Thursday, November 15, 2012

Coming Out of the Closet of Shame

After hearing about this story in Ireland, I found myself wishing more women who have had abortions would "come out of the closet", so to speak, and share their experiences so we can get past the idea that women who have had abortions are evil or heartless, or wanton hussies who get pregnant just so they can go have painful and expensive abortions. Maybe tragedies like this one could be prevented if more women spoke out. Given the statistics, nearly everyone knows someone who has had an abortion.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Savita Halappanavar. Beautiful Savita, you did not have to die this way. To honor your memory, I am coming out of the closet myself:

I was pregnant once. 

Not that this should matter, but I was in a loving, committed relationship and was on birth control at the time, although I hadn't been for long. I have never wanted to give birth to a child, preferring instead to consider adoption when the time came, if ever, that I wanted to raise a child, so it struck me as funny that I was actually sort of tickled when I found out I was pregnant. "Huzzah! My body works! :D" My partner was supportive, so continuing with the pregnancy was definitely an option for me and I would undoubtedly have a child today had my pregnancy been a normal, healthy one.

Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew something wasn't right. I was having severe pain in my abdomen like nothing else I'd ever felt. Having never been pregnant before, I wondered if maybe it was normal, but was pretty sure it wasn't so I went to see my doctor. I was miserable all the time, not just "morning sickness", which I didn't really experience, but acute pain that prevented me from sleeping at night. It was unbearable when lying down. At 5 weeks or so, it was still too early to know for certain if it was a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, but my doctor believed ectopic pregnancy to be the most likely explanation for the pain I was experiencing, and I trusted her judgment and expertise. My hormone levels were not where they should have been, and I'd been treated for endometriosis not long before becoming pregnant. (Hence, the birth control, which was intended to control the abnormally heavy periods I had been experiencing. I was also diagnosed with anemia at that time.)

For the record, my doctor did not immediately suggest abortion. She explained the risks of ectopic pregnancy, and then she said something I'll never forget, and will probably NEVER hear a politician say on this issue: "It's possible I'm wrong." I admired her for that, and still do. She gave me the best information she could, based on her medical knowledge and years of experience. 
She gave me a sympathetic hug. And then she sent me home to let me make my own decision on the matter. And even though I have never wanted to birth my own children, I worried about my future fertility and agonized  about whether or not I wanted to risk that by letting the pregnancy develop further to see if it really was ectopic—which is NOT treatable, by the way. An ectopic pregnancy NEVER results in a healthy baby. If left untreated, however, it can and does result in infertile and/or dead women. So my options, as far as I was concerned, were thus:

1) Terminate the pregnancy ASAP to minimize the risks involved if indeed the pregnancy was ectopic, and to minimize the risk of infection if I was miscarrying; This would involve drugs, not surgery, since it was still early enough for me to choose that option.

or 2) Wait and let the pregnancy progress, on the chance that it wasn't ectopic, and possibly miscarry anyway. By waiting, I would be risking septicemia, surgery, and potentially irreparable damage to my reproductive system if it was what the evidence suggested. Even with a miscarriage, I was at risk for complications and infection because of other health factors I had at the time.

Honestly? I didn't need a lot of time to to mull it over—this was a no-brainer. I did choose life—MY life. I chose to terminate my pregnancy safely and under the guidance of my doctor, before I reached seven weeks, rather than to wait and possibly have to undergo invasive surgery to repair damaged internal organs... or worse. (And yes, it's expensive—about $400 out of pocket—so, no, women are not using abortions as "birth control". That is a MYTH. It was also excruciatingly painful, so if you think women are trotting off to have abortions because they are too shy to buy pills or something, you are woefully misinformed.)

Yes, it's possible that my pregnancy wasn't ectopic. It's possible that it would have proceeded normally, even though all of the evidence suggested otherwise. It's also possible that I would have miscarried anyway. The question I have for the anti-choice crowd is this: Does the government have the right to force me to risk my future fertility and my very life on a probability? NO. With everything in me, NO. I'll trust my doctor's expertise on this issue over a politician ANY day! And that is what some anti-choice people are proposing—that the government has the right to FORCE women to put our lives and health at risk against our wishes and against the advice of our healthcare provider(s). That is unacceptable to me.

I haven't lost any sleep over the choice I made, aside from the night before. I grappled with feelings of selfishness and "what ifs" before the procedure, but not once it was done. No depression, no suicidal thoughts. None of the other horrible things that anti-choice people just KNOW every woman goes through after an abortion. I didn't go through any of that, in fact I felt really good about the decision I made and I was grateful to be living in a country where I could still make that decision for myself, safely and legally. I was FREE of the fear that I might have to die for someone else's religious beliefs—I only wish Savita had had that same option. 

I have donated money to Planned Parenthood nearly every years since then, even though PP was not my provider—because I never, ever want to live in a country where a woman's right to life can be forcibly taken from her by her own government. Ever. And I'm ever so thankful that I was born in a country and a time that (for now) still values a woman's life enough to "let" her make her own medical and reproductive choices. I mourn for the women and girls around the world who weren't so lucky.

And lest you think I'm advocating abortions as the best solution, let me set your mind at ease. If you were to become pregnant "unplanned-ly" and come to me for advice, abortion would be the last thing on my mind. I would offer to feed you, house you, even adopt your child if that was your wish, before the word "abortion" passed my lips. Yes, I've had one and yes, I'm pro-choice, but I am not "pro abortion". That's a disgusting label and it says more about the person who uses it than about the person or group  they are trying to disparage. Abortion is a vital and necessary medical procedure that many women WILL need over the course of their lives. We need to come to terms with that as a society.

That said, I would also unequivocally support your right to give birth against your doctor's wishes—even if they issued a court-ordered abortion—if you were in the midst of a difficult pregnancy but wanted to take the risk for the sake of a potential child. That is YOUR choice. Not mine. Not the government's. Not the Church's. YOURS. Likewise, if you and your doctor thought an abortion was the best course of action in your situation, I would offer you my unwavering support, NO MATTER the reasons for your abortion. I don't live your life. I'm quite certain you know better than I do what's best for YOU.

I understand that some women who find themselves in similar circumstances to mine might be compelled to wait and see, and I support their right to make that decision for themselves. I would never presume that my choice is the best choice—or should be the ONLY choice—for millions of other women. Pro-choice does NOT mean "pro abortion". It means YOU get to make YOUR own medical decisions, regardless of my personal feelings on the matter. And it means you afford me the same courtesy.

I am not ashamed that I had an abortion. I am ashamed of the people who believe they have the right to force women—through government mandate—to die for THEIR religious beliefs. THAT'S shameful. THOSE people are the ones who need to be shamed into silence.

Shame on everyone in Ireland and elsewhere who supports this arrogant, immoral law.


Given that one in three or four women will have an abortion in her lifetime, chances are you know and love someone who has had one. Let's start a dialogue. Please visit My Abortion, My Life to join the narrative. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do Unto Others: Why the "abortion debate" should not be a debate at all

The opposite of "allowing abortion" is not—as some seem to think—"banning abortion"; the opposite is, in fact, MANDATING abortion. Let me break the options down:

1. Abortion is banned.
2. Abortion is a legal option.
3. Abortion is mandatory.

Those are the choices. See the difference?

Option #1 infringes upon the rights of women who want to terminate a pregnancy.
Option #3 infringes upon the rights of women who do NOT want to terminate a pregnancy.

Option #2 makes the most sense because it allows EVERY woman to make her own reproductive choices, without government interference. 

Put another way: 

If some idiotic senator decided to introduce legislation that made abortions mandatory—let's say after a family already had one child—to help combat overpopulation, what do you think would happen?

My guess is, all of the currently anti-choice people in this country would be SCREAMING that their right to make their own choices is being taken away from them and put into the hands of the government.

Hypocrisy rears its ugly head. 

Making abortion a legal option allows ALL women to make their own choices, free of government interference. Banning abortion and it's opposite—mandating abortion—do not. If you don't want the government eliminating your freedom to make choices for yourself, don't authorize the government to eliminate mine. The Golden Rule still stands.

Please spare me the "fetuses have rights, too" argumentthis is typically a religious justification for denying a living, breathing woman her right to make choices for herself. Not everyone believes that life begins at conception, and it is not the government's job to mandate religious belief.

Let's make sure ALL women, with advice from our medically trained doctorsnot from uninformed voters and anti-choice politicians—are free to make our own reproductive choices.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God is Just... right?

To my Christian friends:

Just so we're clear, it doesn't bother me in the least that you believe I'm going to Hell when I die. It really doesn't. You might as well tell me you believe I'm going to turn into a helium balloon and float off into space, for all that it affects me. That it to say: it doesn't. Believe what you want; I choose reality.

What does offend me, however, is this: You believe I deserve it.

You—as my friend, family member, someone who claims to care about me and love me—believe that eternal damnation and torture in a lake of fire is fitting punishment for, let's face it, simply disagreeing with you. I don't believe as you do, so I deserve to burn in Hell for all of eternity. Wow. And people call atheists arrogant? But I digress....

I could murder someone, rape and abuse children, subjugate and enslave millions of people for personal gain, and generally make life miserable for an inordinate number of people on this planet, but as long as I agree with you about God (and ask for his forgiveness, presumably), you believe I deserve to go to Heaven when I die. On the other hand, no matter how much good I do in this life, no matter how many people I help or how much love I foster on this planet, you believe I deserve eternal damnation because I'm an atheist.

You're kidding me, right? Please tell me you're not serious. Or at least tell me you're not planning to run for office any time soon, because I seriously question the judgment of anyone who honestly believes this is "justice". I don't want people who think this way making laws for the society in which I live. Thank you very much.

That said, maybe you're sitting there thinking, "No! I don't believe you deserve that. You're a good person. I care about you and I don't believe you deserve to go to Hell for being an atheist, but I didn't make the rules, that's just how it is."

Congratulations, you just admitted that your God is unjust.

I acknowledge your predicament.  Either your God is irrational and unjust—and, therefore, undeserving of your life's devotion—or he's perfectly just and fair, and you have no choice but to agree that I deserve eternal hellfire and damnation for not agreeing with you about his existence. Tough choice.

I sincerely hope that one day, you come to realize that your God was created in man's image, and that "God's Law" is really just man's law, cloaked in man's prejudice and limited understanding of the world around him. My greatest hope for you is that one day you will embrace reality and devote your life to gaining a better understanding of the universe in which you live, making the world a better place for humanity. I hope that you will, one day, come to understand that we humans can be good without gods.

P.S. I don't believe you deserve to be tortured for all eternity—or punished at all, in fact—if you disagree with me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

You're ALL Doing it Wrong!

I always take a little umbrage with Christians who say other Christians are "taking things out of context" or "not interpreting the Bible" correctly, when confronted with evidence of misdeeds by other Christians or when discussing religious differences. Let's make this clear: ALL Christians take the Bible out of context! ALL Christians "misinterpret" the Bible, often deliberately, by calling certain passages "parable", "allegory", or "metaphor". They MUST do this, in order to call themselves Christians -- and not be thrown in jail for following their religious laws to the letter.

Actually, I take that back... there are Christians who take the Bible literally, and every moderate Christian I know understands that those people are nuts. The fact that "moderate Christians" even exist under such a label is proof of this. Can you BE "sort of" Christian? I would say no. You either are, or you aren't. Can you be a Christian and think the Bible is NOT the word of God? I would argue that you could, but not a single Christian I know has ever come out and just said as much. The Bible has so many contradictions and evil commands from God himself, that any intelligent person can easily see it wasn't meant to be taken literally. But that leaves an interesting conundrum: If we aren't supposed to take it literally, why bother with it at all? You don't need it in order to believe in Jesus, do you? No, not at all.

Take this passage, for example:

"If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

Some might argue that since most Christians today think it improper to stone their rebellious teenagers to death,this  means THEY are taking the Bible out of context. In this example, are they not "misinterpreting" the verse by labeling it "parable" and tossing it onto the "don't do this in real life" pile? Who gets to decide what is or isn't parable? Who gets to decide which parts to take literally, and which parts not? Is Fred Phelps"interpreting" the Bible correctly by taking it literally? Who gets to decide this? That other Christians recognize the insanity and utter cruelty of Mr. Phelps' beliefs should be a pretty clear sign that their holy book is wrong.

I dare say, if most Christians actually read "the good book", they would quickly see that it is most assuredly not the word of God. We can't call it the "Divinely Inspired Word of God" on one hand, and then dismiss the parts we don't like as "metaphor" or "no longer applicable" on the other. It either IS God's word (and all parts of it should be obeyed, including the evil ones, as Jesus himself commands), or it isn't, and it should be cast aside, never again to be used as a weapon against those with whom Christians disagree. I vote for this latter option. You want to believe in Jesus or Allah or Santa or Zues? Be my guest, but please leave the ramblings of centuries-old cavemen behind. Progress requires sacrifice, and I think ancient religious texts, too open for interpretation by radical fundamentalists of any stripe, would be a great starting point.

In summary: ALL Christians "misinterpret" the Bible, "pick and choose" which parts to believe, and "twist it around to suit their purposes"... AND THANK THE UNIVERSE FOR THAT!!! Otherwise, we nonbelievers might all be killed in the name of Christ!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would You Worship a Tangible God?


What do you think of when you envision God? For most people, God is an abstract concept -- an invisible being who never physically reveals himself, and yet somehow the religious among us "know" he exists. How do they know? (Technically, they don't, though most would argue that point.) They "know" through their faith. They believe God exists, and though it could be argued that perception is the better part of one's reality, faith and knowledge are actually mutually exclusive.

But what if we didn't need faith to know God exists? What if we could see him? What if, when we looked up in the sky, we could actually see God looking down at us, watching us? Well, for one thing, there would be no atheists—it's hard to disbelieve something one can see with his own eyes. 

But let's explore this from a believer's perspective. Assuming God revealed himself and left no doubt that he was God:

Would you worship a tangible God who demanded that you acknowledge his divinity, or else he would damn you to eternal torture and pain? Would you worship a being who just... sat there... while his priests raped and assaulted the children in their care? Would you obey the commandments of such a God, who sat idly by while nations murdered one another in his name? Would you revere a being who simply watched, detached, as your family member or loved one died from cancer or some other disease, despite your fervent prayers?

Would you be a slave to such a God?
Or would you hold this Tangible God accountable for his inaction and demand more for a lifetime of worship and devotion?

Why, then, do you not demand more from him now, even though he's intangible? Why does that make it different? Why do we make excuses for an invisible God? Would we make the same excuses for a God we could see? Hear? Touch?

Is it because WE aren't accountable for our actions as long as he refuses to reveal himself? I suspect far fewer crimes would be committed if people truly believed there was a God—tangible or otherwise—watching our every move. Is it possible, then, that in our heart of hearts, even the most pious among us knows that God really doesn't exist? Or if he does, he really doesn't care what we do or what happens to us?

How tragically convenient, then, that he chooses to remain invisible....

EDIT: I've added one of my comments below, since some people couldn't see them:

The reason for pointing out God's "tangibility" was to simply ask if it would make a difference to those who believe, if they could see [God] and he could see them.

For example: 

Let's say there is a $1000 bill lying on a table in an empty hotel lobby. There is absolutely no possibility of getting caught if one were to take it. I'm betting some people—including some who claim to believe in God—would take the money; others would not take it, be they religious or otherwise.

Now assume there is a camera in the room, clearly visible to all who enter, and a sign stating that the room is being monitored. 

Which scenario is more likely to prevent someone from taking the money? The possibility that God is watching his actions? Or the possibility of jail time if he's caught?

That is the point of this post. Belief in God doesn't keep people from doing bad things, but if God actually was tangible and visible and present, I suspect crime rates would plummet dramatically. This leads me to question the faith of people who claim to believe in God, in all honesty, and it should lead them to question it also.

Peace and blessings!