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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.


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.

Moral Outrage vs. Moral Good March 5, 2011

Posted by Bill in abortion, Christianity, Current Events, health, Politics, Religious Right, Uncategorized.
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The great state of Texas is about to pass more restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.  This restriction is in the form of requiring a sonogram test to be taken anywhere from 2 to 24 hours (still being worked on by our high minded representatives) before an abortion along with requiring the women to view the image, listen to the heartbeat, and listen to the doctor describe its development. 


The march towards doing away with the moral acid (abortion) that has burned and stained our nation for so long continues!

Or does it?

For those who are anti-choice/pro-life and who are celebrating this seeming victory I have a question:

Are you more interested in reducing the number of abortions or in expressing moral outrage and becoming “morally pure”?

I ask because when looking at abortion rates around the world something becomes very clear very quickly.  Those countries with the lowest abortion rates have legal and liberal abortion laws.  Those countries with the highest rates of abortion either have very restrictive abortion laws or have made abortion totally illegal. 

Western Europe has the lowest rate of abortion in the world at 12 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44.    We, with our mix of abortion rights with restrictions come in at 21 per 1,000 women.  Of course this is still much better than the Latin American countries where it is not only restricted but also usually illegal.  Their abortion rate is 31 per 1,000 women. 

Now another item that I notice is that in many of these countries where abortion is legal, birth control is also available.  In fact Western Europe actively teaches about contraception and works to make sure that it is easily available. 

Personally I believe that it is this linkage with birth control that has helped bring down the abortion rate in countries that allow abortion, although I freely admit that I cannot find research showing this to be true.

However given the following facts:

 –         Countries with high abortion rates are those in which abortion is illegal or severely restricted. 

–         Countries with low abortion rates are those in which abortion is legal.

–         Countries with freer access to contraceptives have lower abortion rates.

–         Anti-Choice/pro-life people wish to make abortion illegal.

–         Anti-Choice/pro-life people usually do NOT support contraceptive education, nor do they support making it more easily accessible. 

I feel comfortable in stating that the anti-choice/pro-life people, in their efforts to promote morality and eliminate the killing of fetuses are instead working to actually increase it by creating the conditions for abortion rates to increase. 

Kind of ironic that. 

As for myself, I consider myself a pro-choice/pro-life person.  I believe the woman has a right to choose for herself.  However I would like our country to  create a setting in which choosing abortion would be rare or even non-existent.    Given what can be seen around the world that involves a setting in which abortion is legal and not surrounded by these roadblocks and a greater emphasis on contraceptive use. 

Now my choice is fairly easy.  I look at the evidence and go with it. 

However the anti-choice/pro-life  people have a harder decision.  They first have to decide what is more important to them – reducing abortions or being morally pure.

Finding Autism Early So Vaccines Don’t Get Blamed January 19, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Autism, Current Events, health, Uncategorized, Vaccines.
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Today I took my son to the doctor to get his two month vaccinations. I did this as a woman who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I did this as a former ABA therapist who worked with children with Autism. I did this because I believe that the risks of NOT vaccinating him outweigh the risks of vaccinating him.

The vaccine controversy has been getting a lot of coverage lately. The study linking vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked. But fear is hard to quash. Anyone who has worked with people with autism knows that there are people in the community who strongly believe that vaccines caused their child’s autism, and there is little that can be done to persuade them otherwise. There are several reasons for this.

One is that the earliest signs of autism often go unnoticed by parents. And the dramatic symptoms tend to manifest at the time that the MMR vaccine is administered. Hence parents see a link. Yet as anyone who studies statistics knows, correlation does not equal causation. As one mother whose son has autism that she used to attribute to vaccines attests, when she enrolled her son in a study by the MIND Institute and they looked at early photos and videos of her son, they found he had autism traits since he was born. In Baby 411 Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician, notes that she often has concerns about children who exhibit developmental delays but does not say anything to the parents before she is certain of a diagnosis. She mentions a study where doctors viewed footage of children at 12 months, before they had their MMR vaccine, and were able to accurately determine which ones would be diagnosed with autism at 18+ months.

While I understand not wanting to cause undo alarm, I wonder if we would be better off if pediatricians discussed their concerns with patients when they have them. First time parents often do not know what is and is not normal, and therefore are surprised when their seemingly normal child turns out to have autism out of the blue. Further, considering that the earlier autism is diagnosed and treated the better the prognosis, I would think that getting parents alert to the possibility that something may be wrong would be a good thing.

As for me, I don’t think that vaccines caused me to be on the Autism spectrum. My parents can recite a list of early warning signs. And if my son turns out to have autism, I don’t think it will be because of vaccines. Further, with the resurgence of diseases such as whooping cough, I worry more about death than autism. I know that not everyone who falls on the spectrum will get to a point in their life where people who meet him/her would never suspect that s/he has autism, as is the case with me. Yet even if it’s obvious, the child with autism can grow up and lead a productive, happy life. The unvaccinated child who dies of whooping cough can’t.

And for those curious as to the early signs of autism, they can be found here and the video glossary which has clips of normal development and the development of children at risk for autism.

To Bank Cord Blood or Not October 29, 2010

Posted by frrobins in health, Products.
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It seemed like a no brainer. Save my baby’s cord blood and that way, just in case the worst happens and he develops cancer or some other disease, he will have a source of blood that is a genetic match to him to cure it. You’d be crazy to pass up on the opportunity! It seemed to be more of a question of where to bank his blood then whether or not to.

So I asked my doctor for a recommendation. And was floored when he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it. He cautioned that cord blood banking was controversial, but if I really wanted to do it that they suggested company X. So I went into research mode.

First let me discuss the two types of banking: public and private. Public banking means that the blood can be used by anyone who has one of the diseases that cord blood can be used to treat and is a match. Private banking is where you pay a lot of money to have the blood stored for use only for your child or a family member of your choosing. It’s billed as a biological insurance policy for your baby. While the odds are low that your little bundle of joy will develop leukemia, would you really want to risk throwing away the cord blood that could cure him if he did?

I quickly found information about how, if you don’t have any family history of the 80 diseases that cord blood banking treats it’s probably not cost effective. Neither my husband or I do. Yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of ‘what if.’ What if my baby is the first one in my family to develop leukemia? I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life for not banking his blood.

There’s a secret that private cord blood bankers don’t want new parents to know, though. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the premalignant cells that will cause your child to fall ill with most of the diseases that cord blood treats already exist in the blood! This means that your babies’ blood will be useless. If your baby is going to develop leukemia, it’s already in the cord blood and it can’t be used for treatment. Banking it will not save your babies’ life someday.

In fact, the only time that private banking is encouraged is when there is a sibling or other family member that has a condition that can be treated with cord blood. Otherwise, public banking where you donate the cord blood when the baby is born and anyone who is matched can use it is encouraged.

Not to mention difficult. I plan to deliver in Fort Worth, a fairly big city, and none of the hospitals in my area offer a means for you to donate cord blood. The closest one that does is in Dallas, and I’m not driving an hour away to deliver my baby. I found that if I was really interested in jumping through a complex maze of hoops and putting down a lot of money I might be able to arrange to donate it, but I decided it just wasn’t worth the headache.

While I do feel a bit bad knowing that something that is potentially life saving will go to waste, I feel a lot more comfortable with my decision not to bank his cord blood privately. It’s a really new and exciting field of medicine with a lot of potential, but it’s also very over hyped. And frankly, the private cord blood banking companies make promises that they can’t keep (I honestly think they should be required to say that cord blood will be useless if your baby develops most of the diseases that it’s used to treat).

I do hope that soon in the future it will be easy, perhaps even standard, to donate your babies’ blood to a public bank. But that day is not today.

“How Thick the Fog Is. I can’t See the Road.” July 18, 2010

Posted by Bill in health, Mental illness, Personal.
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It is so difficult to know what to say about the apparent murder-suicide of the mayor of Coppell, Texas, Jayne Peters, and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Corinne. Indications are that Mayor Peters may have been suffering from depression, and from some of the things I have read, it seems that her daughter may also have been a victim of the disease. In one suicide note, Peters wrote:

“My sweet, sweet Corinne had grown completely inconsolable,” one note reportedly read. “She had learned to hide her feelings from her friends. But the two of us were lost, alone and afraid. Corinne just kept on asking, ‘Why won’t God let me die?’ We hadn’t slept at all and neither one of us could stop crying when we were together.” ~ AOL News

Some talk show callers in the Dallas/ Fort Worth metroplex have been less than charitable when talking about Jayne Peters, saying that she is a murderess who deserves no sympathy. To me this is an indicator of how little people understand depression. I am only able to speculate– I did not know Jayne Peters or her daughter personally. All I know is what I have read in the news reports. Her husband died of cancer in 2008. Her home had been scheduled for foreclosure and there was a lien against it for neighborhood association dues, and Peters was about to be the subject of a probe by city officials in Coppell over the use of her city issued credit card.

Overwhelmed with the pain of depression and the financial and legal difficulties besetting her, she might not have seen any other way out. Many people can understand that, but they can’t understand why she also felt it necessary to kill her adult daughter. I don’t know either, but if her daughter also had chronic depression, Peters may not have wanted to leave her behind to face the world after her death. She may have thought that Corinne would not be able to cope with the mess her mother left behind. She may have thought, in a way that could only make sense to a mind that wasn’t working properly, that killing her daughter was an act of love, that it was the best way to help Corinne.

I have written before about my struggles with depression, and as someone who has spent time in the misty fog of the mind, I can understand what Peters may have been going through. I am fortunate that I have a husband who is attuned to my moods, who can tell when I need outside help and can make sure I get it. It does not appear as though Peters had anybody. If her daughter was also clinically depressed, then instead of being able to support each other, they might have fed off each other’s depression until they could not see a way out.

Playwright Eugene O’Neill suffered from depression. In Long Day’s Journey into Night, he shows the seductive power of the disease:

“It wasn’t the fog I minded, Cathleen. I really love fog. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you any more. It’s the foghorn I hate. It won’t let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.”~ Page 100-101, Act 3

That’s the thing about depression that people who have never experienced it do not understand. When you are deep in the well of depression, you no longer want to come out. It’s safe there– no one can hurt you, no one can make you do anything. You ride on the bed of sleepy fog, oblivious to everything around you. The people who try to cheer you up, who try to force you to be a part of the world, who try to snap you out of it, are like a foghorn that keeps you from the bliss of sleep.

The news reports have contained quotes from friends and neighbors of the family. Corinne’s friends describe her as a fun-loving person with a great sense of humor, and Peters’ colleagues are wracked with guilt, wondering if they missed a sign. Chronic depression is an invisible illness. It is not possible to tell if people have it by looking at them. I have managed to hide my illness for years from friends, co-workers, and even members of my own family. There’s still such a stigma attached to mental illness, that I am reluctant to let people know about the times I spend in a black fugue. Instead I’ll just respond to their questions of where I’ve been with, “I haven’t been feeling well.” It’s true enough, but that implies a physical illness of the body instead of a mental illness of the brain, and I don’t disabuse them of that notion. I sometimes feel guilty about it because I realize that as long as people continue to hide their mental illnesses, society will continue to stigmatize them. Nevertheless, it is all I can do to deal with my illness, without having to be the standard bearer for the condition as well.

I’m fortunate that I have never been suicidal during one of my depressive episodes– but during the last episode, I came pretty close. I thought often that if I were dead, the pain would go away and I wouldn’t have to live with it anymore. There was a heaviness in my brain, a physical pain, and as I moved through the day, I felt as though I were mired in treacle. Many times I just wanted to let myself sink slowly under, let the depression overtake me. After a while you get tired of fighting with your own mind.

Fortunately my husband made sure I got help, and I’m on a new medication which has helped tremendously. If you suffer from depression, you MUST get help. I would strongly suggest you go to a psychiatrist who understands the medical condition and knows about the different drugs available to find the one that works best for you. Medical doctors tend to prescribe the latest drugs they are given by the drug salespeople and they don’t understand how important it is to match the medication with the person.

If you suffer from depression, please understand that there is an actual neurological reason for your condition. It is not all in your head and it will not just go away. Letting a smile be your umbrella will not take care of it for you.

If someone you know or love suffers from depression, do not tell them to shake it off. Do not tell them to get a hold of themselves or to think happy thoughts or to try thinking about others. Do not tell them that it is all in their head. Tell them to seek help. Badger them until they call and make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Sit beside them and dial the phone if you have to. You may be their only lifeline.

For Jayne Peters and her beautiful daughter, I am sorry that the fog overtook you. My hope is that others will learn from your deaths and will reach out to seek help. And my hope is that those talk show callers who would withhold their sympathy from you will never find out for themselves what the black fog of the mind is like.

Lots of Emotion, Little Facts in the Abbie Dorn Case July 8, 2010

Posted by frrobins in Current Events, health.
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I sincerely wish the person trying to find out the diagnosis given to Abbie Dorn by a physician better luck than I had. The best I could find was that a neurologist named Richard Helvie described her condition as permanent back in 2007. But I do know that her parents claim that she is merely disabled and progressing with treatment while her ex-husband, Dan, says that she is in a persistent vegetative state.

The fact that I can’t even determine what a doctor who is not a family member thinks of her diagnosis and prognosis makes me hesitant to say anything about this tragic case. Four years ago when Abbie went to a hospital to deliver triplets something went wrong. She lost over 2 liters of blood, and the supply of oxygen to her brain was cut off for too long. Now being supported by her parents, a team of caregivers and therapists, she can barely move, can’t talk, gets her nutrition through a feeding tube and is incontinent. She reportedly cries, smiles, and blinks. According to her parents, if you ask her a question and she blinks once it means yes. If she doesn’t blink, it means no. Her ex-husband does not believe that Abbie is communicating.

There’s a whole lot of he says vs she says. I’m left wondering if anyone not affiliated with her parents or her ex has ever questioned Abbie without her parents or other family present and given their opinion on the matter. Has anyone taken a list of questions based on facts that she would know (ie: Is your name Abbie? Were you born on XX/XX/XXXX? Is Yaakov your brother? etc) and determined if her yes and no answers are correct?

While I believe that her parents are sincere in the belief that their daughter is communicating with them, it would not be the first time a parent or caregiver deceived themselves into thinking that someone who can’t communicate verbally can do so by other means. I couldn’t help but think of facilitated communication when I read Abbie’s story.

Why is this important? Because Dan Dorn has not allowed Abbie’s triplets to visit her. He says that because of their young age, he feels it would be too traumatic for them, and he doesn’t want them to feel guilty because this happened while she was delivering them. Abbie’s parents maintain that she wishes to see her children and blinks once when asked. A judge ruled that Abbie’s parents can file for visitation on her behalf. The case is still making its way through the courts.

As pointed out by Vicki Greene, Dan Dorn’s attorney, there is some concern about who is really communicating. If Mr. Dorn wants to send the children to school A, but Abbie’s parents don’t agree, what’s to stop them from saying that it is Abbie’s wishes that they don’t? How do we know that Abbie really is communicating her wishes?

Abbie could very well be conscious and trapped in her own body, communicating through blinking. Or her body could be alive but completely unaware. Without knowing which one it is, it is hard to say what would be best for her.

But what about her children? Mr. Dorn’s reasoning for preventing them from seeing her is steeped in their welfare after all. Reportedly they do not even know where their mother is, though they have supposedly been asking. I don’t believe that keeping information from children for their protection serves their best interests. I do think they have a right to know that their mother is very sick. He does not need to address how she got that way until they ask, and then it would probably best be address with a therapist. When I see the argument about not telling children something to protect them, I tend to believe that the adult is really wanting to protect him or herself from discussing something that is uncomfortable and painful.

Would it be in the childrens’ best interest to visit their mother? Once again, I cannot say. Knowing her condition, do they want to see her? And if so, if she can communicate through blinking and is recovering then I don’t see the harm. If she is in a persistent vegetative state and will most likely never recover, and this is acknowledged and explained to the children then I still don’t see any harm. But if it is the latter but the children are told she is recovering and communicating, then I have some major concerns. The children need to have realistic expectations about their mother’s condition and chances of recovery.

Emotions are starting to rise high on this one, but the facts necessary for decision making in the case are scarce. I only hope that the courts will be able to do a better job of collecting information than reporters have been in this case.

Let’s Face It: Abortion Is a Hard Sell February 20, 2010

Posted by Bill in abortion, Family Values, health, Religious Right, Right wing, Television.
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Let me start this blog with a disclaimer: I strongly support the right of all women to have access to safe and legal abortion. I consider myself to be a feminist, and I abhor almost everything Focus on the Family stands for. However,  my personal opinion is the Women’s Media Center, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups did more harm than good with their protest against a Super Bowl ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother. Without apparently having viewed the ad in advance, Jemhu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, said:

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year–an event designed to bring Americans together.”

The protest letter from the Women’s Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad because of the sponsor, Focus on the Family:

“By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.”

NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson, in a blog on their website shrilled:

“Make no mistake about this ad: it’s offensive to women. Yes, it features Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, who had been advised to have an abortion after a serious illness. Standing alone, it sends the message that all women who give birth are heroes; it sends a message that abortion is always a mistake; and it is insulting to the one in three women in this country who have abortions.”

Well I saw the ad, and I sure didn’t see any of those things. The truth is, if I hadn’t been aware of the furor ahead of time, I wouldn’t have realized it was an anti-abortion ad. The word abortion is never mentioned. Pam Tebow talks about Tim being her miracle baby and says his birth was difficult. She says that she almost lost him several times and added, “With all our family’s been through, we have to be tough.” Tim then comes on and tackles her and she scolds him. “Timmy, I’m trying to tell our story here.” A message comes on the screen telling people to go to the Focus on the Family website for more about the Tim Tebow story, and  Tim asks, “You still worry about me, Mom?” She replies, “Well yeah. You’re not nearly as tough as I am.” The interplay between Tim and his mother is rather sweet. My guess is that the dreaded, so-called anti-abortion message skipped over the heads of most people watching unless they already knew about it.

By protesting so heavily against the ad, the women’s groups only came across as shrill and as seeming to be against the very things they claim to support: freedom of speech and freedom of choice. The posts on Now’s Blog for Equality in which they screeched against the ad pretty much bear this out. One comment said:

“This woman chose life. Why would you be against that? She had the right to make her own personal choice, a choice which opposed the advice of doctors. Isn’t that a success story, that a woman had the right to choose? By your outcry, you send the message that abortion is the only choice you support. Please, don’t do this, it hurts the cause.”

A big problem with the pro-choice movement is that abortion is a hard sell. The anti-abortion groups can show inspirational messages such as the Tim Tebow spot; they can show cute babies and children frolicking, they can plaster billboards with a chubby cheeked toddler saying, “My mother chose life,” and there’s not a real good way to argue against that. The pro-choice people can’t exactly show a picture of a child in a wheelchair with the counter message of, “my mother didn’t have the choice to abort me,” now can they?

Let’s face it folks. Abortion is NOT a good thing. We want less of them. Not more. However the message that came through was that these groups only support abortion and that they are against choice. What the pro-choice groups really need to get across is that NOBODY likes abortion. Presumably NOW doesn’t like it. Ditto the Feminist Majority.  They could have used this ad as a stepping point to show what they do support. They could have said something like,

“Pam Tebow had a choice. We support that. We also support universal access to quality medical care such as what Pam Tebow evidently had. We support easy access to birth control and comprehensive sex education. We support programs that give girls and young women the skills they need not to be victims, not to give in to pressure from their boyfriends to have sex and how to protect themselves against rape and incest. We support programs that give all women access to prenatal care and programs that fight against alcohol abuse and drug addiction in women of child-bearing age as these are things that can affect the health of unborn children. We support programs that teach boys about responsibility so they can learn how to be fathers and not just sperm donors, and we support programs that ensure that no child has to go to bed with an empty stomach.

“We support programs that will move us forward to a day when no woman needs to choose abortion. But we are not there yet and until that day comes, we support safe and legal abortion. We support women. We support families. We support choice.”

The women’s groups had a great opportunity with the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad, and they blew it. Rather than attracting anyone to their cause, they alienated a whole bunch of people and ensured that others who probably wouldn’t have even noticed the ad amidst all the other ads on Super Bowl Sunday paid a great deal of attention to it. They enabled Focus on the Family to take the high road, and that is the last place that this  group deserves to be.

Keep Stupak’s Dirty Politican Hands Out of My Uterus December 2, 2009

Posted by Bill in abortion, Family Values, health, health care reform, Politics, Religious Right, Right wing.
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There are people in this country for whom there is only one issue that matters- abortion. To these people, everything is seen in light of abortion and it colors their view of every other thing that happens. Now these groups are threatening to derail Health Care Reform by using the proposed Stupak Amendment to accomplish what they have been unable to do through legislation and the courts, restrict the access of women in this country to safe, legal abortions.

The Stupak Amendment will actually take away coverage that millions of women already have. Not only does it forbid any coverage for abortion in the public option, it prohibits anyone receiving a federal subsidy from purchasing a health insurance plan that includes abortion. Now you may think that this only affects those who receive the federal subsidy, however the Stupak Amendment  also prohibits private health insurance plans from offering through the exchange a plan that includes abortion coverage to both subsidized and unsubsidized individuals. About 87% of private insurance plans now include abortion coverage. If they plan to participate in the Health Care Exchange proposed by the bill, they will have to drop that coverage.

Stupak supporters whine that they don’t want their tax money to go to support abortions. Folks, my tax money goes every day to support things I don’t approve of. For years my tax money has gone to fighting a completely unjustified war in Iraq. My tax money went to the government bail outs. It currently is going to support dozens of faith-based organizations. When we complete our income taxes every year the IRS doesn’t include a checklist so we can go down the list and pick the uses to which our tax dollars can be put. As citizens of the US, our tax money goes to support whatever Congress wants to spend it on. The anti-abortion wing nuts cannot accept that the majority of people in this country do not agree with them on the abortion issue, so like children who pack up their little toys and go home when they don’t get their way, they are trying to undercut health care reform by threatening to pack up their votes and go home if they don’t get their way about abortion.

It’s a note of irony that one of the reasons Americans give for opposing health care legislation is they don’t want the government to have control over their medical care. Yet, by allowing the Stupak amendment to pass, they will be giving control of their medical care over to United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who care more about fetuses than they do about living, breathing human beings. They don’t want the government making decisions about their medical care, but they are willing to let Bart Stupak make those decisions.

Let Obama and Congress know that you do not want health care reform to come at the cost of the rights you already have. Oppose the Stupak Amendment.

The Fog Creeps in on Little Cat Feet (Part 2) November 9, 2009

Posted by Bill in health, Memories, Mental illness, Personal.
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Perception is everything, and perception is one of the things that makes it so hard to deal with being mentally ill because people think it’s all in your head. Echoing Professor Harold Hill, they espouse the “think method.” Just think happy thoughts and you can fly. Whistle while you work and let a smile be your umbrella. The power of positive thinking. People don’t understand why our twenty-five-year-old daughter still lives at home, why she doesn’t work, why she only recently started back to school. “You need to be firm with her, make her take responsibility, quit mollycoddling her, use Tough Love” as though putting her in time out would make the fireworks stop going off inside her head. They don’t see what we see, how she doesn’t watch movies because she can’t concentrate on them for long enough to follow the plot, how she forgets simple things because of the lightning careening in her head, how her brain is exhausted from the lack of sleep.

How do you explain this to people who equate mental illness with thoughts of Sybil, split personality, homeless people hearing voices on the street? They don’t understand, can’t understand because there’s nothing to relate it to, how someone can look and seem perfectly healthy and yet be unable to do the things we take for granted- watch a movie, go to work, go out with friends.

She’s fortunate to have a family who understands her illness, just as I am fortunate to have a husband to understand mine, because mental illness is so poorly understood. As I look back through my own family I can see the trail of mental illness through the family tree, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and left untreated. I look at a friend of my older daughter, a lovely, intelligent girl who first started showing the signs of mental illness in her late teens until one night she showed up at our house in the grips of a full blown delusional episode telling us a bizarre story of her mother holding her down while her father raped her, pointing to non-existent bruises on her arm, laughing, hopping and reaching her hand out to wave away the demons that only she could see. At one point, she told us her parents had taken her to a witch doctor to dispel the spirit that had taken hold of her, and I can understand the parents’  frustration, the desire to do something, anything that would remove the illness from their daughter’s mind and make her whole again. Since she was over eighteen years of age, the mental ward could not keep her without her consent so although she was clearly not capable of taking care of herself, they had to let her go.

Part of me feels that the mental wards should have been able to keep her against her will, to force the medications into her. I rationalize this by saying that if she were in her right mind, she surely would want herself to be treated, would want someone to make her take the medicines that allow the cylinders in her brain to fire properly, but my daughter reminds me that the same rationale could have been used to hospitalize her, and I remember back to the days when she was first diagnosed, when I received the phone call at work that would rock my universe.

She was happy, healthy, working at a job she loved, with a good group of friends, going to college, had the world by the tail. Our golden child, the girl for whom everything came easily. Smart enough to graduate from high school and start college at age fifteen, to maintain a 4.0 average in a science major, to impress her college professors with the depth of her thought. Life was good until the day my cell phone rang, and a strange woman’s voice said, “You don’t know me but I am a counselor at the psychiatric hospital. We have your daughter here, and she’s in a bad state. We think she needs to stay here but she doesn’t want to.”

I tried to take it in. “Which daughter?” I asked dumbly. “Are you sure you have the right number?”

“She’s got some cuts on her arm. They are pretty bad. Are you aware she’s been cutting herself? Did you know she’s tried to kill herself?”

Suddenly nothing was important but getting to the hospital. I got up and walked away from my job, calling my husband from the car, driving with tears running down my face, knowing I had to get to the hospital and not sure of what I would find. I envisioned my daughter curled up in a fetal position in the corner. I thought of long cuts raking down her arm, of stitches, of arms so swathed with bandages I would be unable to see her beneath.

When I got there, I was sent to a room where my daughter was sitting in a chair at a table by herself. I walked in and she grinned sheepishly at me. “I don’t want to stay here,” she said flatly, defiantly.

I looked at her cautiously. She looked normal. No bandages, no blood, no fetal contortions. “Let me see your arms,” I said mildly.

She held them out and I saw two thin red lines, scratches. Not even bandage worthy. “I don’t want to stay here,” she repeated.

“Let’s talk about it,” I said.

She and I talked, and then the counselor came in and we talked, and as we talked, the more convinced I became that my daughter did not need to be in this place, did not need to be shut away from a job she loved, from all contact with friends she valued, away from the family who loved her, to be put in isolation among strangers, treated alongside patients who heard voices and built castles in the sky. The counselor didn’t want to let her go and threatened to call the police to swear that she was a danger to herself so they could commit her, but I counter offered that I would keep her under supervision. The counselor and I bargained and finally we were allowed to leave on the condition that I would watch my daughter 24 hours a day, would lock away all sharp implements, and hide all the pills.

When I got her home I started a volley of phone calls till I got her into see a psychiatrist on an emergency consultation. My husband and I started our new regime of keeping her under close supervision—making her leave the door of her bedroom open, taking away her car keys, taking away her freedoms, transforming ourselves from parents into jailers.

With the passage of time and experience gained, we can see now that, while her condition was serious, our gut instincts were right, and she did not need to be locked away. Our family doctor had been treating her for depression, had given her samples left by a pharmaceutical salesman. One day while under the effect of this drug she picked up a pair of scissors lying on her desk and gave her wrist two quick scratches. When she showed them to the doctor at her next visit, he quite rightly grew concerned and sent her to the hospital. It wasn’t till the psychiatrist entered the picture and told us about the importance of matching the anti-depressant to the patient that she was able to achieve some relief from her mental illness.

So where does that leave me on the issue of forcibly hospitalizing the mentally ill? Nowhere but with the realization that like most issues, it is not clear cut. A thin regime of pills separates my daughter from the people on the street. The difference is that she has a family who is supportive, who will make sure she maintains her medications, who will make sure she cooperates with her treatment. The people on the street, for whatever reason, do not. Nevertheless, I cannot just say with surety that they should be scooped up and hospitalized, medicated and tranquilized. When I am in the depths of my bottomless pit should I be forcibly medicated? Or should I be allowed to wait it out while it sits on its silent haunches until it moves on?