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.


Aren’t We Tired Of This?

First of all, I want to apologize for writing about this again. This is a tired subject, I know, and I really feel like I’m beating a dead horse here (I thoroughly hate that phrase, by the way). The fact remains that this is still serious shit. People have done some rather extreme things in the name of the rapture prediction, from surrendering all personal possessions to attempting to kill themselves and their family in order to avoid the suffering of the tribulation. Click the link, I am not making this up! Stranger than fiction indeed.

Harold Camping’s predicted rapture didn’t happen like he said it would last Saturday. That’s what we all observed. No earthquakes, no vanishing faithful folk, nothing. Are we surprised? Not really. And now Mr. Camping has recorded an apologetic video on the matter. In it, Camping insists that the rapture actually did happen, but that it was spiritual in nature as opposed to physical. Contrary to some news reports out there, Camping did not apologize for getting the rapture date wrong but rather for assuming it would be a physical event. Harold Camping still insists that doomsday (not the rapture, this is a separate happening) will still occur on October 21 of this year.

Hold on a minute, I need to address something. Camping says that the rapture did in fact happen and that it was spiritual instead of physical… so if that’s true, then what’s the deal with those who were spiritually raptured last Saturday? Why is Camping himself still walking and talking just like before? Why is his ‘spirit’ still doing its thing here on earth rather than floating about the heavens with Jesus?

OK, done with that aside, back to the topic at hand.

In all seriousness, I very much hope that Camping’s credibility has been damaged enough by this weekend’s lack of activity that many of his followers will think better of continuing to follow him. That is my hope, anyway, but of course what will actually happen remains to be seen. The saddest thing that emerged from this whole affair, as I hinted at earlier, is that some people are willing to put so much stock into this nonsense that they open themselves up to making terrible and often irreversible decisions that damage their own lives and those of the people around them. I keep thinking about the mom who attempted to fatally slit her daughters’ throats before turning the knife on herself. The little girls didn’t hurt anyone or commit any terrible offense, they just had a mommy who put her faith in religious bullshit.

Camping’s camp aside (sorry had to say that), it’s my understanding that the majority of Christians in America did not put stock into the May 21 prediction, but rather insist that we can never predict when the rapture will occur… but it will happen. They cite Bible verses such as Matthew 24:36, which quotes Jesus as saying “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.” (KJV) This is of course referring to the rapture. These Christians do indeed believe that the endtimes are coming, but that Harold Camping had no business attempting to predict it in the first place. Several of them have come out and said that the predictions, if anything, hurt the Christian faith in that it portrays all Christians in this particular light of craziness.

Silly Christians.

Someday, perhaps, the people in this nation who acknowledge that there is no rapture or day of judgment looming over us will outnumber those who do buy into such absurdities. Won’t be anytime soon, I know, but I can still hope right?

Honestly, I’m done with all this. I’m tired of Harold Camping and his apocalyptic obsessions rooted in Christian dogma. It’s stupid, it’s pointless, and there are other pressing matters that are far more deserving of our attention.

ADDENDUM: This is wonderful!

Rapture Schmapture

Never mind all this rapture silliness. Here’s some fun footage I took last Friday on campus when we were visited by Brother Jed and his family.

Part 1 features Jed himself and then his daughter:


Part 2 features Jed’s wife:

More on the ‘Rapture’

Less than a week to go, kids!

Found this wonderful video from The Thinking Atheist. Enjoy!



Or at least, that’s what we are told by the more fanatical Christians these days. Street preachers, billboards, and a smattering of messages spewed over the internet are declaring that May 21, 2011 is the day of rapture. This is supposedly the day when Christians who make the ‘saved’ list will be lifted into heaven to start their eternal life at Jesus’ side, while the rest of us unrepentant sinners will be left behind to suffer natural disasters of every variety and await the true end of days, which will supposedly occur this coming October.

May 21, 2011? Shit! That’s a week from tomorrow!

So where did this idea come from? Doesn’t the Bible mention something about how nobody will be able to predict the second coming? Well, the primary proponent of this idea is an evangelical Christian named Harold Camping. Mr. Camping is a co-founder of Family Radio Worldwide, an evangelical media outlet. Camping has held a focus on calculating exactly when the Bible predicts Jesus’ return for quite some time now. He once predicted that the rapture would occur on September 6, 1994, but that date came and went without incident. Camping justified his error by claiming that he neglected to include the Book of Jeremiah in his calculations. Now, he says that May 21 is THE day, and that THE BIBLE GUARANTEES IT.

In fact, FRW made a series of videos on Vimeo in several different languages (English version can be seen on their website) proclaiming this to be true.

How did he come to this conclusion? What ‘calculations’ are behind this idea? Well, I’ll let our friends at FRW explain in their own words:

What proof is there for the date of May 21, 2011?

The date May 21, 2011 was derived solely from evidence found in the Bible. Mr. Camping saw God had placed, in Scripture, many important signs and proofs. These proofs alert believers that May 21st of 2011 is the date Christ will return for His people and begin a period of the final destruction of the world.

What signs precede the Day of Judgment?

Jesus warned of several spiritual signs, such as the complete degradation of the Christian church, the devastating moral breakdown of society, the re-establishment of National Israel in1948, the emergence of the ‘Gay Pride Movement’, and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today as direct evidence of His return.

What is the Timeline of History?

The timeline of history is God’s predetermined timetable for the unfolding of God’s Gospel program for this world. In other words the length of time between the day God created this world in 11,013 B.C. and the day he will destroy it in October 21, 2011.

The discovery of this information built the foundation for what God would later reveal from the Bible as the date for the end.

Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 is the culmination of five decades of intensive biblical study by Mr. Camping and other bible teachers who have discovered the same biblical data.

And there we have it. Convinced? Ready to liquidate all your assets and wave this world goodbye? You know, if you’re planning on getting rid of all that extra soon-to-be-useless-anyway cash, you could send it my way. You know, to help make a humble atheist’s life a bit more enjoyable before the worldly torments begin.

But let’s face reality here, folks. This rapture business is bullshit. Always has been. There is no such thing as god and there will be no final judgment. There is no evidence to support this idea. None. Zero. Anything that people have tried to present as evidence for the supernatural has not only been shown to require a certain degree of circular or otherwise twisted logic, but has been thoroughly refuted by ever-growing mountains of stronger evidence. I cannot be more direct on the matter.

That said, we happen to live in a world and a zeitgeist where a vast majority of people do indeed believe in a god or several gods, along with a host of other supernatural entities. Many people really are taking this rapture business seriously, such as the man holding the sign in the photo above. Other examples might be Kevin Brown and Brian Haubert, who have been working to spread the message of the rapture in recent days. To quote a recent article from NPR News, Brown and Haubert explain:

On May 21, “starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth,” he says. The true Christian believers — he hopes he’s one of them — will be “raptured”: They’ll fly upward to heaven. And for the rest?

“It’s just the horror of horror stories,” he says, “and on top of all that, there’s no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later that the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.”

Most Bible scholars note that even Jesus said he had no idea when Judgment Day would come. But May 21 believers like Haubert are unfazed.

“I’ve crunched the numbers, and it’s going to happen,” he says.

Haubert says the Bible contains coded “proofs” that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah’s flood to May 21, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.

“I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” he says. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.”

He’s tried to warn his friends and family — they think he’s crazy. And that saddens him.

Those poor men. They have drank the Kool-Aid. I was kinda joking when I said the thing about liquidating assets earlier, but for some people they really are going that far. That’s what makes me sad, that people will be so willing to buy into this kind of absurdity so completely. I feel bad for them. What will happen when May 22 comes around and their rapture has not come to pass? Will they plunge into remorseful embarrassment? Or will they cling to the notion of the rapture and frantically re-calculate their prediction? I suspect that Camping will opt for the latter. As for everyone else, who knows? Time will tell. In any case, it will not be a fun day for these people.

To end on a slightly more lighthearted note, here is the Huffington Post’s top 21 reasons May 21 is not the end.

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.

Can Science And Religion Co-Exist?

For a long while now I have argued that science and religion are bound to inherent conflict simply due to their respective natures. There are, of course, several scientists–many accomplished scientists in fact–who identify themselves with a particular faith. As an example, I recently saw a two hour video recording of Ken Miller lecturing on (the collapse of) intelligent design at Case Western University in northern Ohio. It was a wonderful presentation on what evolution is, the history of the conflict between evolution and creationism, and how it pertains to education in Ohio. However, there was one aspect of Miller’s talk that I found to be more than a little bit disquieting, and that was his proclamation of Roman Catholicism. The lecture event even opened up with a Catholic priest leading a prayer. I can’t help but wonder how such an accomplished biologist and proponent of proper science education can internally reconcile these two things, science and Catholicism, in his own personal life. An audience member asked about this issue during the Q & A session, but Miller offered little to no reasoning to justify his position.

It’s a curious thing, taking such efforts to hold on to religious belief, despite knowing that its teachings and doctrines are false.

But then, I found the following open letter from biologist and author Jerry Coyne posted on his own WordPress site addressing why it is no only acceptable for scientists to criticize religion, but in many ways it is essential to do so:

Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America–indeed, throughout the world. Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public. There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists. This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution. I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason–and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one–for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations–certainly of the NCSE–is apparently to cozy up to religion. You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible. Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism. And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks. I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism. And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution. This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will–like the new BCSE–continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation. First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists. Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution. You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Jerry Coyne

What a wonderful piece of writing this is! I think that it illustrates the point quite clearly.

What this issue really boils down to is the dichotomy of what religion has to offer in terms of understanding truth as opposed to science. I’ve heard several people make the argument that science and religion are simply two different methods of seeking out truth. If I were a less mature person, I’d be inclined to accept this seemingly peaceful explanation… but I’m not. In light of critical inquiry, I must challenge this idea.

How does science go about seeking truth? Through the scientific method. Hypotheses are formed, ideas are tested, data is collected, results are shared, tests are repeated, and the process repeats. The system that science utilizes is self-correcting in that ideas that don’t fit with data and observations are discarded without hesitation, even if they had previously been accepted. To be a good scientist is to live in strongly disciplined professional humility. Science is continually improving our understanding of reality. The knowledge and insight that science has provided humanity, even in merely the past 150 years or so, is nothing short of staggering.

Now, what does religion offer to the quest for truth? In a word, nothing. Religion offers explanations for why things are the way they are, but then leaves it alone. Another term for this type of rationality is ‘superstition’. Tests and experiments are not performed, and old ideas and practices are only set aside when they become socially unfavorable (i.e. witch burning, to cite one example). Rather than supporting their claims by empirical evidence, measurable observations and experimental data, religions instead focus on either apologetically attempting to justify these claims or simply ignoring the issue altogether under the banner of faith. Moreover, religions will use fear–the fear of an ever-watchful and judgmental god or eternal torment and despair in a mythical land called hell–to keep their followers in line. This should be plainly obvious to anyone who is brave enough to take a step back and see these institutions as they truly are. It is in this way that religion has served as a fantastically effective means of population control throughout the ages. This is in no way a means to discover truth. Religion is many things, but a tool to understand the nature of reality it is not.

‘One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.’ -Bertrand Russell, from Why I Am Not A Christian