controversies, healthcare, language, law

“Abortion” is technically not defined as a dirty word.

Good morning, folks. It’s just after 8:00 AM on a warm Tuesday here in Deutschland, and I’ve already done my housework for the day, having gotten up three hours ago. The sun rises very early at this time of year in Germany, and it sets very late in the evening. Consequently, I often need an afternoon nap, because I don’t sleep long during the night.

I don’t really want to write about abortion today. It’s a topic I’m a little tired of at the moment. However, abortion is what everybody seems to be talking about right now. I have some comments I’d like to make in a place where I’m not going to hurt people’s feelings, get into pissing matches with the deliberately obtuse, or otherwise get mired in a bunch of Internet noise. My blog is a place where comments are generally respectful and reasonable. I think abortion is an important topic that deserves that much gravity.

Yesterday, I ran across an interesting Tik Tok/Facebook video by Mama Doctor Jones, a board certified OB-GYN from Texas who is currently working in New Zealand. In the video, Dr. Jones talked about what constitutes an abortion, and what the treatments are for certain medical conditions that occur during pregnancy. She made the video in response to comments by Live Action, a right wing, anti-abortion propaganda machine.

A screenshot from Mama Doctor Joneses’ video. Notice the emotional language. But, in fact, all of these conditions require terminating the pregnancy, which is precisely what abortion is.

Live Action had put out this comment regarding “abortion”, obviously likening abortion to the negative image that many people have of it. The people at Live Action obviously consider the medical procedure that abortion is as “murder”. Abortion isn’t murder, though. Abortion simply refers to the termination of a pregnancy that doesn’t result in a live birth. Moreover, in spite of how Live Action spins it, abortion is a treatment for a number of legitimate medical issues that come up in pregnancy. In fact, a miscarriage is technically called “spontaneous abortion” in medical parlance. Abortion is not a dirty word, but that group, and others who want to limit a person’s ability to terminate a pregnancy, wants to make it so.

I don’t see anything “dirty” about these definitions.

Above is a screenshot of Dictionary.com’s definition of abortion. Nowhere in that definition do I see a single definition that depicts the vile description of abortion that is being put out by Live Action. Abortion simply refers to ending a pregnancy, for whatever reason. There are different techniques used to achieve an abortion, depending on the circumstances. Under the above definition, abortion might involve taking a pill, removing the contents of the uterus, removing a body part, or actually going through labor and delivery. It depends on the case, and the time during pregnancy at which the abortion occurs.

The problem is, the term “abortion” has taken on so much emotional baggage that people automatically think of it as sinful and wrong. That baggage is causing a lot of people pain, as medical conditions that happen during pregnancy and require that the pregnancy be terminated are technically abortions. People don’t want to think of a necessary termination as an “abortion”. The term “abortion” has a nasty connotation that conjures up images of someone who got careless and wants to end a pregnancy out of convenience or shame. Groups like Live Action liken abortion to murder. But abortion isn’t really murder, either. See below.

Notice the first definition. In that meaning of the word “murder”, it’s specified that murder is the “killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” At this point, abortion is still legal in many places, but I don’t know of a place anywhere on the planet where it’s legal for somewhere to kill another person with premeditation or malice. I also know that sometimes people have abortions because that developing human being is causing severe physical or mental health problems that threatens the life of the already born person. In that case, an abortion is less like murder and more like self-defense.

One could also argue that a developing fetus simply has the potential to become a human being, but hasn’t yet reached that designation. It all depends on when life actually begins. People also have varying opinions on when that happens. We haven’t yet decided if life begins at conception, or at birth. The federal government seems to think life begins at birth, but religious people and hyper-conservative people want to say it begins at fertilization. A consensus has yet to be reached. See below.

I have some dear people in my life who have had to end pregnancies for health reasons. These are women that I know would probably never voluntarily opt to have an abortion. I write “probably”, because a lot of us think we know what we would do in a given situation, but we don’t actually know until it happens to us. For instance, I feel pretty certain that if I were a rape or incest victim, I would want to have an abortion. But I also know for a fact that I have a pretty serious aversion to seeing doctors. I was traumatized by an OB-GYN when I was 22 years old, and that has made me very reluctant to seek medical care unless I absolutely have to have it. To be honest, at this point, even if I have to have medical care, I still might not seek it. I haven’t seen a medical doctor since 2010. Going to see physicians causes me great anxiety.

I also suffer from depression a lot of the time, and that often makes me feel worthless. The state of the world right now adds to my depression, and makes me think it would be better to be dead. So I can’t say for certain that I would seek an abortion if I got pregnant due to rape (which I know I wouldn’t at this point in time). I probably would want one… because my healthy mental days are usually more plentiful than my unhealthy days, and I’m sure I would not want to raise my rapist’s baby. I also know that I would not want to give a baby up for adoption. But I say that as someone who has never experienced forced intercourse with a man, and has never even been close to being pregnant. I would probably feel emotionally shattered if I were ever raped, and that would affect my self-esteem. So, to be frank, I can’t say for certain I would have an abortion. I only know how I feel right now, which is that I would probably want one.

The people in my life who have had to end their pregnancies for medical reasons desperately wanted to have their babies. They would never choose to have what we think of is an “abortion”. They needed medical care for an emergency situation that involved terminating a pregnancy. Technically, they DID have an abortion, as defined by the medical establishment, but it was not the kind of abortion one might have at Planned Parenthood. And they don’t want to think of their procedures in that way. I can totally understand that. But I also think that it might be helpful if we stopped thinking of abortion as something dirty and sleazy. Sometimes, it’s a necessary, life saving, medical procedure, and like all medical procedures, it really should be private business, with no emotional baggage attached by other people’s opinions.

Personally, I think any person who wants to have an abortion should have one, for ANY reason. It’s not up to me or anyone else to judge whether or not their reasons are valid. People who are pregnant against their wills are not going to be motivated to take care of themselves the way they should. I think it’s a lot crueler to force people to gestate– crueler for the pregnant person AND the developing fetus. Because choices that pregnant people make will affect that developing fetus, and it’s possible that the person born after such a pregnancy will have to live their whole lives with the choices made by the person who birthed them. We don’t have the ability to force pregnant people to take care of themselves, and I don’t think that’s what most Americans would want to see happen. That would put us on a very slippery slope into a dystopian nightmare culture.

I like Mama Doctor Jones because she makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen her respond very logically to people who come at her with emotional comments full of shame and judgment. See below.

I totally agree with Mama Doctor Jones that allowing abortions in “some situations” is hypocritical. If we’re going to assign personhood to developing embryos, then almost no reason for abortion should be acceptable. Allowing it in certain circumstances, but not others, is problematic if we’re calling embryos people. The embryos are “innocent”, right? But forcing women to have babies conceived in the commission of a crime seems cruel to many. I think forcing women to have babies they don’t want to have is cruel. It doesn’t matter how or why they got pregnant. If abortion is okay in one situation, it should be okay in all situations. And before anyone brings up abortions that happen later in pregnancy, let me just say that those abortions are very rare, and usually occur due to a catastrophic medical issue. I highly doubt that women, as a rule, decide to terminate a pregnancy after the first trimester unless they have a damned good reason. They certainly don’t do that for convenience.

Darynidia’s comment is especially good… Why is it that so many people who want to deny women the right to choose, also have no problem suggesting suicide to already born people?
Yes. She sums up my feelings nicely.

So… these are my thoughts on the word “abortion”. I really don’t think of it as a “dirty word”. It’s not defined as a dirty word in the dictionary or by medical professionals. Some members of the public have made it a dirty word by implying that people who seek them are careless, immoral, heartless, cruel, unChristian, slutty, or whatever else. It ain’t necessarily so. Your aunt who had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons technically did have an abortion. That procedure saved her life. Your sister who had a miscarriage technically experienced a “spontaneous abortion”. That doesn’t make her a bad person. Your high school friend who got pregnant after having unprotected sex went to a clinic to have an abortion. She’s still a decent person, worthy of respect and understanding. Maybe that procedure saved her life. Either way, it’s no one else’s business but hers.

The people behind Live Action deliberately use shaming language to push their agenda and make people feel bad for exercising self-determination. I would trust a board certified physician like Dr. Danielle Jones, OB-GYN over them anyday. I say that as someone who does not trust doctors, as a general rule. And I do not follow the word of any organization that gets into bed with so-called conservative leaders like Donald Trump and his ilk. This is a man who brags about molesting women and has probably funded and/or caused a few abortions himself. Abortion isn’t a dirty word in any sense, and people should stop attaching so much shame to it. It’s a neutral word that has been burdened with the dogmatic agenda of religious and political groups, who simply want to control women and maintain their power.

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complaints

Repost: I’ve never been prone at the dentist’s office…

In light of today’s fresh content about grammar and word usage, here’s a related piece from my old blog, originally posted February 12, 2019.

I am currently reading actress Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE.  To be honest, I didn’t know who Rose McGowan was before I picked up her book.  I never watched her on Charmed; I wasn’t a fan of the movie, Scream (and don’t even remember if I ever watched it); I don’t follow Marilyn Manson; and looking at McGowan’s page on imbd.com, I don’t even recognize anything she’s been in since 2011.  I have heard of Law & Order, but have never watched the show.  I probably should watch Law & Order, because I probably would like it, but not because Rose McGowan was ever in it.

I picked up her book because someone in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook group mentioned that Rose McGowan had been in the Children of God cult.  I recently wrote a couple of posts about that creepy sex cult that was big in the 1970s.  Rose McGowan is about my age, and she was born in Tuscany.  Why?  Because her parents were in that cult.  The Children of God sent members around the globe in an effort to recruit new people.  McGowan’s parents must not have been as closed in to the compound as others in the Children of God cult were, as McGowan has actual memories of Italy instead of just the Children of God compound. 

Fortunately for Rose McGowan, she wasn’t forced to stay in that cult until she was an adult, as some others have been.  Her parents eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, which McGowan hated after her time in Italy.  I can’t blame her for that.  Italy is a magical place and the food is insanely good there.  I had to chuckle as McGowan described the first lasagna she ever encountered in the United States.  My very first memories are of England, not the United States (although I was born in Virginia).  I think it permanently affected my world view, just as Rose’s world view seems to have been affected by having been born and spent her earliest years in Italy.

So anyway, I don’t have too much longer to go before I’m finished with Rose’s book.  I’m kind of glad I’ve been reading it, particularly since I also just read Justine Bateman’s book about fame.  McGowan kind of echoes Bateman’s comments about how fame isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  There is a definite downside to it.  Unfortunately, at this point, McGowan’s comments about her experiences in show business are not what is sticking out the most to me about her book.

A few chapters ago, McGowan wrote about having visited the dentist, who was pressuring her to get her teeth the “Cadillac” treatment.  You know, a lot of people in Hollywood have perfect teeth that are straight and brilliantly white.  And this is part and parcel of being in show business, since people are always looking at your teeth when you’re in a movie or on television, or even if you’re photographed for a magazine or album cover.  McGowan’s point was that this dentist was trying to pressure her into spending big bucks to repair her perfectly serviceable, but not quite perfect, teeth.  It’s toxic to women, particularly those in entertainment, that so many of us are pressured to look beautiful all the time.

But… as she was explaining this very good point about how women in show business are objectified and pressured into staying as young and gorgeous as they can for as long as possible, McGowan wrote something along the lines of, “There I was, lying prone at the dentist’s office…”

I had to stop and scratch my head at that.  In 46 years of life on this planet, I have never once been asked to lie prone at the dentist’s office.  If I ever had been, I’d be concerned about the dentist’s competence.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it looks like to be “prone“, if you are writing or speaking about lying flat and you want to be accurate.

If you’re lying flat, but face down, you are in a “prone” position.  I would hope your dentist wouldn’t want you lying like this during your checkup.

I think the word McGowan was looking for was “supine”.  

Yes… you want to be lying on your back so your dentist has access to the right hole.  I have altered the original version of this photo, which was generously made available in the public domain by user Asanagi.  Many thanks!

I will admit, I get hung up on these kinds of “trivial” things all the time.  It probably annoys a lot of people, especially on Facebook.  In fact, I remember recently getting into it with people in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Group about the proper way to spell HIPAA.  People got snippy with me about it, claiming it’s not a big deal.  

Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to me.  Words have meaning.  Spelling is important.  Word knowledge and proper usage is important.  If I ever get to a point at which something like this doesn’t make me twitchy, it may be time for me to see a physician.  I know some people don’t care about this.  It’s one of my quirks.  I also hate it when people use the word “utilize” when they could just as easily and more accurately employ the word “use”.  Or when they write or say “jettisoned” when they actually mean “rocketed”.  The word “jettison” is not akin to the word “jet”.  Look it up.

Remember this photo, especially next time you see your dentist.  If he or she asks you to get into a prone position, you may wish to switch doctors.

Incidentally, this morning I became aware of a new book that I’ve decided I must own.  Although I doubt I’m quite the guru professional copywriter Benjamin Dreyer is, I think we may be spirit animals.  

I hope to finish Ms. McGowan’s book today and perhaps I’ll review it later today or maybe tomorrow.  There’s more to it than just an improper use of the word “prone”.  If I know myself, though, I will probably think of her next time I get a cleaning. (Click the link at the beginning of this post for my review of McGowan’s book.)

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poor judgment

Will the swastika design ever be okay again?

Many thanks to Wikipedia user Wojsław Brożyna, for use of today’s  image.

120px-Four-swastika_collage_(transparent)

Please note: This is a volatile enough subject that I must preemptively state that I’m not advocating for the display of hateful symbols. I present this topic only as food for thought.

For thousands of years, the humble swastika was a symbol of peace, prosperity, and good luck in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.  This earliest known use of the ancient character dates back to 10,000 BC, in Mezine, Ukraine, where it was found in archaeological remains.  For most of its existence, the swastika was regarded as a positive symbol promoting auspiciousness and bounty. But then came World War I, when the swastika was co-opted by other organizations.  Then there was World War II, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi Party, which carried out the Holocaust.  Now, swastikas are regarded by most people in western culture as a symbol of terror, racism, and hatred. 

In Germany today, it’s illegal to display swastikas or any other symbol related to Nazism.  Many people from the west recoil when they see a swastika, even though it’s still revered in Eastern cultures.Yesterday, I read a news story about a ride at a German amusement park that opened in late July.  It’s operated less than three weeks, but is now shut down because its design looks like a couple of swirling swastikas.  The ride, called Eagle Fly, was designed by an Italian company and had just been installed at Tatzmania, an amusement park in the Black Forest town of Löffingen.  The park’s owner, Rüdiger Braun, had not noticed the ride’s resemblance to swastikas when he made plans to have it built.  When the unfortunate design was pointed out to him, Braun was quick to take the ride out of service, where it was reconfigured so that the gondolas no longer resemble swastikas.  There will now be three gondolas per axle instead of four.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the ride is now reconfigured.  Germans are understandably very sensitive about swastikas.  It’s forbidden to display them in Germany, and someone no doubt would have complained about the design.  Mr. Braun probably would have been fined and forced to change the design, anyway.  However, when I was reading about this mishap, once again, I was reminded of how much emphasis we put on symbols and their ability to offend.  I wondered if the ride’s designer had really intended the gondolas to be configured in such a way that they’d remind people of the Holocaust.  I also wondered how many people immediately thought of Hitler when they saw the ride in operation.  Obviously, Mr. Braun hadn’t noticed it himself.

I shared this article on Facebook.  My German friend, Susanne, is very familiar with Tatzmania before it was named such.  She is originally from Freiburg, and Tatzmania, which used to be called Schwarzwaldpark, is located not far from there.  She wrote that Schwarzwaldpark used to be pretty awesome, but then it was purchased by new owners, who kind of ran it into the ground.  She hoped that the new owner would bring the park back to its prior “super” level, although having a ride that resembles swirling swastikas may have gotten things off on the wrong foot. 

Susanne shared another story with me about clothing racks at a Berlin outlet of the German store, Kik.  The racks looked like swastikas, and a teenager had criticized it.  Later, it was said that the teen was banned from the store for making that comment.  Kik representatives later said that teen had not been banned and furthermore, the clothing racks were not meant to symbolize anything hateful.  They were simply intended to hold up clothes.  Officials from Kik also plainly stated that the company is opposed to racism, xenophobia, and neo-Nazism.

It occurred to me that even though I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed that the clothes racks were shaped like swastikas.  Maybe it’s because I’m not Jewish.  I also doubt that the people behind the racks’ design meant to offend more than they meant to present a practical design for displaying clothes to paying customers.On my old blog, I’ve written a couple of posts about how I’ve seen Europeans displaying the “stars and bars” version of the Confederate flag, especially on the Autobahns. 

A few years ago, I saw several battle flags on display at a truck stop in northern Italy, not far from the Swiss border.  One of my Italian friends explained that the Confederate battle flag has been adopted by some southern Italians who relate to it, not because they believe in slavery or white supremacy, but because of the “battle” between the northern and southern regions of Italy.  They identify with the southern United States and its rivalry with the north.I also saw a Confederate battle flag in Ireland.  It was on the back of our cab driver’s car.  I doubt it had the same significance to him that it did to Bill and me.  He probably just thought it was a cool symbol of rebellion.  That symbol doesn’t mean as much to him because he’s Irish, and American history isn’t a priority to him.  It would have been strange to tell him that the battle flag on his car is offensive to many Americans, even though I’m sure it got a lot of double takes from my countrymen.  After all, Ireland isn’t my country, and I was a guest.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I think revising the attitudes behind hateful symbols is much more important than quashing the symbols themselves.  In my opinion, symbols only have the power that people give to them.  Does that mean I think it’s a wise thing for someone to display Confederate battle flags and swastikas willy nilly?  No, it doesn’t.  But I also think people should use common sense and determine context before they get too excited about some things.  

This isn’t a new topic for me.  I’ve written lots of times about how much I dislike the idea of banning words and burying symbols.  I think all words have a use, even if the use is mostly negative.  I’ve read too many slave narratives and listened to too much Stevie Wonder to be in favor of banning the so-called “n word”.  Taken in context, that word has a purpose.  It should never be used to hurt others, but it would be crazy to remove it from historical documents.  That word has been used to hurt and denigrate Black people for hundreds of years.  No, we shouldn’t continue to use it to hurt and denigrate, but erasing it from history would also be wrong.  It’s an ugly part of history, but it’s still a part of history.  If we remove it simply because it’s offensive, then people might forget about its impact. 

But also consider that even words like “fag” and “retard”, considered “hateful” in some societies today, also had practical uses before they were co-opted by the hateful.  In fact, in countries other than the United States, those words are used all the time and aren’t considered offensive.  They don’t mean the same thing in England or Italy as they do in the USA.  And if we ban those words and symbols, those groups will simply come up with new ones.I did share my basic thoughts on the swirling swastika ride on Facebook. 

I think one of my Jewish friends was slightly offended that I wasn’t more outraged by it.  I certainly mean no disrespect to my Jewish friends.  The Holocaust was absolutely a horrible time in history.  But swastikas were ripped off by Nazis.  For thousands of years, they had no negative connotation at all.  If the world doesn’t end in the next couple of hundred years, there may come a time when people no longer see it as offensive.  It will be just another part of history. 

I think many westerners think only about their own cultures and perspectives when they see or hear certain things.  It may be helpful to broaden one’s perspective regarding words and symbols before allowing them to be too upsetting. Isn’t there enough legitimately awful stuff in the world to be offended about, rather than something that brings to mind something offensive, even if it really wasn’t meant to be?

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