Oh, Michigan….here we go again.


I go away for a week and the politicians start going stone cold crazy on me.

It’s called a vagina people.

50% of the population has one and most of the other 50% enjoy them.

Apparently, though, it is too foul a word to be used in mixed company and it’s use deserves a gag order, at least in the Michigan House of Representatives…. I honestly don’t even know what to write about this; I feel like my head is spinning with all of the indignation and outrage I feel over the continued attempts of the legislature to practice medicine, yet words fail me.

Frontier Nursing University’s campus in on the side of a mountain in a remote part of Kentucky. I loved it!

Last week I was in Hyden, Kentucky in some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen. Beautiful mountains, covered in forests, small rivers and creeks everywhere. For this Dallas girl who is used to a flat landscape and little water it was wonderful. I was there to attend my orientation at Frontier Nursing University and I had the opportunity to listen to the stories of some pioneers of midwifery. Two of the speakers were midwives who had once ridden horseback through those same mountains to provide healthcare to the rural families who lived there. (One of the midwives stated her age as 86, the other was perhaps in her 70’s)

The interesting thing was that they both independently mentioned how life changing the introduction of the  Pill was to these women. Their mortality rate in childbirth went way down. They and their children were healthier. Both women strongly advocated for reproductive choice and encouraged all of the budding midwives and nurse practitioners in front of them to stand up and fight for women’s rights in the healthcare system.

I honestly cannot believe that in the year 2012, there are white men in suits and ties sitting in a room making decisions which will have life altering consequences for all women, but most especially minority women (according to statistics).

All I can say, once again, is that now is not the time to be silent. Maybe you live in a progressive state where women’s reproductive choices are not currently threatened, but be aware of what is going on around you. If we remain passive, our choices are going to be made for us. Morality is being legislated right before our eyes, and I can’t help but think it is a slippery slope.

I have dedicated my life to caring for moms and their babies. Every birth I witness is wondrous to me, no matter that I’ve seen hundreds of them. I am continually humbled to be present as a new life comes into the world……and I believe with all my heart that women have to be able to choose whether or not to bring a new life into the world.

I hope that we can provide easy access to contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to support all pregnant moms so that abortion isn’t the only option to them. But it seems that the powers that be want to limit access to abortion, and contraception and sex education. What kind of sense does that make?

So let me end by saying this…….

Vagina.

Vagina….vagina…..vagina…….vagina……vagina…..vagina……vagina…..vagina…..

Take that Michigan Legislature!

Fired for Sin in the Year 2012


Sigh.

You may have heard the story of Emily Herx, a language arts teacher at a Catholic school who was fired after the school learned she was using IVF in an attempt to get pregnant. IVF is not allowed by Catholic teaching because the Church believes that life begins at conception, and in the IVF process embryos are often destroyed which is counter to their pro-life stance. In accepting a job at a Catholic institution, Emily had to agree to follow “tenants of the Catholic faith”, even though she herself is not Catholic.

I’m not even going to argue that one. Let’s pretend that it’s okay for the work environment to intrude upon your personal and private business. I am also going to preface this post by saying that right now we only know Emily’s side of the story, so there may be more going on here than meets the eye, but if the facts hold up I’m going to stay appalled.

As soon as her employer found out about her IVF treatments, despite eight years of apparently exemplary performance according to her annual job reviews, she was was not offered a new teaching contract. I’ve never seen a school that can afford to throw away great teachers, but apparently this one can, because Emily was not even given a chance to make things right with the school and keep her job.

What this story boils down to is that a woman in 21st century America was fired from her job for sinning. Not for sinning with a student. Not for talking about her “sin” to students. Not for teaching her students anything outside of Catholic teachings….No, she was fired for sinning in her private life. Well, who in that school hasn’t sinned in their private life? Are you telling me that no one working at that school is using birth control? No one is having premarital sex? No one is cheating on a spouse? No divorcees? What about mass every Sunday? Lying? Taking the Lord’s name in vain? Where does one cross the line of their particular sin being a fireable offense?

I find it hard to believe that every other employee at that school is following all of the tenants of the Catholic faith, even the priests, nuns and other religious, yet they have contracts next year. In fact Herx claims that it is well known that there are members of the staff who have had vasectomies, use birth control or are divorced. Yet according to her statement, it was she who was fired and even characterized as a ” grave, immoral sinner” by the church pastor.

Are you $%&&%&* kidding me?!?!?!?!

This is a woman who, along with her husband, is struggling with the personal, emotional and financial ramifications of infertility. They have made a personal choice that their family is not yet complete and that IVF is the best way to complete their family. They are NOT Catholic. She is not a priest or even a religious educator. How is it okay for her to be fired over this issue and how is it okay for her to be called out as a sinner?

It smacks of “The Scarlet Letter” and is even more egregious in light of the Church’s sex abuse scandal. It boggles the mind that an institution that covered up decades of child molestation  and even reinstated priests who were known pedophiles under the banner of repentance and rehabilitation, can take it upon themselves to administer such a harsh punishment on a woman who, by all accounts, was unaware that IVF was even against Church teachings.

The double standard would be laughable if it weren’t so awful.

Reflection on Birthing and Reproductive Choice


In my last post I did a little Bill Maher bashing, but more importantly I brought up the bugaboo topic of abortion, and then spent a good chunk of the next day reflecting on how I feel about that difficult subject especially in light of my chosen profession as a labor and delivery nurse and, as of this morning’s acceptance letter, a student midwife.

In light of my return to school and following a dream, let me take a moment to post George Takei‘s Happy Dance, since his is much more fun than mine:

OK, back on topic……

I haven’t always been pro-choice. Actually, as a teenager and in the early years of my marriage I was strongly pro-life. I remember having a heated debate with a friend about this issue when I was quite pregnant with my daughter. It was somewhat horrifying to feel my baby moving inside me, and anticipating her arrival so keenly, while listening to my friend argue that every woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy if she feels she needs to.

My pro-life leanings never had anything to do with religion. Back then it was really about biology.  I was so fascinated by early ultrasounds and how you could see heartbeats, arms, legs and movement, and I couldn’t understand how anyone could decide where to draw the line  for abortion being okay, so I drew the line at never. I figured that a fetus, while not viable, was a potential life and deserved to have a chance to live. Of course, as you may have been able to tell by my previous post on sex ed, I was also all about excellent contraception information and access in order to prevent an unintended pregnancy in the first place.

Over the intervening years, I didn’t give the issue much thought. I was raising my own babies, trying to balance kids, work and an across country move and it just didn’t seem have anything to do with me or my life. The furor had died down a bit; abortion wasn’t a big topic in the news. It was all about terrorism, the war on terror and the economy. Then, all of a sudden it seems to me, abortion was in the news again. There were new protests, and new pushes to place restrictions on abortion, so I sat up and started to take notice. And what I noticed most of all was a shift in my own thoughts on the subject.

Maybe I’m thinking of my own daughter, and her options as she nears adulthood. Maybe I’m just being contrary and adopting liberal ideals in response to being in such a conservative area. Maybe I get to see babies born every day who are desired and cherished and want that for every baby that is born. However, as I reflect further on my change in allegiance, I think that the thing that has most influenced my opinion is that as I’ve gotten older and gotten more experience I understand that motherhood is not about being able to conceive. Motherhood is about raising a child.

Having a baby is the easy part. Nurturing, teaching, and enabling a child to be their best self is challenging beyond description. It is at minimum an 18 year job, and truly, it is a job that lasts as long as you live, and I feel that every child that comes into this world deserves parents who want them, who want to care for them, and who will do their best to love them.

There are so many stereotypes out there about the kind of woman who would have an abortion, the three most prominent I think are careless teenagers, women of low socio-economic status who use abortion as birth control, and older, professionally successful women too self-absorbed to have a child. In my experience, though, while there are certainly some women who fit into those stereotypes, most women who seek abortions are just like you (or me) or your best girlfriend. They are single, married, younger, older, and from every economic background. They are from every race and religion and every part of the country. I have sought out friends and acquaintances who have had abortions to ask them their stories and they are all deeply personal and deeply varied.

I have never talked with a woman who had taken their decision to have an abortion lightly, although I guess it happens. The decision was always made with a lot of thought and generally a lot of tears. Yes, there may occasionally be thoughts about the child that might have been under other circumstances, but there is not a lot of regret. They know that, for whatever reason, they were incapable of carrying and parenting a child at that time in their lives and were unwilling to bring a child into this world without the best possible start. Now with the benefit of time, and hopefully, wisdom, I see their point.

I can’t imagine a world where women are forced into carrying a pregnancy that they feel they cannot. Pregnancy and birth are such all-consuming, life changing events; women have the right to be in control of their own reproduction and the timing of when they become mothers. That’s what’s right for women and that’s what’s right for their babies.

Damn it, Bill Maher! Get Your Facts Right!


I’m suffering through my first case of blogging writer’s block. So, I did what any good blogger would do and started surfing the web, praying to the google gods to help me find a webpage that would inspire me and be good for debate.

One of the first things I came across was an article with a clip of Bill Maher discussing the newest Arizona anti-abortion bill…..promising! So I clicked it and settled in for some snark. I know, I know, he’s a jerk and he’s polarizing, but DAMN the man is good at snark.

I’m not going to attach the clip, because the advertisement at the beginning is longer than the actual clip and I wouldn’t do that to you, but the gist of it is that Bill was making fun of an Arizona law that redefines life as beginning the first day of a woman’s menstrual period, thus saying life begins two(ish) weeks before the poor woman even has sex! Ridiculous!

This warranted further investigation. I could feel my blood pressure rising, so it was back to google to see what information I could dig up. Sure enough, page after page about this law and about how stupid and backwards it was. How it showed how far the politicians will go to push their agenda. How it went in the face of every scientific fact known to man. Absolute outrage!

So then I actually tried to find the law, and here is the write-up in case you’re interested.

http://blog.azpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/f12-12-AbortionRegs.pdf

And was I outraged too? Well, yes…..and no.

Yes, I believe this law is detrimental to women. It is now the strictest anti-abortion law in the country and I believe that if it stands it is just another stepping stone in the fight to outlaw all abortion rights. It purports to help women who are being coerced into having abortions while basically coercing women into having a child, and is called the “Women’s Health and Safety Act” which just makes me cringe, because it is clear from the inflammatory language that it is putting the wellbeing of a fetus ahead of the wellbeing (both physical and mental) of the woman who has decided for a variety of reasons that she cannot carry this particular pregnancy.

However, that is beside the point of this particular post.

First of all, the law does not state life begins on the first day of a woman’s period, it states that pregnancy begins on the first day of a woman’s period, and to Bill and all of the other commenters out there on the web, I have to tell you, it’s not politicians, Republicans or religious folk who define pregnancy that way….it’s the medical profession that does that. Yup, gestational age begins at the woman’s last period and is counted for 40 or so weeks and pregnancy has been defined this way for a long, long time.

Anyone who has had a baby knows that when you walk into your healthcare provider’s office the first question they ask you is “When was the first day of your last period?”. That is how the “due date” is calculated and in effect the first two(ish) weeks of a pregnancy, the woman is not yet pregnant. Most women find out they are pregnant after they miss a period, and by the calculated gestational age are considered 4-5 weeks pregnant when in actuality they have only been physically pregnant for 2-3 weeks. Confusing, I know, but that’s how it is. I have to explain it all the time.

 I’m a little aggravated with Bill Maher for muddying the waters on this issue. If you’re going to raise a stink, you should know your facts first, and maybe he does know the facts and was just using the opportunity to make a good joke (I do understand the difference between satiric humor and factual commentary.), but once again I feel like its much more important to arm everyone with information about what’s really going on. There’s no exaggeration or rhetoric needed, so tirades like his and those of the other internet commenters don’t help. We want people fighting against the wrong laws….but for the right reasons.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below.

Comprehensive Sex Education: Just Do It!


My poor kids…..having a labor and delivery nurse for a mom means never knowing when they’re going to be cornered in the house or trapped in a car with me and be forced to discuss sex. Can’t you picture the scene? I walk into a room where some unsuspecting kid is hanging out with a, “So, we need to talk about (fill in the blank)…”

Cue the eye roll, the sigh and the “Oh, mom.”

I won’t say I’m not uncomfortable with it, because sometimes I am, but seeing what I’ve seen in my career I am under no illusions about what teenagers can get up to when left to their own devices. And I always figured that if there were any holes in my choice of topics to discuss, that at least they would be discussed in sex ed classes which I knew my school district offered. So when the time came for my oldest to attend class I dutifully went to the parent meeting beforehand so I would know what the kids were going to learn. It never occurred to me that what they were going to be learning was how dangerous sex is both physically, emotionally and legally.

 
The mind boggles…..

I really, really want someone to explain to me the point of Abstinence Only sex ed, because as I see it the only point is to assuage the fears of parents who want to believe that if they tell kids “Just say no.” and some other adult type says the same thing, that will be that and they need never worry about their child having premarital sex.  Oy vey.

It just doesn’t work like that, and studies have shown this to over and over again. Kids with comprehensive sex ed have lower numbers of unplanned pregnancies and actually lose their virginity at an older age than kids who have abstinence only sex ed.

Information is so easy to come by nowadays. It used to be that kids would find out the juicy tidbits about sex from a friend with an older sibling or for the guys it was a friend who managed to get a copy of Playboy, hell, if all else failed there was always National Geographic…but information about sex was usually more about hearsay than actual knowledge. Today, any technologically savvy 10 year old can find out anything he or she would like, and probably some things they wouldn’t like, over the internet. They know if they’re not being told the whole story.

I hope I have instilled some values and a sense of the importance of sex to my kids. I would like for them to wait until they are much older and more mature before they have sex, but who are we kidding? What we want our kids to choose and what they actually choose are often two very different things. What I want my kids to know above anything else is that they can come to me or my husband to talk, that even if we can’t prevent what we may think is too early a sexual initiation, we can arm them with the information to prevent a pregnancy or an STD.

The analogy I think of is this: I don’t want my teens to drink alcohol. I know about the dangers of doing so from the minor (getting sick) to the major (alcohol poisoning) to the life-changing (driving and getting into an accident), and I also remember the allure of partying with friends. While I hope they are able to make responsible choices I have also provided them with alternatives if they do decide to drink. The fact that they know they can call for a ride if they’ve been drinking doesn’t make me think they’re more likely to drink; it means that they won’t feel forced into a worse situation than the one they already find themselves in.

Finally, my last big problem with abstinence only sex ed is that it seems to me that when you spend a kid’s whole adolescence telling them all of the bad things that can happen if you have sex, it will be hard for them to see sex as natural, healthy and fun when they get older. As I alluded to earlier in this article, I’ve seen a lot of teens with unintended pregnancies and STDs, but I’ve also seen a lot of grown women with unbelievable inhibitions surrounding sex which causes them so much pain, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and that makes me sad for them, because they are missing out on something special. I don’t want my kids to turn me into a grandmother any time soon, but I will not guilt them or scare them into an inhibited adulthood either.

 

Related articles

States with ‘abstinence-only’ sex ed programs rank highest in teen pregnancies (rawstory.com)

Religious Practices: Where Do We Draw the Line?


Seriously, I’m asking because I think it’s such a difficult question to answer.

A friend of mine is big on anti-circumcision advocacy, and she posts articles about it on her FaceBook page pretty frequently. (Yup, I’ve talked about birth choice and breastfeeding, and now I’m gonna mention circumcision-the newborn parenting trifecta!) She is against all types of circumcision, both male and female, religious and non-religious. (I won’t mention my own feelings out of deference to my son’s privacy.)

Recently she posted an article which grabbed my attention. In it a proud Islamic mom is recounting her baby daughter’s circumcision, gushing about how good the baby was and how quick and easy it was. (I should mention that in this particular case, the way the procedure was done was that they removed the teeniest, tiniest piece of skin. Basically just enough to draw a drop of blood.) As you can imagine there were loads of comments calling her excitement over this procedure barbaric….and that got me wondering why we (in the US) are so up in arms about female circumcision, but so comfortable with male circumcision. Why do we classify someone else’s religious prescriptions as barbaric and our own as normal?

Now, most parents in the US circumcise their boys for secular reasons, and that’s not the argument that is intriguing to me because with secular arguments you can go back and forth and try to convince the other side of your point of view, but as soon as it becomes a religious issue it’s difficult to argue. And that got me wondering, when someone claims religious freedom for a particular practice, when is it OK and when is it over the line?

Now my musings on this go beyond circumcision to all types of religious and cultural practices. Things like mores for female modesty (male modesty never seems to be in the picture though…hmm). Many religions expect long skirts, and sleeves and high collars, some require that and head coverings, and some veils. Are all those okay, and if so, why then do we become outraged at the thought of the niqab or burqa?

Christian Scientists will seek medical help for things like broken bones, but not illnesses, while Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept blood transfusions. As a healthcare professional, and not a member of one of those religions, I don’t agree with or understand those beliefs, but I can’t force someone to accept treatment in opposition to their faith. Where is the line there? Someone deciding for themselves is one thing, but what about when there’s a child involved and it’s a matter of life and death?

I couldn't afford heath insurance so I became a Christian Scientist.

Then there is the religion debate that I really don’t understand, the line between personal religious/moral conviction and expanding it to the broader community. Here we’re talking about things like amending the Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, teaching creationism in public school science classes and my all time favorite (where, oh where is the sarcasm font when you need it) abstinence-only sex ed classes.

Ignore the naughty bits!


So I put it to you dear reader. What are your thoughts about the line between religious freedoms and other freedoms? Please comment and let me know your perspective. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yup, I’m Pretty “Uppity” When It Comes To Women’s Healthcare


My first two blog posts were about birth choice, and my next two were about politics which may seem like random subjects to start off with, but here is where I tie it all together.

As I stated before, I am passionate about women’s health. An acquaintance of mine asked me about work a couple of weeks ago and as I was telling her about my weekend on call she interrupted me and said, “You know, you light up when you talk about your job.” I can’t think of a better compliment; yes, I LOVE what I do.

And so, we come to the issue that has been sticking in my craw, the recent attempts to legislate women’s healthcare, specifically reproductive choice and the relationship between women and their healthcare providers. I don’t think any picture sums it up better than the cover of the April Issue of The Texas Observer.

Disturbing, no?

Of course,  Texas is not the only place where this is happening. State by state, legislatures are taking it upon themselves to pass laws stripping women’s rights of autonomy in making certain healthcare decisions, interfering with doctor/client privacy and, in the case of Arizona, trying to force women who take birth control pills to prove to their employer that they are taking it for reasons other than birth control if they want it covered by insurance. Because that’s what we all want to do, march into our boss’s office and talk about our sex lives (or lack thereof), our bad acne, our heavy irregular periods, or our polycystic ovarian disease.  (As it stands, the Arizona law only applies to religious non-profits. Thankfully, the bill that would have expanded that exemption to all employers was voted down last week, probably due to the public pressure generated by social media.)

The commentary I have seen in the news surrounding these laws is absolutely disrespectful of women, comparing them to farm animals (Georgia State Representative Terry England), dismissing the invasiveness of a vaginal probe ultrasound  (A Virginia Lawmaker who said that a woman had already consented to vaginal penetration by having sex so a vaginal probe shouldn’t be a big deal.), and probably my favorite comment, that in the good old days, all a woman needed for birth control was to hold an aspirin between her knees. (Foster Friess, a Rick Santorum supporter). Wow. What year is this again?

Infuriating.

So hell yes, I’m uppity. I’m not  a primary healthcare provider yet, but as an aspiring one, I feel a protectiveness towards all women who have to make decisions about abortion and birth control for reasons I may not even begin to comprehend. It’s not my place to judge anyone else’s decisions; I get to make decisions for myself and that’s it. Can I offer an opinion? Sure, if asked. Can I offer support and information? Absolutely. Can I walk in someone else’s shoes? No, not really, so I don’t get to tell them how to live their reproductive lives. And neither do you. And neither should the government.

I have the nerve to believe that women have the same rights of medical autonomy as men, and that together with their healthcare providers they are capable of understanding the risks and benefits of any intervention without some politician’s input. I have the nerve to believe that the men and women who are degreed and licensed to be healthcare providers know a hell of a lot more than legislators do about what constitutes medical need and informed consent. And I have the nerve to be outraged at anyone who makes access to legal interventions in healthcare harder on women. But then again, I also have a sneaking suspicion that there are lots and lots of people out there who feel the same way I do. Their voices have already made a difference in Arizona, Virginia and Oklahoma, and for that I am profoundly grateful.