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Lawmakers: Stay Out of My Uterus! October 11, 2011

Posted by frrobins in abortion, activism, Current Events, health, Politics, privacy.
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I am very concerned about something going in Mississippi, where lawmakers are trying to pass an amendment that would give a fertilized egg the same rights as a human being. This is something that should send chills through every woman and man. The consequences would included criminalizing abortion and BIRTH CONTROL! This could pave the way for criminalizing taking the pill as it prevents a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus. This bill will require criminal investigations when a woman suffers a miscarriage.

For those who say that people are blowing the consequences of this bill out of the water, women are already being criminalized for having a miscarriage or still birth.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the causes for most miscarriages ARE UNKNOWN! In most causes, CHROMOSOMAL ABNORMALITIES are most likely to blame. Meaning that there is nothing that the mother did or did not do to cause it! So, we’re going to put women who have suffered the emotional trauma of a miscarriage under investigation?

Last year, I was pregnant. Considering I have PCOS and was at a higher risk of miscarriage I was nervous all the time about it happening. Most women in the early stage of pregnancy are in the same worry boat. They worry about that one glass of wine they had before they knew they were pregnant. They worry that the pollutants they are exposed to at work will harm their baby. They worry that the tumble they took caused permanent damage. When a miscarriage does occur, some women feel intense guilt for something they probably did not contribute to! How is subjecting them to an investigation going to assuage that guilt? It is going to make them think of EVERY THING THAT THEY DID OR DID NOT DO THAT MIGHT HAVE CAUSED THAT MISCARRIAGE!

Moment of truth. I did not do everything “right” during my pregnancy. I had shrimp the week before I found out I was pregnant. Eating shrimp could have given my son listeria and killed him. It didn’t. When I was three months pregnant I was so sick and nauseous that everything I ate came right back up. I lost 20 pounds during my 3rd month of pregnancy. I stopped eating because even the thought of food made me sick. I lived off water, ginger ale, and a little bit of rice and mashed potatoes. I hate ginger ale but I drank it because it was the only thing that helped with the nausea. Ginger ale is not healthy and even contains a minimal amount of alcohol. I was definitely not getting the nutrients that I or my baby needed that month.

Later I petted and played with a stray kitten. I worried and worried afterwords that the kitten might have had some parasite and that I might have passed it on to my baby. I worried when the place I worked in was found to have mold. I worried during the weeks I was too nauseous to exercise. I took Tylenol for the mother of all headaches. I took benadryl to control a bad allergy attack. I worried.

I dare you to find the pregnant woman who went for 9 months without having one drink, went without eating shrimp/lunchmeat/things containing raw eggs such as Caesar salad dressing, never went into an area where there was dangerous fumes such as a freshly painted nursery, ate a perfectly balanced diet every day for 9 months, exercise moderately every day, never smoked, never used drugs (legal or illegal), never cleaned a cat litter box, never got a bit reckless and took a tumble, etc. People are not perfect. While you won’t find someone who did ALL of those things, most pregnant woman would have done one of those things at some point in their pregnancy.

So, what should we do? Put pregnant women in a bubble? What if they have a drink before they realize they are pregnant? Put all women of childbearing age in a bubble? I read an article once by someone advocating that every sexually active woman of childbearing age should take folic acid even if she’s not planning on having a baby. So, should every sexually active woman of child bearing age act as though they are pregnant when they aren’t? Can you see how ridiculous this gets?

What about cases where it is the health of the mother vs the embryo/fetus? Anti-abortion activists live in a world where women never die from complications related to pregnancy or birth. This is a fantasy world. In the US, 2 to 3 women die every day as a result of complications from pregnancy or childbirth! I went to a panel discussion on medically necessary abortions headed by an OB-GYN who told stories of women who desperately wanted children but encountered some severe health problem that would kill the woman, the child or both. What to do in such tragic cases should be a private decision between the woman and her doctor. The government should stay the hell out of it!

Need an example? Here. There are medical reasons for abortions! And for those who say that you should always hold out hope for a miracle, that’s YOUR choice to make for you, not them. And in their case, it would have been a wrong choice. No miracle happened. Their baby is dead.

With regards to abortions for non-medical reasons, I say I want to see the abortion rate decreased. Abortion is not a desired thing. Which is why we need to focus on preventing unplanned pregnancies. And the best way to do this is through birth control.

Telling people not to have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant does not work. And in countries such as Romania where birth control was outlawed they have a problem with unwanted children being put on the street. Do lawmakers REALLY want to see something similar happen in the US?

Further, there are medical reasons for using birth control. I was put on the pill before I was sexually active to control my PCOS. What right do legislatures have to say what medicine I can or can’t take to control a medical condition I have because it might prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted?

So, to prevent any harm from happening to potential fertilized eggs, should sexually active women of child bearing age be prevented from taking medicines that could harm/terminate an embryo? We wouldn’t want a woman taking medicine that could harm a “person” before she realizes she’s pregnant after all. Is this something that we really want to see?

Think. Really think. This isn’t about protecting fertilized eggs or embryos. This is about controlling every aspect of a woman’s reproductive self. This is something that the government should stay the hell out of.

I know that there is a lot of energy directed at the economic woes that our country is facing, and that needs to happen. However, I don’t want to see this very important issue swept under the rug as a result. We need to make noise over this issue, and we need to do it now.

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Why I Don’t Say the Pledge July 3, 2011

Posted by frrobins in activism, atheism, Christianity, Church and State, critical thinking, Current Events, Memories, Personal, Pledge, Politics, Religion.
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I don’t say The Pledge of Allegiance. I haven’t since I was in junior high school. One day I’m hoping I will get the guts to not stand during it. Why? Because I find saying the Pledge rather anti-patriotic. I feel that to be an active participant in a democracy you have to think critically and keep yourself informed on issues. Patriotism is not a passive process for me but an active one. Saying someone someone else wrote does not employ critical thinking nor does it illuminate one on important issues facing our country. In fact, I think it discourages critical thinking by inducing everyone to say the same words without thinking about what they are saying.

And since most of us started saying the Pledge in elementary school, this just reinforces the idea to me that it is a rote habit rather than something we are thinking about.

I was probably five or six when my parents explained to me that while they would say the Pledge, they would be silent during the “under God” part. We are atheists and don’t believe in God, and feel that saying “under God” violates our conscience. So for awhile I would say the Pledge and stay quiet during “under God.” Until the third grade when other kids found out I was an atheist and teased me for it. Until then it never occurred to me that I would be teased for not believing in one less god than everyone else, and it never occurred to me that my religious convictions were something to be hidden. Yet when I started a new school having people find out I was an atheist was something that terrified me.

So then I was caught in a trap. I know a lot of people would say that I should have just said “under God” and shut up about it. Yet I have always been driven by the need to live my life truthfully. Even as people around me rejected me, I could never stop being who I was without causing myself extreme mental anguish. So on the one hand I was terrified that if I didn’t say “under God” people at my new school would notice and ask why, yet if I said it I felt that I was being dishonest. It was a horrendous dilemma for an elementary school student to find herself in.

Sometimes I’d say “under God” other times I wouldn’t. One time I even noticed another kid nervously refrain from saying “under God”. I remember wanting to ask him so badly if he believed the same way I did but was too scared to.

Then one day, I’m not sure when, I just stopped saying it. Some days I would, others I wouldn’t. I would always stand so as not to draw too much attention to myself, yet I was quiet the whole time. By the time I finished junior high it was a habit. By the time I was in high school, I’d even stopped putting my hand over my heart.

I’ll make no bones that it started out as a way out of my dilemma and that it is now, as an adult, that I rationally justify my actions. And the reason is that no one should be compelled to say something they don’t believe in. This is America, after all, where we have the freedom to worship one God, or one Goddess, or many Gods and Goddesses, or none at all. This is America where we have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to not be compelled to spout views you don’t agree with. Yet every morning we compel children to recite words as if they are automatons.

And it’s not just atheists who have moral dilemmas concerning the Pledge. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups experience a conflict because their beliefs prevent them from pledging allegiance to anyone other than God.

My questions to people who support forcing others to say the Pledge is, how is democracy served by forcing people to say a pre-written pledge? What do schoolchildren learn about being active participants in a democracy by saying the Pledge? How are we teaching kids to think critically when we are forcing them to spout words unthinkingly from their mouths? How does saying the Pledge foster patriotism? What is gained by forcing people to say things they don’t agree with? Seems to me like it’s just a good way to incite them to rebel.

And to those who say you can just say quiet while everyone else says it, I will point to my above experiences. Staying quiet while everyone else says the Pledge is a good way to paint a target on yourself in school. Kids should not be put in the position between following their conscience and fear of being bullied for being different. Period.

If you want to say the Pledge every morning, go ahead. I won’t stop you. If you want your kids to say it, then say it with them in the morning before they leave for school. Yet everyone else should not be forced to say the Pledge if they are not amenable, and I for one am not.

To Fund Or Not To Fund – A Sharing of My Mind With My Senators April 13, 2011

Posted by Bill in abortion, activism, Current Events, health, Uncategorized.
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I just sent an e mail to both of my Senators on the vote on whether to fund Planned Parenthood that is scheduled for tomorrow.  I know, rather late in the day but what can I say.  I am, for the second time in my life, a college student and all college students wait to the last minute to do anything – study for the major test, read the assignment, write the paper, send a letter to their representatives on important issues. 

Anyway, I rather liked the letter so thought I would share what I said.  I especially liked my argument against an anti choice argument that I have been hearing a lot of lately. 

Dear Senator

I am contacting you in regards to the scheduled vote on funding Planned Parenthood tomorrow.    For several reasons I would strongly urge you to vote to continue its funding.

First, none of the money that Planned Parenthood gets from the federal government goes for abortion. 

That money instead goes for greatly needed woman’s health services.  Women’s access to services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, physicals, contraceptives, tubal ligations and vasectomies, testing for sexually transmitted disease, sex education, and menopause treatments would be greatly impacted were Planned Parenthood not funded.  And yes, I know that other clinics and hospitals can perform these services, but not at the same price.  Which means that the poorer women would be the ones feeling the greatest impact of this cut.  Without this care our health care costs as a nation would increase. 

I realize that many have argued that by providing Planned Parenthood money for its other health services for women it has freed up money for Planned Parenthood’s abortion services.  By this reasoning though we should also not be funding any social programs with ties to a religious group. 

Currently a religious group’s social programs can receive federal money as long as they ensure that the money goes for the social work and not for proselytizing or the support of their religion.  In this manner we manage to avoid the Constitution’s prohibition of government financial support for churches. 

However, using the same logic used above about Planned Parenthood funding, we should not be doing this since the funds provided by the government free up other moneys that the church can use to further its religion; a violation of the Constitution.

So, I would assume that if you decide to vote against continued funding of Planned Parenthood for the above reason then you will also at some point vote against federal funding of faith based charities for the same reason. 

I would also like to point out that Planned Parenthood’s promotion and distribution of effective contraception for women have quite likely prevented many more unwanted pregnancies that would have resulted in abortions than the number of abortions they have actually performed.  Any reduction of their ability to provide quality sex education and contraceptives would result in an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies as well as an increase in number of abortions.  Especially of “back alley” abortions that resulted in the maiming and deaths of so many women before abortion was legalized. 

In summary then I will state that the federal funding of Planned Parenthood does not go for abortion.  It does however go to preventive care that is so necessary for the health and the healthcare costs of not only the women in America but of our country as a whole. 

Please vote to continue funding of Planned Parenthood. 

Now, some things I did not include in this letter because around 500 words is all I figure a politician’s aide has time for and I also did not want to take the focus off the fact that Planned Parenthood’s main services are health and prevention and not abortion include the facts that:

1)      Abortions are legal.  Funding them should not be an issue. 

2)      Abortions are often necessary to save the life or health of the mother.

3)      Do we really want to make rape and incest victims carry through with their unwanted pregnancy?

4)      Many of the fetus’s aborted were either not likely to live anyway or were going to be born are permanent cripples or vegetables.  Or were likely to live only a few pain filled days anyway. 

While I know that both my senators are likely to vote to defund Planned Parenthood I wanted to at know my stance on this issue and that they have made at least one of their constituents unhappy.

Smarter Activism March 18, 2011

Posted by frrobins in activism, communication, critical thinking, Current Events, iraq, Memories, Personal, Politics, Schools.
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It might seem ironic that I went through a crisis of faith as a college student. That’s the best way my husband and I could describe it. I went through this even though I was and am an atheist. Born and raised. Yet while some atheists run away in fear from the word ‘faith’ there are things I did and still do have faith in. For me this came from my Humanistic philosophy. I believe that people are mostly good and will do the right thing. And this was where the crisis in faith came in.

The invasion of Iraq and subsequent re-election of Bush were what caused it. I knew that we had no valid reason for invading Iraq. I felt it was morally wrong. And I could not believe so many people supported it. I protested, wrote letters, pestered my acquaintances with anti-war rhetoric. I did the stuff that reformers before me did that lead to progress. No one ever told me that those reformers experienced more failures than successes in their life. While Susan B. Anthony secured some property rights for women, she fell way short of her big goal of earning the right to vote. And the setback were numerous.

It was bad enough that Iraq was invaded. It was worst that Bush was actually re-elected. I wore my CD player out with Green Day’s American Idiot and went through a period of several years where I gave up on activism all together. People were idiots and it was useless trying to reason with them. It was a small comfort that shortly after his re-election people woke up to their mistake, and that long term Iraq has been considered a fiasco. It doesn’t change the fact that many have died unnecessarily and that things are worse now.

Eventually I got back into activism, though not the way I did before. I hope I’m doing it smarter. How? Well, trying to figure out how to repackage my message.

This is hard. Studies have shown that when people are entrenched in a position, reading evidence against their position only strengthens their previously held beliefs. Then there is the confirmation bias, where people seek out information that confirms their beliefs. Making it unlikely they’d even read what I have to say anyway.

So, how to reach across the aisle and convince people of the validity of my viewpoint? This isn’t an “I’m smart and right, you’re an idiot and wrong’ thing. For instance, I really don’t care about your religious beliefs, so long as you don’t try to impose those beliefs on me. What I’m talking about is stuff that does affect me. Such as global warming. The evidence supports that it is occurring and we need to do something about it. This affects me. How do I make people see the reality of the threat here and, more importantly, get them to see the importance of eco-friendly planning? Fear mongering works. People are irrational creatures. Rather than think rationally we think with our emotions. Even the most logical person will think irrationally in the throes of fear and anger. Hence, how we found ourselves in Iraq.

I don’t like fear mongering. I respect its power and I don’t like it. I don’t want to scare people into making decisions…it tends to lead them into making the wrong ones. I want people to look at the evidence rationally and make informed decisions.

So people don’t make decisions about important things rationally. I’m against using irrational means to spread information even if it benefits my cause. How do I get around this? I know! Teach kids critical thinking skills while they’re young!

Consider that a lot of people don’t know how to make informed decisions because they were never taught how. I’m going to use Shirley Sherrod as an example. An edited video came out showing that Sherrod, a black woman, discriminated against a white farmer. Or did it? When the full video was seen, it was obvious that Sherrod had done no such thing. By that time it was too late. Her reputation was damaged and she had lost her job.

What if, rather than judging Sherrod by a few video clips, people had watched the full tape from the beginning? It is ridiculously easy to manipulate sound bites or take written words out of context. What if people looked up the original source of a quote/video/sound bites, etc?

All of this can be taught. It’s not difficult to learn. Kids can learn it in history class. What if, instead of memorizing dates of events they will forget during summer break, we teach kids skills that historians use to determine what happened in the past? What if we explain the difference between a primary and secondary source and have kids find examples of each. What if we show how information can be corrupted, either intentionally or unintentionally?

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” In Antonia Frasier’s biography of this infamous queen, she details how this quote had been attributed to many an unpopular queen through history, and how with Marie Antoinette it stuck. This misinformation pervades our past, present, and will be out there in our future. How do we inoculate our kids against it?

What if we showed how words and information can be manipulated by governments and other groups of people and taught children how to check their facts, think critically, and question what they see and read?

Of course, this would require a major overhaul of how we see education in America. It would require letting go of our standardized testing fetish and introducing a more difficult curriculum into the classroom. It would mean teaching kids that may be our government wasn’t always all good. And I live in a state that wants to use history class as a propaganda machine for saying that the reason the south succeeded was a state’s rights issue that had nothing to do with slavery *sighs*.

So how to reform the schools to teach critical thinking? How to convince people that this is needed? Especially when giving out harmful standardized tests is a big money maker for some people and the current broken system benefits some politicians? I can already hear cries of liberals wanting to brain wash children into godlessness, when in reality I could care less about their religious beliefs and just want people to think critically about issues that affect us all (we’re not on this rock alone). Heck, critical thinking is the opposite of brainwashing. I use it even with sources I trust or things I want to believe.

For instance, Jon Stewart once made the comment that Sarah Palin made rape victims pay for their rape kits. Alarmed, I went the check and found that while her chief of police did this, whether or not Palin supported it is undetermined. Now, I dislike Palin. I think she is harmful to the women’s movement and like to collect ammunition against her. But if I start passing around misinformation, then I look like a fool.

So, to get people to think critically about issues we need to teach these skills in school, which means reforming an educational system that favors rote teaching and blind acceptance, which means convincing people that changing it to teach critical thinking is a worthy goal without using fear mongering. Whew! So ladies and gents, how do I pull that off? Well, if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them. Because I haven’t figured it out yet.