Archive for women

Humility, Arrogance, and Pride

I’ve learned a lot from people over the past few months when it comes to choice and abortion. The biggest thing I’ve gained is a better understanding of my own beliefs, and a clearer idea of where I personally draw the relevant lines. I’ve probably spent more time talking to people on the anti-abortion/anti-choice side than with those who I’m in basic agreement with, and everything I’ve seen and heard has only strengthened my convictions.

However, I recently got a huge reminder of why I’m on this side of the issue, courtesy of someone who has become probably my least favorite frequent commenter on Jill Stanek’s blog. He was responding to a sincere question of mine about some relevant bible passages. I admit, it took me a little while to get the message, because I’ve gotten into the habit of dismissing his personal and abusive missives. Here’s what he said:

I do not believe for a moment that you “really want to know”.

Instead of consulting and referring to a ‘book’ in which you place no trust or assess any value, why don’t you ask the ONE who gives you breath?

The ‘Author of Life’ holds the answers to all your questions and HE will indulge your contentious foolishness for a little while and if you are humble enough to acknowledge what you do not know, then HE will be gracious enough to fill in some blanks for you.

But be forewarned, with knowledge comes responsibilty and even HIS patience has it’s limit.

If you continue in your arrogance and pride HE will leave you to your own devices or as it is written, HE will allow you to return to your own vomit until you can humble yourself once again.

Enjoy the journey.

My initial response to this was, of course, to get a bit pissed off. And then, I laughed. Do you get the joke? It might be a little easier if I paraphrase for him a little:

I have all the answers and I’m better than you because I know the answers for everyone. If you can just be humble like me maybe someday you’ll know the answers (and then you can tell everyone else what the answers are for them, too)! Isn’t it great how smart I am to know all the answers? Oh, and if you don’t agree to walk the lines that I draw, you’ll lie in a pool of your own vomit until you come to your senses.

I’ve never understood how so many people mistake humility for its opposite.

Whatever any of us believe and no matter how strong a person’s faith may be, there is no human being on this earth who knows the answer to what many people see as the biggest questions of existence — is there a god? which god is THE god? is there one god, or many? what happens after death? what about reincarnation? — you get the idea. I don’t say this to belittle or minimize the strong faith of many, many people. There’s a reason we call it “faith” — because it has to be believed, and it cannot be known the way we know a fact. To develop an overarching philosophy that answers questions like these, faith is required because true knowledge is impossible.

And here we come around to where I started. I don’t talk all that much about my personal beliefs or to which religion I subscribe because I don’t really know the answer to those questions. I’m still looking for the answers that feel right and I haven’t yet found them. I have the humility to understand that I don’t have answers to the great questions of humanity, and that even if or when I may find answers that make sense to me, there is no way I can know them with any certainty — most definitely not with the certainty required to even attempt to force anyone else to fit into the mold I create.

Which is exactly why I am pro-choice. Even if I succeed in answering life’s big questions to my own satisfaction, I can’t answer them for anyone else. For many people, a lot of those big questions are involved when it comes to abortion, and their personal faith has everything to do with whether they call themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-life”. It has even more bearing on how each individual facing an unplanned or somehow unexpected pregnancy chooses to react to it.

Last week, in a thread about the new Oklahoma  law that protects doctors who lie to their patients about fetal defects, I shared a link to the personal stories at A Heartbreaking Choice, a website about and for families who chose (often difficult and late term) abortion after learning their children had severe defects. In response, I was given a link to Be Not Afraid, a site for and about families who faced similar circumstances and chose to give birth to their children. Both sites will absolutely break your heart, but what really struck me after reading both was that each of those families had a choice. Facing an impossibly difficult situation, each family had the right to choose how to act. (Not to mention the fact that because doctors actually told them something was wrong with their child, they had time to make that decision and to prepare for what was happening.) No one forced them into one choice or the other because one group of people believed their principles should override all else. Well, until recently, in Oklahoma.

There’s a reason that we call ourselves pro-choice and not “pro-abortion”: because it’s about giving each person the choice to decide for themselves. It’s about knowing we don’t have the answer for everyone. It’s about having one very specific kind of faith: that individuals can be trusted to choose what is right for themselves.

Let me finish up here with something that might surprise some readers. Suppose things were turned around, and abortion was a non-issue, but there was a big debate and a lot of disagreement about adoption. Suppose that much of society was totally against the very idea of giving up children for adoption. Let me tell you something that I know without a doubt:  the very same people you see fighting tooth and nail to protect abortion rights would be doing their all to protect the right of women to give up their children for adoption, not to mention the right of everyone to adopt children that they aren’t related to. This fight is not about abortion. It’s about choice. Plain and simple.

So thanks, “yor bro ken,” for reminding me what this is all about.

Age of Consent

I was surprised this afternoon when I clicked on a link in someone’s Twitter post in the #prolife channel and found a picture of a high school I know well — a school where my mother taught for several years, halls I walked during and after seeing music and drama performances, the facade I drove by every day on my way to and from work and doctor’s appointments. That picture was next to a headline I imagine many people found shocking: “Mother furious after in-school clinic sets up daughter’s abortion.”

The story was, it seems, immediately picked up by antiabortion news sites and blogs, despite an obvious dearth of real information on what happened. Most people are blaming the school for everything, despite the fact that the clinic where she had a pregnancy test is not operated by the school, but by Swedish Medical Center, a local group that operates two hospitals (and where I’ve had two surgeries and countless treatments) and has an excellent local reputation. Many of the blogs and sites that repeated the story along with commentary make it sound like the school staff “arranged” the abortion and the taxi that transported the girl to the clinic where the procedure was done.

However, you have to view this story in the context of Washington State law, which not only provides that female patients can consent to abortion at any age, but does not require parental consent OR notification. If this girl had gone to a clinic off campus, the exact same thing would have occurred — she would have been given a pregnancy test, and they probably would have asked her if she wanted information on her options, including abortion. If she said yes, they would have given her a referral to a clinic and answered any questions she had about the laws and whether they would have to notify her parents. Which is exactly what it sounds like happened at the clinic — which, again, was operated by a local medical center, NOT the school.

It’s also worth noting that the mother, “Jill,” had signed a paper saying that her daughter could be treated at the clinic, and the paper included specific mentions of reproductive health care along with mental health care and substance abuse treatment as types of care they could provide. “Jill” even states that she knew her daughter could get birth control at the clinic without her parents being notified.

When you’re over 13 in Washington State, doctors no longer have to inform your parents about what happens at your doctor’s visits, and conversations with your doctor become private between you and the doctor. I distinctly remember when I turned 13 being told this, and being relieved that I could talk to my doctor about anything and not have to worry.

Personally, I don’t see much of a story here. If the clinic had not been located at the school, there wouldn’t have been anything to report about. It also looks, from a Google News search, that only one of the local news outlets — KOMO 4 News — initially reported the story, and all other reports quote that original, which makes me think that the mother sought the media out, probably to bring criticism on the school. Why she isn’t blaming the clinic is beyond me. Because Swedish operated and staffed the clinic, even though it was located on the school campus, a visit there would be identical to a visit to one of their other facilities, and the same laws — HIPAA, consent, etc. — would apply.

If anyone should be blamed here, in my opinion, it’s “Jill” — to me it’s a logical extension of understanding a clinic can prescribe birth control that the same clinic could provide referrals and information about reproductive health matters that couldn’t be handled there, such as abortion. If she felt so strongly about being involved in her daughter’s health care, she shouldn’t have signed the release that allowed her daughter to be treated at the clinic. Their family doctor could have provided any services the clinic provided, and if her daughter was sick at school she could have called mom to be taken to the family doc. Did mom sign the clinic form because it was convenient to have minor health issues taken care of on campus at the clinic, rather than missing a day of work to take her daughter to the doctor? Did she have a problem with the idea of her daughter getting birth control without mom’s knowledge — something the form mom signed seems to have made clear?

And there’s the big question — what was it that made this girl so scared to tell her parents she was pregnant that she left school to have an abortion that she knew her parents could not find out about unless she told them? (The logical follow-up question is, of course, what happened to get her to tell her parents what she did?)

I think there’s an answer to this in the original KOMO article: “Jill says her daughter, a pro-life advocate, was given a pass, put in a taxi and sent off to have an abortion during school hours all without her family knowing.” (Emphasis mine.) How pro-life could this girl be if she chose to have an abortion? It suggests to me that it’s the mother who is pro-life, and that she wants her daughter to feel as strongly about it as she did. It also sounds to me like mom’s in a bit of denial — her daughter must have been coerced into the abortion, must have been talked to it by those awful clinic people, who must be (to borrow a term from Jill Stanek) “pro-aborts” who didn’t even give her daughter a chance to think about what she was doing.

The bottom line here is that everyone involved acted within the law. The clinic staff treated the daughter, not the mother, and gave the treatment and information asked of them. The facility that actually performed the abortion did so with the daughter’s consent, and neither the mother’s consent or notification is required under the law. In fact, if either the clinic at the school or the facility where the abortion was done had notified the parents, they would have been breaking the law.

I want to end this with a caveat:  if it turns out that this girl was pressured or coerced into having an abortion, I would never, ever support such actions. If, however, it happened as it sounds today and this was the girl’s choice without coercion, I am 100% behind this clinic and the school and support their actions. If I had been pregnant at 15, I would probably have done the same thing and been extremely glad the clinic was there. My dad told me when I was a teenager that he and my mom would disown me and kick me out if I got pregnant, and while I’m not sure that’s what they’d really have done — after all, it’s taken them almost 7 years to get to the point of being ready to kick out my drug- and alcohol-addicted brother — I don’t think I’d have wanted to face them until I’d handled the situation by having an abortion, or until I’d decided to keep the baby and formulated a plan to do it.

I still don’t see much of a story here. And I’m sorry that Ballard High, a pretty decent school overall, is becoming the center of what shouldn’t be a controversy at all.

Generation Gap

I had an opportunity today to listen to an interview on Issues for you Tissues with Mary Ann Sorrentino, pro-choice activist and former executive director of Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island. Called a “women’s health hero” and tireless advocate for reproductive choice and abortion rights, I was introduced to her via her article on Angie Jackson and #livetweetingabortion. While many pro-choice advocates and supporters were behind Angie all the way, I was surprised to read how judgmental and derisive Sorrentino was of Angie’s actions. At the time, though, I was too busy fighting off antiabortionites to do more than comment on her article. Then, today, I listened to that podcast, where Sorrentino expanded on her thoughts about Angie and abortion in general.

A few things that I had started to pick up in her article became very clear — particularly that there is a significant generation gap between Sorrentino and perhaps the other activists of her generation, and those of us who were born and raised after Roe vs. Wade. To be fair, I do think that some of her statements come out of an incorrect understanding of Twitter and the internet. But that doesn’t account for all of it. Many of the criticisms she has of Angie’s choices and actions are so similar to the statements I’ve heard from antiabortionites that she could probably pretend to be one and no one would be the wiser.

For example, in the interview she says that she has no problem with women talking about their abortions with friends, and you can almost see the image in her head of a handful of women talking together over tea and cookies. But discussing abortion on Twitter, in her view, isn’t discussion but “performing” for the world — and here she shows her lack of understanding of the technology — because “she wasn’t getting any feedback, or any responses, except in comments later”. Sorrentino describes #livetweetingabortion as performing in front of a screen, rather that a quiet discussion of personal matters among friends. The underlying message? You can talk about your abortion experiences amongst yourselves, but don’t you dare tell the whole world about them.

This leads right into another point that seemed to really bother her:  that Angie didn’t just talk about the emotional experiences, or the factors that led her to choose abortion. She told us exactly how she felt physically, how much pain she was in, how much she was bleeding — all the gory details. Sorrentino, at least by my perception, feels that putting so much detail out there will work against the pro-choice movement, and would make some women change their minds about abortion.

And here’s where I started to get really irritated, because the implication is that — and this carries particular weight coming from a former executive director of Planned Parenthood Rhode Island — the real details of how exactly an abortion is going to feel physically are being withheld from women so that it’s an easier choice to make. Seriously, if the details of Angie’s experience were enough to change any woman’s mind about having an RU486 abortion, those women probably shouldn’t be having one.

Something that’s become really clear to me over the past several weeks as I’ve become more and more involved in the issue of reproductive choice is that there’s a real problem on both sides when it comes to giving women accurate, complete information about their options. The pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) will give you great information and referrals if you want to keep your baby or give it up for adoption, but if you want to talk about abortion you’ll get graphic videos and materials designed to make abortion look as horrific and bloody and deadly as possible. They often talk about very uncommon adverse reactions and post-abortion risks that are barely substantiated by one or two studies as if they happen to all women who have them — breast cancer, clinical depression, infertility, hemorrhage, death. On the other hand, when you go into an abortion clinic to get an abortion, the focus is on giving you one, not on counseling you about your other options. There are plenty of stories from women who had bad experiences from both types of facilities.

I will never support pressuring women and pushing them to any choice that is not fully their own. But Sorrentino’s interview made me wonder exactly what’s being left out when women are told what to expect with their RU486 abortions.

I’m left with the impression that perhaps there is not much left for Sorrentino’s generation of pro-choice warriors to teach us. The battle we face now is different and the world has changed considerably. Online environments like Twitter and Facebook are where many of us communicate with our closest friends, and the speed of 21st century life means there is not as much time as there used to be for sharing stories over coffee or tea. Women like Angie are becoming the norm, not the exception. Angie may have been the first — at least the first to capture the attention of the mainstream — to live-tweet her abortion, but she won’t be the last. It saddens me to see the incredible generation gap between Sorrentino and women like Angie, and me. At the same time I feel like there’s so much more that we can do as women today to protect each woman’s right to choose — the reach of one person is so much greater because of the internet, and every one of us can make a bigger difference than was even imaginable in 1973.

Doing what Angie did, talking about her real life experience in real life terms, not whitewashing it to make it sound better to the opposition or making it easier for women to choose RU486 for themselves, but describing in 140 character bursts what she was going through in a way that all women could understand and identify with in some way — that is the first thing that women who have abortions can do, whether during or after or long after, to help crack the terrible wall that society has built around women who choose abortion. We’re told that talking about it is wrong, that telling our stories is unacceptable. We need to change that.

If you have a story, please tell it. Tell it in as much detail as you can, so that women who hear your story know what it was really like. Don’t worry about how it might look or sound to someone who doesn’t agree with your choice. Don’t worry about who might object. Tell your story to one person, or ten, or a hundred, or more. The more stories that are heard, the more we can overcome the stigma that is attached to abortion, and the more we can help women who need help to heal and move on after their abortions. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are alone in the world and that no one understands. When it comes to abortion, as many as 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and the only reason we still feel alone is because our stories aren’t being told. Tell your story. Women are listening.

Operation Rescue: Pro-death

I’ve seen a lot of things on antiabortion websites and blogs that make me mad. But when I clicked a link today that sent me to a blog post on Operation Rescue’s site, I could hardly believe what I read:

Dear Friends of Life,

A critical vote on health care in the Budget Committee is expected Monday, one that would clear the way for a final vote later this week on legislation that would insure the largest expansion of abortion funding in the history of this nation.

Make no mistake. This entire health care bill is all about abortion funding, or it would have passed months ago.

Abortion is THE issue on which President Obama and his fellow radical pro-aborts in Congress will not compromise.

But people like you and me have clearly spoken. Over 71% of us are OPPOSED to tax-funded abortion, so much so that we would rather defeat any health care reform than allow even one cent of our tax money to be used to fund the injustice of abortion.

But that has not mattered to the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Henry Waxman, and others who are bent on ramming through abortion funding no matter the will of the people or the political consequences.

They are trying every trick in the book – and then some – to circumvent the vast opposition to the government take-over of health care.

Last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter proposed changing the rules so that the abortion faction in Congress could pass this oppressive law without having to vote on it! That’s because they don’t have the votes, and they know it.

To “deem” a law voted on when there was no vote, as Slaughter proposed, is a step toward utter totalitarianism and should be a wake-up call to the American people that this administration will stop at nothing to make sure that as many babies as possible die from abortion – at taxpayer expense!

Don’t forget who Obama hand-picked to run the Department of Health and Human Services. It is none other than former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who was heavily supported by Planned Parenthood and the largest late-term abortionist in the country at that time, George Tiller.

Operation Rescue worked hard to “out” Sebelius and her radical abortion agenda. We know all too well how she repeatedly vetoed every piece of legislation that would have held an out-of-control abortion industry accountable. This is the same woman who danced the conga line at a celebration of her birthday thrown by Planned Parenthood in her honor. (That PP organization was later charged with 107 criminal counts related to illegal late-term abortions. Those charges are still pending.) Sebelius also entertained Tiller and this entire abortion clinic staff at the Kansas governor’s mansion at tax-payer expense*. And this is the same woman whomisrepresented to the Senate during her confirmation hearings the amount of money Tiller dumped into her political campaigns.

There can be no doubt that Sebelius is bought and paid for by the abortion cartel, yet she will be the one in charge of doling out the cash to the abortion clinics under Obama’s plan.

We can defeat this health care disaster, but only if everyone acts!

This is the last few yards of the race to protect the lives of thousands of pre-born children that Obama’s so-called health care plan endangers. Please call your Congressman and Senators today!

Contact CongressmenContact Senators.

For the innocent,
Troy Newman
President, Operation Rescue

P.S. Our efforts to expose and oppose tax-payer funding of abortion have taken a toll on our budget. Please consider making a sacrificial donation to Operation Rescue today. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.

“Dear Friends of Life, Here are some more outright lies to convince you that even though you may well be among the more than 30 million Americans who are uninsured and don’t have access to basic healthcare that you need, you should do everything you can to keep this bill that would give everyone health care. Oh, and by the way, we have spent so much money lobbying to keep tens of millions of Americans from getting basic and life-saving health care, we need you to make a ‘sacrificial’ donation to us so we can keep fighting for the early and unnecessary deaths of countless uninsured Americans.”

I’ve seen plenty of distortion from people on the antiabortion side about this reform. And I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not the best reform bill in the world — far from it — but it’s a start, and it gives us some basics that can be added to and improved. Most importantly, it would force insurance companies to accept people regardless of their health or preexisting conditions, and provide financial help for people who can’t pay the premiums.

This piece from Operation Rescue, though, takes the cake over anything I’ve seen before. Despite a federal law — since 1976 — prohibiting federal funds from being used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and when necessary to save the life of the mother, they are asserting to their supporters that not only does this bill use federal tax money to pay for abortions, it is the “Largest Expansion of Abortion Funding in US History”.

A key indicator that they know exactly what they are doing is that they don’t even try to back up their claims. Rather than explain how the bill expands abortion funding, they use some of the same tired stories to badmouth Pelosi, Reed, and others who are working to push the bill through. It’s a smart strategy, since there’s no way to prove it because NONE OF THEIR CLAIMS ARE ACTUALLY TRUE.

I don’t know much more than the average person about what’s in the bill, but I have read the section of the bill that talks about abortion funding, which says that abortions that can be federally funded can be funded, and abortions that can’t be federally funded can’t be. There’s also the part of the bill that requires people to write separate checks for plans that include abortion funding, to ensure that any federal funds received by the insurance company don’t go to the part of the plan that pays for abortions.

I suspect that what Operation Rescue calls funding for abortion is actually the part of the bill that provides for the funding of community health centers. That, in and of itself, isn’t really much of a change. Planned Parenthood, for example, receives both state and federal grants to operate its health centers, but that money can’t be used to provide abortion services. (That’s fairly simple because only 2.7% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related — see a couple posts back where I review their financial records and service numbers in detail.) A March 4 post to a US News and World Report blog puts community health center funding at 11 billion, and yes, some of those health centers provide abortions. Depending who you ask, that money might — or might not — be subject to either the Hyde Amendment or language in the health care bill preventing use of those funds for abortion. (I’m no expert, but looking over the many other statements on the issue, which you can find on Google, it appears that the funding can’t be used for abortion. And I’m pretty sure that Operation Rescue knows it.)

The greatest irony here, to me, is that Operation Rescue describes themselves as “one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation” — yet they are actively campaigning against a bill that would bring urgently needed healthcare to over 30 million Americans who are currently dying every day because they don’t have health insurance. Without insurance, there is no early detection of cancer; no preventative care; no primary care physician; no physicals. You hold out as long as you possibly can before going to the doctor because you know there’s gonna be a bill for every person who sees you, talks to you, or writes in your chart, and for every bandaid and aspirin. By the time people without insurance see a doctor or end up in the ER, they are sicker and cost more to treat. They often pay more than twice as much as an insurance company pays for the same care, and when it comes to prescription drugs, the costs can be even higher. When a doctor prescribes medication that you need to take every day — maybe it’s a blood pressure drug, or something to prevent seizures — you have to calculate every money whether you can afford it, or if you can stand to go a few days, or a week, or the whole month without it so you can buy groceries instead.

This is the status quo that “pro-life” Operation Rescue wants to maintain. This is the kind of life that Operation Rescue stands for. Don’t forget:  the single moms that Operation Rescue wants to see created instead of allowing those women to have abortions make up a significant percentage of the uninsured, as do their children. It’s just one more piece of incontrovertible proof of what I’ve known for a long time:

“Pro-life” ends at birth. After that, you’re on your own.

(“And by the way, please send us money so we can keep lobbying against health care for all Americans.”)

We are steel

I was looking through a library of song lyrics that I add to when last.fm plays a cool new song I’ve never heard, searching for inspiration for a new blog name, when I happened upon “Steel” by Charlotte Martin. Immediately it struck me as an appropriate choice.

I’ve spent the last week or so in the virtual company of many strong women, but one in particular, who chose to talk about her medical (RU486) abortion as it happened, on Twitter. Going by @antitheistangie on Twitter, she’s gotten everything from a crowd of ardent supporters to crazy religious people trying to convert her (no easy task, if you know anything about her) to death threats serious enough to get police and FBI involved. The media has picked up the story worldwide and new articles and interviews are popping up every day.

I’m constantly astonished by how strong and unapologetic she is able to be no matter what criticism comes her way. Though I don’t know if she really knows it, she’s the embodiment of a strong woman: standing up for her rights, using her rights, and never, ever apologizing for it.

I really think that the main reason so many people have been upset by Angie’s actions on Twitter is that she hasn’t shown the requisite amount of shame — that even among people who support the right to choose, there’s a perception that if you have an abortion, you should be openly ashamed, constantly apologizing and justifying, and showing the rest of the world how sorry you are for your poor choices. Instead, Angie explained her reasons — even though she didn’t have to — and why abortion was the right choice for her and her family. And then explained them over and over again. But never did she show an ounce of shame for her choice, never did she apologize for making the same choice many women do every single day. And that’s what’s got the anti-abortion, anti-choice Twitterers so up in arms.

If you want a good laugh, check out the #livetweetingabortion hashtag on Twitter during the day this week and see what’s going on. Usually there’s at least one conservative, antiabortion person talking smack with about ten different pro-choice Twitter users. For maximum entertainment, tune in when @PleterPlan is on. And bring popcorn!


Okay, I got a little bit off track here. Where I was going is this:  the world NEEDS women of steel like Angie. This blog is going to be my way of exploring the ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the world, with a focus on using the internet to further causes and get people together. Also I’ll be writing about pretty much anything else that comes to mind. I promise I’ll leave the technical programming talk that is my day job at the door, however.

Finally, for your reading and listening pleasure, I present “Steel” by Charlotte Martin (link plays excerpt in a new window from iLike.com), along with lyrics.

The lost and insincere
They think I need to hear what’s in their empty eyes, eyes, eyes
We’re few and far between
We’ve hardly been serene
But we stand up to their lies, lies, lies
We are steel
We don’t feel anything at all

He took me in his arms
But then he squeezed too hard
He wouldn’t let me breathe, breathe, breathe

It’s been too many years
I’ve hurt too many times
To give up everything, thing, thing

I am steel
I don’t feel anything at all

The way I’ve been confused
The way that I’ve been used
And spit out on your dime
And still you lead me on
And still you take me down
And say it’s in my mind

Well I’ve seen hell and back
I’ve hidden in the dark with
No one there at all, all, all

I’ve scraped us back to life
I’ve laced up both my boots
So try and twist the knife, knife, knife

I am steel
I don’t feel anything at all
We are steel
We don’t feel anything at all
We don’t feel anything at all
Anything at all