A Small Serving of Justice for Breonna Taylor

The decision not to indict the police officers who murdered Ms. Breonna Taylor does not surprise me. Nor does it enrage or disappoint me.

The police officers who arrived at Ms. Taylor’s house to serve a search warrant weren’t on a mission to kill Black people that night. These officers didn’t shoot at Mr. Walker and Breonna because they were racist. They got shot at and shot back. They were doing their jobs.

Like most of the police officers serving our communities, their aim was probably virtuous: to get drugs and drug peddlers off our streets. They do this job because they feel that they are helping our community.

What is wrong with this picture is what is wrong with American today and what we mean when we talk about systemic racism. It’s what the Black Lives Matter movement SHOULD be about. What we should be focusing on is the system that allowed a warrant to be served on Ms. Taylor’s home in the middle of the night rather than during polite hours while she was more likely to be aware and awake. It’s the system that couldn’t wait for her to open her door and impatiently broke it down with a battering ram. The system that couldn’t coherently answer a homeowner’s shouts for the intruders to identify themselves. The same system that is unable to hold officers accountable when they lie on incident reports.

For too long, Black people have been portrayed negatively in the media, which has led to the devaluation and criminalization of Black lives. It’s the same devaluation that encourages police to disproportionately stop and harass Black and brown people. The one that takes the word of a white person over a Black person. The one that gave birth to “driving while Black.” The one that assures Black children are disproportionately disciplined in school. It’s the system that lauds tokenism and has given rise to a wave of Black “First’s.” The same system that renders people surprised to meet a Black, female nuclear engineer.

This is not about convicting police officers for carrying out department policy. This is about CORRECTING FLAWED POLICIES. This is about building a police force that is accountable to the people they protect. Because there is no amount of non-discrimination or “racial sensitivity training” that can resolve the disproportionality with which Black people are pulled over, ticketed, arrested, searched, or brutalized by police without a cosmic shift in the way Black people are portrayed and regarded in our society.

A lot of bad decisions were made. But most of them were made BEFORE the officers ever banged on Ms. Taylor’s door. If you are going to be mad about something, be mad about that. Ms. Taylor got just about as much justice as I expected her to get. Now it’s up to us to make sure her death was not an empty one.

Stinky Science

Someone asked me why a cloth mask can stop a virus if pants cannot stop a fart. Well, well, WELL! You have asked the right woman!

The part of a fart that smells is actually not a solid. It’s a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and methane gases. So it doesn’t need to travel in a droplet or a particle. Gases can be dissolved in a water droplet, but when a water droplet evaporates from a filter, the gaseous molecule that was in that droplet would continue to travel in the air. (Whereas a viral particle, which is a solid, would be “stuck” in whatever filter the water had adhered to.)

However, gases are not very soluble. They are more soluble in a liquid when they are under pressure (like carbon dioxide in a soda). But once released from the pressure the gases quickly disassociate from the liquid and rise into the air.

Gaseous molecules are very small in comparison to a solid particle like a virus particle. Water particles are also generally larger in comparison because of a family of intermolecular forces we call van der Waals forces that cause them to glom together. If you’ve heard the term “hydrogen bonding,” that is a van der Waals force. Water has strong van der Waals forces that create surface tension. Surface tension makes water tend to form aerosols with a wide range of particle sizes. So a filter stops the aerosolized water particles, giving them time to evaporate and retaining any solid particles that were traveling in the aerosol. But gases released with the aerosols would not be trapped in the filter.

So, wear a mask y’all.

Claim the Victory, Not the Blame

Today, Bill O’Reilly was fired by Fox News. Women everywhere are rejoicing. Finally, after decades of excuses and backdoor rug sweeping, this sexist degenerate has been held accountable for his actions.

But we should be careful not to play into the narrative that he and his friend Trump are oh, so sure to drum out. He’ll of course deny the allegations. He’ll say he is a victim of the “fake” mainstream media. He’ll say “feminazi” groups launched a witch hunt against him. And memes that place the credit for his demise on women surely play into his hands.

Women are not responsible for taking good old Billy down. Bill O’Reilly himself is responsible for that.

Yes, it is we women who ultimately fanned the fire under the feet of Fox News leadership to hold sexists accountable for the harassment they unleashed on female colleagues. It is we women, with our buying power and market influence, who put pressure on advertisers to pull their sponsorship of O’Reilly’s show. It was a woman who decided she’d had enough, that she wasn’t going to be pushed around and bullied, and decided to go public with her story.

But it is Bill O’Reilly who is the mastermind behind his downfall – his actions determining the direction his story would take. Bill O’Reilly is the composer of his very own symphony of defeat – every pitiful stanza being a testament to his disrespect for his fellow colleagues, his hatred of women, and his disregard for the truth. It is Bill O’Reilly who took Bill O’Reilly down. And he has no one to blame for his failure but himself.

Interjection Dissection

I hate being interrupted.

I’m not talking about someone entering the room when you’re speaking or need privacy, or the intrinsic overlap of friendly banter. I’m talking the “I-start-to-talk” about what I’m doing and the “listener” abruptly interjects with his (supposed) countering opinion without even knowing what I was going to say. I’m talking about the rude shutdown.

Maybe people don’t realize they’re doing it. Maybe he didn’t hear me start talking. Maybe his hearing is bad. Maybe he is blind and deaf and didn’t see my mouth moving either.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I get it. I’m a young (looking) engineer. I’m pretty. I wear skirts and jewelry to work. I’m a Black woman. (WOOT!) But when did any of these attributes point to the (imaginary) place in our unwritten book of professional etiquette that says it is acceptable to disrespect me?

“Interrupting people is rude, m’kay?”

Shut up. Stop talking. Listen when someone is talking to you. You may be pleasantly surprised what comes out of the other person’s mouth.

PA Legislature Introduces Abortion Ban

A bill  was introduced today in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would effectively ban second trimester abortions.  House Bill 1948, introduced by Representative Kathy Rapp and Rep. Bryan Barbin, Rep. Bryan Cutler was introduced late to the House Health Committee Friday and this morning was fast track to the full assembly without a public hearing.

The cosponsors of HB1948 claim the bill is intended to prevent fetal pain and reduce complications of an abortion. But in this Trojan horse bill hides an agenda to ban ALL second trimester abortions.

HB1948 contains language that would rename the most common and safest 2nd trimester abortion procedure (dilation and evacuation, or D&E) as a “dismemberment” abortion and then would ban it’s implementation. Doing this would effectively ban all 2nd trimester abortions in Pennsylvania as they are currently performed.  This part of HB1948 would limit doctors’ choices concerning first trimester procedures as well, since a D&E is not uncommon choice in the first trimester. Banning the safest available type of abortion procedure would NOT protect women from complications of abortion. On the contrary, HB1948 would increase the chance of complications after ending a pregnancy.
In addition, although the bill’s sponsors claim a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks there is inadequate scientific evidence to conclude fetal brain development is sufficient to feel pain at that stage of development. The authors may cite Dr.Kanwaljeet Anand to support their claims. However, Dr. Anand’s findings have not been corroborated by any independent research; and remain an outlier in this area of study. In fact, a preponderance of the scientific evidence leads one to exactly the opposite conclusion. The majority of the scientific research on the subject of fetal brain development has found the neural pathways required to experience pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks gestation and more likely later.
Whether a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks should be a moot point in the debate over second trimester abortion. For most women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks – that’s only 1.4 percent of all abortions performed – the abortion is needed because something has gone very wrong with the pregnancy (i.e. – it is not an elective abortion).
It is clear the cosponsors’ characterization of HB1948’s purpose is insincere at best. And rather than giving the people of Pennsylvania a thoughtful review of HB1948 and it’s very real and detrimental consequences, the Health Committee passed it to the general assembly floor for a vote without even 24-hours of consideration. This is just another attempt to slowly chip away at the right to terminate a pregnancy until that right completely disappears.
It’s time to call your state legislator and make your voice heard on House bill 1948. To contact your PA House Representative click here.

**Edited to note the D&E ban would affect first trimester procedures as well.

Punish Women for Having an Abortion? GOP says YES!

Donald Trump has spent the better part of the last week playing mopping boy to all his gaffes. But there is one thing Donald said this week that – bob and weave as he may – he will not be able to dodge. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this week, Donald Trump admitted he supports punishing women who have an abortion.

The Donald has spent the better part of the week trying to back away from his words. He’s claimed the interview was edited. He’s claimed he “misspoke.” And he keeps trying to offer an alternative to his genuine belief that women should be punished for seeking reproductive care by offering that the doctors who provide that care should be punished in lieu of the woman who decided to obtain it – as if we women are unthinking, naive victims of these money grubbing health care providers.

But I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

The GOP platform is clear about their stance on abortion. The GOP “support a human life amendment to the Constitution.” No matter then rest of their pretty words on the sanctity of life and supporting pregnant women, ratification of the “personhood” amendment the GOP so pointedly seeks means women will go to jail.

I am not just talking through my teeth about this. The evidence is clear. It has been demonstrated time after time that women ARE punished when abortion is made illegal. Take one look at the countries where abortion is illegal and you cannot deny the evidence. In countries where abortion is illegal, women go to jail for having abortions, women go to jail for having miscarriages, and women die due to unsafe abortion.

Even in the United States women have been prosecuted for obtaining abortion inducing drugs or miscarrying after attempting to self-abort.

So when Ted Cruz says he does not agree with Donald Trump’s position – that women be punished for abortion –  he is LYING to you. Ted Cruz supports a personhood amendment. He KNOWS that women will go to jail if a personhood amendment is passed. Ted Cruz supports punishing women. John Kasich supports punishing women. Mitch McConnell supports punishing women. The whole damn GOP supports punishing women.

Women and Children Deserve Better


It’s a common slogan in “prolife” circles: “Women deserve better than abortion.” I see these signs carried by protesters outside my local clinic on a regular basis, as if some ridiculous protest sign is going to changed a woman’s mind about something so serious.

But you know what? They are right on one point.

Women DO deserve better.

Women who live in the richest country in the world should not have to choose abortion because of economic hardship. The most expensive health care on the planet, pregnancy discrimination, lack of parental leave, no sick leave, no paid leave, and astronomical child care costs can create a situation where a woman who might otherwise choose to carry on a pregnancy, eventually give birth and possibly raise a child chooses instead to end it. It is a contingency that affects women and families across all demographics. Eliminating this situation is a commendable goal.

But there are so many points on which these anti-choice protesters are wrong, wrong, WRONG! Organizations like Feminists For Life elevate this mantra, characterizing abortion as a “humiliating, invasive procedure” that “sacrifices” a child. They characterize abortion as a violent, tragic scourge pushed upon victimized, vulnerable women. And they cite flawed research to persuade the public that abortion is dangerous, causes psychiatric distress and cancer. On all these additional points they could not be more wrong.

Abortion is not humiliating. Abortion is not tragic. Abortion is not violent. Abortion is not always a symptom of an underlying problem. And women who choose abortion are not “victims.”

On the contrary, for the woman who feels trapped in an abusive or unsatisfying relationship, abortion is a tale of liberation. For the woman with pregnancy complications, abortion is tale of healing. For the woman working hard to finish college, abortion is a tale of opportunity. For the woman who just does not want children, abortion is a tale of relief.

And, since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal and safe, the dangers associated with illegal, unsafe abortion have all but disappeared. The rates of serious complications and death from pregnancy far exceed those of abortion. Most women who have abortions go on to have healthy pregnancies when they are ready to do so. And research has shown that the incidence of mental health issues in women after abortion is no greater than that experience by women after other stressful life events.

Rather than saving the lives of the unborn, I am most motivated to protect and improve the quality of life for the living. Having compassion for the living means advancing clean energy, maximizing available resources and changing public policy to increase pregnancy safety and encourage birth. Having compassion for the living also means protecting a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion without guilt and without apology.

So, yes, women and their children do deserve better – much better – than the guilt and shame leveled at them by the “prolife” movement. Women deserve good quality of life. Women deserve choices. Women deserve respect.

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