An Abortion Story

I have a story I want to share. Aspects of it may be disquieting, but the outcome is positive and the circumstances offer some important perspectives. It’s a learning opportunity above all else. The story is told by a fellow WordPress blogger here. Mikki Kendall is the author of this story, but I will re-post it on here as well. I do recommend visiting her site, as she has some insightful and important things to say. But please, if you do visit her, I ask that you be respectful of her and her family. She has already seen quite a heavy response from all this.

“Abortion Saved My Life”

So, there’s this lawmaker out of Kansas who has lots to say about abortion. He’s currently best known for saying that women should plan ahead in case of rape and not expect their regular insurance to cover an abortion if they want one after being assaulted. And we could spend a lot of time going around about the flaws in his logic, or even hashing out when life begins, but really this post isn’t about any of that. This post is about the idea that anyone besides the pregnant woman should get a vote in what she does with her body after finding out about a pregnancy. For a host of reasons we as a society seem incapable of accepting bodily autonomy in women. This is reflected in the existence of street harassment, rape culture, and the million efforts to dictate whether or not women can control their own reproductive health. This attitude that women are shirking responsibility by opting out of having unwanted children has always boggled my mind.

But then I’m a mom, and I would never want my kids to grow up an unwanted child like I did. I love my kids more than I could ever explain & I do my best to give them the childhood I never had. Because I love them I had an abortion at 20 weeks. It was my 5th pregnancy (I had two miscarriages while I was trying to conceive my sons), and as it turned out my last. It was troubled from the start, I didn’t experience any of the normal indicators of pregnancy, so I found out when I was already 10 weeks along. No missed periods, in fact I was seeing an OB/GYN who specializes in treating fibroids and endometriosis in part because of the increased heaviness of my cycle. When we found out (that standard pregnancy test before surgery is necessary after all) I talked it out with my husband and we debated aborting (I got as far as the clinic), before ultimately deciding that we would try to make it work. My doctor advised me right off the bat that she wasn’t certain of a good outcome and that my pregnancy would be very high risk. I did exactly what she said in terms of taking it easy, because I wanted to give that child the best possible chance. But the intermittent bleeding wouldn’t stop and I knew that there was a high chance that I would not be able to carry to term.

I was taking an afternoon nap when the hemorrhaging started. Laying in bed with my toddler napping in his room, and waking up to find blood gushing up my body is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The placental abruption that my doctor had listed as a possibility was happening and I was going to have to do my best to take care of both of us. Mind you, my husband was at work and my not quite 2 year old sure couldn’t dial 911 for me so I had to make it to the phone & make arrangements for the sleeping toddler as well as his older brother before I could leave the house. I’ll spare you the gory details of my personal splatter flick, but suffice to say by the time I got to the hospital I probably needed a transfusion.

We all knew the pregnancy wasn’t viable, couldn’t be viable with the amount of blood I was losing, but it still took them hours to do anything, because the doctor on call didn’t do abortions. At all. Ever. No one on call that night did them in fact. A very kind nurse risked her job to call a doctor from the Reproductive Health Clinic who was not on call, and asked her to come in to save my life. Fortunately she was home, and even more fortunately she was able to get there relatively quickly. But by the time she got there I was in bad shape. Blood loss had rendered me borderline incoherent, an incredibly ignorant batch of students were fascinated by my case and more interested in studying me than treating me (one had the audacity to show me the ultrasound of our dying child while asking me if it was a planned pregnancy), and then there was the fact that I was on the L & D floor listening to other women have healthy babies while I bled out and the baby I had been trying to save died in my womb.

When the other doctor got there she had me moved to a different wing, got me painkillers (we were many hours into my hospital stay, and no one had bothered to give me anything for the pain despite my screams every time they decided to push on my abdomen or examine me for student edification), and then after checking my labs told us that I would need two bags of blood before she could do anything. Her team (a cadre of students who should all go on to run their own clinics) took turns coming in to check on me and my husband. They all kept assuring me that soon it would be over, and I would feel much better. My husband had to sign the consent for surgery (there was no question of me being competent enough to make decisions), and they took me away along with a third bag of blood to be administered during surgery.

What I didn’t know until much later was that the doctor took my husband aside while they were taking me back. She promised him she would do her best to save me, and then she warned him about the distinct possibility that she would fail. See, that doctor who didn’t do abortions was supposed to have contacted her (or someone else) immediately. He didn’t. His students didn’t either. Because I was their case and they weren’t done with me yet. Or something. Ostensibly there was a communication breakdown and they thought she had been notified, but given the talk about writing a paper on me that I do remember happening over my head? I doubt it. I don’t know if his objections were religious or not, all I know is that when a bleeding woman was brought to him for treatment he refused to do the only thing that could stop the bleeding. Because he didn’t do abortions. Ever.

My two kids at home were going to lose their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that wasn’t going to survive any way. Mind you, my husband told them exactly what my regular doctor had said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would need to happen. But, none of that mattered in the face of this idea that no one needs an abortion. You don’t know what a woman who decides to abort needs, and you shouldn’t need to know in order to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don’t care why a woman aborts, all I care is that she has access to safe affordable healthcare. I don’t regret my abortion, and I will never extrapolate my situation to mean that the only time other women should abort is when their life is at stake. Why? Well after the news hit my family that I’d aborted I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me that I was wrong to have interfered with God’s plan. In that moment I understood that the kind of people who will judge a woman’s reproductive choices are the kind of people that I don’t want to be.

Pretty incredible story, if you ask me. Lots of important moral questions arise. The issue of abortion is, of course, one of the most heated debates of our time. One side of the argument feels that abortion is not only a murderous act, but one that promotes casual pregnancies resulting from promiscuous sexual behavior. The other side insists that women should have the right to make their own reproductive choices, as opposed to the state making such choices on their behalf. Judging from the above piece of writing, Mrs. Kendall and I both more closely adhere to the latter school of thought. The issue of whether or not aborting undeveloped fetuses constitutes as murder is a matter for an entirely different post. For now, I think this should be viewed as a women’s rights issue. Should women have the freedom to make their own reproductive choices and manage their own reproductive health? Most certainly YES. We shouldn’t even have to ask this question. At the same time, should a growing fetus be terminated as a consequence of that freedom? In cases where it is warranted, yes again.

More on this issue later.

Advertisements

Death And Burial Of Osama bin Laden

Like most Americans who are old enough, I very clearly remember exactly where I was and what happened on Tuesday September 11, 2001. Until that day I had never heard of Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. Instantly, these became household names. Thousands of people died, many more were injured, many are still today suffering from health consequences, all from a singular terrible act led by a man claiming to be carrying out the will of Allah.

And then, of course, came the wars. Thousands more are dead and wounded, including countless civilians overseas. Too many people have experienced horrors beyond what words can accurately describe. We have longed for an end to this horrible conflict for years, and there has thus far been not so much as a hint of any kind of resolution.

Today is May 7, 2011. It is nearly ten years after the attacks on New York City and Washington DC. Last weekend, on Sunday May 1, American Navy SEALs invaded bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which was ironically located embarrassingly close to a Pakistani military academy. The SEALs stormed the compound and shot bin Laden in the head, directly above the eye. I have heard reports that he used a woman as a human shield as a final defense, but these reports are conflicted and I hesitate to say any more on that particular matter.

This whole scenario seems terribly familiar in a way. US special forces storm a terrorist compound, deftly taking out terrorists while avoiding civilian casualties, executing the primary target with a single dramatic bullet to the head… in reading about all this, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve played this video game before.

And then, of course, there was the equally dramatic burial at sea. This was done in accordance with Islamic doctrine. Supposedly it is very important for a body to be laid to rest within 24 hours after death. Given this, plus the government choosing not to release the photograph taken of bin Laden that apparently portrays his fatal head wound in graphic detail, I fully expect conspiracy theorists to be drawn to this like flies to shit.

In any case, Osama bin Laden is now dead.

Here is President Obama’s announcement speech, delivered on Sunday evening:

Personally, I was initially glad to hear the news. But then, almost immediately I felt guilty for feeling as I did. I was actually delighted at the death of another person. Granted, this was a person who did monstrous things to a great many people, but it still felt wrong to me on a fundamental level that I should rejoice in hearing of someone’s death. All things in their appropriate contexts, I suppose. I was certainly not one to jump for joy in the streets as so many Americans did, but nevertheless I do recognize this event as an overall good thing for both the United States and the world.

The question now becomes, what happens next? This is by no means the end of Al-Qaeda, and given the opportunity, I fully expect them to retaliate. Still, I am hopeful. Killing bin Laden has shown the world that the US doesn’t  fuck around with these things. Obama’s administration has shown its muscle, first with taking out the Somali pirates and now the world’s public enemy #1. I see this event as not the end of America’s current conflict in the middle east, but rather the beginning of the end. It is a tremendous step in the right direction.

Cheers to President Obama and the military personnel who carried out this mission.

Incendiary

So he finally did it. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida has burned a Qu’ran. What was the consequence? Muslims in Afghanistan killed 14 people, 7 of which were U.N. staff. Some of these people were beheaded. Attacks and protests continued throughout the next couple days, killing at least 11 more people.

This leads to some important questions. In a nation that celebrates free speech such as the United States, should Mr. Jones face consequences for his actions? Was it Mr. Jones’ intention to entice anger in the Muslim world, or was it more to gain publicity? Who is responsible for the killings? What does this series of events tell us about the world in which we live?

First, I have to say that I would find it very hard to believe that Pastor Jones did not intend to prod the Muslim world, especially given the manner in which he carried out his actions. He soaked a Qu’ran in kerosine and then held a mock trial on the book in which it was found guilty of ‘crimes against humanity.’ He then set the book ablaze. How could this series of actions not be interpreted as intentionally provocative? Of course, Jones and the others at Dove World Outreach deny any responsibility for the retaliatory murders that happened immediately afterward. I have to wonder, how did he anticipate the Muslim community would react? Knowing that a culture would explode in anger over cartoon drawings of their prophet (see below), how might he have expected that same community to respond to a very public and clearly provocative destruction of their holy book?

In my mind, Jones very clearly intended to stir up the hornet’s nest. Was it to make a point? Or just to gain publicity? Probably both, although I suspect the scales are tipped in favor of the latter. In any case, what’s done is done and many people are calling for Jones to take accountability for his actions.

Now, I hope that it’s plainly obvious at this point that I feel no love for the Qu’ran, the Bible, the Torah or any other ‘holy’ scripture. I would not hesitate to desecrate any of these books on my own accord, given the proper circumstances. However, that is not to say that I am itching to do so. It is not my intention to prod people or to entice anger and violence. My agenda is very different from that of Mr Jones. The important question is, what good would desecrating these books do for humanity? What could I possibly hope to accomplish in doing so? I can’t picture anything good coming from it. Such acts only serve to fuel an already out of control fire. In an earlier post I discussed how I am intolerant to religions because at a fundamental level they propagate lies. It’s a very large and very complex problem, and there isn’t any simple solution. I do know, however, that performing aggressive acts such as burning books that millions of people consider the epitome of all that is sacred is no way to go about rectifying this dilemma. Jones thinks that Christianity is right and Islam is wrong, so he burned their book. I know that they’re both false, but you won’t find me doing anything like what he did. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding pompous, it could simply be that I know better.

I will say this: Pastor Terry Jones should feel nothing but shame and remorse for his choices and actions.

Shortly after these events took place, I found a wonderful piece of writing that Sam Harris posted on his website regarding the matter [link]. The point that I feel is the most important from this is how easy it is to miss the primary focus of what’s really going on with these events. Yes, an arrogant pastor made a very bad choice and people suffered and died from it, but that’s not the fulcrum of this situation. What I’m wondering is, why are we more shocked at Jones than at the Muslims who executed those people in Afghanistan? Why are we so appalled at a man who burned a book and not at the murderers who played the most horrible of roles in this story? I don’t even know what their names are. I couldn’t find that information published anywhere. I think Harris said it about as perfectly as could be:

‘The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way.’

I also found an interesting YouTube video from the ever-wonderful Thunderf00t that I want to share:

So what should we do? Here’s my suggestion: Mourn the dead. Learn what we can from both Jones’ stupidity and the violent tendencies of these sensitive Afghani Muslims. Re-evaluate our perspectives on the religions of the world and what their agendas truly are. Move on from there.

Intolerance

A while back I posted a link to the following TouTube video on my personal Facebook site:

I accompanied this posting with the text, ‘The sooner we as a species can learn to live peacefully without the modern mythologies we call religions, the better off we will all be.’ An old friend of mine, who happens to be Christian, saw fit to leave a comment stating that I was ‘just intolerant.’ At first, I admit I was a bit taken aback by his remark. This was a person with whom there have never been unkind words of any kind between us. And yet, here was a comment meant to insult me.

I don’t generally like to dwell on thoughts that I feel are ultimately meaningless, such as personal opinions that I find discomforting. This comment, as it happens, seemed like something that I should just let glaze over me and then I would move on, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was only that way on the surface. In contemplating this remark, this declaration of my own lack of tolerance, it was not difficult for me to reach the conclusion that he was correct. I am indeed intolerant. Moreover, although he clearly meant it to be detrimental, I see it as a good thing.

My intolerance is directed not at the people who practice religion so much as it is the dishonesty that lies at the core of every religion’s doctrines. There are many things that I don’t believe are true, such as the existence of gods or the supernatural, but I do very strongly believe in the importance of honesty between people, in any context and at any scale. This is my essential grievance with religions: that it is demonstrably false and yet it insists that it is true.

Dishonesty is, at its core, among the most purely selfish of acts. When a person or organization is dishonest, it is ultimately to serve their own interests and agendas. In this way it is a practice that entirely disregards the well being of others. This is why I am intolerant of it. We as a species will only survive, let alone thrive, under the principles of honesty. The largest religions are based on superstitions constructed thousands of years ago, and newer religions are no different except that their superstitions haven’t lingered for quite as long. Superstitions are, by nature, dishonest. Thus, religions are revolved around lies. This is why I am proud to declare that I am intolerant of religions and the lies that they represent. I am in the right to declare this.