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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celebrities, law, true crime

Bill Cosby has been sprung from the joint…

Last night, I was startled by a headline about the man who was once called “America’s Dad”. Bill Cosby, who has spent the best part of the last three years in a Pennsylvania prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, was released from the joint on a technicality. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault, for which Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in a maximum security prison. As of September, Cosby would have served the minimum time of three years.

He’s out of the jug.

Cosby was released because of a “non-prosecution agreement” he had with a previous prosecutor who had decided not to prosecute Cosby for sexual assault. The agreement meant that Cosby should not have been charged. Although more than sixty women have come forward to allege that Cosby had also victimized them, the statute of limitations has passed, making any future prosecution unlikely. According to The New York Times:

In their 79-page opinion, the judges wrote that a previous prosecutor’s statement that Mr. Cosby would not face charges, which paved the way for Mr. Cosby to testify in a civil trial, meant that he should not have been charged in the case. It was a 6-to-1 ruling, with two of the judges in the majority dissenting on the remedy, which barred a retrial.

In 2005, Cosby was investigated following allegations from Andrea Constand that he had given her drugs and sexually assaulted her. Former Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce L. Castor, had stated in a press release, at the time, that he had found “insufficient evidence” to criminally prosecute Cosby. Ms. Constand then brought a civil suit against Cosby, which they settled in 2006. Cosby eventually paid Constand $3.38 million. In the course of that civil suit, Cosby made incriminating statements against himself, based on assurances by Castor that he would not be held criminally liable.

In December 2015, Bruce L. Castor’s successors reopened the criminal case against Cosby, just days before the 12 year statute of limitations would have expired. Over 60 women had come forward to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them– the case was gathering steam just as the #MeToo movement was heating up, which no doubt increased pressure for Cosby to be convicted.

Cosby had admitted during the 2006 civil suit that he had given “quaaludes to women he was pursuing for sex”. That evidence was used in the criminal case against him in 2015, but because he’d had that agreement with Castor, he never should have been charged. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that “…in light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D. A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights.” 

Although I know a lot of people are disappointed that Cosby was released, personally, I don’t have much of a problem with it. Cosby is almost 84 years old, essentially blind, and extremely unlikely to repeat his crime. I doubt any women will be visiting him in an attempt to bolster their careers. I also doubt any women with sense would accept drinks or pills from Mr. Cosby. Any women that would do that should have their heads examined.

Cosby definitely should have been prosecuted years ago, but he wasn’t. And it does sound like his rights to due process were violated. Since I would hope for fairness and due process if I, or someone I love, was ever accused of a crime, I expect proper due process for other people. That includes people who are clearly guilty, which I believe wholeheartedly that Cosby is.

We should all remember that the fact that Cosby was released from prison on a technicality doesn’t make him any less culpable in his crimes against women. His reputation and career are now pretty much ruined. Hopefully, he’ll go home and live out his remaining years quietly with his faithful wife, Camille. Unfortunately, I don’t think Cosby will keep quiet. He’s always fancied himself someone with something to say, and I suspect being released from prison will embolden him. In fact, after being released, Cosby “called in to local Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM, where he said the audience needed ‘clarity, they need guidance.'”

“Because this is not just a Black thing,” Cosby said. “This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color, or creed. Because I met them in there. People who talked about what happened and what they did. And I know there are many liars out there.”

Camille Cosby, made some shameful comparisons of Cosby’s case to that of Emmett Till’s. Emmett Till was a black fourteen year old boy who was lynched in 1955 after being accused of “leering” at a white woman. Mrs. Cosby also blamed the media for “demonizing” Bill Cosby– although Cosby had no issues using the media to promote his long and successful career. It just doesn’t wash… but at least now that Cosby’s been released, some of the accusations of racism regarding his case might be put to rest.

As for Bruce L. Castor, he’s gone on to bigger things. This year, he served as a lawyer for Trump during his second impeachment trial. Castor says that he feels “exonerated” by the ruling allowing Cosby his freedom. According to The New York Times, Castor said:

“I was right back in 2005 and I’m right in 2021… I’m proud of our Supreme Court for having the courage to make an unpopular decision.”

Except Cosby actually admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Castor didn’t find sufficient evidence in 2005 to prosecute “America’s Dad”, but clearly Cosby was guilty. I don’t quite understand why Castor would congratulate himself for not finding evidence against Cosby in 2005, when it’s quite clear that Cosby had a long standing habit of sexually assaulting women and getting away with it.

I do think it’s good that Cosby went to prison. I’m sure that experience was very humiliating and educational for him, although upon his release from the joint, Cosby is claiming that a lot of people who have been imprisoned are innocent and have been victimized by “liars”. That may be true. There may be people in prison who don’t belong there. However, I don’t believe Cosby is among the innocent people who were falsely imprisoned. He openly admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Cosby’s release is strictly because court officials screwed up– not because someone “lied”.

I think Andrea Constand should be commended for bravely coming forward and doing her part to stop Cosby from hurting other women. If Cosby were younger and still posed a serious threat to women, I might be much more outraged that he’s been released from prison. But I honestly don’t think he will continue his habit of drugging and raping women. As a general rule, I think prison should be for people who are violent and pose a threat to others. That’s just my personal opinion.

I know a lot of people think Cosby should continue to rot in prison to serve as an “example” to others. But in my experience, people who are narcissistic criminals aren’t influenced by what happens to others. They think they’re above it, and they don’t ever expect to get caught. Cosby got away with his crimes for years. Why shouldn’t he have believed that he’d continue to get away with what he was doing? He didn’t learn from watching O.J. Simpson go to prison, did he? I notice we *finally* don’t hear much from O.J. anymore.

And look at Trump. Trump openly admitted to assaulting women and countless women have accused him of assaulting them, including a teenaged girl. Yet he was the president, and many people still want him to lead the country, despite his dismal record and obviously terrible leadership. Unfortunately, Americans are often hesitant to punish powerful, charismatic men. The proof of that is in the Jello Pudding Pop…

Anyway… while I empathize with everyone who is disappointed that Cosby is out of prison now, I don’t see how being outraged about this will make things better. What’s done is done. Cosby can’t be prosecuted again for this crime. That’s a feature of our legal system. So my being outraged about Cosby’s release will do nothing more than raise my blood pressure. Given the state of the world today, and the rising numbers of people getting sick with new variants of COVID-19, I figure I have bigger fish to fry. So since I can’t do anything about this, I wish Mr. Cosby luck, and I hope he stays out of trouble. He would do well to STFU and be grateful, too… maybe show some humility. I don’t think he will, though. His kind never does.

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