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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politicians

Alyssa Milano and her “sex strike”…

Last night, just as I was about to go to sleep, I read about actress Alyssa Milano’s call for a “sex strike” to protest all of the “heartbeat abortion bills” that have recently been introduced by Republicans eager to make a name for themselves by helping to overturn Roe v. Wade. Personally, I really think “making a name for themselves” is mostly what these legislators so hell-bent on stripping women of their rights to their bodily autonomy are after. I don’t believe that a lot of Republicans– Donald Trump especially– really give a shit if a woman has an abortion. They’re pandering to right wing Christian wingnuts, who want to control women. They’re after votes. And they’re pushing the United States back into the Dark Ages. I don’t think they care, though. They’re mostly after money and power and motivated entirely by greed. That’s just my take, anyway. Especially since most of them don’t give a flying fuck about caring for the children who have already been born.

Feeling horny, male Republican lawmakers? Go fuck yourselves.

Anyway, I had a favorable first impression of Alyssa Milano’s proposed sex strike, perhaps inspired by the Greek play, Lysistrata, or other true incidents in both distant and recent history, where women have denied sex to men to effect change. I have read that other women think it’s a dumb idea. I’ve also read that the pro-lifers have said they think it’s a good idea, which clearly wasn’t Ms. Milano’s intended target.

Personally, I think feminists who think a sex strike is a “sexist”, punitive idea, or that going on a sex strike uses sex as a weapon, are completely missing the point. Alyssa Milano correctly points out that if the predominantly male lawmakers who are trying to take the abortion choice away from women are successful, getting pregnant will become a huge liability. Unprotected sex between males and females cause pregnancies. Getting pregnant in a state where a woman can go to jail for having an abortion is very risky. Alyssa Milano correctly points that out in her call for a sex strike. You can choose to join her, or not. Frankly, I think women of childbearing age who are in a state where these heartbeat bills are being discussed would be very smart to embrace masturbation and let the men do the same. It’s the safest sex you’ll ever have with someone you love. Aside from that, people have the right to choose whether or not they want to have sex, regardless of the reason. So if someone decides to go “on a sex strike”, that’s their business. You can, likewise, choose not to strike if you disagree.

Right on.

Some of the heartbeat bills being proposed go further than simply making abortion illegal after six weeks. In Georgia, for instance, the proposed law would make it illegal for Georgia residents to leave the state to get an abortion. A woman could legitimately go to prison for simply choosing whether or not she wishes to birth a baby and having the misfortune of living in Georgia. Since men can’t get pregnant, they won’t be affected by this draconian law, even though all unintended pregnancies are partly caused by men.

Sex is a very effective motivator. Withholding sex, as a lot of women already know, is a powerful bargaining chip. While some people might think the idea of a sex strike goes too far and also penalizes women, I think this issue is serious enough that withholding sex in order to force the issue is warranted. Although the heartbeat bills will certainly be challenged and it is unlikely any will become law in the immediate future, they are a legitimate threat to women’s and children’s health. After all, babies who are born to people who aren’t ready to be parents are going to be in a more precarious position than babies whose mothers are ready. I specifically mention mothers because for those nine months in the womb, it’s the mother– and the mother alone— who is taking care of that developing fetus. And in order to best take care of the fetus, she has to take care of herself, first. We don’t have enough resources for people who have already been born. Or, maybe we do have enough resources, but the people who control them are too selfish and greedy to share them with everyone.

These politicians are dangerously ignorant about rape and how pregnancy can happen. They are in charge of making our laws, so women should protect themselves by not getting pregnant.

So… I agree with Alyssa Milano. It’s too risky to get pregnant in Georgia or Ohio or any of the other states where ignorant politicians like John Becker, who thinks ectopic pregnancies can be fixed by simply transplanting the fetus in the uterus, are in charge. I think John Becker should have surgery to implant his brain into his head, since it’s clearly currently in his ass and he’s been sitting on it for far too long.

Of course, I also think that a lot of people are way too free with their DNA as it is. I think more people should use birth control, particularly when they aren’t ready to be parents or don’t want to have a baby with their sexual partner. I’d be for abstinence for that reason alone, although I know it’s not realistic.

I’m going to turn 47 next month. I won’t be having any babies, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be pregnant. So, I guess I don’t personally have a stake in this situation, except for the fact that I’m a woman and was lucky enough to come of age in an era when I could have chosen to terminate a pregnancy if I’d wanted to. There are situations in which abortion is not only desired, but advisable. When a woman has been a victim of rape or incest, or is in a situation in which her life or her fetus’s life is in jeopardy, she should be able to get an abortion if she wants or needs it. She should be able to make that decision on her own, without any input from uninvolved people. A woman who has a miscarriage should not have to worry about being under suspicion for having done something to cause the miscarriage. She should not have any concerns about going to jail for losing her baby in utero. Pregnant adults should not have to worry about doing things that are perfectly legal for non-pregnant adults to do. Pregnant children should never be forced to risk their own health and/or very life to bring into the world a baby that they are not at all prepared to care for, simply due to dangerously ignorant male politicians who insist that every unborn fetus must be born no matter what. Especially since so many of them don’t give a shit about those babies once they’ve left the womb.

Although I don’t always agree with Alyssa Milano’s views, you can count me among the pro choice people standing with her idea of a sex strike. I think it’s a fine concept. If you don’t, that’s your privilege. Be sure to enjoy it while you still can.

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