Pregnant? Good luck!

Pregnancy in the United States can be challenging!

If you are pregnant by choice, congratulations! I hope all goes well for you–and that you have a good doctor and good insurance. Depending on where you live, finding a doctor and hospital that are willing to accept pregnant patients is becoming more challenging. Just recently, the only hospital in a town in Idaho has announced that it will soon cease delivering babies. They are not accepting any new obstetrics patients, effective immediately…and patients will have to drive at least 46 miles to the closest hospital.

Why? There were multiple reasons, but a large one was the action of the Idaho legislature. The hospital’s press release said this:

The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.

Another physician wrote this in a guest column:

As the medical director of women’s health care at St. Luke’s Health System, I am witnessing first-hand the impact of these laws on all physicians who give advice and care to pregnant women. These providers are terrified and constantly second-guessing their decisions. Not because of the restrictions on broad access to abortion, but because they can no longer safely manage and advise their patients who have pregnancy complications.

Complicated pregnancies are not rare; the average is 30 per week for the St. Luke’s Health System alone. These complications may require the termination of the pregnancy to protect the health of the mother or end a fatal fetal defect. But physicians dealing with these complications could be facing felony charges from such care and have no choice but to defend these medical decisions in court.

If you are not pregnant by choice, good luck! And I mean that sincerely.

If you are hoping to get an abortion, again, good luck. Far too many legislatures are pushing through bills that would allow no abortion after 6 weeks (if that)–and that is before most people even know they are pregnant. Even if you are fortunate enough to be in a state that allows abortion, you still may be subject to intrusive questions and procedures–and if your doctor is willing to prescribe a medical abortion rather than a surgical procedure, you still may have trouble finding a pharmacy that is willing to fill that prescription.

If you have been able to jump through all of those hoops, you are not out of the woods yet. At least one state legislature is working on passing a law that would call for executing anyone who has an abortion for any reason. I wish I could say that this is a horrible April Fool’s joke–or that it only comes from the crazy fringe of the legislature–but I can’t.

According to an article at Common Dreams, 21 Republican senators backed a bill proposed by Republican Rob Harris in South Carolina–a bill called the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023–which would amend the state’s criminal code to give a fertilized egg “equal protection under the homicide laws of the state.” This would make abortion punishable by the death penalty. The article goes on to state that “[t]he bill does not include an exception for people whose pregnancies result from rape or incest, and [a] political commentator…noted its language is vague enough to suggest that some people who suffer miscarriages could become eligible for the death penalty.”

There are years of evidence that show that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control help bring down the abortion rate…but the same senators who want to ban abortion for any reason also don’t want people to have access to that kind of information. In fact, a proposed bill in Florida (again, proposed by a Republican legislator) would mandate any kind of sex education be offered only from grades six through twelve, despite the fact that many girls begin experiencing their menstrual cycle in fourth or fifth grades. Teachers would be prohibited from giving those students any kind of information that would help them.

A nationwide study in 2021 found that about a quarter of students struggle to afford menstrual products, causing them to miss a class or day of school. One would think that helping to meet that need would be important–but apparently not in Idaho. While the state covers the cost of toilet paper, paper towels, and soap in public school bathrooms, students who may need help with menstrual products are on their own. Idaho had a chance to help them at the cost of approximately $3.50 per student ($435,000 in one-time funds to install dispensers and $300,400 annually to stock them). Idaho is expected to have a $1.4 billion tax revenue surplus at the end of the fiscal year–but helping menstruating students so that they don’t feel ashamed or alienated or needing to stay home because they don’t have access to the products they need apparently costs too much.

Welcome to women’s health care challenges in America in 2023…

Banned books? How about this one?

I often see people wanting books banned for various reasons. Some of the reasons I see expressed most often…

  • Violence
  • Unsuited to the age group
  • Anti-family content
  • Racism
  • Witchcraft
  • Child abuse
  • Sex (pretty much anything about sex – adultery, incest, sex outside of marriage, same-sex marriage, rape…)

Well…if you say you are a Christian, you might want to reconsider banning books for these reasons—or you might have to give up your Bible.

Violence? Oh yes, plenty of violence, including the murder of all remaining residents of a conquered city (including women and babies). Noah and his family survived, along with some animals, while everyone else drowned. John the Baptist lost his head—served up on a platter at one of Herod’s feasts. And advice on just how badly you can beat your slaves…not to mention the crucifixion of Jesus…

Sex? Where do we even start? Solomon had 700 wives and 300 mistresses. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute to have sex with her father-in-law. What about virgins being spoils of war? A woman in the book of Judges is gang-raped. Women were to be stoned if they weren’t virgins when married—but men had no such restrictions. If a woman was widowed, her brother-in-law was to have sex with her. Lot’s own daughters had sex with him. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged to have her husband murdered. Then read the Song of Solomon…talk about sexually explicit language!

Child abuse? What about Abraham offering his son Isaac as a burnt offering? Or the killing of babies whose parents worshiped another god? Or the rape of young girls who were captured in battle?

Racism? There’s lots of that all the way through as the basis for various battles.

Witchcraft? King Saul used a medium to summon the spirit of the prophet Samuel so he could get advice about battling the Philistines.

Anti-family? Cain killed Abel. Lot offered his daughters to a mob to be raped, rather than allowing them to rape male visitors. See my other comments about child abuse and sex…                                                 

This is just a short list. So…Christian…are you really sure you’re okay with this book being available to kids?

Discovering my confidence…rediscovering my passion…

A number of years ago, I went back to school to work on a graduate degree in organ performance. I did my recital (which went well) and had done about half of my classes…but then needed to take a break to earn some more money to finish my degree.

During that break, my life changed because of a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). As I was learning to deal with that, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to have the energy I would need to continue the organ performance degree. I had been interested in composition, so I decided to change my major to that–and finished that degree.

I wrote several things during that time–but then… Life intervened–and composition got put aside. But there was more to it than that. I just didn’t have confidence in myself and my ability to compose.

Periodically through the years, I would see one or two of my instructors. They would ask if I was still composing–and I would say that I was. And I was…sort of, but not seriously. I would write something for a specific occasion, but that was about it. I just didn’t believe in myself.

This year, I decided to change that. I’d made New Year’s resolutions in the past but never really did anything about it. So this year I decided not to make any resolutions. Instead I made a commitment to myself–that I would work on composing two pieces a month. If I didn’t get two done, that would be okay…as long as I was continuing to work on them.

I made another commitment as well–that I would share those pieces with others. The first time I sent a piece to a friend for her response, I gulped. Would she think it was worth anything? Or was I just wasting my time? She responded–with some suggestions, but in a way that validated and affirmed what I was doing.

And so now…after about a half a century(!) I have discovered my confidence–and in so doing, I am rediscovering my passion. Is everything I write going to be good? No…and that’s okay. But I have committed to continuing to write–to believe that what my instructors saw in my early pieces had value–and…most importantly…to believe in myself.

Living “as if”

What if we decided to live “as if”…? What do I mean by that?

What if we lived as if we believed thatall lives truly matter? If we did, we would find ways to help cut the disparity in medical help between different sub-communities, We would take steps to deal with the school to prison pipeline that sends so many young men of color to prison. We would make high quality education available to everyone. We would work collectively to stem the increasing violence that takes so many lives and threatens so many commuities.

What if we lived as if we believed that women have the same rights to their body that men do? If we did, we would make quality health care available. We would provide realistic sex education to help them–and boys–make wise choices. We would stop sexualizing young girls in ways that make them think that the most important thing about them is their looks. We would respect their decisions related to pregnancy, family planning, and career.

What if we lived as if we believed that we (as human beings) have the ability to protect our environment? If we did, we would listen to the scientists who have been warning us for a number of years that our choices are significantly harming the world around us. We would acknowledge that we have to make difficult choices in order to change the trajectory we are on.

What if we lived as if we believed that taking care of our children and protecting them from violence is important? If we did, we would be willing to pass common-sense gun control laws–rather than asking our children to live in fear of yet another mass shooting. We would make health care available to them and their parents / guardians. We would provide mental health care. We would invest in those agencies and organizations responsible for helping give families the knowledge and resources they need to be successful.

What if we lived as if we in the West believed that we don’t know everything about gender and sexual identity? If we did, we would stop attacking young people who are realizing that what we in the West have always thought about gender being binary is incomplete. We would stop passing laws (or at least trying to pass laws) that criminalize health care that helps them be healthy. We would provide sex education that would help them and their friends understand what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.  We would live out the Golden Rule, of “doing unto others…”

What if we lived as if we believed that the Divine is bigger than one particular faith tradition? If we did, we would recognize the beauty that can be found in faith traditions other than our own. We would discover what can be learned from sharing with each other. We would stop the demonizing of those who believe differently than we do.

What if we lived as if we believed that peace is possible? If we did, we would understand that building more and bigger weapons only increases the possibility of wars. We would listen to the concerns and fears of those currently in war zones. We would be willing to work together to deal with many of the situations that create this kind of violence.

I know…it sounds impossible. But it’s only impossible if we don’t even try to believe that we can.

So…what if we lived “as if”…?

I’m not an angry woman…but…

`I’ve just finished reading a book titled Off with Her Head by Eleanor Herman. It’s a look at how ambitious women–women who have been in powerful positions–have been treated over the last 3000 years or so. Herman has a trenchant wit and she’s not afraid to use it as she unpacks the truth around the stories that have vilified women such as Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris.`

While I laughed at times, I also found myself appalled at how “normal” much of the misogyny has become…and how accepting I have been of it.

Perhaps one of the best ways of understanding the double standard as to how ambitious men and women are treated is to look at the following quotes Herman shares in her book–all of them actual statements made about women. First read them with the feminine descriptors. Seem normal? Now try reading them with masculine ones. Would you find them as acceptable?

Women who are sweet, cheery and nonconfrontational will be rewarded.

She doesn’t have the right sort of body to be on TV.

She should show a little modesty.

Should a mother of five children, including an infant with Down’s syndrome, be running for the second highest office in the land? Are her priorities misplaced?

It’s unclear how the birth of a grandchild will affect her choice to run in the next presidential election.

She’s too bitchy. Humility isn’t one of her strong points, and I think that comes through.

Unbelievable! In the same week she wore the same suit twice!

On what should have been one of the proudest days of her political career, she bungled it with a less than flattering haircut.

She is a monster of selfish ambition.

Her voice makes you envy the dead.

There is too much gravity in her voice. She needs lighter and brighter tones that introduce more melodious qualities and should take singing lessons.

She reminds me of an angry third-grade teacher.

She is unlikable with her smug facial expressions.

She reminds me of a scolding mother, talking down to a child.

She has an air of inauthenticity, which is a major problem at a time when plastic politicians just aren’t connecting with voters.

She should smile a lot more.

When the opportunity came, her ambition made her take up the knife and plant it in her opponent’s back.

She’s a creep, she’s a witch, she’s turned over to evil. Look at her face….All she needs is green skin.

She launched her political career in the bedroom by sleeping with a powerful man.

Off with Her Head, Eleanor Herman, pp. 8-9

These quotes were all about women who had powerful roles, but whose abilities, positions, and policies were ignored or seen as “less than” and the focus was on their appearance or how they reached the positions they did.

I cannot imagine any of these quotes being said about a man in the same roles. Can you?

And when women point this out–or any of the other challenges women face in politics or the boardroom–far too often they are accused of being bitchy, angry, or shouting…even when they are not.

How dare women push back? How dare we point out the double standard? How dare we ask for our statements to be taken seriously?

It is time for righteous anger…past time for women to have equal roles in creating policies that affect us…past time for women’s knowledge to abilities to be acknowledged and accepted. Three thousand years of vilification, demonizing, and putting down women is enough to make any of us angry…and it’s past time for change.