healthcare, law

When a miscarriage during pregnancy leads to a miscarriage of justice…

Last night, as the evening was winding down, I noticed an op-ed in The New York Times about a young woman from Oklahoma named Brittney Poolaw. I have gifted the op-ed in the above link, so if you don’t have a subscription to the paper, you should be able to read it for free.

So who is Brittney Poolaw, and why should anyone care about her? According to Michelle Goldberg, author of the op-ed, Brittney Poolaw is a woman who is sitting in prison because she miscarried during her seventeenth week of pregnancy. At the time of her miscarriage, Poolaw was just 19 years old. She was at home when the miscarriage happened, and had presented herself for medical attention at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.

A police detective interviewed Ms. Poolaw after she admitted to hospital staff that she had used methamphetamines and marijuana during her pregnancy. The medical examiner who examined Brittney Poolaw’s fetus cited her drug use as contributing factors in the miscarriage. Also cited were a congenital abnormality and placental abruption.

Poolaw was arrested on a charge of first degree manslaughter. She didn’t have the money for the $20,000 bond, so she spent a year and a half in jail, awaiting her trial. The trial finally occurred this month, and jurors spent less than three hours deciding Brittney Poolaw’s fate. She was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, even though an expert witness explained that Poolaw’s drug use might not have been the direct cause of the miscarriage.

I recently mentioned that I’ve been watching a lot of videos by Jessica Kent, a YouTube personality who has a lot of experience with being in jail and prison. Jessica has done time in several states, mainly because she is a recovering drug addict. She also had the unfortunate experience of giving birth while incarcerated. I have been studying prison reform independently for years, but Jessica Kent’s videos have really opened my eyes to just how unjust and inhumane the U.S. prison system is, particularly for people with drug addictions.

Jessica Kent was pregnant in prison. She’s also a recovering drug addict.
One of Jessica Kent’s videos about her experiences with pregnancy…

I know a lot of people would say that the answer is simple; just don’t do drugs. And I think that advice is easy to follow if you are fortunate enough to come from a supportive family, live in an area where there are many opportunities for work and socializing, have access and the ability to pay for healthcare, and have the will and the drive not to succumb to temptation or peer pressure.

In Poolaw’s case, simply being able to get to a doctor and, perhaps, having an abortion available to her might have prevented her from being imprisoned. According to Goldberg’s opinion piece, Poolaw told the detective that “when she found out she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.” Seems to me that it would have been kinder and better if Brittney could have either had an abortion, or had access to a physician and, perhaps, a social worker or other advocate while she was pregnant.

When I was studying social work, I did part of my internship with what was then called Healthy Families South Carolina. It was a program that was affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse America, and it was designed to help people like Brittney Poolaw maintain healthy pregnancies and get very young children off to a healthier start. Those who were enrolled in the program got home visit services from workers who would help them access healthcare and teach them about making safe and healthy decisions for their babies. These families got coaching from trained parent educators and, in fact, that made a noticeable difference in the outcomes for a lot of the clients. That was something I noted in the massive paper I wrote and presented for my MPH/MSW degrees. Wow… it just occurred to me that the babies I saw when I was finishing my degree are now adults! Time really flies!

Why didn’t someone direct Brittney Poolaw to a program like that? My guess is because she couldn’t access the healthcare system and never got a referral. What would have happened if she could have gotten to a doctor early in her pregnancy? Maybe she would have chosen to have an abortion, or maybe she would have had her baby. And maybe she would have been able to access support from people who are trained to work with young people with big problems. I know nothing about Brittney Poolaw or her past, but experience tells me that a lot of people who end up in her situation have had some pretty terrible traumas in their lives and experienced abuse.

I know a lot of people think that Brittney Poolaw deserves to be in prison for taking drugs while she was pregnant. But having worked with young people who are poor, disenfranchised, and lacking meaningful mentorship, I can understand why she turned to drugs. It happens to so many people. And I think instead of prison, Brittney Poolaw should have gotten compassionate medical attention and real help from someone who might have shown her that she has worth. Having watched so many of Jessica Kent’s videos, I realize that Brittney Poolaw is probably facing even more abuse and degradation on a daily basis now. I don’t think that’s going to help her turn away from drugs when she is finally released from prison.

But, aside from the fact that I think Poolaw’s community really failed her, I also think that other women have much to fear from this ruling. It really is a slippery slope when pregnant women wind up in legal trouble for things they do while pregnant that lead to a loss of the pregnancy. In Poolaw’s case, the actions that contributed to her miscarriage were illegal, but what if she’d had one too many glasses or wine, or something? What if she’d been in a car without a seatbelt or was wearing it incorrectly? What if she tripped and fell down some stairs?

I think it’s very scary that any woman who gets pregnant might find herself being scrutinized by law enforcement after a miscarriage. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but it also may cause women like Poolaw to avoid seeking medical care. That might be especially true if she’s doing something like drinking alcohol or using drugs. I know a lot of physicians would prefer not to have to deal with drug using pregnant women, but they are precisely the women who need the most attention from someone who has medical expertise. Moreover, it really is chilling to think that the developing fetuses in already born people are superseding the already born people’s civil rights.

The pro-life/anti-abortion movement has been working tirelessly to change laws so that developing embryos and fetuses are seen as “babies” and “children”. But if you take a close look at what happens during pregnancy, it actually takes a pretty long while before the developing embryos and fetuses turn into anything viable outside of the womb. Until then, they really are part of the mother, and it really does seem wrong to me that we should put pregnant women in a different class–with different rules and civil rights– than people who aren’t pregnant. It’s beyond creepy that some judges, particularly in the South, are using situations like Brittney Poolaw’s to chip away at Roe v. Wade and promote the whole “sanctity of life” movement. It seems to me that life is only sacred to these types of folks when it involves the unborn. Once a person has been born, they’re on their own… and God help them stay out of prison.

Should Brittney Poolaw have had an abortion? I suppose she should have, especially since she clearly wasn’t ready to be a mother and had no resources to help her maintain a healthy pregnancy. I’m not sure how open she would have been to receiving help from a social worker or someone else who works with at risk parents and children. But I do think she should have had the option presented to her. It sounds to me like she didn’t have anyone to go to for help when she got pregnant. Instead, she turned to drugs.

I admittedly haven’t looked at Oklahoma’s social welfare programs and I don’t what is available for young people like Brittney Poolaw, but my guess is that even if they are widely available, Poolaw didn’t know how to access them. That’s not really something that is taught in school, at least in my experience. In my first year of my MSW program, I did my internship at a multi-disciplinary rural physician’s practice associated with the University of South Carolina. My clients were referred to me by a family doctor in a rural community. But it sounds like Brittney didn’t have a doctor, and it looks like she was no longer in school… so where would she have gotten a referral to someone like I was when I was in graduate school?

Perhaps the police could have referred her, instead of arresting her and putting her in prison… Or… the medical staff, who should have advocated for her and helped her with her medical problems could have assisted her in finding someone to help her with her problems. Sadly, it sounds like instead of getting the help she obviously needs, Brittney Poolaw will be wasting four years in a prison cell… along with so many other Americans. I hope someday the United States gets over its obsession with incarcerating people. We’ve got to do better than this.

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healthcare, politicians, politics, rants

The Party of Family Values, my ass!

Last night, I read a New York Times article about how the Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to block the Abortion Law in Texas. The Biden administration is planning to challenge the law, giving the Supreme Court Justices the opportunity to take another look at it.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people commenting about the article. Quite a few comments came from conservative white men, many of whom wanted to know why women didn’t simply “abstain” from having sex. I had to have a laugh at that. In my experience, it’s usually not the women who are wanting sex the most. I mean, yes, there are lots of women who enjoy having sex, but I think men are the ones who are mostly driven to have it.

As we all know, when a woman gets pregnant, she’s usually pregnant for nine months. A man, on the other hand, can do his part in creating babies with a woman, then do the same thing with another woman the next day… and the day after that… and the day after that…

So why are we so focused on women when it comes to stopping abortion? Why aren’t we more focused on the men?

No… I don’t support forced vasectomies, just as I don’t think women should either be denied or forced to have abortions (and when I was a social worker, I did have a minor client who was forced to have an abortion she didn’t want). But I do think a lot of men need to be shaken up a little bit and reminded that if they’re so against abortion, there are things that they can do to stop them. For one thing, they can stop having sex for fun. Do you think that’s extreme? It’s what the men often tell women when this issue comes up. So many of them seem to think pregnancy should be punishment for what they deem as immoral, “slutty”, behavior. They don’t seem to think of the aftermath of what happens to the poor child who could be born into that situation.

A lot of men want to blame women for “getting themselves pregnant”. But no woman gets pregnant by herself. I’ve never seen a man’s name on a medical bill for a pregnant woman’s care, though. And I’ve never head of a biological man having to be on bed rest during a pregnancy. And when the baby is born, the man often has an easier time of going back to work. There’s no healing involved… no breastmilk coming in… no postpartum health issues.

Anyway, I managed to restrain myself from commenting too much on that particular piece, although I did comment that sometimes abortions are medically indicated. I added that at no time is it anyone’s business when someone else chooses to have one. A lot of women were adding their thoughts, and one guy was taking them on, one by one. He asked me what medical conditions might require a woman to have an abortion.

Seriously, guy? My response was that I wasn’t wasting my Friday night to teach this dude about obstetrics and gynecology. Instead, I directed him to the excellent video by Mama Doctor Jones that I’ve already shared in this blog more than once. She very clearly spells out why this new law, Senate Bill 8, is very bad news. Here’s the video again for those who missed it.

As Mama Doctor Jones pointed out, people who are pregnant are always at a higher risk than people who aren’t.

But, in short terms, someone who is pregnant and happens to have any kind of chronic disease, like diabetes, or lupus, or cancer, or someone who has mental health or addiction issues, or someone who can barely support themselves… those are all people who might benefit from having the choice to have an abortion. And there are other situations that may make someone consider terminating a pregnancy. At no time is it anyone else’s business.

I finally navigated away from the infuriating comments from the men on that thread and went to sleep. Then this morning, I woke up to this headline from the Washington Post— “Republicans fault Buttigieg for time off with newborns. Democrats say he’s showing the need for paid parental leave.“. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, became parents of two newborns in August. They spent over a year trying to adopt the babies, often coming close to success, only to have their hopes dashed. They finally got their wish, and now the couple is rightly taking parental leave.

Republicans, who often refer to themselves as The Party of Family Values, apparently don’t think it’s cool that Buttigieg is taking time to bond with his new babies. Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, actually mocked Buttigieg for taking paternity leave, saying

“Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went…”

So… basically, the Republican Party is all for family values, as long as they’re “traditional”. All of these Republican men are so against abortion, but then they mock two dedicated parents for taking time off to nurture their new families? Republicans want to force women to give birth, but they object to allowing new parents time to actually care for their babies? That doesn’t seem very “family friendly” to me.

Many Republicans probably just don’t like the idea of homosexuals raising families. That’s a real shame, since most of my homosexual friends and relatives are some of the finest people I know and are wonderful parents. They certainly understand the importance of a loving and supportive family. Too many of them have been cast out of their families simply due to who they choose to love.

Now… I’m not saying that all Republicans are homophobes. I’m sure there are plenty of people who identify as conservative, but aren’t actually homophobic. The trouble is, too few of them are in public office. The United States is unusual among developed nations for not recognizing the need for parents–both male and female– to be able to take family leave. Slowly, things are changing. Bill told me this morning that even the Army is allowing new dads to take leave. I’m sure the positive effects of that policy will become apparent in the future.

President Biden is trying to introduce new policies that will make the United States a more family friendly place. Maybe if we had more policies that made having babies and raising children easier, there would be fewer abortions. Just a thought.

Republicans want women to have babies no matter what, but they don’t support allowing parents to actually take care of those babies. So what does that mean? The baby goes to a child care facility while the parent goes right back to work? Aren’t these the same people bitching about socialism and government overreach? Okay, so maybe the child care facility is privately owned and run… and super expensive! Wouldn’t it be better if we allowed the parents of babies to actually take care of their babies when they’re super young?

Recently, Buttigieg has been more present on the job. He recently commented about his new role on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”:

“It’s been wonderful,” Buttigieg said during that appearance. “It’s everything people tell you to expect and more. I think the biggest thing that has surprised me is just how much joy there is, even sometimes in the hard parts. Don’t get me wrong — it’s the most demanding thing I think I’ve ever done, that Chasten and I have ever taken on, but it’s just amazing.”

He sounds like a good dad to me. A good, and present, dad makes for a healthier family.

Even Fox News gives new parents six weeks of leave– which is not enough, in my opinion. But, in March of this year, “Fox & Friends” co-host Todd Piro took six weeks of paternity leave after his daughter’s birth. Piro was grateful for the time to spend with his new baby girl.

“I cannot thank Fox enough for providing all fathers who work here with such a generous paternity leave,” Piro wrote in an op-ed in April. “This experience has changed me in a profound way and in ways I won’t fully comprehend until my daughter is older. But for now — that smile coming from the crib each morning, immediately followed by morning snuggles — is what I will cherish the most.”

And other Fox hosts have also praised having the chance to take leave. When his third child was born in April 2021, Fox News host Jesse Watters admitted that he now supports paid paternity leave.

“Now I am pro-paternity. I used to mock people for taking paternity, I used to think it was a big ruse, but now, you know, I wish I could take six weeks,” Watters said.

But Republicans are still bitching about Pete Buttigieg’s “gall” at taking parental leave. They’re criticizing his leadership potential and making personal insults instead of working with him to make policies that actually benefit American families. They’re trying to force women who aren’t ready to have babies to stay pregnant, while denying them any assistance that would help them have healthy babies and actually raise those babies into well-adjusted and well-prepared adults.

Meanwhile, Democrats are lauding the idea of parental leave, as well as leave that would allow people to care for their sick and aging parents. Bill and I are in the “sandwich generation”– that stage of life in which we might have been really squeezed if we’d had children. So far, we aren’t affected the way many of our peers are– I have friends who are caring for their children, as well as their elderly parents. It really puts a strain on middle aged people and, frankly, makes them vulnerable to chronic diseases themselves.

I don’t think Republicans actually are the The Party of Family Values. I think they are The Party of Greed, Sexism, and Racism, and trying to control women’s bodies. There’s much more to living than working and making money. The conservative men, many of whom are drunk on their own toxic masculinity, ought to step aside and think about this for a minute. They say they’re against abortions because it’s an assault on the “sanctity of life”. They say adoption is a better choice. But Pete and Chasten Buttigieg have adopted two babies, and now they’re getting their chops busted by Republicans who mock them for wanting to have a family…

I guess “family values” for Republicans only apply to traditional couples. What a shame. I think Pete and Chasten Buttigieg are going to be fabulous parents. I wish them well, and I’m glad they took some time to adapt to their new life roles. All Americans should have that opportunity. Republicans should embrace the idea, especially if they’re serious about wanting to curtail abortions. Stop the slut shaming and moralizing and actually make some policies that would make the prospect of having children more workable and feasible.

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healthcare, politicians, politics, poor judgment

The COVID curse… Lora Reinbold, an outspoken conservative, comes down with the virus.

Several weeks ago, I read about Republican Alaska lawmaker, Senator Lora Reinbold, having an unusual problem. Reinbold represents Eagle River, Alaska, which is near Anchorage. The capital of Alaska is Juneau. Reinbold is not able to travel to Juneau, because it would require flying on Alaska Airlines, which is the only airline that offers flights this time of year between Anchorage and Juneau. Reinbold is not allowed to fly on Alaska Airlines right now.

Last April, Lora Reinbold, an outspoken critic regarding federal face mask mandates, got into an argument with Alaska Airlines staff at Juneau International Airport about the mask rules. Because of that heated exchange, which was captured on video and went viral, Reinbold has been banned from flying on Alaskan Airlines until the federal mask mandates are lifted. At this writing, they have been extended until January 18, 2022.

I’m sure a new meme is forthcoming…

Delta Airlines offers flights to Juneau at other times of the year, but is not offering them now. So Lora Reinbold’s choices are to either take a boat, or drive for two days, to get to the state capital. She has been excused from legislative sessions until next year.

Meanwhile, as she sits at home, stuck in Eagle River, Reinbold has now come down with COVID-19 herself. She announced on social media that she’s got the virus and has promised to defeat it. Below is a screenshot of her Facebook post.

Well… I do hope she can stay out of the hospital. But other outspoken conservatives before her have made similarly bold statements on social media and did not survive to do a victory dance.

And here’s a follow up posted 12 hours later. She paired this with a photo of a sweet looking golden retriever.

I hope, for her sake, she’s right… but I wouldn’t necessarily bet the farm. She might still “buy the farm”, if you know what I mean.

All of the photos I have seen of Lora Reinbold show her wearing what looks like some kind of plastic mask thingy. It does appear to cover her nose and mouth, but it’s made of a clear material, so her whole face can be seen. I don’t know if that type of “mask” is effective or not. I’ve never seen anyone else wearing them. I do remember last year, some waiters and waitresses at a restaurant Bill and I like had a sort of clear shield that covered the lower half of their faces. We visited that restaurant the other day and no one was wearing them then; they all had surgical masks.

I don’t know if the plastic mask Reinbold has been shown wearing does more or less than a surgical mask would. I have never had much faith in cloth masks and, in fact, have never worn a cloth mask myself. They aren’t allowed in Germany, anyway. I mean, you can wear one if you want to, but if you want to go into a shop or take public transportation, you have to use a medical grade mask. I have stated from the beginning that if I have to wear a mask, I prefer them to be masks I didn’t buy on Etsy. I also think that staying away from people is better than wearing a mask, especially when the isolation is coupled with a COVID vaccination. I also don’t know if Reinbold is vaccinated. It was not made clear in the articles I’ve read. Based on the screenshot below, I suspect she’s not been innoculated.

Oh dear.

I do think it’s interesting that after she made a big stink about wearing a mask on a plane and referred to the masks as “suffocating”, Lora Reinbold now has the virus. Now she has to put on a brave face to her public. She says she’s doing fine. I truly hope she is. Alaska hospitals don’t need another patient. From what I’ve read, hospitals in Alaska are having a hell of a time dealing with COVID patients.

I don’t cheer for anyone getting COVID-19, even people who act like fools. Well… okay, maybe I did kind of smile when Trump got it, but that’s because I despise Donald Trump. I think Trump is dangerous and repulsive. But I recognize that even Trump has loved ones who would miss him if he died. I’m sure Lora Reinbold does, too. Aside from that, I’ve read that dying of COVID is a pretty awful way to go. I try hard not to wish suffering on others, even if sometimes I fail. I’m human… but the Golden Rule is still a good mantra. If I were sick and dying, I would hope most people wouldn’t cheer about it. I know a few people would, though. I’ve got my enemies.

What I do find concerning is the way people “laugh” about COVID. Below is a comment someone left for Senator Reinbold. Notice that she got “laughing” reactions. I don’t understand why people are so shitty. It appears that the people who “laughed” are liberal types… I guess it just goes to show that assholes come in all political flavors.

She’s a human being who just lost her mother. That’s not really a laughing matter, is it?

I do hope Lora Reinbold recovers and is able to stay at home. And I hope if her “get well soon” recipe works, she’ll share it and help save some lives. However, it’s my guess that she may be in for a tough time… I have some friends who have had COVID. At least a couple of them had to spend time in the hospital. We’re all about ten years younger than Lora Reinbold is.

I like to hear about people getting over COVID-19, especially since while some of us are sick from COVID, we’re all really sick of COVID. So count me among those who hope that Lora Reinbold gets well soon, even if she did make an ass of herself at the airport. I don’t blame her for hating face masks. I hate them too. I hope someday, they are no longer necessary. I do my best to stay out of situations that would require me to wear them for long, including flying on airplanes. Bill has to go to Poland next month. He invited me to go with him, but it would require flying, and I just don’t know that I want to deal with that, even if I would enjoy seeing Warsaw.

I do think that the situation with flying isn’t going to improve as long as masks are required. Many people keep saying they’re “not a big deal”, but clearly they ARE a big deal to some folks. There’s been a noticeable uptick in bad behavior in airports and on planes since the masks became required. So obviously, not everyone is okay with wearing them. And while I cooperate with the mandates myself, I can understand why some people feel the need to fight them, even if I don’t condone violence or bad behavior. What I’m saying is that I get that the masks suck, and I think it should be okay to say that without being “corrected” by the PC police. At the same time, COVID sucks more… and we’re not going to get past this shit until people cooperate.

I don’t think Lora Reinbold’s approach to COVID is a particularly smart one, but it’s her life. I don’t know that Ivermectin and vitamins are going to save her, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe she has a super excellent immune system… or maybe she got a less dangerous variant… or maybe she’s going to be lucky. Time will tell. I hope the other conservative pundits who want to publicly declare their superiority over COVID will take note. Maybe they shouldn’t say it out loud. At this writing, several conservative radio show hosts have mocked COVID and later died of the virus. It’s way past time more people started taking this seriously. COVID is not a joke.

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healthcare, rants

A stupid hill to die on…

I’ve been thinking about my health lately, and not just because of COVID-19. That stomach bug I had two weeks ago has left some lingering effects. Sorry if this is too much information for the delicate among you, but I have been suffering from what I think is “post-infectious IBS“. Ever since I kicked the acute version of whatever made me sick two weeks ago, I’ve been dealing with, shall we say, mixed bowel habits, especially in the morning. Since mornings are when I tend to do most of my stuff for the day, this new development is cramping my style somewhat. As I write this, I feel vaguely queasy, and I’ve had diarrhea and constipation. It’s not the greatest way to start the day, although one positive to this development is that I don’t want to eat very much. Maybe I’ll finally lose some weight.

Up until two weeks ago, I’ve had the good fortune of being pretty healthy, in spite of my decadent lifestyle. I haven’t had a cold or the flu in ages (knock on wood). I didn’t even feel sick after I got vaccinated against COVID-19. I just had a sore arm for a day or so after the first shot. After the second shot, I didn’t even have that.

I understand not everyone has been as lucky as I’ve been. In fact, I realize that some people really suffered after they got vaccinated. Still, I don’t understand why so many people are still refusing to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It seems to me like a pretty stupid hill to die on.

This morning, I read two stories about people who are refusing to get vaccinated. One person gave up her job as an anchorwoman on a morning television show in Mississippi. Another is allowing herself to be marked inactive as a candidate for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Both she, and her living donor, are refusing to be vaccinated against a deadly virus that has killed millions of people worldwide.

I’ve written before that, generally speaking, I do have empathy for people who want to make their own medical decisions. I also understand that there are people who can’t get a vaccine for health reasons. Some people also cite religious reasons why they won’t get the shot(s)– personally, I think religious reasons for avoiding vaccines are pretty bogus. Let me make it clear that I’m not for forcing people to get shots. However, I am in favor of private businesses being allowed to make decisions based on whether or not people get vaccinated, particularly against diseases that are highly communicable and have killed so many people.

The Mississippi anchorwoman, name of Meggan Gray, is 40 years old and has co-hosted “Good Morning Mississippi” on WLOX for the past 14 years. Her former employer, Gray Television, mandated that employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1. Gray decided not to comply with the directive. So she was forced to resign her position. She claims she had made an “informed and prayerful decision” not to get the vaccine. In a public Facebook post on her page, she wrote:

Before GrayTV mandated this vaccination policy, I made an informed and prayerful decision not to get the vaccine, mostly because I had already survived a case of COVID-19. (There are other, more powerful reasons that led to my personal decision.) I know there will be people who disagree with me or do not understand my reasons. That is fully understood because that is a protected right they enjoy. Moreover, it is a personal decision for each American; but in my opinion, a forced decision to decide between a vaccination and the livelihood of an individual is a dangerous precedent.

Unfortunately, because of my decision about vaccination, I faced termination. The decision was difficult because I knew it would impact me and my family. My choices were either I follow the mandate and get vaccinated, or I lose my career at WLOX.

Gray writes that she offered to be tested weekly (which wouldn’t have been often enough). Her request was denied, and rightfully so. Yes, it’s true that vaccinated people can still get and spread COVID-19, but the evidence is very clear that vaccinated people are much less likely to get and spread the disease. I fully support Gray’s decision not to get vaccinated. But I also support her former employer’s decision to terminate her for not complying with a company policy designed to keep everyone safe from a deadly communicable disease.

There are plenty of people out there who are willing to abide by the company’s policies and can do Meggan Gray’s job. I’m sure there are people who enjoy Gray’s work as an anchorwoman, but they can get used to someone else. Television is a pretty competitive field. I’m certain there are many people who would love the opportunity to launch a career at WLOX, although maybe some of them would rather avoid living in Mississippi. I’ve got nothing against the state myself, but I can see why some would rather not go there.

Moreover, Mississippi is an “at will” employment state. That means that a person can be fired from a job for any reason that is non-discriminatory. I’m not sure, but I don’t think COVID-19 vaccination hold outs are in a protected class of people who can claim discrimination when they are dismissed for non-compliance of company policy regarding vaccinations. I would think that someone who “prayerfully” considered not getting the vaccine would understand a private business’s right to enforce health policies. Besides, God helps those who help themselves.

I’m sorry that Meggan Gray has chosen this hill to die on. I hope she doesn’t literally die because she’s made this choice. I especially hope her decision doesn’t kill someone else, and no one ends up begging for the shot as they lie in an intensive care unit, gasping for breath. I wish her luck with her career. Maybe Fox News will hire her. Or maybe she can start a YouTube channel. I know some people are cheering on her decision not to be vaccinated. Personally, I think people who are refusing to be vaccinated are short on sense. But maybe that’s because I have a master’s degree in public health.

As for the lady in Colorado who is being denied a kidney transplant… I don’t know where she’s been, but people who need organ transplants are routinely required to abide by conditions before they can get someone else’s healthy organ(s) transplanted. They typically have to agree not to smoke or drink alcohol. They have to agree to take powerful immunosuppressant drugs and yes, be vaccinated against diseases– not just COVID-19, but other diseases, too, like hepatitis and measles, mumps, and rubella. These are standard protocols for transplant surgeries; they are nothing new.

I don’t have any personal experience with organ transplantation, but I have done some reading about the experience. In one book I read, Sick Girl, by Amy SIlverstein, the author explained that getting a transplant is basically like trading one health problem for another. She wrote that she constantly suffered from sinus infections and colds because she had to keep her immune system weakened. Otherwise, it would attack her donated heart and she would die.

Leilani Lutali needs a donated kidney. She and her living donor have chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “for religious reasons”. Lutali claims that she’s “uncomfortable” taking the vaccine, and worries how it will affect her health. She stated, “I’m being coerced into making a decision that is one I’m not comfortable making right now in order to live…” She cares enough about staying alive to accept a donated organ, and her religion doesn’t forbid organ transplants. But somehow, her religion forbids vaccines? That sounds like bullshit to me. But if her faith in a God is so strong, then maybe God will perform a miracle and she won’t need that kidney after all.

I want to ask Lutali… why in the hell did she consult physicians for help with her kidneys if she knows more than they do? I get being an expert on the experience of living in one’s own body, but why go to a doctor for cutting edge medical care if she doesn’t trust their opinions about how to prepare for a transplant? She’s concerned about how the vaccine will affect her health in the long run? If she doesn’t get a transplant soon, this will not be a concern for her anymore. She will die, and health will be a thing of the past for her.

Aside from putting herself and the success of her operation at risk, Lutali will also be putting hospital staff and other patients at risk by not being vaccinated. For some reason, these folks who know more than medical and public health professionals have missed the memo that COVID-19 is extremely contagious. Hospitals, for all of their lifesaving capabilities, are chock full of organisms originating from sick people.

Hospitals are not actually good places for sick people to be, because sick people are there, and they spread diseases. That’s why people who go to the hospital for a simple surgery sometimes end up contracting nosocomial infections or iatrogenic illnesses. COVID-19 spreads like wildfire, and people in hospitals are already vulnerable. What right do Leilani Lutali and her donor have, putting other vulnerable people at risk?

I wish Lutali luck with her quest to find physicians and a hospital that will grant her a kidney transplant without the vaccine. I hope if she finds them, she tells us who the surgeon(s) are and where they practice medicine. That way, people can make an informed decision to avoid seeking treatment from them.

Most of the time, I really do support people’s rights to make their own decisions regarding medical treatment and healthcare. I do support privacy policies, too. But COVID-19 is a different matter. It’s killing people all over the world, and it’s a nasty way to die. The vaccinations have been tested and are safe and effective. They have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and the severity of illnesses. Every single vaccine that was ever made was once “new”, but as each day passes, these vaccines become less new.

At this writing, millions of people have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19. Hospital wards are not full of vaccinated people; they are full of unvaccinated people. And those people are preventing people with other health problems from getting the lifesaving care they need. That’s not right or fair.

I’m afraid vaccine mandates are here to stay. People better get used to them.

Don’t want to get the vaccine? That’s your right– for now, at least. But there are consequences for those kinds of choices. You should be prepared to live, or die, by your decision. You’ll probably be dying alone, too, because that’s often what happens when someone gets COVID-19 and it’s bad enough to kill them. I hope these ladies wake up soon.

In other– good– health news– Arran’s pathology report came back. The crusty growths he had removed last week are benign! So that’s one reason to smile today.

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healthcare, law, politics, rants, YouTube

Women behind bars are having a bloody awful time handling their periods…

Last week, I wrote a post about how adorable YouTuber, Mama Doctor Jones, who is an OB-GYN and mom to four, did a video about a woman who had a baby while she was incarcerated. I was really moved by Mama Doctor Jones’ reaction video to Jessica Kent’s story. Next thing I knew, I was on Jessica Kent’s YouTube channel, which is full of interesting videos about her time in prison. Jessica Kent is tiny, well-spoken, and apparently sober, having spent much of her youth in trouble with the law.

I haven’t yet familiarized myself with all of Jessica’s story, but I have watched a bunch of her videos. As I listen to how this fiery young woman wound up on the wrong side of the law, I can’t help but wonder what might have happened to her if she’d never gotten arrested. She’s very bright and articulate, and I think she’s determined to go far. Jessica has obviously embraced the power of the Internet, and has a presence all over social media. She’s pursuing a college degree, but I wonder if she’s already making a lot of money creating videos for YouTube.

Last night, I watched a video by Jessica Kent that made me very angry. It was about how she and her fellow female inmates in Arkansas were forced to make tampons out of the maxi pads doled out to them. Jessica explains that female prisoners in Arkansas are not given tampons and, in fact, can only get really poor quality maxi pads– and just two per day at that. Jessica says the pads are state issued, and she’s never seen the type of pads the state issues for sale outside of the prison walls. Because the pads are so poorly made, they have to be turned into tampons, which last longer than the pads do. So Jessica made a video to demonstrate how to make the tampons.

This is absolutely infuriating!

More than once, Jessica implores her viewers not to try to make these “tampons” at home, since the pad she’s using is not really the type she would have used in prison. Apparently, the pads we can get at the store are too “cottony” and “powdery”. In any case, I can’t imagine why someone would want to make a tampon like this if they weren’t incarcerated and forced to do so.

Jessica says that not all states have this draconian limit on feminine hygiene supplies in their prisons. For instance, when she was incarcerated in her home state of New York, Jessica had no problem getting all she needed for that little feminine monthly chore. New York, of course, is a blue state, and human rights are apparently more valued up north.

For some reason, the powers that be running the prisons in Arkansas think that two maxi pads per day are all a female prison inmate needs when she’s menstruating. I think about my own menstrual habits and realize how disgusting and unhygienic that is. As a woman, and a person with a public health educational background, it amazes me that prison officials in Arkansas are allowed to get away with this practice. At the very least, it seems like it would be a serious health risk to everyone who is incarcerated. Many diseases, some of which cannot be cured, are spread via blood exposure. Plus, it’s just so nasty!

I read in another article that, in some prisons, women who can’t get proper feminine hygiene supplies will pass up visits with family or their attorneys when they have their periods. They have to wait until they can get their laundry done, before they’re not sitting in their own blood. Kimberly Haven, the author of that article, writes that before and after each visit, inmates are strip searched, and have to squat and cough. The whole process is so demoralizing and horrifying that a lot of female inmates would prefer to skip it, even though attorneys and family members are powerful advocates for the inmates.

In another article, I read about how, in Connecticut, two female cellmates would have to share five state issued maxi pads among themselves. Every woman is different, of course, so there’s no way to tell how long a period is going to be and how often feminine hygiene products need to be changed. But the inmates in Connecticut also had to learn how to stretch their products out, sometimes by reusing them. The inmates in Connecticut could purchase supplies from the commissary, but for those who don’t have money, that $2.63 cost might mean one less phone call home or not being able to pay for a visit to the prison doctor. Also, realize that prison jobs often pay very little– like 20 or 30 cents an hour. It takes a long time to make enough money to buy the proper supplies if there’s no one on the outside helping.

I have stated before in this blog that I’m not a big fan of incarceration, but I especially dislike inhumane treatment toward people who are incarcerated. Yes, it’s true that the best thing for anyone to do is to avoid going to prison in the first place, but people who are locked up are not going to improve their behavior if they’re treated cruelly. Forcing women to handle their body functions in this way is demeaning and cruel, and it doesn’t deter crime. Prison is supposed to be unpleasant– it shouldn’t be dangerous and unhealthy.

According to my reading:

In 2017, then-Sen. Kamala Harris and her colleagues Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Richard Durbin introduced a bill to provide free menstrual products to incarcerated people in federal women’s prisons. The Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a guidance memo, separate from Harris’ bill, mandating that menstrual products be available to all incarcerated people in federal correctional facilities at no cost shortly after. In 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, a more general justice reform effort that included access to menstrual products. 

So… if you’re a woman who goes to a federal lockup, or a prison in a blue state, you’re more likely to be able to take care of these basic body function needs. But there’s no legislation in most states that require state prisons to accommodate menstrual periods. Frankly, I think that’s a sin, and I would love to see some high profile lawsuits happen that force states to do a better job in this area. In a wealthy country like the United States, this unsanitary practice should be outlawed. We’re supposed to be “better” than this… although I think many Americans are fooling themselves thinking that the United States is a civilized country. When we have female prisoners who are sitting in their own menstrual blood every month for want of adequate feminine hygiene supplies, we’ve lost the right to refer to ourselves as “civilized”.

It’s also unfair that prisons don’t automatically take care of this issue, since this is not a problem that male prisoners have to face. In fact, men don’t even need toilet paper as much as women do, but according to Jessica’s videos, women in Arkansas prisons only get two rolls a week. That’s really not much, especially when it’s that time of the month. But a lot of men involved with making laws don’t want to hear about this problem. It’s too “gross” for them. The first paragraph of an article in the Public Health Post opens with:

When Arizona’s all-male House of Representatives heard House Bill 2222 on feminine hygiene products, Representative Jay Lawrence said “I’m almost sorry I heard the bill…I didn’t expect to hear about pads and tampons and the problems of periods.” Introduced by Rep. Athena Salman, Arizona House Bill 2222 allocates funds to provide women in state prisons with unlimited and free access to feminine hygiene products. Access to sanitary menstrual products is considered a basic human right in European prisons. Not so in the US.

Wow, Jay… you’ve shown us just who you are with your lack of compassion or comprehension of how necessary it is for you, and your male colleagues, to hear a bill about providing necessary supplies for women who menstruate. I wonder if Jay Lawrence can even fathom how humiliating and shaming it is for a woman to have to deal with this problem when she can’t get the supplies she needs. Does he have any women in his life that he loves? What an asshole.

Aside from how gross, messy, and unsanitary this problem is, the practice of turning pads into tampons could potentially be unsafe or even deadly. Consider that the inmates probably don’t have the cleanest surfaces for improvising these products and they may not be able to keep themselves optimally clean. Then they’re sticking the tampons into their body orifices, where the improvised tampon might abrade the skin or otherwise introduce pathogens into the body. An inmate could potentially get very sick or even wind up with toxic shock syndrome doing this. Toxic shock syndrome can lead to sepsis, which can cause a person to lose limbs or even their lives.

A tampon did this to Lauren Wasser.

Model Lauren Wasser, who was not incarcerated when she left a tampon in too long and got toxic shock syndrome, lost BOTH of her legs to the sickness. She very nearly died.

I know a lot of people don’t care about the plight of prisoners. Personally, I still see them as human beings who are entitled to decent, respectful, and humane care when they are incarcerated. And part of being humane is making it possible for people in custody to be able to take care of private, personal body functions like menstrual periods. I know I would support legislation requiring that clean and hygienic feminine hygiene products be made available to women in prisons. I hope others can see how important this is.

And… once again… I am so glad menopause is around the corner.

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