If you’re trying to make a problem worse, I have trouble believing you when you say you’re solving it.

The New York Times recently published an op-ed arguing that all economic problems with abortion can be solved with private charity. It should be obvious to anyone paying attention how false that is.  It’s nice that, in the course of lying to you about breast cancer and depression and withholding your test results, a crisis pregnancy center might also hook you up with a low-cost car or help you with utility bills. But that only scratches the surface of the economic issues–everything from life-long medical costs from pregnancy complications to lower earning potential as someone with a kid to take care of. Crisis pregnancy centers frequently stop helping women as soon as they can’t obtain a legal abortion.  They’re certainly not going to help with daycare costs when the kid you didn’t abort is five, or help you out with the cost of insulin for the next twenty years if gestational diabetes never goes away.

It occurred to me that crisis pregnancy centers are, as far as I’m aware, the only charities working on an issue who are actively trying to make sure more people need their services. Every other organization at the front lines of addressing a problem at least encourages measures that would prevent the problems they address in the first place. Animal rescue groups hold free spay and neuter clinics and encourage people to get their pets fixed. Groups who help homeless people find places to stay are also often trying to address substance abuse, mental illness, and economic issues.  And you won’t see crisis hotlines for LGBT kids saying, “Sure, go ahead & reject your kids for being gay! We’ve got this covered.”

Crisis pregnancy centers, in contrast, actively oppose measures that would result in fewer unplanned pregnancies. The author of the NYT Op-Ed wrote an abstinence-only “sex ed” curriculum—the very kind that drives up teen pregnancy rates. Additionally, by trying to make abortion illegal, they’re looking to massively increase the number of people who need their assistance.

There were about 660,000 abortions reported to the CDC in 2013, and there are between 2300 and 3500 crisis pregnancy centers. Divided evenly, that’s a couple *hundred* additional people in need of help per clinic per year, without even counting the increased abortions if schools that are currently teaching medically accurate sex ed switch to abstinence only.

An American Independent article lists some statistics on the number of people seen by crisis pregnancy centers. According to the Family Research Council, approximately 230,000 ultrasounds were performed at a thousand centers, 230 per clinic.  Even if those centers only did ultrasounds for *half* of the pregnant people they see, providing services for the 650,000 people who currently have abortions would be a 50% increase.

Any other charity might panic at the idea of 50% more people needing their help.  Ask a homeless shelter to add 50% more beds or a cancer treatment center to see 50% more patients, and they’ll be frantically trying to figure out where the money, staff, and resources will come from. But a CPC’s apparent response is a shrug and a blithe “We got this.”  The op ed doesn’t mention any such numbers, or any concrete plans for how the author’s organization would handle such an increase, only the vague generalization that conservatives “must sacrifice their time and treasure to serve women in need”. It’s worth mentioning that this sacrifice of time and treasure is totally voluntary, with no guarantee it’ll actually happen if abortion rights disappear.

To me, that’s a pretty strong indication that CPCs aren’t looking to solve the economic problems associated with unplanned pregnancies as much as they’re trying to put a fig leaf over them. “See, women don’t need abortions! Crisis pregnancy centers will provide them with charity so they can take care of their babies.” Whether their help is sufficient for the actual needs of the pregnant person isn’t really their concern, as long as they prevent that person from having an abortion.

(Hat tip to @AnaMardoll for her thread on how disingenuous the idea that abortion isn’t an economic issue “because private charity” is)

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Infertility sucks, but no one owes you a baby

Let me start this post off with a little about my own infertility. I have PCOS, and have been unable to have a child. I’ve had two miscarriages (at least), and another failed IUI. After three rounds at the fertility clinic, my husband and I decided it was time to give up. The stress and near-daily doctor’s visits were taking their toll. The expense didn’t help either. We could have afforded as many rounds of IUI as we’d wanted to do (though IVF might be a stretch), but the idea of spending all that money and not necessarily having a baby to show for it was hard for me. I felt like I was putting my life on hold in hopes of something that might never happen, so I chose to let it go and live the life I have, even if it’s not the life I wanted or imagined.

Anyway, Kate Harding pointed out a really gross Federalist article, whose basic gist was that women who can’t raise children are there to be brood mares for infertile couples.

With the help of the many people everywhere in this country and world who are waiting to surround and support you, you can go through pregnancy and birth and raise your child. If you are really young or in really terrible circumstances, that might be exceedingly difficult. So you have another option to give your child a happy life with a mother and father who will read him or her picture books, take your child on walks, hold your child’s hand during an emergency room visit, and wake up a dozen times a night when that sweet baby has a fever.

It’s called adoption. Thirty-six vetted, loving, wonderful families are on waitlists to adopt every single available baby in this country. That’s right: for every child in this country up for adoption, 36 families desperately yearn for the opportunity to care for that baby. They are aching to give your baby a good life.

First off, raising a child is difficult for *everybody,* not just teenagers or people in really terrible circumstances. It’s more than a lot of people can handle, whether that’s due to age, money, temperament, health, or any number of things. It may be hard for an infertile person who’s desperate for a baby to believe, but there are people who just flat-out do not want to be parents.

Secondly, can we please stop pretending that pregnancy itself is, at worst, mildly inconvenient? Women die in childbirth. At higher rates in the US than is acceptable for a supposedly civilized country. And those rates are higher for poor women and women of color, or for women with existing health issues that make a pregnancy more dangerous. Even if a pregnancy doesn’t kill or cripple you, it’s still a potentially disabling condition, especially if you’re disabled or ill to start with. I somehow doubt that all those so very supportive people are going to move in with a woman whose chronic pain is exacerbated by pregnancy, and help her stay bathed, fed, dressed, and gainfully employed with free 24/7 care. Or baby-sit the other kids of the woman with severe depression, so she can go get a massage, or do yoga, or whatever other self-care steps are serving as a poor substitute for the psych meds she can’t take while pregnant.

But third, and the focus of this post, is that infertility does not entitle you to the use of another person’s body. Yes, I understand the empty sense of loss and the aching jealousy that can boil into rage and hate if you let it. I still remember sitting in my OB/GYN’s waiting room during my first miscarriage, *hating* the heavily pregnant teenager in the room with me. Because why should she have what I wanted so badly? (Those ugly thoughts passed, and I try not to resent people for having things I want, when they have struggles of their own, and it’s not their fault I’m infertile anyway.)

Sadly, the truth is that life is not fair. I didn’t “deserve” infertility, nor does anyone else who suffers with it. No one deserves war, or famine, or illness, or racism, either. But the fact that you’re suffering doesn’t mean that someone who has a thing that you want owes it to you. Especially when that thing is a pregnancy that will take nine months of their life to complete, will permanently alter their body, and may injure or even kill them. This is major, life-altering stuff. It’s not like we’re talking about making the five-year-old who’s hoarding all the candy share some with the other kids.

It’s deeply *wrong* to treat women with unwanted pregnancies as baby-making machines who exist for the benefit of those who can’t have children but want to. It also results in all kinds of abuses. In the course of a discussion with another pro-lifer, I came across this article, about a woman who was charged with murder for refusing a C-section. He had painted it as a heartless woman risking her baby’s life because she didn’t want a C-section scar. But that doesn’t necessarily hold up, considering that she had had previous C-sections. Between her mental illness and her cocaine use, she may not have been thinking clearly at the time, but there’s much more to the story than a vain, selfish woman who’s okay letting her kid die so she doesn’t get a scar.

But what struck me the most about this story is that this was a mentally ill woman who’d been transported by an adoption agency from Florida to Utah, to take advantage of lax adoption laws and provide babies for someone who wanted them. They’d put her up in a hotel on a $100 a week allowance. So, here she is, all by herself in an unfamiliar place, being treated by doctors she doesn’t know. She described a C-section as “being gutted from breast bone to pubic bone,” so clearly she was terrified of the procedure. Anybody would be scared in that situation. So, she fled, like scared people do.

But the big take-away for Twitter Pro-Lifer had nothing to do with the woman’s health or safety, and everything to do with how evil she was for not consenting to a C-section. But what if she had actual support? Not an adoption agency who wanted to use her as a brood mare and doctors who were openly hostile to her, but people who actually cared about her? What if she’d gotten to have her babies in her home state, surrounded by people who care about her? Would she have been more willing to undergo a C-section with a doctor she knew and trusted? If she really wasn’t competent to make the medical decision, she deserved to have a family member there who could do so on her behalf, or at the very least, a social worker who’s job it was to advocate for her. There’s no way to say whether the overall medical outcome would’ve been better, but the stress she underwent certainly can’t have helped.

The Nation article pretty well covered what Utah’s reaction should have been:

 Melissa Rowland’s case is one that never should have happened. Instead of arranging her auto-da-fé, whether for murder or child endangerment, the State of Utah should be asking itself how it can improve services for poor, pregnant, mentally ill substance abusers–and maybe take a look at adoption agency practices, too. When doctors and nurses take the time to know their patients and treat them with empathy and respect, patients usually follow their advice.

The thing that I cannot stress strongly enough is that pregnant women are people, not walking incubators. Melissa Rowland was treated like a walking incubator, and that should never have happened.

Freedom and Vaccination

So, recently on the Unfundamentalist Christians page, the discussion came up about a recent ruling that people who choose not to vaccinate their kids for religious reasons don’t get to send them to school during an outbreak. One person was arguing that this is a slippery slope to letting the government decide what you do with your body if you can’t afford to homeschool, and that it’s not really a serious public health concern anyway because it doesn’t affect the majority. (To be fair, he was fine with keeping unvaccinated kids home during an outbreak, but was concerned the decision could lead to not letting them attend public school at all.)

That’s obviously a fairly weak argument, especially the bit about the majority. The majority of people will never get cancer, either (one in two men and one in three women, according to the American Cancer Society). So, let’s just not worry about that, because natural selection will sort it out, right?

The other thing that people don’t get is that vaccines, while really really useful, are not perfect. Adults end up with a much less effective vaccine over time if they don’t get regular boosters. Not to mention that if you get enough of a virus in your system, it can overwhelm your immune system, even with the “extra training” it got from a vaccine. So, yes, choosing not to vaccinate, if enough people do it, does have risks for the vaccinated population.

I thought that whole “the government telling me what I have to put into my body” line of argument was interesting, because it seems to be a common trend in discussions of religious freedom. It’s the idea that not only are your religious beliefs and practices protected, but that the consequences of those beliefs should be applied to other people, rather than to you. It’s the idea that if you choose to make your child a health risk to the kids around him, that figuring out how to deal with that is the school’s problem, not yours. There are examples of this all over. It’s the expectation that if you’re a pharmacist who gets fired for refusing to provide birth control, you’re a victim of persecution rather than someone who chose a poor career fit and then refused to do their job. It’s not up to you to find a job that fits your beliefs. Rather, it’s up to your employer to work around it or your customers to put up with crappy treatment. Or if you work at the courthouse and don’t want to sign same-sex marriage licenses, you shouldn’t have to, even if that screws over taxpayers who came in expecting you to do the job you’re being paid for.

Or, recently, if you’re a secular business owner who chooses to be willfully misinformed about the nature of contraceptives, you can get all the tax benefits of providing insurance without actually meeting the minimum legal standards for that coverage.

I’m a big believer in religious freedom. But I don’t think it should be a Get Out of Jail Free card for any rule you feel shouldn’t apply to you. Particularly not when you’re asking other people—whether those are your employees, the taxpayers, or your kid’s classmates—to shoulder the burden of your beliefs.

Why Health Exceptions Aren’t Enough

I made the mistake once again of arguing about abortion on Facebook. I pointed out that SB5, if passed, would harm or kill women who have unhealthy pregnancies. (And gave a couple examples of issues that can occur.) The guy I was arguing with waved that off because he’s talked to more than one doctor who says he’s never seen any reason a woman would need an abortion to save her life, and that it’s just an “excuse.” (I’m sure he’s operating with *no* personal biases whatsoever.)

Well, there you have it. These two medical professionals (and no, he didn’t say that they were even OBs) said it, that must settle it. I’m glad I never have to worry about having an ectopic pregnancy, or pre-eclampsia or hyperemesis gravidarum (extremely severe morning sickness that causes malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss) because they apparently don’t exist. Though, I’d love to know what Savita Halappanavar actually died of, since it totally couldn’t be the pregnancy.

This is why, even if you think that abortion is immoral if the pregnancy isn’t going to kill or seriously injure the mother, abortion for any and all reasons still needs to be legal. (That’s not my position, but for this particular post, I’m going to focus on health only.) Because if you just have a health exception, those same doctors will be the expert witnesses testifying at some woman’s trial when she ends her pregnancy so she can have chemo. Or speaking to Congress about how those exceptions should be worded.

Not to mention, limiting abortion to only “medical necessity” does not mean that every woman whose pregnancy is likely to kill or cripple her will have an abortion. What it means is that you need to:

  1. Find a doctor willing to bet his medical license and his freedom that not only are you really at that much risk, but that a court of law will back his decision. (That’s a much higher bar than just a doctor’s opinion that it’s necessary.)
  2. Jump through all the hoops set up by a legal system that doesn’t want you to get an abortion—maybe a waiting period, maybe multiple doctors’ sign-off, maybe a court order.
  3. Get all that done and actually have the procedure while there’s still actually time, before the condition that made an abortion necessary in the first place worsens.

I bring up Savita very deliberately, because it was supposed to be legal, even in Ireland, for doctors to complete her miscarriage and save her life. And yet, that didn’t happen, and she died unnecessarily. Just the fact that something is technically legal is not enough to mean that it really is available when it’s needed.

Edit: I added a couple more examples of fatal pregnancy complications, because putting “ectopic pregnancy” and Savita in the same sentence made it sound like that was the condition she had, when in fact it was septicemia that resulted from the hospital’s refusal to complete her miscarriage.

How I became pro-choice, part 3 of ? – Unplanned but not unwanted

Previous posts in this series are here:
How I became pro-choice, part 1 of ?
How I became pro-choice, part 2 of ?

Also, now that I have 3 posts, I’m going to actually subtitle them for easy reference from here on out.

I used to be pro-life in part because I’d been an “oops” baby. I felt that my parents had taken an unintended and not necessarily happy situation and made the best of it, and I’d turned out all right, and if they could, other people could too, right? That was a little naive. My parents had a rough time early on, but there were also hardships plenty of other couples face that they never did. For example, there was never a point when either of them was unemployed, other than my mom staying home for a short time after I was born, and again after my brother was born. There were times when money was tight, and times when their jobs sucked, but there was always at least a steady income. So, what they did, not everyone could have done.

And even with that, I wonder if things might have been different if “continue this pregnancy and start a family now” hadn’t been a choice my mom made, but something she’d been legally forced into. Would it have been harder for her? Would she have felt trapped? Even if it had been the decision she was going to make anyway, what would it have done to her if it hadn’t been her choice.

And what would it have meant to me if my mom had been legally forced to give birth to me. Knowing that I was unplanned was hard enough to swallow–what would it have done to my self-esteem if I’d had to wrestle with the idea that I might not have been wanted.

I’m pro-choice because I think people should get to make ethical decisions for themselves, not be forced into what someone else decides. *Especially* not by people who value the life of a fetus or even a zygote infinitely higher than the life of a pregnant woman.

All those bumper stickers that say “Choose life”? Yeah, there’s something ironic about using that word when you don’t want women to be able to choose anything at all.

How I became pro-choice, part 2 of ?

Things are still going on with HR3 (they dropped the bit about “forcible” rape and left all the other badness intact) and HR 358 is even worse. HR 358 protects doctors who don’t want to perform abortions (yet decided that obstetrics was a good career choice anyway), if they decide to let a woman suffer serious complications or die. You know, in any other field, when people are injured or die because you chose not to do your job, you get fired or sued, probably both. But doctors, who take a fricking *oath* to help people, somehow get a free pass when they choose not to do that. And in cases where the choice is abort the fetus or let the mother and the fetus both die, somehow two deaths are seen as the “moral” choice. Like the hospital that lost its Catholic status and had the nun who heads its ethics committee excommunicated because they saved the life of a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant. On what magical sci-fi planet are these church leaders living that they think an 11-week fetus is going to survive the death of the mother, or that someone too sick to be moved to another hospital is going to somehow make it another couple months so the fetus has a (slim) shot?

So, because of this, I wanted to link a couple really good posts on the subject and also talk about my own pro-choiceness.

One of the things that made it clear to me that women need to be able to end pregnancies was when I actually started getting treatment for my anxiety. Lexapro has been a godsend for me. I still have the occasional panic attack, but the general inclination to worry obsessively about everything ever has subsided. And usually I have enough time before full-out crying and hyperventillating meltdown to notice what’s happening, step back, and do some sort of relaxation exercise to prevent a full scale panic episode. Which is really nice, because they suck.

So, what does this have to do with abortion? Well, Lexapro causes birth defects. So I’m really really not supposed to get pregnant. When the husband and I decide we’re ready to reproduce, I’ll wean off the Lexapro gradually before going off birth control.

This was the first time that I had an inkling of how, even married and with a good job, pregnancy could be a really problematic condition. I coped with anxiety most of my life without pharmaceutical help; I could probably do it again if I absolutely had to. It’s kind of a scary thought, and it’s one of the reasons that the hubby and I have put off the kid thing for so long. But learning about mental illness also helped me understand that the crossed wires in my head are *mild* compared to what a lot of people deal with. I’ve never wanted to kill myself. I don’t have panic attacks for no reason, or ones that I don’t fully recover from for days. Plenty of people have those issues. For plenty of women, an unintended pregnancy would mean they have to choose between going off sanity-restoring meds or risking serious birth defects. Or, ending the pregnancy.

I know that if you believe completely that human life begins the instant egg meets sperm, this seems a little “off.” Better to risk birth defects than to kill the kid outright, right? But the thing is, that’s just it, a belief. There’s no way to prove it, no way to measure when a soul comes into being. Someone who believes that might well decide to go off the meds to protect the kid, or to take their chances with the meds. But to require someone who doesn’t believe that to go through a pregnancy that’s deeply damaging to her mental health, based on something you can’t prove–that’s wrong.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that life begins at conception. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to define the start point as quickening, or viability, or any number of other possibilities. What’s unreasonable is to force others to adhere to the most extreme definition, without any regard for their own physical or mental well-being.

Even if a fetus–or an embryo–is a person, it’s worth pointing out that a pregnant woman is a person too.

In which I rant about HR 3

Say no to the GOP's attack on survivors. Call your Representatives and ask them to vote NO on H.R. 3.

In the next few days, I hope to make a couple more thoughtful posts about abortion, women’s rights, and the religious implications of those things. But at this point, I really don’t have a whole lot of thoughtful in me.

Trigger Warning–lots of disturbing stuff about rape and abuse.

So, here’s what HR 3 does and why I’ve already written to my representative saying I hope he votes no on it, and have started writing to the Democratic sponsors of the bill to say basically “Um, guys, what the heck???”

  • Prevents any federal money paying for abortion unless the woman was “forcibly raped.” So just being raped–by drugs, by threats, by being too young to legally consent–isn’t enough. “Forcible rape” is also never defined, so the exemption is pretty much unenforceable.
  • Prevents “discrimination” against health care facilities that don’t provide abortion. In other words, a Catholic hospital that lets a woman die on the operating table rather than abort a pregnancy that’s killing her is still welcome to get taxpayer money.
  • Prevents tax breaks for companies providing health insurance if the coverage pays for abortion.
  • So, if an abortion is medically necessary, but the doctor isn’t 100% sure the pregnancy will kill you? Better hope you’ve got a healthy savings account. Not only will Medicaid not cover it, your insurance probably won’t either. Oh, and while you’re arguing with a dozen bureaucrats to try to prove that your life is in danger from the pregnancy–not only are your risks going up, but the clock is ticking on your ability to actually get that abortion. You probably have a decent chance in the first trimester, but push it to the second, and there are fewer providers who will perform that procedure. Go past the 21-week point and there’s pretty much no one. Probably having something to do with the fact that domestic terrorists tend to murder the doctors who do perform these abortions.

    And if you’re a pregnant victim of incest who just turned 18? Or a minor who was raped by someone not a relative? Or a rape victim who decided not to fight back against a rapist who was larger and stronger? The official position of the Republican Party is apparently “Sucks to be you.”

    The “conscience” BS also makes me angry. What it means is that hospitals can deny emergency health care and still get government money. An example of how messed up this is is St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix–the doctors did the right thing by saving the woman’s life, and as a result, the hospital lost its Catholic status. They were supposed to let her die, apparently. But that’s cool–you go right ahead and ignore the health of pregnant women and you can still qualify for government money.