The Pill would be sold over the counter, in which case it would need catchy brand names: PregNot, Nary-A-Carry, Fetus Fail, Poppa Stopper, Womb Broom.
What Carlin didn't anticipate was a spray-on contraceptive, now being readied for testing in Australia. Dawn Eden, noting that application of the new product is ostensibly "as easy as putting on perfume," has proposed more appropriate brand names: Eau de Baron, Sans Fruites, Spéede.
But the last word remains Carlin's, for he did come up with the ultimate name for this hormonal spritz: "Inconceivable." I can see the ads (and the obligatory "fragrance" strips) in Harper's Bazaar already.
Still unnamed: an oft-rumored but never-developed male contraceptive, which, in the best American "More power!" tradition, could be called "SeedWhacker."
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
18 November 2004
If you pop open a package of Cytotec® (misoprostol tablets), you'll get the following information [link requires Adobe Reader]:
Cytotec (misoprostol) is being prescribed by your doctor to decrease the chance of getting stomach ulcers related to the arthritis/pain medication that you take.
Do not take Cytotec to reduce the risk of NSAID induced ulcers if you are pregnant. Cytotec can cause abortion (sometimes incomplete which could lead to dangerous bleeding and require hospitalization and surgery), premature birth, or birth defects. It is also important to avoid pregnancy while taking this medication and for at least one month or through one menstrual cycle after you stop taking it. Cytotec has been reported to cause the uterus to rupture (tear) when given after the eighth week of pregnancy. Rupture (tearing) of the uterus can result in severe bleeding, hysterectomy, and/or maternal or fetal death.
Scene: A conference room at Planned Parenthood. ROESENCRANTZ and WADENSTERN are at opposite sides of the table. Each is thumbing through a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference. There is no sound but the occasional "Hmmm..." from one or the other. And then....
WADENSTERN: This sounds promising.
ROESENCRANTZ: What've you got?
WADENSTERN [reading]: "Can cause abortion, sometimes incomplete, yadda, yadda, yadda... can result in...." Yes! Here it is! "Fetal death!"
ROESENCRANTZ: Outstanding. Let's get Women on Waves on the horn. And see if we can't get some of this stuff for the home office.
A personal note: I have actually taken this drug, which is also sold combined with an anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac sodium) under the brand name Arthrotec®. Once. It made me violently ill. I decided I'd rather take my chances with the ulcers.
(Via the ever-alert Dawn Eden.)
Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
1 December 2004
A step beyond Ludovico's Technique
In the Netherlands, physician-assisted suicide is legal: a person of sound mind in extreme pain may request a lethal dose of sedatives.
Now the Groningen University Hospital has proposed guidelines for ending the lives of newborns, persons in irreversible coma, and other individuals who cannot make the decision for themselves. Scary enough and that's before the revelation that they've already begun implementing the procedure on their own.
The Groningen Protocol, estimates the hospital, might apply to as many as ten persons per year; in 2003, Groningen reported the euthanizing of four infants.
The idea of legalizing the medical execution there's no point in mincing words of "people with no free will," at the discretion of their attending physicians and a supposedly independent panel of other physicians, should be shot down at once.
Are there no exceptions?
It would be lunacy malevolent lunacy to premise a law allowing doctors to make such decisions on a handful of hard cases. Far better that the practice remain formally illegal under all circumstances, and trust juries to recognize and allow the exceptions as they arise.
I can bring myself to support doctor-assisted suicide, generally: it is, after all, a choice made by the patient. But where the patient can't make that choice? This is way too Clockwork Orange for me.
Speaking of "choice," the very word lately has been imbued with political implications. What would a "pro-choice" organization think about the Groningen Protocol? Dawn Eden suspects they'd like it j