Armenia, healthcare, law, mental health

The Peace Corps is being sued over mental health policies…

The featured photo is the public domain version of the Peace Corps logo that existed when I was a Volunteer. It has since been updated, unlike the Peace Corps’ mental healthcare policies. ūüėČ

Friday, at last! I’ve been waiting for today all week, because it means that tomorrow, we’re out of here for about ten days. I’ve been eagerly awaiting our trip for some weeks now, even though the first three nights of it will be in Germany because it’s time to see the dentist. I don’t love going to the dentist, but I don’t hate it, either. At least my teeth get nice and clean.

Facebook is telling me that we went to the dentist at this time last year, too. But last year, we stayed at a luxury hotel in Baiersbronn, which is a very pretty town in the Black Forest. I remember being stressed, because Arran was newly diagnosed with lymphoma, and I was afraid he might decompensate while we were gone. But he pulled through fine, and afterwards, we started his chemo, which gave him another five months with us. That might not seem like a significant success, but five months is a long time to a dog. And it meant that when the end of Arran’s life finally came in March, we could both be there for him. He also made it very clear to us that he wanted to live.

I think our time in Czechia is going to be great fun. The hotels we’ve booked have all contacted us with final details. I hope we find lots of art, and I’m able to take plenty of photos. The Cannstatter Volksfest is also going on right now. I just tried on my Dirndl, and I can still get into it. But I don’t think I’m going to bring it with me, because it really needs to be dry cleaned. Also, I think Bill and I are probably too old and crotchety for Wasen, even though we usually go on Sunday afternoons, when it’s not so crowded. Maybe we’ll go to Ludwigsburg instead, and see some huge pumpkins. We always seem to miss the pumpkin festival.

Yesterday, I noticed an article in The New York Times (temporarily unlocked) about the Peace Corps being sued over their mental health policies. Regular readers might remember that I served as a Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia for the Peace Corps from 1995 until 1997. Things have clearly changed a lot since my days as a Volunteer. In my day, you didn’t get your invitation to serve until you’d successfully passed the legal and medical clearances. From reading up on this lawsuit, I gather that prospective Volunteers can now get invited before they finish medical screenings. This policy is causing problems for a lot of people, hence the lawsuit.

It’s not that simple, folks.

According to the article in The New York Times, a group of three people, whose placement offers were rescinded over mental health treatment, have decided to sue the agency. They accuse the Peace Corps of “discriminating against applicants with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination in programs receiving federal funds.” Further from the article:

The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, includes accounts from nine people whose Peace Corps invitations were rescinded for mental health reasons. The suit alleges that those decisions were made without considering reasonable accommodations or making individualized assessments based on current medical knowledge.

I was interested in this story because when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I suffered from clinical depression and anxiety. I did not get treatment for it until about a year after I left Armenia. In my case, depression and anxiety were chronic parts of my life that were so normal to me that I didn’t realize I was suffering as much as I had been for most of my life. It got pretty bad in 1998, when I was feeling really hopeless and worthless. Some of it was because of my service, but most of it had to do with genetics and having to live with my parents while I picked up my life.

Mental health treatment was a lifesaver and a game changer for me. It was a huge shock to me when we finally found the right antidepressant and I started feeling “normal”, for the first time. I stopped crying and hyperventilating at the drop of a hat. I stopped feeling worthless and hopeless. Indeed, four days after I took my first dose of Wellbutrin, I decided to go to graduate school, and I started taking decisive steps to make it happen. Within a few months, I had offers of admission to two universities.

I quit taking antidepressants in 2004. For the most part, I don’t miss taking them, although I gained weight when I got off of the drugs. I have been pretty stable, mentally speaking, for a long time. I’ve managed to finish two master’s degrees, and am about to celebrate 21 years of marriage to a great guy who treats me like gold.

However, after reading the article in the New York Times, as well as some anecdotes from other former Volunteers and applicants, I feel pretty sure that I would fail the medical part if I decided to reapply to the Peace Corps today, even though mentally, I’m a lot more stable. I am also a hell of lot more mature and experienced today, than I was in 1995. I’m sure I would be a better Volunteer today, in spite of my mental health treatment history.

I would probably fail the medical clearance due to having a history of mental health treatment, but I might also fail it for physical reasons. They gave me a lot of grief in 1995 because of my weight, which was less then than it is today. After sending me a nastygram about my weight, they did ultimately let me serve. I didn’t have any serious medical problems to speak of during those two years, nor have I had any in the 26 years following my service. I’ve also seen photos of recent Volunteers and it looks to me like maybe they’ve backed off somewhat from weight standards. Some of the people serving today are clearly bigger than I was in 1995.

The comments on this story are pretty divided. Quite a lot of people, including former Volunteers, think the Peace Corps should be very selective about allowing people with mental health histories to serve. They point to the fact that Volunteers are sent all over the world, and a lot of the countries they go to have very primitive healthcare facilities that can take hours to get to by public transportation. I got that.

However, I also know, from my own personal experience, that not every Volunteer lives in a jungle or a mud hut, nor are they all isolated from each other. Accommodations of all kinds vary widely in the countries where the Peace Corps serves. While certainly not every place has cell phone or Internet access, quite a lot of countries do have those technologies today. That can make treatment more feasible for Volunteers who need counseling. And in other countries, there’s really nothing easily available… so those places should get the healthiest Volunteers. Common sense, you see…

Armenia, where I served, was considered a “hardship” post in the 1990s. In those days, it really was a “true” Peace Corps location, although it wasn’t like the experiences someone might have in Africa or South America. Every country has its challenges, though… and some locations are tougher or more austere than others are. Armenia still has a Peace Corps program, although Volunteers don’t serve in the capital anymore. I was based in the capital, where I could get help somewhat easily if I needed it. I mean, I couldn’t even call someone across the street with my rotary dial phone, but I could easily walk or take a bus to the Peace Corps office. Armenia is the size of Maryland. If I’d been in a much larger country, it would have been a different story.

Granted, the Peace Corps is a vastly underfunded agency. Even though I know firsthand how valuable the work is, and how it helps foster trust and relations between US citizens and host country nationals, most Americans have no idea. I noticed a lot of people who clearly knew nothing about the Peace Corps opining on the article. A couple of people were bold enough to state that the Peace Corps is a waste of money, since the US shouldn’t be trying to “save the world”. They don’t understand that the Peace Corps has three goals:

I talk about Armenia all the time. I even spoke to one of Bill’s colleagues about Armenia recently, to help her understand the country that our military is now being tasked to help. I’ve also talked to school kids as well as people in the community about my service. And God knows I’ve written a lot about about it. I truly can’t say my time in Armenia was wasted. In fact, it changed my life and my perspective.

I do think it’s prudent to screen potential Volunteers for health issues of all kinds. I also agree that serving in the Peace Corps is a privilege and an honor, and not a right to all US tax paying comers. BUT… I also know that any agency affiliated with the US government, including the military, has very antiquated policies regarding mental healthcare. And I think that ought to change. I think it will HAVE to change, because there’s been a lot of work done to destigmatize accessing mental healthcare in the United States. More people than ever are seeking services to treat minor mental health crises.

In 2007, when Bill was deployed to Iraq, I did a supposedly mandatory Exceptional Family Member Program screening (EFMP) because we were going to move to Germany. I was forced to join EFMP– a program that is supposed to allow commands to consider the “special” needs of family members before sending them to certain assignments. I remember being really upset about that situation, since the doctor who screened me said I could suffer mental health issues in Germany, as Bill could go “downrange” (and he was already downrange when I spoke to her). Then she said there was a shortage of mental health professionals in some areas. I have a master’s degree in social work. I could have gotten licensed and they could have hired me! I would have just needed to pass an exam and pay a fee. I wasn’t some 19 year old bride, with no experience or ability to take care of myself. But that is how I was treated.

In my case, the military’s EFMP screening was utter bullshit, and in the end, it wasn’t even a problem for us. The National Guard didn’t care about my history of depression, and they’d already cut Bill’s orders for Germany before I even got the screening (that wasn’t supposed to happen). It was a waste of time. I could have skipped the whole thing, which really pissed me off. I felt like I was being punished for doing the responsible thing and getting help for my depression and anxiety, and then being honest about it for the EFMP screening. I can see by comments left on the article that people affected by Peace Corps’ mental health policy feel similarly.

It’s not a small ordeal to apply for Peace Corps service. In my case, the whole process took less than three months, but that was only because I applied in the 90s. There were a lot more slots to fill at that time, as eastern Europe and many former Soviet countries offered chances to serve. In my day, people were getting invited to countries like Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, both eastern and western Russia, and the like. A lot of those programs have since closed, which means there aren’t as many programs that need Volunteers. That means it can take a lot longer for a person to be accepted and sent off somewhere.

But consider that there’s a lengthy application and interview, you have to have references– I think it’s three now, but it was six when I was a Volunteer– and you have to clear legal and medical. The medical exam is very thorough and arduous. I was fortunate enough to get mine at a military treatment facility /sarcasm, although at least it was provided free of charge! If you don’t have health insurance or the money to pay for the physical and dental screening, it can get pretty pricey. I also remember having to go to the county jail in my Virginia hometown of Gloucester to get fingerprinted. That was an experience!

Peace Corps staff members now apparently send invitations to applicants before they’ve passed all of the qualifications, which means that offers get rescinded after people have told their friends and families, sold or given away their possessions, quit their jobs, given up their housing, and made other life altering decisions. Consider also that many people who serve in the Peace Corps often tend to be high achievers, and having an offer rescinded can be personally devastating to them. The rejection, in and of itself, can cause mental health issues.

I read that this new policy of inviting people who aren’t completely cleared came about in 2012 or so, also because of the Rehabilitation Act. I’ve also read that the policy changed because Peace Corps is “competing” with graduate programs and jobs, so they have to make these offers before the applicants decide to go to graduate school or take a paid position. There could be some truth to that explanation, too.

Anyway… given what has happened in the world since 2020, I can’t imagine that the Peace Corps can continue this practice of screening out people who have sought mental health treatment. I have read that some people were successful in appealing decisions to rescind offers, although it doesn’t seem to be the norm. But– today’s youth have had to deal with a whole host of shit that my generation didn’t have to deal with– from 9/11, to school shootings, to two wars and terrorism, to COVID-19– they have really been through some tough stuff. They have also come of age at a time when people are being encouraged to seek mental health care if they need it. I think the Peace Corps will find that the pool of applicants with no documented mental health history whatsoever will eventually become very scarce.

Bwahahahaha… when I was a Volunteer, we were all issued a copy of this book. It was pretty useless in Armenia.

I do wish the plaintiffs luck with their lawsuit. It’s not because I think the Peace Corps should be sending anyone and everyone out into remote areas “where there is no doctor” (heh heh hehe… IYKYK). I just think the Peace Corps– like the US military– need to reevaluate their policies regarding mental health treatment. There’s a big difference between someone who gets counseling for situational depression and takes medication for awhile, and someone who is bipolar, has a serious eating disorder, is an alcoholic, or has schizophrenia (and some of those people do manage to slip into service, anyway). They shouldn’t punish people for being honest in their medical screenings, nor should people who do the mature thing and ask for help be penalized for taking care of themselves. And for Christ’s sakes, go back to offering invitations to service AFTER the applicant has jumped through most of the hoops, so they don’t uproot their entire lives for NOTHING!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Not a day passes that I don’t think of my time in Armenia and how much it changed my life, opened my eyes to the world, and altered my perspectives. I was not one who dreamt my whole life of serving in the Peace Corps, but I’m so grateful I joined anyway. I would have really hated to have missed that opportunity simply because I very responsibly sought mental healthcare for depression and anxiety before my service, instead of afterwards.

And I dare say the people I served in Armenia would have missed out on knowing me, too… a few of them even liked me. ūüėČ I look forward to seeing them soon.

Well, that about does it for today. Time to get on with my Friday. Have a good one, folks.

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book reviews, politicians, politics

Repost: Reviewing The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents…

Happy Sunday, y’all. It’s already creeping up at 2:00 in the afternoon, and I find myself a bit uninspired after I wrote a fresh travel post. Since I’m a little blocked and don’t have a fresh topic in mind, I’m going to repost a book review that somehow never got put up in the earlier days of this blog.

This book review was written for the original Blogspot version of OH on November 23, 2015. I’m keeping it mostly as/is, so please pretend it’s 2015.

I just finished reading Ronald Kessler’s 2014 book
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents. ¬†Although I’m not usually one to follow politics, I do think celebrities are interesting. ¬†Let’s face it. ¬†A lot of high level US politicians are really celebrities more than anything else. ¬†Ronald Kessler is an investigative journalist who has written for¬†The Wall Street Journal¬†and¬†The Washington Post. ¬†Many of his books are about politicians and government agencies. ¬†The First Family Detail¬†is Kessler’s book about what it takes for Secret Service agents to protect presidents and vice presidents and their families. ¬†Kessler interviewed Secret Service agents who worked with all of the most recent presidents, throwing in some anecdotes about US history and what it was like for earlier presidents who didn’t have Secret Service protection.

According to Kessler, the Secret Service is underfunded and agents have no home lives. ¬†They work long shifts and don’t get much time to sleep, let alone spend time with their families. ¬†Many of the people who work as Secret Service agents are the type who are instinctively protective. ¬†It’s their job to take a bullet for those they are tasked with protecting. ¬†However, sometimes protectees don’t make it easy for them. ¬†In fact, sometimes those being protected by the Secret Service deliberately sabotage their efforts to safeguard them from those who might do them harm.

Kessler includes stories about Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush and the hellraising they did, particularly when they were in college. ¬†He writes of Joe Biden and his frequent expensive trips to Delaware, requiring agents to stay well out of sight. ¬†Hillary Clinton gets a lot of mentions as well. ¬†She is supposedly very difficult, something that one of Bill’s co-workers, who once had some dealings with Mrs. Clinton, verifies. ¬†Nancy Reagan is likewise reputed to be very hard to work for. ¬†By contrast, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are supposedly much loved and respected by Secret Service agents.

There are some times when Kessler repeats himself. ¬†For example, he writes several times about Mrs. Clinton and her famously nasty disposition. ¬†He writes more than once about how Secret Service agents work all the time and are underfunded. ¬†He repeatedly writes about Bill Clinton’s trysts with mistresses. ¬†On the other hand, I did learn a lot about presidents as I read this book, including a few I forgot ever existed because they didn’t last very long. ¬†

I also felt that sometimes Kessler was too political. ¬†To me, he came off as being pro Republican. ¬†Everybody knows that George W. Bush was a very polarizing president. ¬†A lot of people dislike him intensely. ¬†Kessler makes him out to be this great guy who isn’t how he seems in public. ¬†By contrast, Bill Clinton was a very popular president, but Kessler depicts him as a complete scumbag. ¬†While these characterizations may have truth to them, they also make Kessler seem a little biased. ¬†It seems to me that this book should have been more objective. ¬†Kessler should have made the observations more obviously those of the agents working with the presidents and less like they are his personal opinions.

A number of reviewers on Amazon.com have noted that¬†The First Family Detail¬†is much like an earlier book Kessler published. ¬†One reviewer went as far as to comment that this book is more like an updated version of Kessler’s¬†In The President’s Secret Service, which was published in 2009. ¬†I haven’t read the earlier book, but enough people have mentioned the similarities between the two that I probably won’t bother with it.

Overall, I thought this was a good read, though it would have been better with a thorough editing to remove the redundancies. ¬†It held my attention and informed me, though I will admit that some of the revelations are a bit gossipy. ¬†I would recommend it to those who haven’t already read the other book and those who find presidents interesting. ¬†This book puts a human face on people the vast majority of the public will never meet in person. ¬†At the same time, the look Kessler gives to presidents and their families confirms to me that anyone who runs for president must pretty much be a narcissist. ¬†And, if I am to believe Kessler, Hillary Clinton is likely the antichrist. ¬†He as much as flat out says he hopes she won’t be president… or, at least many folks working for the Secret Service hope she won’t. ¬†

ETA in 2023… I wonder what he thinks of Trump. He probably thinks Trump is awesome. Obviously, this book is a bit outdated by now.

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book reviews

Repost: A career with the CIA is not what it’s cracked up to be…

Here’s a reposted Epinions review from March 2006. It appears here mostly as/is.

Lindsay Moran, author of Blowing My Cover: My Life As A CIA Spy, and I have some things in common. We’re about the same age. We both work as writers in the Washington, DC area. We’ve both been to Bulgaria and worked as teachers abroad. We both spent time near Williamsburg, Virginia. And we both approached the Central Intelligence Agency for a job. Of course, Moran was successful where I was not. After reading her story, I wonder if I was the luckier candidate.

Three years ago, I was seriously engaged in a job search. My husband Bill, citing my writing and research abilities, suggested that I submit an application to the Central Intelligence Agency (aka the CIA), thinking that maybe I could work in their Langley, Virginia headquarters gathering information. I submitted an application, but I never thought I’d actually hear from them. There are people who spend their whole lives grooming themselves to work for the CIA. Apparently, just getting an initial interview is something to behold. Needless to say, I was shocked when, on April Fool’s Day 2003, I got an early evening phone call from a recruiter. Much to my surprise, she wasn’t calling to recruit me for a desk job, either. Apparently, I was being looked at for a position recruiting spies– something I never envisioned myself doing!

The recruiter interviewed me for forty-five minutes over the phone. She asked tough questions, taking me completely off guard, and when it was over, I knew I had bombed the interview. My suspicions were confirmed when I got a rejection letter in the mail a month later. To add insult to injury, whoever plugged my name into the database had me down as a “Mr.” instead of a “Ms.” So much for central intelligence, huh? Anyway, I was intrigued when I stumbled across Lindsay Moran’s 2005 book Blowing My Cover: My Life As A CIA Spy. I decided to find out what I was missing when the CIA rejected me.

For five years, Lindsay Moran worked as a case officer for the CIA. Unlike me, she had always wanted to be a spy and promptly presented her resume to the Agency right after her college graduation. She was invited to attend an informational meeting at a dingy Holiday Inn and was left unimpressed by the dowdy looking man and woman who led the session. She ended up leaving the meeting with doubts about whether or not she was ready to embark on such a serious career; consequently, she never sent in the first application she received. Then, in 1997, Moran found herself thinking about the CIA again. She asked for another application, filled it out and sent it in, and within a month, found herself invited to another Holiday Inn, this time for an initial interview with a man named Dave. Obviously, the interview was successful.

I really enjoyed reading Lindsay Moran’s story about how she became a CIA officer. Using vivid prose and humor, she describes the many hoops she had to jump through in order to take the job recruiting spies for the United States. She submitted to multiple drug tests, psychological reviews, and polygraph exams. Then, once she started training, she learned how to crash cars into barriers, jump out of airplanes with cargo strapped to her body, survive being interrogated, travel in alias and disguise, and lose people who were tailing her. Just reading about the survival training at The Farm near Williamsburg, Virginia was enough to make my blood run cold, although some of the training did sound like fun. I used to work in the Colonial Williamsburg area. I’m sure there were plenty of CIA trainees milling around during the days I spent waiting tables in Merchant Square.

Moran ultimately drove home the idea that I got when I briefly looked into working for the CIA myself. There are many things about the job that really really suck big time. For one thing, much of what CIA officers do is secret. Moran couldn’t talk about her job with friends or family. They weren’t even allowed to help her celebrate her graduation from The Farm. She would never be publicly recognized for her good work. The job is lonely, stressful, confining, and dangerous. She had to vet all of her friends and love interests with the Agency and she had to ask their permission before she traveled. Moran had a steady boyfriend from Bulgaria that she ended up having to break up with because of her job with the CIA.

I also appreciated Moran’s ambivalence about what she was ultimately being asked to do for her country. As Moran recruited foreign nationals to supply intelligence about their homelands, it wasn’t lost on her that what she was actually doing was pressuring her contacts into committing treason. If they were caught betraying their country for money, they could be killed. Committing treason was something that Moran would never consider doing herself, yet she had to get over feeling guilty by rationalizing that what she was doing was for the good of her country. She couldn’t allow herself to consider that what she was doing wasn’t good for her host country. Moran’s memoir also spotlights the tremendous amount of taxpayer revenue that goes to pay for CIA activities, including wining and dining potential agents (host nationals who are recruited as spies), bribes and gifts, transportation, and swanky housing.

Just before she graduated from The Farm, Lindsay Moran had a very enlightening conversation with one of her instructors, a man named Bill who had earned Moran’s respect by always speaking candidly. He was just getting ready to retire and, after Moran spoke openly to him about her ambivalence about what she would be doing as a CIA officer, Bill offered her some very good advice. He said:

Don’t lose yourself to this place, Lindsay… it’s not worth it. Even within the walls of Headquarters, the best among us will quickly be forgotten… reminding her “that the Agency’s only famous spies were the failures and the traitors” (p. 149).

All in all, I found Blowing My Cover to be a fascinating and very readable book. I managed to finish Moran’s tale in just a few days and I enjoyed every minute of the experience. The book’s mood is more lighthearted than I would have expected it to be, and I found it very refreshing. I got the idea that Lindsay Moran is a person I’d want to know and I felt sorry for her as she described the hardships she faced as a CIA officer. So many people see the CIA as a glamorous, exciting career choice, and indeed, the job does offer many perks. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that even if the job is exciting, it’s impossible to share that excitement with anyone who isn’t also shrouded in the CIA’s stifling secrecy.

I would definitely recommend¬†Blowing My Cover: My Life As A CIA Spy¬†to anyone who has ever considered working for the Central Intelligence Agency. I’d also recommend it to anyone who just likes an uncommonly interesting read. Because of the nature of Moran’s story, I suspect that this is not the kind of book that will show up on bookstore shelves very often.

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Trump

Who is this Menstrual Moderator, anyway?

I got curious about Scott Lloyd, Trump’s former head of the Office of Refugee Reassignment (ORR), so I went Googling after I wrote yesterday’s second blog post about how Lloyd has been barring pregnant migrant teens who were raped from accessing abortions. I discovered that Mr. Lloyd, like me, went to college in Virginia. He graduated from James Madison University, which had been my first choice school. Alas, they rejected me. Their loss.

Lloyd then went on to attend law school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. In law school, back in the fall of 2004, Mr. Lloyd shared a six page essay he wrote with about 80 of his fellow students. It was for a course called Catholic Social Teaching, which explored religious, ethical, and legal thinking on issues including abortion, health care, and poverty. In the essay, Mr. Lloyd wrote about how, as a young man, he had gotten a woman pregnant and she had opted to have an abortion against his wishes. Although Mr. Lloyd had accompanied his former partner to an abortion clinic and helped pay for the procedure (mostly in one dollar bills), he was clearly very upset by the memory. He wrote:

‚ÄúThe truth about abortion, is that my first child is dead, and no woman, man, Supreme Court, or government‚ÄĒNOBODY‚ÄĒhas the right to tell me that she doesn‚Äôt belong here.‚ÄĚ 

So… because Scott Lloyd had premarital sex with someone he had no plans to marry, and evidently did not choose to use a condom, he thinks he has the right to dictate to every other woman what she should be doing with her uterus. His personal experience with “knocking someone up”, and then his anguish over her decision to choose abortion, has put him on the path to taking away other women’s rights to choose. But not before he became so distraught over his former partner’s choice to have an abortion that he developed a drinking problem that led him to passing out on park benches and elevators and once even got arrested for disorderly intoxication.

I don’t want to diminish Mr. Lloyd’s pain. I do have some empathy for men who want to raise their offspring. Unfortunately, when it comes to pregnancy, there simply isn’t an equal playing field. Until the fetus is fully gestated, it remains a part of the mother’s body. Pregnancy remains a risky situation for some women. It can lead to health problems or even death. Add in the personal costs to having children– the medical bills, potential of lost income, career delays, and everything else that comes with childbearing, which very often falls to the mother, and I can’t agree that the father should have a say in whether or not the mother chooses abortion. I will never agree that it’s a man’s right to force a woman to stay pregnant. The idea of that is completely repugnant to me, almost as much as the idea of abortion is.

That’s right. I am personally– for myself, that is– against abortion. I doubt I would have ever chosen it, and since I’m 46 years old and about to be menopausal, I doubt it will ever be an issue I’ll face. But I can’t say that I absolutely wouldn’t choose it. I don’t think most women plan to have abortions or wish for them. Maybe a few women become jaded when it comes to that procedure, but for most, I’m sure it’s a very difficult decision and traumatic experience. It’s also a very personal choice, especially since the woman who makes it will have to live with her decision for the rest of her life. And while men certainly play a crucial part in creating life, it’s the women’s bodies that make life possible and women are the ones who assume every physical risk during pregnancy.

Mr. Lloyd now lives in beautiful Front Royal, Virginia. I have been to Front Royal. It’s the kind of place where I’d enjoy settling down someday. It’s at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and not far from Washington, DC. In 1993 and 94, I worked at a summer camp not far from Front Royal, which at least in those days, maintained some rural charm. Front Royal has a burgeoning Catholic community, of which Lloyd is very much involved. It’s the location of Christendom College, a Catholic liberal arts college which was recently in the news for mishandling a sexual assault case.

Lloyd attends St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church with his wife and seven children, where the average family includes at least six kids and there hasn’t been a teen pregnancy in fifteen years. Although it’s been a long time since I was last in Front Royal, it sounds kind of like it’s turned into a town much like my mom’s hometown of Buena Vista, Virginia, which has become a LDS mecca since some Mormon investors purchased her alma mater, Southern Seminary Junior College and turned it into Southern Virginia University.

I have never really had a problem with Catholics. I seem to attract them. Hell, before Bill was LDS, he was Catholic and has said if he were to go back to church, he’d probably choose to be Catholic again. However, just as there are extreme Protestants, there are extreme Catholics. The problem with extreme religions of any stripe is that they hijack a person’s common sense and make them believe that they have the right to make laws based on their world views. You see, I don’t think someone like Scott Lloyd has any business whatsoever serving in the federal government. The government in the United States is supposed to be separate from religion and an individual’s religious beliefs. As we can see by Lloyd’s actions as former head of the ORR, those extreme religious beliefs can cause a person to think they are doing the right thing when they rely on those beliefs to act outside of the law.

Scott Lloyd had absolutely NO RIGHT to be tracking the menstrual periods and pregnancies of minor aged migrant girls who are living in shelters run by the ORR. In the United States, women still have the right to access abortions. Mr. Lloyd abused his position as “guardian” of minor aged migrant girls by refusing to allow them to access abortions. Just because they aren’t United States citizens, that does not give him the right to deny them basic civil rights or hold them hostage. Reading about his actions yesterday made me feel nauseous. It’s as if he sees these girls, who were babies themselves not that long ago, as mere “vessels”. They’re just there to incubate the unborn… and then, once those babies are born, they might regain some of their own individual rights. It’s a wonder anyone gets pregnant in the United States these days.

I think now that he’s been exposed, Scott Lloyd should be fired from government service. If he wants to work as an anti-abortion activist, he should either do it on his personal time or get a job in the private sector. Unfortunately, until Trump is evicted from the White House, Lloyd will probably continue his campaign of harassing these young girls who simply need help and understanding as they launch into their lives. Lloyd justifies his actions because some woman he impregnated dared to defy his wishes and claim ownership of her body. For that reason, Lloyd is on a personal crusade, not just to rid the United States of abortion, but also birth control. It’s absolutely insane. In fact, I’d say he needs a therapist. But, according to Mother Jones, Mr. Lloyd has been given a new role, since he so badly fucked up as former head of the ORR (all of those migrant children he cares so deeply about who are now separated from their parents), he’s going to be involved in outreach to religious communities with The Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives.

Well… maybe that job will be a better fit for ol’ Scott. He had no experience working with refugees before he was in his last job, just lots of experience trying to strip women of their reproductive choices. It sounds like Faith and Opportunity Initiatives might be more along the lines of suitability for Lloyd… although really, he should be working in the private sector. Government employees should not be allowed to pursue their personal agendas using taxpayer dollars.

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