healthcare, law

One brave Texas physician has already defied the new abortion ban…

The featured photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, where Bill and I lived before we moved back to Germany, and where our absentee ballot votes go when it’s election time.

Abortion is probably the last thing I want to write about today. That’s why I reposted four book reviews. Trust me… this is a topic I’m getting really tired of revisiting over and over again. I feel like this issue should have been settled about fifty years ago. But it’s hot news right now, and too many people seem to think it’s right to deny women this basic right to determine what happens to their own bodies. So here I am, writing about this again…

Actually, today’s post may be a bit more upbeat than outraged. One of the first news items I read this morning was in the Washington Post. It was about San Antonio based OB-GYN Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote an op-ed about how, on September 6, 2021, he violated Texas’s new abortion ban law. A woman received an abortion from him. Although she was still in her first trimester, she was further along in the pregnancy than six weeks. According to the article:

“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. . . . I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

As I read that part of the article, all I could think of was– wow… what a BRAVE man. This is a man who cares about women and women’s health. He’s put himself at great risk. I would say that not only is his career at risk, but his very life could be at risk. He practices medicine in a state where just about anyone is allowed to carry a gun, and there are many religious nuts running amok.

I had to read Dr. Braid’s op-ed for myself, so I clicked the link in the article I read about it. In his opinion piece, Dr. Braid explains that he started practicing medicine on July 1, 1972. I was eleven days old on the day Dr. Braid began taking care of women’s health. I will be 50 on my next birthday. This is a man who has been in his field for a LONG time, and has seen and done a lot.

Dr. Braid graduated from the University of Texas medical school, and during his time as a med student, he was taught that abortions are an “integral part” of women’s health care. However, when he began practicing, abortions were effectively outlawed. It was only legal for a pregnant woman to get one if a psychiatrist certified that she was suicidal. I find that limitation curious, given that some women have medical issues that would also call for terminating a pregnancy for the sake of her health.

In those days, if a woman wanted an abortion, Dr. Braid would advise her to travel to a state where abortion was legal– California, New York, or Colorado. Some would go over the border to Mexico, which incidentally just recently decriminalized abortion. That’s interesting, isn’t it? It used to be, people from Mexico would come to the United States for medical care; but now, thanks to the extremely high prices of medical care and ridiculous laws such as Texas’s S.B. 8, Mexico may soon see more American women coming into the country for medical care.

As of September 1, 2021, Dr. Braid found himself in a similar situation that he faced in 1972. A 42 year old woman came to see him. She was pregnant, though she already had four children, three of whom were under age 12. Dr. Braid told her she should go to Oklahoma, a nine hour trip one way. He even told her he could help with the funding. The woman said, “Who’s going to take care of my kids? What about my job? I can’t miss work.”

Dr. Braid wrote:

Though we never ask why someone has come to our clinic, they often tell us. They’re finishing school or they already have three children, they’re in an abusive relationship, or it’s just not time. A majority are mothers. Most are between 18 and 30. Many are struggling financially — more than half qualify for some form of financial aid from us.

Several times a month, a woman confides that she is having the abortion because she has been raped. Sometimes, she reports it to the police; more often, she doesn’t.

Texas’s new law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And I have noticed that Texas is also doing nothing to help pregnant women, either. I have not read or heard of any child or family friendly policies being put into place to help pregnant women get the care they need. I have not heard for a push for better sex education or making contraception widely available, easily affordable, and accessible to everyone. I have heard a lot of slut shaming, though.

Yesterday, I read another article about this new law. The focus was on Johnathan Mitchell, the main architect of this legislation that violates women’s self-determination and privacy. Mr. Mitchell is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, a very conservative Christian school. I knew about it before I heard about Mitchell, since I once worked with a guy who attended there. It was back in the 1990s. I remember my co-worker was very smart, even though he was selling ice cream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was also VERY Christian. Anyway, I digress… except to say that I know Wheaton College is a prestigious, selective school, but it’s also a school for Christians.

Mr. Mitchell wrote, in a brief for the Supreme Court:

“Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse… One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behavior in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Based on this comment, I’m assuming that Mitchell doesn’t believe that women can get pregnant as a result of rape and incest. I’m guessing he’s akin to Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who famously said “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Did either of these two men ever take a biology class? Have either or them ever studied sex education? Sure, women sometimes get pregnant because they, or their partners, or both parties were “careless”. But not all sexual intercourse is consensual and, in spite of what these men seem to believe, sometimes women DO end up pregnant afterwards.

Aside from that, sometimes pregnancy makes women very sick. Sometimes it even threatens their lives. I don’t understand why, in the age of healthcare privacy laws such as HIPAA, a woman should have to justify her need or desire for an abortion to anyone. But I haven’t heard or seen any provisions in the new Texas law that allows for that scenario, either. Instead, the law encourages neighbors to spy on each other and file lawsuits in healthcare situations that absolutely none of their business. What makes this law even more sickening is the fact that the people might theoretically sue haven’t suffered a personal loss due to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. But, by suing, they may stand to gain a financial incentive, which seems very unethical to me.

I will admit, however, that Mr. Mitchell is certainly correct that a woman can “refrain” (I hate that word) from having sexual intercourse. And, quite frankly, it would serve the men of Texas right if women went on a sex strike and denied them that pleasure. In fact, I hope Mitchell isn’t having sex and never does again. If I were his wife, I would certainly keep my legs closed around him. He should be deeply ashamed of himself.

In another article I read about this issue, author Chavi Eve Karkowsky writes:

“Every week, I see examples of morally necessary pregnancy terminations that, under the Texas law, could put doctors in legal jeopardy. In one case, a 14-year-old with brain damage had been raped by a caregiver. In another, my diagnostic ultrasound 15 weeks into a patient’s pregnancy showed that her fetus had developed an empty space where a brain should be and would not survive more than a few hours past birth. In another case, a patient, whose heart had become weak during her previous pregnancy and had never fully recovered, sought an abortion so she could live to care for her toddler.”

Can you even imagine? Can you fathom being a woman in any of those situations? Or a doctor? It’s sickening.

I totally get that many people find abortion distasteful and morally wrong. I find it distasteful, too. It’s probably not a choice I would make for myself, but I can’t say I would never make it. Because there are situations when it really is the right thing to do. I am lucky enough to be in a situation in which I could go elsewhere for an abortion if I needed one. I am also at a point in my life at which I won’t be affected by potential pregnancies.

However, this new law does open up a Pandora’s Box that could affect other people besides women of childbearing age. Who’s to say that, based on this precedent, lawmakers don’t try to screw with people’s healthcare privacy in other areas? What if a law was designed to deny vasectomies to men? What if we incentivized private citizens into reporting on the men who want vasectomies by offering a $10,000 bounty? That’s just one example off the top of my head. The same theory could easily extend into other controversial areas… say, gender reassignment therapy, or marijuana use, or euthanasia… I’m sure I could think of more if I tried.

Anyway, my hat is off to Dr. Alan Braid. I think he’s a hero. This may be one of the most lifesaving actions he’s ever taken in his entire medical career. I know he’s a good man. I knew it when I read this comment from him:

I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

What a dedicated, brave, inspirational, kind, and excellent doctor Dr. Alan Braid is. He deserves all of the respect and all of the support that is coming to him.

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ethics, healthcare, law, TV

Some men just don’t get it, do they? Women aren’t incubators!

Darn it… I’m writing yet another post about abortion. I’m writing this post, even though Roe v. Wade was settled in the early 1970s. People are still trying to deprive American women of their right to bodily autonomy. And men… even men who claim to be “pro choice”, are still trying to force women to incubate developing fetuses for them.

I just so happened to download the first season of the hit 70s era sitcom, Maude, yesterday. Maude was a spin off of the great Norman Lear show, All in the Family. The show starred the wonderful actress, Beatrice Arthur, as a caricature of an extremely liberal woman of the 70s. The character, Maude Findlay, was the cousin of Edith Bunker, from All in the Family. Edith, as many people know, was the dimwitted wife of extremely conservative and racist Archie Bunker. If Archie was obnoxiously conservative, Maude was ridiculously liberal.

As a 70s era TV buff, I was sitting there in awe yesterday, as I realized just how many great sitcoms spun off of All in the Family or its spinoffs. There’s a total of seven shows– Maude, Gloria, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Checking In, 704 Hauser, and Archie Bunker’s Place. Granted, some of those shows weren’t very good and didn’t last long at all. But some of the spin off sitcoms were truly groundbreaking… and as I watched Maude yesterday, I realized just how timely and relevant that show still is, almost fifty years in the future. Maude premiered when I was about three months old. I’ll be 50 in 2022. And yet, we’re still fighting about racism and abortion. In fact, I think we’re even less reasonable about both of those subjects today than people were in the early 70s!

In any case, I happened to catch a double episode of Maude yesterday, called “Maude’s Dilemma”. It originally aired in November 1972 and was on the subject of abortion. Roe v. Wade would be a landmark Supreme Court decision the following year.

In “Maude’s Dilemma”, the character, Maude, had just turned up pregnant at age 47! Over the two part episode, Maude agonizes over whether or not she should try to have the baby, even though she was ancient for a pregnant person. Her grown daughter, Carol, who has a son of her own, encourages Maude to have an abortion. In the end, Maude decides to have an abortion, although that’s done off screen. Even still, CBS got many letters of protest. Some network affiliates never aired those episodes again after the initial airing. A couple of affiliates never aired them at all.

I was sitting there with my mouth agape as the characters on the show tried to talk Maude into having an abortion, since it wasn’t “wrong” anymore. And her fourth husband, Walter, even said he would have a vasectomy, although in the end, he chickens out.

Interesting discussion with Norman Lear… Rue McClanahan was on that episode. Years later, on The Golden Girls, Rue’s character, Blanche, would think she was pregnant, but it would turn out to be menopause.

Who would have thought, back in 1972, that people would still be arguing about abortion in 2021? Who would have thought that so many people– men, in particular– think that it’s right to force a woman to be pregnant when she doesn’t want to be?

Yesterday, my first cousin once removed, Liz, shared the below image.

I thought this was pretty awesome.

Liz is one of the few liberals in my family. Her dad is my cousin, and he is very conservative. Her mom is very liberal. They had three kids, two of whom are more like their liberal mom than their conservative dad. I’m sure it must be rough for Liz, especially, since most of the rest of her dad’s family is dyed in the wool Republican. I used to think my dad was conservative, but actually, he was probably one of the more liberal of my grandparents’ brood of nine children.

Anyway, I liked the image Liz shared, so I shared it myself. I noticed a lot of my liberal friends liked it. I decided to go to the original post, just to see what people had to say. I was quite amused to run across this thread…

Eileen said, “…there are many reasons for abortions. Maybe men should take responsibility for a change.”

Mike responded, “…men do take responsibility just as much as women do lol; it takes two people to make that pregnancy happen. I’m all for pro -choice, but the one thing that I think sucks sometimes is that, let’s say my fiancé gets pregnant and wants an abortion and I don’t want one, it’s ultimately her decision on whether to get one or not regardless of what I want.”

Um… I have to interject here. He’s all for “pro-choice”, but only if it involves some other woman besides the woman with whom he’s in a relationship. He thinks he should be able to force her to stay pregnant if he gets her pregnant. I wonder if he’s willing to pay her medical bills. I wonder if he’s going to get up with her in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep because she’s uncomfortable. I wonder if he’s going to go through all of the physical inconveniences and outright dangers pregnant people go through. My guess is that he hasn’t thought about it that much.

A woman tries to educate Mike, writing, “…because she’s the one who has to carry the useless parasite. Not you.”

Mike says, “…and that’s where the pro-choice reasoning gets absurd, that it’s ultimately the woman’s decision whether to terminate a pregnancy regardless about what the father would want. Again, I’m all for abortions and such, but if one person wants the potential baby and the other does not then have the baby for that one person and sign over your rights. Just because biology says a woman has to carry the baby does not mean the man is utterly useless and has no say about the potential baby.”

DUDE! Mike just doesn’t get it, does he? He’s “all for abortions and such”, but he doesn’t see that the burden of pregnancy and childbirth is unequal. He’s involved in the fun part of having a baby. His role is pretty much done until she gives birth. No one should be forced to have a baby. No one should be forced to be pregnant, for ANY reason. I get that some men think it’s unfair that biological women can bear children and men can’t, but that’s just life. I’m sure a lot of women would love it if men could have babies. But that’s not how we’re made.

Yet another woman peevishly writes, “…we aren’t incubators, waiting for men to plant their seed, find a person who wants children with you instead of trying to force someone to carry the child for you.”

Seems to me this point is pretty obvious. But Captain Clueless then says, “…the fuck are you talking about?

How is it that Mike still doesn’t get that men aren’t impacted by pregnancy in the same way women are? Where did he get the idea that it’s okay for him to force a woman to bear his child? Sounds to me like he needs a simple business fable to get the point across. I wonder if Mike has ever heard the story of the chicken and the pig.

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

In other words, men are “involved” in making babies. Women are “committed”. A man deposits his sperm during a few moments of passion, then waits nine months for the fun to begin. His body won’t change, and for the most part, he won’t be experiencing any health repercussions. A woman experiences those nine months completely differently and, at the end, will be going through significant pain and potential risks to bring that particular project to fruition.

Even on Maude, though, the pregnant character was talking about having the baby at age 47, not because she wanted to have a baby, but because she wanted her husband to have a say. I do think that is an admirable attitude, as long as Maude can love a baby she didn’t actually want to have. On the other hand, trust me. As someone who was born in 1972 (the year before Roe v. Wade) and heard many times how unwelcome the news was of my impending arrival, it’s probably kinder to terminate unwanted pregnancies. My parents did love me, I guess… but if my mom had had an abortion, I would not have been any the wiser. Maybe my mom would have been happier. I doubt she would have considered having an abortion, though, even though it was clear she wasn’t actually up for having me. Fortunately, I managed to grow up okay, anyway. Or, at least some people think so.

As someone who is 49, I have a feeling that pregnancy would probably be very difficult, even if I can technically still get pregnant. The risks of having a baby with extreme special needs would also be high. But even if I had a healthy baby, I can’t even imagine being a woman in my 60s as my kid started high school. I’m sure there are kids out there who face that reality, since medical science has advanced since the 70s. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think that’s an ideal situation. Life is tough enough.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to be pregnant, particularly since few people want to help when the baby comes. I don’t think adoption should be presented as the best alternative option, either. Realistically speaking, carrying a baby for another couple (or person) to raise is still a lot to ask, and it remains potentially dangerous. Fewer people die from abortions than full term pregnancies. It’s also not right to expect people who are unexpectedly pregnant to solve other people’s fertility issues.

I am still really sickened by the new anti-abortion law in Texas, which deputizes private citizens, encourages them to use the legal system to police women’s bodies, and inspires people to act like it’s East Germany in the 1970s. I ran across another argument yesterday in which a man all-knowingly wrote that the law in Texas includes a proviso for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy. All I could think of was a case in Texas that came up during the year Bill and I were living there. See the video below:

This poor woman was forced to stay on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital for many weeks, simply because she was pregnant. But she was already pretty much already dead, and her family was forced to watch her rot, against her will and theirs.

In the end, Marlise Munoz was taken off life support. Her developing fetus would not have survived, in spite of the over eight weeks Marlise Munoz spent on a ventilator. The fetus had catastrophic birth defects. And the family, no doubt, were presented with huge medical bills after this debacle. They also had to watch their beloved family member’s body degrade to the point at which she was just a living corpse. Imagine how traumatic that was!

What a horrifying ordeal this woman and her family endured!

Given what happened to Marlise Munoz, I have no confidence that doctors in Texas will respect a mother’s life over that of a developing fetus’s. And quite frankly, it’s just not right to force people to give birth, or be living incubators. It’s a violation of privacy and civil rights.

So count me among those who pray this law is overturned quickly. And really, we as a country need to settle this issue, once and for all. I’m sorry for the men who are truly devastated that they have no say in a woman’s decision to have an abortion… but my guess is that the vast majority of them just want to control people.

When the shit comes down, as it always does when there’s a baby around, I highly doubt most of the men will be interested in doing the heavy lifting of parenting, just as they physically can’t do the heavy lifting of gestation. The reality of parenthood is probably more than a lot of them can bear, anyway… certainly people who are as immature and unreasonable as “Mike” is, anyway. I mean, if Mike really thinks that making babies is a 50/50 proposition, he’s probably not someone who ought to be breeding. Maybe Mike should watch Maude for some perspective.

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Duggars, family, healthcare, law, marriage

Another day, another tacky Duggar pregnancy announcement…

Happy Labor Day, y’all. We had a really lovely weekend, as the weather was absolutely glorious! I love this time of year, especially in Germany, where the seasons still change. It would have been nice if we could have taken another short trip somewhere, since it was a holiday weekend. But, as I noted in yesterday’s travel post, there’s something to be said for staying home and enjoying what’s local. Yesterday, our sweet Noyzi and Arran got to hang out at one of the many awesome Freibads here in Germany! And then they came home and crashed!

So… let’s get down to business. Once again, I’m struggling not to focus on the grimmest news of the day, which includes the scary resemblance Texas is showing toward Gilead, and people on the left seem to want to cram COVID-19 awareness down our throats. Seriously… I get how serious COVID is. I’ve even been watching some heartbreaking videos on YouTube, showing seriously ill people who have died. It’s important to note that COVID is serious, but we can’t let fear take over our lives. I’m for taking precautions, of course, but some people seem to be pretty obsessed.

On the other hand, some people truly don’t give a shit. Take, for instance, the pregnancy announcement shared by Jed Duggar, and his new bride, Katey Nakatsu Duggar. These two got married in early April, just before big bro Josh got busted by the feds for downloading nefarious photos and videos of underaged children being abused. It’s now early September and Jed and Katey have some big news to share…

Aww… what a special surprise! They’ve been fruitfully fucking!

Now… I don’t usually watch videos by the Duggar family. I’m watching this one, though, because I wanted a screenshot of the sign they held up. It’s a sign that makes light of COVID-19. Can you read it? It says, “She tested positive, but not for COVID.”

Um… this is the very same kind of pregnancy announcement that was made by Nurie Keller, wife of Josh Duggar’s brother-in-law, Nathan Keller, and daughter of the always tacky Jill Rodrigues. Seriously… why are fundies making light of such a serious issue? What will happen if one, or both of them, or another close family member, gets sick with COVID and winds up dying? Will their future offspring think that sign is cute? I tend to think not…

One hopes they survive this pandemic era, so they can explain this reference to the little bean.

But at least Nurie and Nathan didn’t include a blow by blow video about how Nurie peed on a stick at Walmart. Or, if they did, I blessedly managed to miss it. Jed and Katey, by contrast, explain in great detail about how both of them needed to take a piss on their way home from Wednesday night church. They stopped by Walmart, bought a pregnancy test, and blessings! Katey got the news while at a discount store, that she’s on the mommy train, as Josh Duggar would put it.

Jed goes… “Whoo hoo!” as Katey tells him of her condition… and they talk about how Jed teared up at Walmart. My father once teared up too, when he went to Walmart. But it was because he was suffering from dementia and got lost. I can’t blame him for that. I haven’t been in a Walmart in probably twenty years, but when I have gone in one, I’ve always had sensory overload.

Anyway, next, the twosome go hunting for a generic wall for them to take pictures of themselves announcing their positive test result, as they hold up their sign assuring everyone that their positive test result is a good thing. How exciting. It amazes me how much importance people in the Duggar family put on announcing their weddings and pregnancies. Especially when most people are working hard to stay afloat. I mean, seriously… they get all dressed up, make a sign, and go looking for a place with an appropriate backdrop, just so they can tell strangers on the Internet that they’ve managed to conceive.

Next, Jed and Katey go to a baseball game with their church, where they’re going to announce their special news to everyone as they eat hot dogs. More “whoo hooing” from Jed. Yippee! You can barely hear the announcement, and Jed and Katey seem slightly disappointed that not everyone heard their news over the loudspeaker.

I will grant that pregnancy is exciting for many people… the ones who actually want to be pregnant, that is, or for whom pregnancy is not physically dangerous. I can tell that Jed and Katey are excited about their new addition, and I hope the pregnancy goes well for them. I also hope they never feel embarrassed about their lighthearted COVID sign, because they’ve lost a friend or family member to the disease. Because I would be very surprised if they and their ilk have been vaccinated, you know… and the Duggars and the rest of the fundies of the world, aren’t exactly known for social distancing or wearing masks.

It’s barely 8:00am today, and I’ve already read two heartbreaking posts by women who had medically necessary abortions. They are bravely sharing their stories with the masses, just as this Duggar couple have. Unlike the tacky signs that allude to “testing positive”, but not for COVID, these women have written eloquent, searing posts about why it’s so important to keep abortion safe and legal for all women. Both of the women whose stories I read were women who wanted their babies, but tragic circumstances intervened.

She was too unhealthy to carry a baby. Pregnancy would have killed her.

Her baby girl had serious birth defects and would not have lived.

Both of these brave women had to endure going to abortion clinics, where they were, by law, forced to listen to information about abortion that was supposed to get them to change their minds. They had to do this, even though both of these women had medical reasons for having abortions. Both had to tolerate being yelled at by protesters, who had absolutely ZERO information about their personal circumstances.

Christy Ransom, author of the first post, wrote that the protesters screamed at her that they could help her keep her baby. But they had no idea, did they? And they had no right to harass her for a very private and personal decision she made to preserve her own life over that of her six week old fetus.

Susanna Roesel was planning a baby shower and celebrating being pregnant when she got the news that something terrible might be wrong with the pregnancy. When she had her abortion, at just under twenty weeks, she had to go in twice, once to be dilated, and once to deliver. Her milk came in. And then, when she got pregnant again, she suffered an early miscarriage.

I shudder to think what is going to happen to women in Texas who encounter situations like Christy’s and Susanna’s. But, at the same time, I get that Jed and Katey are excited to be expecting their new family member. I sincerely do hope it all goes well for them. And I also hope that in the course of the pregnancy, they both grow up a little bit and reconsider joking about COVID as they share their news. I’m sure that if COVID ever hits home for them personally, they’ll have the chance to see why their announcement is in such poor taste.

On the other hand, fundie Christians aren’t known for being insightful, sensitive, or thoughtful towards people who aren’t like them. It often takes something personal to get them to have an understanding… and even then, they say it was God’s will, or something like that. It’s a very convenient way to get out of shouldering responsibility, isn’t it? Just leave it up to God… and do whatever the pastor tells you. No thinking required.

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complaints, family, healthcare

Repost: No, vasectomies are NOT totally reversible!

I am reposting this article I wrote in September 2018 because I keep seeing memes promoting (in jest) forcing men to get vasectomies because they are “totally reversible”. Unfortunately, Bill and I know from personal experience that that’s not always true. Besides, I don’t agree with pressuring anyone– male or female– to have elective surgery. That should be a personal decision made by the person having the surgery and forced to live with the aftermath of it.

Yesterday, someone in the Duggar group posted this article, based on tweets by a Mormon mom of six who lays out why she thinks men are responsible for every “unwanted” pregnancy.  The mom, name of Gabrielle Blair, reminds everyone that women can only get pregnant for a couple of days every month, while men could theoretically get different women pregnant thousands of times per month.  Because men are so easily able to impregnate women, she believes they should be more responsible about birth control.  In fact, she thinks the onus should be on men to prevent “unwanted” pregnancies.  They should be more willing to make birth control accessible, affordable, and available to all women.  And they should also be much more willing to wear condoms.

Gabrielle Blair refers to “unwanted” pregnancies, but that’s not a term I’m comfortable with.  I once used it when I was getting my MSW and was corrected by my field instructor, who told me the right term is “unintended pregnancy”.  Although I do think a lot of unintended pregnancies are also unwanted, I decided that I liked the word “unintended” better.  Sometimes women find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and later decide they’re glad about it.  So, in this post, I will refer to unintended pregnancies instead of “unwanted” pregnancies.

I agree with many of the concepts Blair discusses in her tweets.  Although birth control has never been an issue I’ve personally had a lot of concerns about, I did used to work in maternal and child health, back before I was an overeducated housewife.  I have seen the aftereffects of what happens when a woman has a child she isn’t ready to nurture.  I do think we need to make birth control readily available so that there is less of a need for abortion.  I would much rather see a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy than have an abortion.

The one thing that I don’t agree with, however, is the idea that vasectomies are totally reversible.  Blair tweets this concept, after just having suggested castration as a penalty for men who cause unintended pregnancies.  Of course she realizes that castration as punishment for a man who accidentally impregnates a woman would never happen.  So then she “jokingly” suggests required vasectomies for boys at the onset of puberty.

It’s really not that simple.


Before I get too cranked up with my comments about this, let me say that I know that, just like the castration law Blair suggested, forced vasectomies for pubescent boys would also never happen.  Maybe if we only had female lawmakers who were also extreme feminists with a cruelty streak, something like that could possibly be considered, but even then, I really doubt it.  The United States would have to turn into a completely matriarchal society with a hefty dose of The Handmaid’s Tale thrown in for good measure.  Blair’s suggestions are very sci-fi and interesting to ponder, but completely implausible and highly unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

That being established, I will agree that microsurgeries have come a long way and a lot of men are able to successfully have their vasectomies reversed even years after the vasectomy was done.  However, I can also speak from personal experience that not every reversal will result in a man regaining his fertility.  I know this because my husband had a vasectomy reversal that was technically successful.  He had 90 million “swimmers” after he underwent a 4 hour operation to reconnect his junk.  And yet, here we sit, still childless. I know we aren’t the only ones who had this outcome after a reversal, either.

Now… it’s entirely possible that the reason we didn’t have children could be because of something other than Bill’s vasectomy reversal not working.  For all I know, I didn’t get pregnant because something is wrong with me.  However, even if that were the case, the fact remains that not every vasectomy reversal will result in pregnancy.  The Mayo Clinic reports that reversal surgery can be anywhere from 30% to 90% effective.  A lot depends on the conditions the surgeon has to work with.  The reversal surgery has the best chance of working if it’s done within a few years of the vasectomy, the patient is young and healthy, the vasectomy was done with a minimum of scarring, and the surgeon has mad skills.

In Bill’s case, it had been about eleven years since he’d gotten snipped.  At first, his surgeon told him that he might have to do a more complicated procedure, since it had been so long since his vasectomy (done in 1993).  In the end, they did a less complicated procedure.  A couple of weeks later, a different doctor– not the one who did Bill’s surgery, because that guy got deployed to Iraq– told Bill that he needed to be careful where he pointed his “thing”, since he was firing “live ammunition”.  They’d found 90 million sperm in his sample.  Sadly, not a single one was able to penetrate any of my eggs, despite multiple attempts at the right time of the month.

After a couple of years, we quit trying, deciding that we’d rather not go through other methods of trying to conceive. Our decision about that mostly had to do with finances, and my realization that I didn’t want to be a parent badly enough to go through all of what becoming a parent in a non-traditional way entails.

I don’t know why I never got pregnant.  We did try.  There were a few things beyond our control that got in the way of conception, not the least of which was Bill’s own adventure in Iraq.  However, even if I had gotten pregnant, I still would never agree that reversals are 100% successful.  That wouldn’t be true.  Although many men can regain their fertility after having a vasectomy reversal, at least for a time, the fact is, sometimes men aren’t able to get it back.  Their bodies start seeing sperm as something foreign that needs to be destroyed or there’s too much scar tissue.  

Aside from that, reversal surgery is expensive, delicate and involved, and requires time off work.  In our case, Bill was able to have it done for free, courtesy of an Army urologist who needed to maintain his skills.  He also got plenty of time to recover, thanks to his understanding Army bosses at the time.  But most men won’t have the opportunity Bill had to get that surgery for free.  Reversals are also a hell of a lot more involved than vasectomies are.  They take much longer, cost a lot more, and are riskier.  Those who do get reversal surgery will also need to be able to take the time to recuperate.  

I totally agree with Blair’s main points that birth control is important and should be easier to get.  She’s right that men should be more willing to do their part to prevent unintended pregnancies.  However, I think it’s wrong to promote sterilization surgery as an easy fix for anyone, especially with the irresponsible comment that vasectomies are “totally reversible”.  They’re not.  

Vasectomies are intended to be permanent sterilization.  Any man who gets one should do it with the knowledge that it will possibly permanently end his ability to father children the easy way.  If they’re alright with that, fine.  But no man should ever have a vasectomy believing that someday, he can simply have it reversed and father children without medical intervention.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and it’s irresponsible of Blair to promote the idea that it does, even if her comments were really intended jokingly as sort of a “modest proposal”.

I made a comment about how vasectomy reversals aren’t always successful in the Duggar Family News group and immediately got a ration of shit from a couple of the members who wanted to argue with me about it. One woman said that in her hospital, 95% of reversals are successful with “swimmers”.  I called bullshit on that.  I don’t know that woman from Adam, and have no idea what her background is, but it’s a well established fact that reversals don’t always work, even if the surgeon is a superstar.  I would be very skeptical if any medical professional claimed that success rate, because not every candidate is going to get those results, regardless of the quality of the facility and the skill of the staff performing the operation.  

Another woman commented with some tripe about how I should be more sensitive to the women who have to deal with preventing pregnancy.  I AM sensitive to the women.  I DO agree that birth control for both partners is a good thing and both people are responsible.  I simply don’t agree with the idea that forcing boys to have vasectomies is a good idea, even if the idea is presented in jest.  

I would be horrified if anyone suggested tying the tubes of pre-pubescent girls, rationalizing that they can later have the operation reversed.  I am just as horrified by the suggestion that we should be giving vasectomies to boys to prevent them from knocking up girls.  That’s an extreme and unethical solution, and even as a joke, it’s really not funny in my opinion.  But what really prompted me to write this morning is the idea that a decision to be permanently sterilized is easily undone.  It’s not, and reputable medical institutions confirm that it’s not. We should be more respectful about every person’s right to make personal decisions about their own bodies without pressure or interference from other people.

That being said… although I always wanted children, I now think it’s a blessing that I don’t have them, and am mostly at peace with not being someone’s mother. I do sometimes wonder what a child between Bill and me would have been like, though. Then, after I fantasize about it, I realize I wouldn’t wish today’s fucked up world on any child of mine. Also… I wonder how in the world Gabrielle Blair can be a Mormon and be as much of a feminist as she is. She’s either simply a cultural Mormon or she has some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

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