When does life begin?

I was enjoying a visit from my sister and brother-in-law a while back when I was asked a very interesting and enlightening question. You see, I’ve been through a life changing event. Last year, in a feat of strength, I conceived. And nine months later, I had a baby. It was an amazing, life-changing event.

And so, while sitting on the couch taking in the breath, feel and sound of a newly born human, my brother asked me, “So, now that you’ve had a baby, when do you think life begins?” When he asked me this question, I was deep in the thrall of sleep deprivation, and didn’t really realize where the question was coming from. I think my response was something on the lines of, “What? I don’t know.”

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I assume he asked me this in light of my political history. If you know me or have read this blog at all, you know I am pro-choice – staunchly so. I’ve written many blog posts supporting a woman’s right to chose if and when to have a child. I’ve also been an abortion clinic escort for many years. And so I can only assume my brother wondered whether, having experienced pregnancy and childbirth, my views on reproductive matters had changed.

So, when does life begin?

At conception? At implantation? At 12 weeks? 20 weeks? At quickening? At viability? When you’re born? When you start to remember things? Maybe. It is such a subjective question. There is no right answer.

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But the thing is, for me, being pregnant only more keenly highlighted the importance of self determination. Until you’ve been pregnant, you haven’t actually faced the possibility that, under different circumstances, someone else could control your health outcome and even whether you live or die. Being pregnant made me even more grateful that if I had to make a choice about my pregnancy it would be MY decision – not some priest’s or politician’s or some health board’s decision. If I chose to sacrifice my health for the sake of the baby it would be my decision. I was in control of my own body.

So does the moment life begins matter to me? Sure it does. I mean, I AM alive. But the moment life begins cannot bring back the any of the millions of women killed by illegal abortion. The moment life begins cannot put food into the mouths of a poor family. The moment life begins cannot make a woman’s teeth grow back. And the moment life begins doesn’t make me willing to relinquish control of my body and my life for the sake of another.

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I am a mother. I am pro-child. I am pro-family. And I am pro-choice.

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Don’t Call Pregnancy from Rape a Gift from God

Calling an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape a something “God intended to happen” is just not right. The reasons are nearly innumerable. But here are a few.

Calling an unwanted pregnancy from rape a gift implies the rape was a gift as well. You can try to say, “Well, I abhor violence. I abhor rape. My god wouldn’t want that.” But even labeling the direct consequences of the violence perpetrated against a woman as what “God intended to happen” grants a divine dispensation to the rapist. Would you also claim, “This rapist wasn’t too bad since he allowed God to bless her?” I think not (unless you are crazy). Separating the pregnancy from the rape that started it is impossible for many women. So until your god starts impregnating women against their will at random, you should probably refrain from equating unwelcome pregnancy by sexual assault with heavenly benefaction.

Calling an unwanted pregnancy from rape a “gift from God,” and using that to defend a position that bans abortion even in cases of rape and incest, turns women into slaves. Forcing rape victims to carry a rapist’s baby (and in many cases, share custody with him) is the ultimate form of reproductive coercion by the state. A lot of people have never hear the term reproductive coercion. Forcing a woman to bear children against her will facilitates her ensnarement in a subservient position to her abuser – or in this case, the rapist. It is government-sanctioned abuse. This isn’t 80s Romania – this is the Unites States of America! Allowing the state to assume authority over a citizen’s body – be that citizen male, female, pregnant or not – is contrary to The Constitution of the United States and contrary to what Americans expect of their government.

Finally, forcing women to bear children against their will because it is your “God’s will” is forcing your religious beliefs on that woman. If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. If you don’t like the morning after pill, don’t take it. If you think women should just deal with the risks and unalterable physical changes that pregnancy brings with it, then by all means, bear down.

But don’t for one second think that your religious beliefs should be the standard borne by all Americans. Don’t for a moment think that everyone is obligated to serve your god by laying down their own right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness because an reprobate didn’t understand what “NO” meant. And don’t you ever rest in your cozy little bed believing women will just “lay down and take it.”

Because you bet your ass we won’t.

Happy Mother’s Day!

This year, I am donating all the money I would have spent on flowers and chocolate for Mother’s Day to help the improve maternal health all over the globe.

I love my mom. She and mothers like her are the reason for my success. I would not be where I am were it not for her love and her belief in my potential. So it is with joy in my heart that I wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day.

The typical gifts for a mom on Mother’s Day are flowers, chocolate, hugs, dinner out, breakfast in bed, special chores or yard work, and the like. But this year, I am remiss to bestow upon my mother figures material gifts (that they themselves could obtain) while so many mothers of the world suffer. In my mind, flowers are meaningless. Chocolate is meaningless. Chores are meaningless.

Every ninety seconds a woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. That’s 350,000 women who die every year! Sadly, the vast majority of these deaths are avoidable. And the United States are no exception. It’s more dangerous to give birth in the United States than in 49 other countries including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea. In 1990, the United Nations set Millennium Development Goal number 5: reduce maternal mortality by 75% and achieve universal access to reproductive health by the year 2015. These development goals are closely intertwined with reducing hunger and improving education for adolescent girls.

Therefore, with respect for and in honor of all my moms, I want to help all the mothers of the world in their name. So this year, I am donating all the money I would have spent on flowers and chocolate for Mother’s Day to help the improve maternal health all over the globe. Every mother deserves health care and respect. Every mother should be able to give birth without the fear of death. So mom, with the strength you gave me, I do this. I love you mom.

If you would like to learn how you can help improve maternal health and the situation of women and girls locally or globally, check out some of the links below.

Global:

End Poverty 2015: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/getinvolved.shtml

CARE: CARE fights global poverty by placing special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. http://www.care.org/

Girl Up: Girl Up envisions a world where all girls around the world, have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. http://www.girlup.org/

Jolkona Your choice. Your Impact. Your world.: http://www.jolkona.org/impact/mdgs

International Planned Parenthood Federation: IPPF is a global service provider and a leading advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. http://www.ippf.org/en/

Local:

National Network to End Domestic Violence: NNEDV is the leading voice for domestic violence victims and their advocates. http://www.nnedv.org/

United Way: advancing the common good and mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world. http://www.unitedway.org/

Mary Kay Foundation: dedicated to ending women’s cancers and domestic violence abuse: http://www.marykayfoundation.org/Pages/Home.aspx

Faking #Antichoice

Once again my favorite(?) feminist periodical has failed me. Ms. Magazine came out today

with a blog article railing against a bill recently passed by the Arizona legislature. The bill sitting on notoriously antichoice Governor Jan Brewer’s desk would ban abortion after 20 weeks except in the event of a woman’s imminent death. As if women don’t have enough to worry about, now the Arizona legislature wants to ensure a woman is on her death bed before she can make her own medical decisions about her body. But the editors at Ms. have once again stepped out of the realm of journalism into the funhouse halls of sensationalism.

The Ms. Magazine article “NEWSFLASH: Arizona Law Says Life Starts Before Conception” claims Arizona lawmakers are trying to declare life begins before conception by defining the gestational age of a fetus by the date of a woman’s last menstrual period.

This is the second article in a week Ms. has released that is based on complete hogwash. Gestation is widely measured within the medical community from the date of a woman’s last menstrual period. If you are a woman reading this, just try to remember the last time a doctor asked you, “When did your ovaries last release an egg?”

Human pregnancy comes to full term in 40 weeks starting from the last menstrual period. Just ask WebMD:

Baby: Your baby is still just a glimmer in your eye. Although it’s confusing to think about a pregnancy starting before your child is even conceived, doctors calculate your due date from the beginning of your last cycle since it’s hard to know exactly when conception occurred.

Or ask the Mayo Clinic:

It might seem strange, but you’re not actually pregnant the first week or two of the time allotted to your pregnancy. Yes, you read that correctly!

Conception typically occurs about two weeks after your period begins. To calculate your due date, your health care provider will count ahead 40 weeks from the start of your last period. This means your period is counted as part of your pregnancy — even though you weren’t pregnant at the time.

Even better yet, go ask a freakin’ doctor! Seriously! Call one up!

I am as prochoice as it gets. I’m a clinic escort for goodness sake. But portraying common, medically accepted practice as antichoice subterfuge to make your point reeks of “prolife” deception and is straight up dishonest journalism!

Is gender discrimination generational?

So, I had an interesting conversation with a young man a while ago. I’m not exactly sure how the subject came up; but we started talking about sexually based discrimination in the workplace. I told him that, as a woman who looks much younger than her years, I worry that some male coworkers may not put the same weight behind my words and opinions as they would if I were male.

And his reaction shocked and pleased me at the same time. He said, “Why would you think that?” He couldn’t see how someone couldn’t have the same respect for a woman’s opinions where he worked. I told him the following story about a time my knowledge was not respected. I had written a corrective action for a technical report my company had committed to write; but had not written. A customer was asking for it to satisfy a regulatory inquiry. The engineering group responsible for that part of the design committed to providing me with the report by a future date, which I then used to provide a delivery date to the customer. When future date arrived, no report had been written. Hence a deliverable to the customer was missed. I wrote a corrective action to investigate why the report was not planned and, ultimately, get the report written.

The investigator who came to determine the cause of the missing report brought with him a report about fire loadings that I was already familiar with. I told him repeatedly what he had was not the report I needed. He insisted it was. I even explained to him the technical details of the analysis that would be necessary to meet the commitment and that were missing from the report he was holding. He still insisted that what he had in his hand was the report I was seeking.

He was trying to figure out why I wrote the corrective action in the first place when he had the report in his hands. He said, since this is the report, then why did you write this issue? I could not believe that this arrogant son of a bitch would sit in front of me, look me in the face and try to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Seriously, how stupid did he think I was? Apparently, very!

Since my words would not convince him that the issue wasn’t bogus, I sent him away to talk to the responsible manager. Of course, the manager (a male) told him what he had was in fact not the report I required, and that the report hadn’t been written. Viola! The woman might actually know what the hell she’s talking about. Regardless, in his investigation report, he ultimately put the blame on me and my tracking method for engineering missing the deliverable. I couldn’t believe it!

My chat with the younger man gave me interesting perspective. He was a young professional like me who couldn’t believe that women would be treated poorly. He expressed that women aren’t treated like that where he works. He respects the women he works with. I didn’t get into it with him about how women are paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Or that women with children are often passed up for promotions. Or how women who become pregnant or who are lactating are too often discriminated against or even fired. I think he came to the final determination that gender discrimination is a generational problem that doesn’t exist in his generation. I came to the final determination that because gender-specific discrimination was not important to him, he didn’t know about it. We’ll just have to wait and see on this one.