Saturday, February 28, 2009


I'm sitting next to the window with the white blinds almost closed. There must be a big tree right outside the window, blocking the sunlight, because it's fairly shaded.

When the wind blows (the wind has been having tons of fun today), it moves the branches out of the way and, to someone typing away at her computer next to the window, creates the same effect as a bright bolt of lightning -- in the middle of a sunny day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

63 years later

I received this in an email today. Thought I'd share.

[EDIT: click on the image to see it full-size.]

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in
Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian Peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iraq, Iran, and others, claiming the
Holocaust to be 'a myth', it's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!

Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world .

Please send this e-mail to 10 people you know and ask them to continue the
memorial chain .
Please don't just delete it .

It will only take you a minute to pass this along
. Thanks!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm thankful for:
  • my husband, who worries about me and gently nudges me to do what I need to do, get done what I need to get done, and take care of myself (eat, get enough sleep, all those little things).
  • finding the Spanish pop radio station this morning, which was playing 10,000 songs with no commercials (I spent a bit of time in traffic today, so this was especially nice).
  • the job interview I had Tuesday, and feeling I did a good job at the interview.
  • a generous mother-in-law with a beautiful, big house, who welcomes us with open arms when we break our house and need a place to stay. (We broke the hot water pipe. Plumber is coming tomorrow to assess the damage. We broke the A/C in August -- yes, in August, in Texas -- and she let us crash here then, too.)
  • my prayer journal.
  • Google Reader and Twitter, and the writers and agents I can now e-stalk (and learn from).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent: 40 Days of Prayer

Turns out, all that NaNoWriMing and ScriptFrenzying and Thing-A-Daying kind of warped my brain... because a few Sundays ago when I saw the above written in the church bulletin, I thought, "Awesome! 40 prayers in 40 days! I can do that! I wonder if the website has a Twitter feed..."

Then I realized it was not another monthly challenge, it was just Lent.

But my brain started bouncing around... between my Thing-A-Day posts (yes, I was thinking about reproductive rights and abortion in church - egads!), about blogging, about praying...

I've had issues with prayer. How to do it. How it's "supposed" to be done.

When I was little, my mom would say the Our Father with us at night. We'd be sitting in bed, all bathed and brushed and ready for night-night; we'd make the sign of the cross, say the Our Father, and then ask God to take care of our families, to take care of the cats, and we'd thank Him for the good stuff we had. Then we'd say "Amen" and make the sign of the cross again.

So that was "praying," to me. You had to start by making the sign of the cross, as a greeting. Like writing "Dear So-and-so" when you wrote a letter. Then you had to say the prayer (and the long one, no quick and easy Hail Marys for us!), then you could ask for stuff and say thank-you for stuff, then you had to cross yourself again, to say goodbye. "Over and out," so to speak.

As we grew older Mom didn't come pray with us every night (there were four of us, after all, in three different badrooms), so I prayed by myself, but following the same pattern.

One day, in church, the priest talked about the three kinds of prayers. They were:
  • Kneeling on the floor, elbows on the bed. "God hears this kind of prayer. He can hear it loud and clear."
  • Sitting up in bed, with the covers up to your waist. "God kind of hears this prayer. Sometimes it's hard for him to hear it, though."
  • Tucked in under the covers, with the covers drawn up to your ears. "God doesn't hear this prayer. He can't hear it at all."
Let me tell you about my house.

We had no central heating. We had beautiful -- but cold, and hard -- hardwood floors. I'm very cold-blooded.

My house also contained an older brother, who was an avid Stephen King fan, and had seen each and every Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movie available, and felt the need to tell me all about these things.

I am a very naive and gullible child.

Guess which was my prayer?

Now, when I asked my mom about this sermon, she told me that was ridiculous. She told me God always hears your prayers, no matter where you are. "You could be sitting on the toilet praying, and God would hear you."

(By the way -- can you see why I still hold a grudge against the Catholic church?)

Still, those rules, or maybe even the fact that there were "rules," that there was a right way and a wrong way to pray, kind of stuck with me. When I'd get an email asking for prayers for someone, I'd tell myself to remember to include that person in my prayers that night. Which I would often forget to do. It was a huge step for me to pray at school, during the day: one day I got one of those emails, and I closed my eyes and said a little prayer right then and there, sitting in my classroom in front of my computer (the kids were at lunch). Without "opening comunications" by crossing myself first, and without doing my penance by reciting the entire Our Father before I could make my requests.

I'm not comfortable praying out loud (which is why I love one-word prayers, when we close Bible study or retreats or things of the sort). I have another lovely story about praying out loud (or, rather, not), but I'll save that rant for another time.

Back to my original story: my new prayer epiphany.

I write. I like writing. This is how I sort my thoughts out most of the time.

Lately, I have not been good about praying. (Some other time I'll tell you the prayer moth-balls story...) Most of the time, when I go to bed, I'm tired. Or I forget. Or (to tie this in with my previous posts), how can I pray when my husband is touching my leg under the covers? I'm ashamed to pray in the same place where I have dirty, impure sex. For whatever reason, I don't pray.

I tried praying in the morning, to start my day on a positive note, but that usually turned into me falling back asleep as soon as I closed my eyes to pray.

But I write. Why can't I write my prayers?

This is one of those that sounds so stupid when you say it out loud, because it's so simple... but it took me a while to A) figure it out, and B) accept it. Seriously, part of me wanted to talk to my pastor about it to see if writing my prayer still counts as "praying."

I write in this pink Hello Kitty notebook I had hidden in my nightstand, which served as a journal in my dating days (between marriages). Now it's my prayer journal. I write the date and start off with "Dear God," as if I were writing a letter. And I write "Amen" at the bottom, as if I were signing my name.

I like that time, in the mornings and at night, or whenever, when I sit down and write. And talk to God through my writing. The physical act of holding the pen and forming the letters helps me think about what I'm saying and helps my ADD brain focus on the task at hand (that also bugged me about when I prayed in my head, I'd have too many random thoughts whizzing by, which I found rather disrespectful to God).

Some of you are probably reading this with a big, DUH booming in the background. Yes, this is very obvious and I should have clued in to it sooner. A prayer journal is no new revelation, people have been doing this for years (I'd imagine). But it's a big deal to me, because I've had to break from these rigid -- and pointless -- rules my Catholic upbringing scarred into my brain. And it's hard to move past those ugly scabs. It may seem simple to you, but this is a huge step for the little girl who was told by the highest authority she knew in the church that the way she prayer made God angry because He found it "lazy," and that to make Him stop being angry with me, I had to kneel on the cold, hard floor, next to my bed, where the vampires and monsters were waiting to eat me.

What we SHOULD be teaching in Texas public schools (and across the nation)

Please go read Marcy's post about the Mirena IUD: her reasons for getting one, reasons why IUDs should be something we talk about more and women use more often.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all talked about these things openly, with clear, accurate information? We talk about other aspects of our bodies and health care, so why is birth control such a taboo?

And wouldn't it be great if the general public knew the facts about IUDs? And all other forms of birth control? Instead of outdated and incorrect reports or misleading information?

If you want to do something about it, check out for more info and ways to get involved. Or join me at Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day, March 12th!

Here are some of the bills we'll be talking about to our congresspeople (from an EducationWorks email):

Texas Legislators Take on Sex Education

Texas Legislators Take on Sex Education

The Texas Legislature is in session! Lawmakers will be considering new legislation and the state budget until June 1, and issues concerning sex education and teen pregnancy are among the most talked-about topics.

Several bills have been filed that would improve sex education in Texas:

HB 741/SB 515 The Education Works Act would require that if Texas schools choose to teach sex education, they must present medically-accurate, age-appropriate information, including information about abstinence, contraception, effective communication, responsible decision-making, and what it really takes to be a parent.

HB 1371 Would require that Texas refuse federal funds dedicated to abstinence-only sex education.

HB 1567/SB 1076 Would require instruction on contraceptive use to be scientifically accurate when it is taught as part of a school's sexual health curriculum. It would also prohibit schools from discouraging the use of contraceptives.

HB 1694/SB 1100 The Prevention Works Act would require that if Texas schools choose to teach sex education, they must present medically-accurate information. It would also require schools to notify parents of the content of their sex education curriculum.

Thanks so much for your commitment and support! We will continue to keep you informed through these emails and on the web at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Texas public schools health class

"Facts" taken from materials actually used in Texas public schools' classrooms. To find out more of what your tax dollars are paying for, you can read the report or go to JustSayDon'

Sunday, February 22, 2009

6wS: "No more wire hangers!" they pleaded.

Bottom line?

You cannot make abortion illegal.

OK, fine, you are legally able to, if you get enough votes and blahblah, but my point: you cannot stop it from happening. If you make it illegal, women who want to terminate their pregnancy will continue to do what they had done for centuries before Roe v. Wade (and what many women still do, even in this "civilized," first-world country, out of fear or ignorance) -- take care of business themselves.

Whether they do it with a wire hanger, or a certain combination of herbs and vitamins, or jumper cables, or a fall down the master staircase (Scarlett O'Hara-style), they're going to find a way to terminate that pregnancy. The only difference is how much you want the woman to risk her own life.

"Pro-life"? If you make abortion illegal, dude, you get two for the price of one! Instead of the potential child being aborted, now you're getting rid of the potential child and the woman. Awesome.

The anti-choice agenda is not even realistic. Making abortion illegal is not going to make abortion go away, it's just going to make women's rights go away. And how are you going to enforce it? If abortion is "murder," then we need to punish the "murderess," right? What should that punishment be? What about women who miscarry? Are we going to put them all on trial?

Instead of fighting for something that's not going to work, let's find a way to achieve our common goal. Let's open out eyes and realize that abstinence-only education does not work, that abstinence is "not realistic at all." Let's educate teens about birth control, de-mystify sex, de-taboo it; let's give women and teens access to birth control and other basic health needs. Let's give women -- especially rape victims! -- emergency contraception. Let's keep women from getting to the point where they even have to make this choice.

The beginning of "Life": when it IS

I really wanted to start this post with a clip from "My New Suit" (Scrubs, season 5), but turns out those aren't on YouTube. So you have to put up with my much less comical recap.

Remember the one where Turk and Carla are pregnant, and they pick names for the baby (a girl name and a boy name), and then Turk tells J.D. the names and Carla gets all mad at him?

Remember the scene when Turk and Carla at at the apartment, talking about little Angie, or little George, and how great everything will be? But then they freak out, because Turk was a climber -- what if George tries to climb out of his crib, and ends up falling out the window? Or if Angie inherits Carla's colicky nature and doesn't sleep through a night for the first year?

They panic, and decide those were stupid names. They're not going to name the baby until it's born.

"I hate it when things get real," Turk says.

You know when "Life" begins?

When the mother thinks of it as her baby.

Yes, I know Scrubs is a goofy show, but art imitates life and it's funny 'cuz it's true. When Turk and Carla named their future child, the baby became "real." It became a person.*

In a way, yes, "Life" does begin at "conception" -- at the conception of the idea. We are not robots ruled by science ("Life" begins as point X when conditions P, Q, and R are met; when you mix ingredients A, B, and C and element E is created), we are thinking, feeling beings. We interpret everything around us through our thoughts and emotions; why would this be any different?

This is why, for one woman, that baby will be a baby from the second she sees that second pink line appear. She has created life by deciding that parasite (because, technically, that is what it is) inside her is her baby. While, for another woman -- say, me -- that second pink line means a whole lot of things, but not "baby."

When I went to the clinic and they did the sonogram, they informed me I was three days past twelve weeks. This meant two things: I had to pay more (second-trimester abortions are more expensive, even if you're only three days past the cut-off), and that I had to have a D&C, which was a two-day procedure. They did Step 1 that day, then told me to come back the next day.

That night, while the ex was watching something or other, there was a commercial for Johnson & Johnson baby lotion, and, generically, it featured a mom and baby doing mom-and-baby huggy-kissy stuff. For a split second I put my hand on my swollen-enough-to-make-my-jeans-hard-to-button stomach, then realized what I was doing and made myself stop. Because if I didn't, I was going to be in big trouble.

You know why the beginning of "Life" has nothing to do with the moment of fertilization?

Have you ever met a couple stuggling to conceive?

Every time that second little pink line does not appear, they suffer a loss. Because that child has already been conceived in their minds, and each time it does not happen, they mourn.

"Life" is much bigger than science. I wish we were that simple, but we are not.

*Yes, this is a goofy sitcom; they had obviously thought of the baby as their baby, as in it was "alive" to them, before that moment. Please remember these are characters in a scripted, goofy TV show, not real people. This was the writers illustrating the moment when it "hit" them, that this was a person who was coming into their lives. You get my point.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Adendum to "Month of Reproductive-Rights Rants"

I have made the executive decision to stop the daily posting on issues of choice and reproductive rights.

Writing about such a heated issue daily is taxing, and reading about it must be, too. Keeping up with a blog that posts daily (and my posts have not been short, as much as I've tried) can get old, and I think my readers are starting to tire. As cool as a full month of pro-choice posts sounds, I think I would do more good writing about this topic every now and then, through out the year, than cramming it all in 28 days, and beating you over the head with it day after day.

Plus, I have other stuff I want to blog about, but I can't -- I don't want to soil the "purity" of the Thing-A-Day pro-choice month, and I can't throw even more blog posts at you poor, innocent readers. So I'll write two more posts this weekend, then return to our regularly-scheduled programming. (NOT daily.)

Also, my writing time needs to go toward this dumb dissertation. Which I honestly hope to finish before I die.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

DFW Theater: In The Beginning

Tonight, Freddy and I went to see In The Beginning at Dallas Theater Center. The play was extended through this weekend (meaning, tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday). If there is any chance at all that you can go, GO.

Originally, the DTC was going to put on a "pre-written" (shall we say) play based on the Book of Genesis (you know, from the Bible). However, when the cast read the play, they found it profoundly boring and dry. Then they read the Book of Genesis itself (read it aloud, as if it were a play), they found it fascinating.

They invited theologians and clergy from the DFW area (it's like the cast of a bad joke: a pastor, a preacher, a rabbi, a priest, a minister... you get the idea), and they talked about the events, ideas, issues, concepts in the first ten chapters of Genesis (the Creation of the Earth through Noah and the flood).

The play starts out with the actors talking to the audience, with the house lights still up, explaining the process, how this production came to be. Then the lights go down, and we see the "play," the theatrical representation of the opening lines of Genesis, with God creating the Earth. (Every actor takes his or her turn playing God, which makes my God even more of an Awesome God.)

On the seventh day, God rests. And the actors, playing a rabbi, a minister, a theologian, a seminary student, and just... people, come on stage and talk about it. What does it mean? What's "a day"? What's the important part of the Creation story? What do we take from this? What should we take from this?

Nerd that I am, I had to pull out my notepad and take notes. The words the cast wove into and extracted from God's Word were wisdom I wished I could have paused, to have enough time to properly process and allow to soak in. I want a copy of the script. I want to have the performance on TiVO, so I can watch and rewind and rewatch it, to get all the thoughts. It was kind of like a Marx Brothers movie, where you're almost afraid to laugh because you'll miss the next joke: if you thought about how to answer that question, you might miss the next.

After the story of Noah, the actors (as actors) come on stage again, to ask the audience some of these questions. They have multiple mics, so we can all hear the audience's answers; also, a member of the clergy/rabbi/theologian, one of the Advisory Council members who helped "write" the play, is there to give his or her insight (I assume it was a different one each night). When the discussion wraps up, the actors present the finale.

I hope DTC plans on bringing this back. Either the same show, or a sequel (Genesis does have 40 other chapters, after all!) Watching this obra de teatro* was a moving and thought-provoking experience, and I'm kicking myself that we waited until THE LAST WEEKEND to go. Because now I don't have a chance to go back.

Buy your tickets. You know you wanna.

*The Spanish word for "(theatrical) play" is "obra de teatro," a "work of theater." (Like in French, "ouvre oeuvre**.") I have a hard time calling In The Beginning a "play," as if it were a game of Parchesi. It is a work of theater: a beautifully executed, original concept with artistic and intellectual merit far beyond your usual "play."

**Merci, M. Anonyme!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The beginning of "Life": what it is NOT (part 2)

Yesterday we saw "the rules," so to speak. But what makes the rules work is the facts.

Let's take a look at miscarriages. They happen all the time, and most of the time, the woman did not even know she was pregnant yet. The American Pregnancy Association's web site says "10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage." According to,
Sources vary, but many estimate that approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage; and some estimates are as high as 1 in 3. If you include loss that occurs before a positive pregnancy test, some estimate that 40% of all conceptions result in loss.
They happen all the time.

Please don't think I'm dismissing the profound loss that a miscarriage can be -- I'm merely pointing out how common they are. (Cancer happens all the time too, this does not mean we should stop caring about it or that it doesn't suck when it happens to you or someone you love.)

We don't talk about miscarriage, though. Often, this is something the woman bears on her own, without any help or support. She mourns privately not because it's a "private" matter, but because it's not "okay" to talk about these things.

Miscarriages are much more likely to happen in the first 12-13 weeks, so doctors tell pregnant women not to tell family and friends about the pregnancy yet, in case something goes wrong.

Yes, because when a woman loses her potential child*, she should go through that alone, without the love and support of her family and friends. Seriously, people, where's the logic in that?

But enough of the tangential rant, back to the topic at hand: miscarriages, sadly, are very common.

I don't know about your God, but my God is not stupid. He's a pretty smart guy, pulling off that whole "creating the ENTIRE UNIVERSE" thing and all. Set the whole thing up to work like clockwork (you know, with evolution and all? If you don't believe me, go read some science stuff. Are you going to tell me all that happened BY ACCIDENT?) I happen to think pretty highly of God. He's done some impressive stuff.

So why in the world would he make "Life" begin at conception, when so many of those fertilized (conceived) eggs are going to "die"?

If "Life" were to begin at conception, then God would have to give each one of those fertilized eggs a soul. And then He kills them, weeks later? Like, just for fun?


I don't buy that. My God is neither that stupid, nor that sadistic. (Maybe yours is... and if that's the case, then you have much bigger problems to deal with than the reproductive rights debate.)
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Notice how it says "before I formed you in the womb": before conception. This has nothing to do with the science and the multiplying mass of cells, because God is bigger than that.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, after all. He knew you before He created the heavens and the earth. He knows what will happen to each and every pregnancy. He's not going to send souls -- Lives -- to die in a miscarriage. It just doesn't make any sense that He would make "Life" begin at conception, when so many of those "Lives" are going to end before we even knew they had begun.

Before He formed me in the womb, He knew me. He knew what path my life would take, He knew what challenges would present themselves to me. He knew what choices I would have to make. I strongly believe he gave me the life experiences I've had to help me make the choice I did. I have free will, He gave it to me, but He put certain people and certain experiences in my life to give me the knowledge and understanding I would need to make the decision that was best for me.

Do I know I'm right? No. I'm not arrogant enough to assume I know what God's thinking. Given all the evidence He has left for me, I have a pretty good idea of what He would be okay with me doing. I'm not going to know until I get up to the Pearly Gates and ask if my name is on that list, or on the other one.

This is one of the reasons why I want to leave the options open: those of us who think like I do, are free to make that choice. Those who do not think like I do, are free to make a different choice.

Politically, though, I know I'm right. Because not everyone reads the same Bible I do, or understands it the same way I do; so we need to leave the options open. Women deserve to make the choice for themselves, not based on someone else's interpretation of a book they may not even believe in.

*Some might think I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not. I'll explain tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The beginning of "Life": what it is NOT (part 1)

Enough with the sissy stuff, today we take on the Big One: when does "Life" begin?

Today and tomorrow, I'm going to explain when "Life" does NOT begin. Thursday I'll tell you when it DOES begin. Friday we'll go out for fairy cakes.

When "Life" does NOT begin: the science

Scientifically speaking, "Life" began with that first amoeba. Since then, life is a continuation, a cycle: every living thing is born out of another thing that was already living.

The egg is part of the woman, and, like her, it is "alive;" same goes for the sperm. Each was "alive" before they joined, so, scientifically, you cannot say that "Life" begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg, when both sperm and egg were already alive before joining. If we're talking science, then "Life" has no beginning; it is, as they say, one big cycle... cycles are circular, and circles have no beginning.

When "Life" does NOT begin: the Bible

While I have not read the Bible cover to cover (I grew up Catholic, remember? We're not allowed to read it for ourselves), I have looked for references to abortion (as in, looked in the Teen Issues Bible's index page, and also done online Bible verse searches by topic). I have found no references to abortion itself (willfully terminating a pregnancy), but there are two verses that I find pretty significant. And I have not found any verses that contradict or trump these verses.

As a Christian, I would say "Life" begins when God gives one a soul. The soul is what has Eternal Life, that's the part that goes on to Heaven. We Christians believe that "Life" does not end when our body (the physical mass of cells) "dies;" our soul continues living, because that is the part of us that makes us a Person (not the scientific mass of cells).
Genesis 2:7 "-- then LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
So when does God say we become "a living being"? With the first breath of Life. Which takes place outside the uterus.

The verse that shocked me, though (and that's probably more relevant in this day and age, since God no longer molds us out of clay), is from Exodus.
Exodus 21:22-25 "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
The famous "eye for an eye" passage, that so many people like to quote, is the one passage of the Bible that talks about pregnancy and miscarriage in a way that answers our questions: if a man hurts a woman and causes her to lose the baby, then the aggressor owes the woman's husband a fine, because he caused the husband to lose property.

However, if a man hurts a pregnant woman in a way that causes harm to the woman, then the aggressor must be punished: "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth."

The woman is a life.

The unborn fetus is not a life; it is merely property.

Yes, I know this is in the Old Testament and when Jesus came He said to pretty much forget that other stuff, to follow what He said instead. He specifically addressed the "eye for eye" thing, saying we should instead turn the other cheek.

I'm sure you realize that when Jesus refuted the "eye for eye" thing He was saying we should not seek revenge (you hurt me I hurt you), and instead we should learn to forgive.

He does not in any way address the definition of "Life" established earlier in that passage; and this definition is not modified or amended or refuted anywhere else in the Bible, that I can see. (If you've seen it, please share it with me.)

According to science, "Life" has no beginning, it is an eternal cycle. Also, according to science, the zygote/embryo/fetus is a parasite (scientifically speaking), and I'm sure the host's needs trump the parasite's needs.

According to the Bible, "Life" begins at birth. Terminating the pregnancy is not "murder," since the only indication or guidance the Bible gives us clearly states the embryo/fetus is not a "Life."

For further reading on abortion and the Bible you can read this article.

EDIT: Completely forgot to include mention of this article. Given what I've written above, this new law is pretty ridiculous. Perhaps you could make a case for "double-murder" if the fetus was past the point of viability, but "at every stage of fetal development"? No, sorry. That's not going to fly. If you want to pass a law for a higher penalty for pregnant women, that's fine. I'll agree to that. But don't give me this "double-murder" thing, which is a not-even-thinly-veiled attempt to create an anti-choice precedent.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Side effects of abstinence-only programs

I've linked to's "When Rape Culture meets abstinence-only sex ed" post in the last two (or three?) posts, but haven't actually written about it. First of all, because I didn't think I could calm down enough to write about it coherently. Second of all, because the post already says it so well.

Abstinence-only programs are stupid*. They have one thing to say: DO NOT HAVE SEX. By definition abstinence-only programs have to withhold information; since they do not have information to give out, they have to use scare tactics and misinformation.

From Planned Parenthood's site:

Comprehensive Sexuality Education Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education
Teaches that sexuality is a natural, normal, healthy part of life Teaches that sexual expression outside of marriage will have harmful social, psychological, and physical consequences

And don't tell me my source of info is biased, because we see abstinence-only programs outside of health class, and this is what they do. Their message is DO NOT HAVE SEX. Why? BECAUSE SEX IS BAD. PEOPLE WHO HAVE SEX ARE BAD, because SEX IS BAD.

Most of these "bad things" will happen to the girl: pregnancy, obviously, but also girls are more likely to get an STI from unprotected sex than guys. And we are all familiar with the popular double-standard: girls who have sex are sluts (thank you abstinence-only programs for promoting this thought process), guys who have sex are studs. We get this from the media, but abstinence-only programs reinforce the mindset that "if you have sex you are a slut" (and, from what I have seen, they do not do much to shift any of the guilt to the guy).

Nobody puts a scarlet "S" on your chest when you have sex, but you might as well wear it once you start showing. Sadly, the pregnancy only shows in the girl; the guy has no visible symptoms proving him guilty of impregnating a girl. So we blame the person we can point to, the girl.

And she is a whore, because she had sex.


You know what else happens?

When you spend so much time drilling into a girl's head that SEX IS BAD (until marriage), the part of the message in parenthesis doesn't really get across. You can't turn it off. You've spent so much time telling these girls that SEX IS BAD and that if they have sex, well, then YOU ARE BAD, that by golly some of these girls are going to learn their lesson well. So the first time they have sex? They now feel "bad," dirty, whorish. Yes, because we need MORE ways to crush girls' -- and women's -- self-esteem and sense of worth.

I received comprehensive sex ed in school (at least in middle school; don't remember much from high school health class), but I grew up Catholic. So I got the SEX IS BAD message loud and clear.

This did not keep me from having sex before marriage; it simply made me feel like a whore when I eventually did have sex (before marriage). It also made me think, "Dammit, if I'm already a whore, might as well go all out, huh?" In for a penny, in for a pound!

I was already a BAD person for having had sex, regardless of how I felt about the guy, how he felt about me, or how long we'd been together. SEX IS BAD, period. Since it didn't matter, might as well go out and have one-night stands, since, as long as it was outside of marriage, it was all equally bad.

This mindset leads women to make some very stupid choices.

Even now, as a married woman -- when it's "okay" to have sex, because I have a little piece of paper that says so -- the message is still deeply ingrained in my head. Sex should be something natural, something intimate, special... no, it's just something BAD. You cannot undo the programming.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

6wS: Only works if he wears it.

I was actually having this conversation with a fellow teacher the other day. It annoyed me.

One of her students was pregnant, possibly for the second time (I can't remember the details). I pointed out that if we taught these girls about birth control and made it affordable for them, then we could much more easily avoid these problems. She dismissed my comments.

Argument #1: "Condoms aren't expensive"

No, they're not (they're not as cheap as they used to be, but they're not that expensive. I'll concede on this point). However, condoms suffer from one major design flaw: the guy has to wear it.

I don't know how many men this teacher dated before she married her polite, considerate, respectful husband. She obviously didn't date some of the guys I've come across.

I know you've heard them too: "I don't like the way it feels." "It gets in the way." "But I want to feel you, baby." "You want me to stop now, just to put that on?"

You know what? I even had a guy take it off halfway through. I didn't notice until after he was done. (Yeah, that one was class personified, let me tell ya.)

Sure, condoms are cheaper than other forms of birth control, and you don't have to wait a month before they start working. But the problem with condoms is that he has to wear it -- and he oftentimes doesn't like to do that. The girl can be as prepared as she wants to be and have every size, texture, and flavor available*; unfortunately, in the end it is not up to her. Even though she is the one who has the most at stake.

A note on female condoms: These, actually, are pretty good. First of all, she wears it. The female condom also has the advantage that you can put it on before the party gets started, so you don't have to stop once everyone's all hot and bothered (and not wanting to stop). Also, it provides a little more protection against herpes and warts because it covers more of the vaginal area. (I don't know how great they are about staying in place if you get too rough; the one or two times I used one I had the feeling it didn't always stay where it was supposed to stay.)

However... when was the last time you saw a female condom in the "feminine needs" aisle of your local Target? I don't know if stores like Condom Sense carry them (I would certainly hope they do); I had to get mine at Planned Parenthood, which is a Monday-Friday 8-5 and every other Saturday 8-12 place. Could we please put some of these in grocery stores? Oh, and, like, tell people about them?

Argument #2: "Well, she should just learn to keep her legs together, then!"

Ah, I love this one.

First of all, because she needs to learn to keep her legs together. Yes, because it's all her. She's the one going out and having sex with herself and getting herself pregnant.

Did we forget "It takes two to tango" (as my Momma always says)? And, just like in the tango, the one leading (and pleading) is generally not she.

Seriously, people. Why do we never hear "He should just learn to keep his pants zipped"? Or "He should just learn to take a cold shower"? Or "He should just learn to do as the physician says and 'Heal thyself'"?

Why is it always solely her fault? (Oh, that's right. I remember now.)

Second of all, because, again, people who make this argument have not met the guys I've been unfortunate enough to date.

May I point out that, as a general rule, guys are stronger than girls? Maybe it's because I grew up with an older brother who liked to "play" fight a lot (there weren't any other boys his age on our street, so he was stuck playing with me. I wanted to play Barbies, he wanted to play G.I. Joes; somehow, Barbie's Dreamhouse was always under attack from C.O.B.R.A. If I got him to agree to play "house," he always ended up being a secret double-agent with the government, who had to kill me because I knew too much). I have always known that I am weaker than guys. I know what it's like to want to get away and not be able to. I also know what it's like to get hit, hard. These are not fun feelings.

Guys can be very charming with their words. They can charm the pants off of us. And if words don't work, they can use other means. Or they can just threaten to use other means; oftentimes that's enough. Because some of us know what the alternative is, and we'd rather not reach that point.

So, when he says he doesn't want to use the condom? We're usually at a point where he doesn't just want to let it go. And we're not in a position to say "no," because we know what happens if we dare stop him.

The threat doesn't always have to be physical. Remember those charmers? The abuse can be emotional. We know he's going to pout until he gets his way. And it's going to be our fault. And he's going to remind us of it. Constantly.

If you haven't been there, I don't really know how to explain it to you. And, please remember, being a victim of abuse means that your rational and logical neurons refuse to synapse in these situations. That's why women stay in those relationships. (Also, the whole "subconsciously raised to be subservient" thing really does not help.)

No, not all guys are like this. But enough of them are, especially when they have not quite entered mature adulthood yet.

Condoms might be easily accessible, but they are probably the least effective form of birth control (with real-world use, not Utopian "perfect" use). They are not going to solve the problem.

Abstinence is awesome, but I think we have seen that it is not working. Guys want to have sex, which requires a partner. They will find a way to get girls to do it (those who prefer girls for that sort of thing), either the nice way or the not-so-nice way.

Please, let's give those girls a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, if nothing else? Yes, it would be nice if we could fix all the other problems too, but sadly I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. This, on the other hand, is such an easy solution, and it's available right now. Can we address the problem we can actually solve? The other stuff, that's going to take a lot more than a pill, patch, ring, or shot to fix.

*Also of note: buying condoms makes a girl a whore. Because she's admitting she's planning on having sex. And only whores do that, remember? Incidentally, it was the same guy who took it off who made fun of me for having condoms in the first place. Made some crude remark about me "being busy" when I told him to grab a condom from my bathroom drawer. I had bought those because I knew he was coming over that night.

(And just because I thought you might want to know: that was my first year teaching high school. In conservative, Baptist Katy, TX. It was also the first time I had ever bought condoms. And one of my students saw me in the grocery store, and waved at me. Either he didn't see what I had in my hand, or he was nice enough to never tell.)

6 word Sunday challenge

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sex ed, birth control, and access to each (part 2)

Sure, we have "comprehensive sex ed." It's written in the Texas legislature.

But the textbooks the Texas State Board of Education has approved for schools to use don't mention birth control methods.

The "teachers" in the classrooms are too embarrassed to talk about it, and don't have time to find out the details of the different methods of contraception available today, in order to give informed answers to students' questions.

So, are we really educating our children about their reproductive systems? About the different methods of contraception available? Are we providing them with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their lives and their bodies?

Women have a legal right to purchase birth control. But can they afford it? Is it covered by insurace -- at least as often as Viagra is? Do insurance companies cover more than just "the pill," since there are many more options out there for women, besides the daily, take-at-the-exact-same-time-every-day pill?

In college, I got my birth control from Planner Parenthood. I got the pill, because that's the only one I knew (besides diaphragms and IUDs, it was pretty much the only choice back then). Then I heard about Depo-Provera, and decided I much preferred to have a shot every three months than to take a pill every day, at the same time (which seldom happened. I'm not a robot, I don't do things at the exact same time every bloody day). When I got a full-time job, I got health insurance -- not only did I no longer qualify for PP's sliding-scale discounted services, but I wanted to use my shiny new insurance. It was so cool!

While the rep went through his whole maternity-coverage spiel, I walked up to the other rep to ask about birth control (since the rep giving the spiel had not mentioned it). Perhaps it was my mistake; I asked if they covered "birth control."

"Oh, yeah, sure. We do."


I got myself a doctor in the network, went for my first appointment. Mind you, this was back when you had to go to your general practitioner to get referred to an ob/gyn, since that was a "specialist." So, I picked a GP from the list, based in his zip code, and went to ask about sending me to a girly doctor. I wanted a female girly doctor, but the man doctor told me he was an ob/gyn as well, so he could just do all that stuff for me.

I wanted a girl girly doctor, but what was I going to say to this guy?

"Uh... okay. If you say so." (Read the previous post, on the ingrained subservient nature of females, if you want to know why I didn't tell him that I preferred a female ob/gyn.)

Since I'd been on the Depo, I continued getting the shots.

The doctor's office said they'd bill the insurance company, so no problems. Every now and then I would get a bill from the doctor's office telling me I owed $60 for the Depo shot, but I called the doctor's office and they said it was probably a mistake. I called the insurance company and they said it must have been a mix-up, they'd take care of it.

Three years later, I got a letter from a collections agency. I owed $360 for medical services.

Because my insurance company covered the pill, but no other forms of birth control.

Funny, nobody bothered to point that detail out to me.

Maybe the insurance rep I talked to (male) didn't know there were other options available for birth control. The pill was it, right? That's the only one people talk about.

How widely-known is it that IUDs are safe even for women who have not been pregnant? Because they didn't use to be, and IUDs got a bad rap from women who became infertile (understandably so). However, the kind of IUD that caused those side effects is no longer available.

This site looks like it's a pharmaceutical in Belgium, but they cite their sources at the bottom of the page so they're credible enough for me:

On a worldwide scale there are nearly 160 million IUD users, most of them (over 100 million) in China. The popularity of intrauterine devices stems for their effectiveness, combined with their long duration of action. Because of their long lifespan, IUDs require fewer visits to doctors, which means high cost-effectiveness. IUDs are implanted and, therefore, cannot be “forgotten”, an asset much appreciated by many women.

IUD use in developed countries, however, varies from as low as 1% in the Netherlands and the USA to about 30% in Scandinavia.

The limited IUD use, particularly in developed countries, can be ascribed to various causes:

  • Pharmaceutical industry : The pill market is of great economic importance. This is the single drug that is taken by the greatest number of healthy women in the world.

  • Medical profession : prescribing oral contraceptives is less time-and energy consuming than insertion an IUD. Moreover not all practitioners have acquired the skills to perform a correct insertion which guarantees the best possible results.

  • Women themselves are often very poorly informed, and fear that inserting an IUD in their uterus has to be painful and may bring an unknown infection and even cancer.

  • The media have never been kind to IUDs and have often neglected their many advantages, but are still repeating the old stories of the ill-fated Dalkon Shield (which has been refuted in post-marketing studies conducted in the UK, See M. Cox J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 2003;29:8).

Experts conclude that it is due time for the medical profession to realize that contraception does not equal oral contraception. The correctly inserted IUD in correctly evaluated recipients has come of age, has eliminated a great deal of its previous disadvantages, has received a clean bill of health and offers an economically and medically justified choice.

So, are we really educating women about their choices?

Even if they are educated, do they really have access to birth control? To all the different options available?

Do insurance companies pay for birth control? All forms of it? (Or will these women get an angry letter in the mail years later, demanding payment for something they were told was already covered?)

Let's say all the above conditions are met. Let's say the woman received clear, straightforward information about all the different methods of birth control available today, and the pros and cons of each. Let's say her insurance covers all these different methods, so she was able to choose the one that works best for her lifestyle and her body. Let's say she was able to go to the doctor of her choosing and get the necessary prescription.

Then she went to her local pharmacy, and the pharmacists refused to fill her prescription because of his personal moral beliefs.

(Hey, you know what? I am morally opposed to the TAKS test. Can I refuse to administer it? Please get back to me on this soon, we have TAKS test proctor training next week.)

There are several layers of "access." It's kind of like an onion. And, sometimes, stinks about as badly.

Let's say this woman lives in a small town. The kind where everyone is in everyone else's business. What's going to happen when she goes to the one pharmacy in town to get her prescription filled? Because, alas, this woman is unmarried.

Lots of layers.

Money shows up in many of those layers. Let's say this woman has a job, but she's not eligible for health care benefits until she's been with the company for three months. My Nuvaring? $60/month, without insurance. At my last job, it was $40/month (the only thing I'll miss about my current job is its great health insurance: $20/month for the Nuvaring. The first time they rang me up at Walgreens I high-tailed it out of there, sure they'd made a mistake). That can add up.*

Again, birth control is WAY CHEAPER than pre-natal care, childbirth costs, and, well, post-natal care, whether the insurance company is paying for it or the state is. Why do both these entities refuse to take the cheaper option? Someone please explain this to me.

*This is where people say, "Well, she can just keep her legs together for those three months!" or, "Uh, it's called a condom. Duh." These people have not dated much, methinks. They have not come across the men I've come across. I'll address this issue in a future post, since it's too big for a footnote.

An aside, in honor of Valentine's Day

Just in case anyone was wondering, I am married to the best husband ever. Who will be a great father, when the time comes.

Would he and I have dated if I had a child already? Would I eve have been free to date at all, had I born that child? The other responsible party in that affair made it quite clear that had I carried the pregnancy to term, he and I would have gotten married. Forever and ever amen, no way out, ever. (You see, his dad was a j@cka$$, and ex-boyfriend's parents' divorce was horrible, thanks to j@cka$$ dad. So he vowed never to get divorced, ever, period end of sentence. Even if he got his mistress pregnant, like his dad did, while his wife was expecting their fifth.)

Where would I be now, had I taken that path? Married to a pot-smoker with great ambitions and ideas but not an ounce of motivation to act on any of his ambitions. Guess whose fault his failure would have been? *raises hand* Oh, and *raises imaginary potential baby's hand*

Finding the strength to make the decision to terminate my pregnancy was a huge first step for me. I later found the strength to break up with this guy, instead of staying with him because he liked having sex with me. (Hated spending time with me other than when we watched his movies at home, or when I listened to his great plans and arguments and agreed wholeheartedly with every word, but golly when he snapped his fingers I'd better be ready to drop on my back -- or knees, whichever he was in the mood for.)

Later on I even found the strength to divorce my first husband. Which put me in a position where I could meet and date my current husband. And, having been with those other guys, I finally understood what I had in front of me, when I met this guy. We celebrate our first wedding anniversary a month from tomorrow.

As women, we are often raised to serve. To please others. To work for others. To put others' demands, needs, and wishes before our own. That's pretty much what motherhood is about: you've brought this other person into the world, it is your job to tend to its needs until it is capable of doing so on its own. We see our mothers model this behavior, and we internalize it.

This is why women are so easily roped into abusive relationships. We are raised to feel it is our job to make others happy, and when he isn't happy, and he tells us it's our fault, we believe him, regardless of the facts.

When I decided to terminate my pregnancy, instead of carrying the pregnancy to term because that's what the Catholic church told me I should do and because my family and my then-boyfriend's family (his dad's at least) had enough money that they could support us (since the then-boyfriend would, in the years to come, be fired TWICE from the same job for the same reason: smoking pot on the job), that was the first time I made a major decision based on what I wanted, not what someone else wanted or expected me to do. Same with the break-up, and the divorce. Baby steps, learning to put myself first when necessary.

The life experiences I've had thanks to making that choice have made me into someone who will be a much better mother, when the time comes, than that 22-year-old could ever have been.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sex ed, birth control, and access to each (part 1)

In this article (also about the 13-year-old father), an "anti-abortion Christian charity" spokesperson said this event "shows the policy of value-free sex education just isn't working."

First, values are taught at home. By parents. Not in health class, by coaches who know how to play football but not much else. It is not the school's job to teach values because it just won't work. I as a teacher cannot fight what you as a parent teach day in and day out every day of that child's life. So stop expecting me to. Parents need to start doing their job -- and someone needs to make them aware that this is their job.

I don't know anything about the sex ed policies of Britain. I know that here in Texas, we teach abstinence. And that's it. And you know who teaches it? The coaches. Who, first of all, are hardly ever* teachers: they know how to coach, not how to teach. And here they are, in charge of passing out this very sensitive, awkward, delicate, embarrassing information.

One of the coaches teaches health right across the hall from me (two periods out of the day, at least). I flat-out asked him what they teach for sex ed. He was too embarrassed to even answer my question.

"We don't even mess with that. It's too..."


But, apparently, in Britain they do teach this stuff. I'd like to know more details about what they teach and how (and if it's taught by people who are not scared to talk about bajingos and willy-wallies), but I doubt I'm going to find that out tonight.

According to this editorial in the Boston Globe (yes, I know it's from 2004, but textbook adoptions last for at least 10 years), even though "the [Texas] state curriculum for health education still mandates that students 'analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods,'" the textbooks approved by the state for districts to adopt say not a word about these barrier protection and contraceptive methods. Pardon me, I stand corrected: one does.

Only one of the four approved books even mentions contraceptives. The altered lessons teach students how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases in many ways -- including "getting plenty of rest" -- but not by using condoms. One actually suggests using latex gloves to avoid contact with blood but says nothing about using latex . . . you get the idea.

Some of the other tips? (From's post on the subject)

“Get plenty of rest…When you're tired, it's hard to think clearly…Don't put yourself in a situation in which you have to make a tough choice when you're tired.” Yeah, I can see it now. “Yawn…well I know I’m supposed to wait till marriage, but shit I’m tired. What the hell, just stick it in.”

“Respect yourself.” Cause you know if you have sex you’re just a worthless whore, you no-respect-having slut!

“Go out as a group…You can also take the pressure off by double-dating.” Can anyone say orgy?

Jokes aside, it is pretty fucking discouraging that the state with the highest teen birth rate in the country is prescribing sleep instead of condoms.

Texas has long been a fan of abstinence-only programs, and we're the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate. Yay! I'm so proud.

Did you notice that second one, by the way? "Respect yourself." Because having sex is for whores. What a great lesson to teach our young women! If you have sex, you are a whore. You know what that translates into? When you have sex, you are a whore. Sex = whoritude. You had sex? With the guy with whom you've been in a committed monogamous relationship for how long now? Well, you know what sex means. Whore.

I'm cutting this off now. Because there's only so much angry ranting one can read in one sitting, and there are so many directions to go on. More to come tomorrow.

If you're looking for some fun reading, though, check out this post. We'll discuss it tomorrow.

*I have worked with two coaches who were also teachers. The rest of the coaching staff? Nope. And even for those few who do possess the necessary qualities to teach, the demands of coaching and of teaching make it all but impossible to do both. And, either way, the coaches who can teach are teaching a real subject, one they chose and studied. Not health. The ones teaching health are the ones who can do the sports, and nothing else. Which is why they go stuck with the leftover class. (Sorry for the tangential education rant.)


I don't even have words.

I want to stab myself in the eye. And uterus. Just to make it STOP.

Do you know how many times I hear my students talk about "my kid"? I try to tell myself I didn't hear it. Especially not from that kid. I tell myself I misheard. Or that he's talking about his nephew, or cousin, or anything else.

The saddest part? Many of these girls are trying to get pregnant. Why? One of two reasons:

A) Because this way he'll stay with me. Because I love him so much that I want to have his baby.


B) Because they are so starved for love and attention that they decide to bring a baby into this world just so that baby will give them a child's unconditional love. They cannot get love from their parents, so they create a new person just for the purpose of receiving that person's love.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Parenting Licenses (and Hypocrisy)

"The One Where Criss Is A Hypocrite."

I postponed this blog last night because I was scared -- I censored myself on my own blog, because I'm so proud that Planned Parenthood of North Texas has linked to my blog on its Facebook page. And that NARAL sent me a DM on Twitter saying I was writing "some great stuff" on my blog. And I don't want to make them mad.

Oh, and I reveal that I am, deep down, a hypocrite. Remember all that "choice" and reproductive rights stuff I was spewing a few days ago? I'm about to contradict it.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this post are Criss's and hers alone. She does not speak for the pro-choice/reproductive rights movement in any way, shape, or form. She speaks only for own, opinionated herself.

Because today I'm going to talk about Parenting Licenses.

Look, if you think about it, this isn't THAT radical. What do you think we do to parents who want to adopt?

How come they have to go through all this crap, all these background checks, and tests, and evaluations, and waiting, but nobody else does?

We already have a system in place to decide who is a "fit" parent and who isn't. All I'm saying is that we be fair, and apply this to everyone who wants to be a parent.

The biggest problem is how to stop people (who are not infertile) from having children without "permission." Psst! I have an idea... but don't tell anyone, this is a pretty new, radical thought... birth control.

I've given this quite a bit of thought. Because I've seen too much p!ss-poor parenting at my job. I've seen too many kids suffering under incompetent, uncaring, or flat-out stupid parents. When you stew as much as I do, well, turns out you find time to polish your hare-brained, borderline-communist plans.

(PS - remember, I grew up in a Latin American dictatorship. Maybe borderline-communist isn't that big a deal to me... I dunno. Either way, here goes.)

Just like you have to have your measles shot to go to school, girls ages 12 and older (we might have to start earlier, thanks to all the hormones and other crap we're eating these days) would have to have their IUD.* That stays in for either 5 or 10 years (if 5, they have to get a new one at 17 -- if not, no school and no driver's license), and at 22 they have another review.

Now, if I were Queen of the World, at 22 we'd stick another IUD in there, until the woman applied for a parenting license and was approved. Since I'm not Queen of the World, I probably will have to comprimise a little. If the review/evaluation at 22 brings up severe red flags, maybe she'd get another mandatory IUD. If not, she'd have the birth control of her choice. And, yes, all this would be paid for by the government.

Think about it -- what would you rather do, fork over $200-$500 for the IUD, or the thousands it would take to raise a child through welfare?

So who does the evaluations? The same people who do them now. We just won't discriminate against infertiles anymore; we'll apply the rules to everybody.

I am fully aware that forcing women to get on birth control contradicts the whole idea of choice. But we have to draw the line somewhere: it's not fair to those potential children that we let any irresponsible twerp bring them into this world, when they never asked to be born and they especially didn't ask to be born by mistake (or as punishment).

A few days ago, someone Twittered: Also, World? Re the Octuplets Lady? HER BODY, HER CHOICE. Stop with the witch hunt and public castigation. PLEASE.

Once it's in her body, AND IT HAPPENED BY MISTAKE, then it's her choice.

But when she goes THAT FAR out of her way to GET IT in her body? No, this was a completely different situation. This is a woman having children for all the wrong reasons (hoping to get a $2 million deal with TLC = ALL THE WRONG REASONS), first of all, and endangering the potential children when doing so. Multiple births are extremely risky, for the mother and the children; stuffing that many embryos in her uterus at once was her first Grossly Irresponsible Parenting move. Wait -- or was Grossly Irresponsible Parenting Move #1 stuffing any embryos into her uterus when she already had six young children, one a special needs child, at home already, and couldn't manage to raise them as it was?

I don't want to get into the octuplet lady, because her case is so extreme and rare to apply to any conversation on parenting and/or reproductive rights. So we'll just leave her there (without her ad deals and endorsements.)

"My body, my choice" means that after the sh!t has hit the fan I get to control what happens to my body. It doesn't mean I get to bring children into the world just because I don't have anything better to do.

Before it's in her body, that's when we can hold up the potential child's rights. The right to only be conceived if it's going to be wanted and properly cared for. Hormonal birth control actually carries health benefits for the woman (yes, if you're over 35 and smoke it can be harmful, but my mandatory birth control plan is for girls ages 12-22, and if you smoke you're dumb and have chosen to not care about your health anyway), so it's not harming her or causing her any undue stress. (Any "stress" caused to the woman by the mandatory bc is probably much less than the stress of being abused, neglected, or abandoned would cause the potential child.)

Alright, that's about as far as my brain is going to take me tonight. Bring it on: call me a communist, call me a hypocrite. I still stand by my Parenting Licenses.

Some info on IUDs, by the way:

*I need to double-double check that women who have never been pregnant can use an IUD with no problems. I'm pretty sure NOW it's okay (it didn't use to be), but I'm not 100% definite. If IUDs won't work, we'll go back to the Norplant plan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A video, a clarification, and an editorial

Tonight's post has been rescheduled. Instead, I want to share this video with you:

May I take this moment to clarify a common misconception: RU-486 ("the abortion pill") and emergency contraception ("the morning after pill"/ Plan B) are two very different things.

RU-486 is a medical abortion (as opposed to a surgical abortion, performed by a doctor). This can only be done in the first eight or nine weeks of pregnancy; the woman must take two pills, 24-72 hours apart. The medication induces a miscarriage and terminates the pregnancy.

Emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the morning after pill, is not abortive. EC cannot terminate a pregnancy: pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. The reason EC becomes less effective the longer a woman waits to take it (it is most effective in the first 24 hours after intercourse, but can still be effective up to 3-5 days after intercourse) is because EC can only work if the fertilized has not yet implanted. EC is simply a higher dose of the regular hormones in the regular birth control pill, which is why it works the same way (prevents ovulation/ affects lining of the uterus so egg can't implant). When I called my gyno's office to ask for an EC prescription late on a Friday afternoon (years ago, shortly after my first marriage, after I was a little paranoid since I'd already had my first "slip"), they told me to just take four of my regular birth control pills and then to take four more 12 hours later (if you go to you will see a chart detailing the different pill combinations to take, if you have a pack of your regular bc pills and can't get an EC prescription in time).

Many people seem to confuse "the abortion pill" (RU-486) with "the morning after pill" (EC/Plan B) and think EC is abortive, when it is really just a small overdose of the regular birth control pill women have been taking for decades. (Therefore, when a rape victim comes to the hospital and asks for EC, please give it to her. It's the least we can do for her, don't you think?)

Speaking of RU-486, I'd like to share Anna Quindlen's piece in TIME on it. She says it better than I ever could.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

... the "RIGHT" to bear children (part 2): What about the rights of the child?

In yesterday's comments, Marcy wrote:
I often hear pro-lifers say that abortion is wrong b/c the child shouldn't have to pay for the mistakes of the parents, and that the parents (well, usually the mother b/c dad's gone, he doesn't have to do anything) need to "face the consequences for their actions." Yeah, well, a child should NEVER be a "consequence." It is a living, breathing being that will internalize how it is treated, and making him grow up in a home with parents that don't know what they're doing and who will neglect or even abuse him is so twisted it begs the question of what kind of a respect they truly have for "life" at all. Apparently quality has nothing to do with it.
Once again proving great minds think alike, as this was, pretty much, today's blog topic.

The pro-life/anti-reproductive rights side makes such a fuss about "the child" and "the baby" when it's inside the uterus... but what about once it comes out? (We all know Republicans/conservatives/the right are, generally as a group, opposed to A) comprehensive sex ed, B) access to birth control, and C) abortion; interestingly enough, they are also against providing social services to people -- including mothers and their children -- in need. So how exactly does that math work out?)

The idea that a woman should not have an abortion because she needs to face the consequences of her actions is flawed on many levels.

1) Two people did the deed. One of the two parties can walk away at any time (and generally does) unscathed, consequence-less.

2) The person who receives the brunt of the punishment is innocent of any "crime." That child never asked to be born, and never asked to be born to parents who didn't want it. How dare you condemn a child to that kind of life?

Pregnancy should never be a punishment. I don't know what kind of sick and twisted mindset someone would have to have to think that. Especially when the one person truly being punished is the one whose rights you seem so keen to champion.

Maybe some people have lived such sheltered, charmed lives that they truly do not understand what birthing an unwanted child entails for the child. For many of us, life is good. It is a wonderful life. But not for all of us.

Maybe you need to spend some time outside your white picket fence, and find out what happens to these children once they exit the uterus. Come see what I've seen (and I know what I've seen is very limited).

One of the women in One in 3 was a mother who already had four or five children at home (I can't remember the details). As she filled out the paperwork, the stage grew dark and a spotlight singled her out. On the screen behind her, we saw a sonogram, and she looked down at her abdomen and spoke to the potential child. I wish I had the text of her monologue, because (as was the rest of the play) it was brilliant. It explained this very point (remember, the playwrights interviewed several women about their experiences in order to write the play -- these are real women's words and experiences, not something flowery and propaganda-y they pulled out of their vaginas).

The mother explained to the embryo that terminating the pregnancy was the best thing she could do for it -- the potential child did not deserve the life it would be born into. "There's not enough food, not enough love to go around." This was the only way for the potential child to escape a life that was not good enough for it. "Or you'll grow up to be like him... and I can't allow that. That's why I have to do this."

This is where the anti-reproductive rights side will cry, "Adoption! Adoption!" as if it were duct tape or WD-40. Well, it isn't. For many reasons. But in this situation (I'll get to the others later): there's a father in the picture. The mother may have been willing to carry the pregnancy to term to give the child up for adoption, but would the father allow it? Would he let her do it? Or would he get mad at her for being pregnant -- again* -- and would he beat her? Or would he beat her for some other reason, harming the potential child and causing even more health hazards to the mother? There are too many layers, to many what-ifs... there is no easy solution, which is why we want to keep a variety of options open.

I can't speak for the whole movement, but I know at least for me (and Marcy), one of the reasons why I fight for a woman's right to choose is for the sake of that potential child. This issue doesn't end in the ninth month of pregnancy, because at the end of that ninth month you now have a human being -- an undeniable, unequivocal human being. Let's think about that human being when we talk about all this.

*Freddy just shared with me a story from his bygone days as a bartender, when one of the cooks came in complaining that his wife was pregnant again, saying, "I told her I didn't want any more kids!" he yelled... see? We're not making this stuff up! (Oh, and this guy was an alcoholic. So, you're telling me God wants another child to be born into this household?)

Monday, February 09, 2009

... the "RIGHT" to bear children (part 1.5): Biology does not a mother make.

I was going to hit the Big One today ("defining" life and all that), but yesterday morning I received this Direct Message on Twitter:
I'm really troubled by the idea that you need a "right" to be a mother. You are a mother, it's a biological fact.
When I replied with "Biology does not a mother make," the Twitterer wrote:
Yes it does. Check you biology text.
I think some of the links on yesterday's post (which was not up yet when this exchange took place) kind of prove my point.

But I see the root of the problem: we use one word to talk about two things that can be entirely different.

In Spanish, the word "aborto" refers to both an (elective) abortion and a miscarriage (spontaneous abortion). This infuriates me, because the two are ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS. (If this is not inherently obvious to you, then I'll go into the details when I write about when "life" begins.) We have the same problem here, with the word "mother."

Having the necessary working parts and possessing the ability to pop a baby out doesn't make you a mother. Yes, it makes you a biological mother, but it doesn't make you a mother.

Loving and nurturing that baby makes you a mother.

The girls in those links had the necessary biology. Would you call them "mothers"?

Limiting "motherhood" to something as simple and vacant as biology is also horrendously insulting to mothers who adopt. I'd like to see anyone go up to an adoptive mother and tell her she's not a mother simply because the child didn't come out of her own vagina.

Motherhood is a huge undertaking. It is the most important job in the world. Seriously. It is the beginning of everything.

And, unfortunately, too many people out there are doing an amazing job of screwing it up.

The influence a parent has over her child is immeasurable. (And, in my opinion, underestimated.) I seriously believe we could solve all the problems of the world if we found a way to give everyone caring, loving, nurturing parents.

Motherhood (and fatherhood; don't want to leave them out) is a huge undertaking. It is a huge responsibility. One that should be entered into when one is ready to do so.

Not something that you're stuck with because the condom broke or you missed your pill one day. Because that's just not fair to the child.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

On second thought... let's call it "reproductive rights"

Okay, I concede.

(Yes, alert the media. This is a rare occurrence.)

The term "pro-choice" is a little... flowery, shall we say. And, while we do advocate choice, A) there are other choices to make in life, so we're taking the word when it applies to a whole lot more than our cause (everyone agrees that we should have choices in life, right? So how can you be "anti-choice" when you agree that you have a right to choose what clothes you're going to wear this morning and what kind of sandwich you're going to have for lunch?), and B) we want women to have choices, but to give them those choices we need to give them education and access to the necessary resources, so the term is not broad enough to address all that this issue is about. (Which is my objection to "pro-abortion/pro-abortion rights:" access to abortion is not our goal, it is the last recourse. We just want to keep that option open if it comes to that.)

The issue is reproductive rights. The right to education about how your reproductive system works. The right to information about the different options available to you. The right to decide how and when you reproduce. The right to birth control. The right to information about all the choices available to you when faced with an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. (And, yes, if it comes to that last recourse, the right to a safe, legal abortion.)

So, can we agree on "pro-reproductive rights" and "anti-reproductive rights"?

6wS: "You'd rather they end up here?'

Okay, I know this is a little crass and/or sensationalistic. But I'm not making it up.

When women don't have options before we get to this point (birth control before having sex, access to abortion in the first trimester, AND YES, information about adoption services -- which Planned Parenthood does), then something like this could happen.

Sadly, we have now given celebrity status to women who didn't even know they were pregnant until the baby popped out. How can a woman possibly not know she was pregnant? Two reasons come to mind: one, denial is a darned strong force. Two, THIS IS A GROSS LACK OF EDUCATION. Would this be happening if we had comprehensive sex ed in schools? Even little things, like calling it "morning sickness" when really, it happens at any time of the day, or all day long. "Well, I didn't think I was pregnant, because I wasn't throwing up in the mornings."

I'm starting to rant, so I'm going to stop. But, in case you want to read them, here are some of the news stories that inspired the photo:

Jessica Phillips
Simone Walker
Jessica Mae Betts
Diedre Harman
Baby Ania Duncan (6 months old)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Too Young

Good points were raised in the comments of the last post, which I will address. I thought, since this was the weekend, that I'd have loads of time to write and I could tackle some of the bigger issues this weekend, but my Saturday is almost over and I want to spend time with my husband tonight. So, you get a video. (But I will address the tought topics starting Monday.)

The reason I call our side "pro-choice" instead of "pro-abortion rights" is that, when we look at the girls in this video, we're not saying, "They should have all had abortions!" We're saying, "They should have been on birth control!" The girl who ws 17 when she had her first child and 19 when she had her second? Why didn't she get an IUD after the first one? (Probably because nobody talked to her about it, or, if someone did, because it was too expensive. A heck of a lot cheaper than a second kid, but too much for a teen mom with a newborn to fork out all at once, and she probably didn't have insurance, or it wouldn't cover the procedure.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

What "pro-life" means (and why it should be called something else)

I welcome comments and information on this topic (more than on the others, I mean) because, obviously, this is not my side and I very likely may miss something.

However, there is one thing we need to get straight first: pro-choice and pro-life are political movements. It's not about what you would personally do, or about how you choose to live your life; these terms are about politics and laws. Let's keep this in mind when we talk about what the words mean.

Being pro-choice means that you think the laws should let women make their own choices about their bodies and their reproductive health. In order for women to make informed choices they need education, and they need access to health care and contraception; so we fight for laws that help us accomplish these goals. Pro-choice is about giving women choices.

Being "pro-life," on the other hand, means that you think the laws should force all women to do things your way. That you think the government should control what a woman can and cannot do. You expect a woman to think, feel, and act just as you would, regardless of how vastly different your individual situations may be.

Being "pro-life" does not mean that you, personally, would not choose an abortion. It means you think it's right to force everyone else to do the same.

(I say this because I've had conversations with women who use birth control and think a woman should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy in certain cases, but they say they are "pro-life" because they themselves would not choose an abortion. If you think this way, then you are pro-choice. You agree you have a right to your choice, and I have a right to mine.)

Several things bug me about the term "pro-life," because I find it inaccurate.

First of all, it's a little silly. We're all "pro" life; being "anti-life" would mean you'd commit suicide.

It's also presumptuous. The main disagreement between both camps is whether that zygote/embryo/fetus is, in fact, a "life." That is exactly where we don't agree.

It's also untrue: the extreme right of the "pro-life" movement wants to outlaw any and all abortions, even the ones necessary for the health of the mother. As in, the mother will die if the pregnancy is not terminated. Her life will end. But the "pro-lifers" still want to make a law making that medical procedure, which will save that woman's life, illegal.

I think we can all agree that a woman is alive. I don't think there is a question about that: she is an undeniable, unequivocal life.

She, being born, and undeniably alive, has full inalienable rights. It's in the Constitution. And there is a whole lot more to being alive than merely having a pulse and breathing in and out. A woman's life encompasses many things, many of which could be in danger if she were forced to carry a pregnancy to term, and/or bear and raise a child. Why do we always forget those rights? That life? How does a potential being trump an unequivocal life, especially for a group that claims to be all about life?

There is debate about whether or not the zygote/embryo/fetus which could potentially* develop into a full-term fetus and be born is, in fact, a "life." This is a huge topic, so I'll address it later. (Maybe tomorrow.)

Sticking to today's topic, the names of these two political movements, "pro-life" should not be allowed to call itself that when part of its faction has such disregard for the life of the woman -- the one which both sides will agree is an unequivocal life.

*According to the American Pregnancy Association, "10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage." So, up to 25% of those zygotes, embryos, and fetuses will not develop into a full-term fetus and be born. (I assume this percentage does not include stillborns, since a miscarriage is defined as taking place in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.)