4 September 2002
Girl, uninterrupted

Once upon a time, I was actually married, which does much (though clearly not everything) to explain why I have two children. And I admit that I was taken by surprise when I was informed that the first one was on the way. For one thing, there had been no testing: no cutesy strips, no trip to the OB/GYN, nothing. It didn't matter: she knew. From the very moment of fertilization, somehow she knew.

And, of course, she was right. Delivery turned out to be something less than flawless, but what matters here is the terminology: at no point in those nine months, so far as I can recall, did either of us use the word "fetus".

And maybe that's some of what Susanna Cornett is talking about when she asks, "What is nine months for a life?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
7 September 2002
Another look at Roe

Dean Esmay offered the following observation as a comment to a posting at Cut on the Bias that I'd previously mentioned here. In it, he brings up something I hadn't previously considered:

"[S]urveys show pretty clearly that pretty much half of American women now generally classify themselves as 'pro life' and a firm majority of women would support more restrictions on abortion than Roe v. Wade rammed down the country's collective throat....if we held a special referendum where only female voters were allowed to decide the fate of abortion in the United States, the rabid pro-choice crowd would howl with rage at the result."

I doubt any such referendum would ever take place; the male of the species would howl with rage at being disenfranchised. But if Mr Esmay's numbers are correct, at least part of the philosophical underpinnings of the pro-choice position that opposition to abortion would scarcely exist were it not for a small core of activists has already started to disintegrate.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:37 AM)
20 October 2002
Graven in stone

Members of a class of Joshua Claybourn's were asked to compose their own epitaphs. (I don't know what class, and I didn't ask him.)

I've thought about this myself on and off, and the following have occurred to me:

  • "This is worse than a dial-up"
  • "At least the phone doesn't ring"
  • "Comments (0)"
  • "Worms don't really play pinochle"
  • "27370 days until copyrights expire"
  • "No updates today"
  • "I'm surprised the kids spent money on this"
  • "cgh@rest.finally"
  • "I suppose I was late for this too"

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:31 PM)
25 October 2002
Final disposition

I have never been able to make a decent case either for or against the death penalty; while I have no trouble thinking up a list of people I think deserve it, there's something vaguely disquieting about the process.

Woundwort is a bit less conflicted than I am, but only a bit:

I am somewhat indifferent of the death penalty, I donít really mind when people are put to death for horrific crimes, but I donít always wave the banner for them to be executed either. This is different for me and Iím not sure why.

There have always been killers in America, and a number of them have been put to death. I neither cheered nor mourned when these persons lost their lives, although it is a bit frightening to think of all the people put to death for crimes they might not have committed. But I find myself truly wanting the persons responsible for the shootings in the D.C./VA area to die for what they have done.

Certainly they'd make my list, and for about the same reason:

I wish my motivations could be described as being based on moral principles, and a greater understanding of the common good of community and man, but I fall well short of these things. I think I want them to die because I was able to picture myself in the situation that many of the victims found themselves in and it frightened me.

There, but for the grace of God, and all that.

Making the punishment fit the crime is one of the primary duties of the criminal-justice system; about the only way to make this one fit, I think, would require that we drop the perps on an island somewhere and then hunt them down with a varmint gun.


Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
3 November 2002
Quiet time

Amizadai from Girl Unravelling sets the scene:

On Friday, I visited a graveyard. It wasn't to visit anybody. I just came across it after a meeting with a potential client. I was crossing the over-head bridge on my way to the bus-stop, wondering what to do in the two hours left before my next appointment when I saw some graves on the other side of a fence. The graves looked really old, and some of them had been dug up and their headstones broken. It piqued my curiosity, and seeing how I had time to kill, I decided to try to get in and take a look [at] them.

It's a long story, but the story of a cemetery is inevitably incomplete without the stories of its inhabitants, and Amizadai's narrative, which touches lightly on what little she can know of those stories, is to me very moving, perhaps because it is simple and unpretentious and has no agenda to push. There's a peacefulness to it all, a gentle rebuke to those of us who scream in fear at the thought of our own demise, even as we pretend to accept it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:46 PM)
22 November 2002
Nashville nattering (follow-up)

On the 8th of October, I said a few things about Tim McGraw's recording "Red Rag Top", chief among which was a statement to the effect that it was not, in my view, an endorsement of abortion.

In a comment to that post today, a reader from the "100% pro-life" camp amplified this statement, and this was the clincher:

No woman can respect a man that would let her kill their child.

In response, I suggested (perhaps feebly) that it might not have been her idea in the first place.

I don't think this topic is quite dead yet, so feel free to weigh in, either here on on the original posting.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:19 PM)
5 December 2002
A dispatch from Bizarro World

I admit up front that the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade is not marked on my calendar as a Day to Celebrate. Of course, I'm not Planned Parenthood. They, however, are going all out to commemorate the event.

Well, maybe not all out. I don't see any parades scheduled. But there is an art competition, in which they will select an "original piece of artwork or poster that celebrates these 30 years of choice and illustrates the concept that 'Behind Every Choice is a Story'."

Okay, fine. Until you read the Terms and Conditions, which contains this innocent-looking notice:

Children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission* to submit their designs and for us to publish it along with their name.

The asterisk points you to a Parental Permission Form.

Now it strikes me it certainly strikes Rosemary Esmay that Planned Parenthood gets their BVDs knotted every time someone suggests that children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission to have an abortion. "Oh, yes, vacuum out your uterus any time you like. Just don't get us in trouble with the Contest Police."

What's wrong with this picture?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
1 January 2003
Very much on a human scale

One of the reasons I have resisted getting a pet is that I know the poor creature's time on earth is short, and dealing with the end of that time is likely to cause me the sort of emotional upheaval I would prefer to avoid it's not exactly like losing a family member, but it's close enough.

A couple of weeks ago, Alan Sullivan described the last few hours of his beloved retriever:

I kneel to rub her head and neck, then I press my cheek against the soft fur of her shoulder. Long and rangy for a Labrador, Maud has shrunk from a robust eighty pounds to a gaunt sixty. Her limp flews tremble with pleasure at my attention, and the rotten teeth chatter. Those teeth are her bane. She can scarcely eat any more, and she wouldn't survive another major round of dentistry.

All right, I'm rationalizing. And I keep thinking that Steve or someone else might contemplate similar rationales over me some day.

The vet comes in three hours.

I had read that when it was a new entry, and I promptly put it out of my mind alongside the other things I'd rather not contemplate. And it stayed there until yesterday, when Bill Peschel reported on the death of the family's senior house cat:

Ever try to explain to a five-year-old girl about death? It wasn't pretty. Nor to hold your 12-year-old son, who grew up with the cat, as he's sobbing into your chest, full of understanding that, eventually, we all go, and that, if he's lucky, he'll get to bury his mom and dad before he, too, shuffles off into eternity.

There really isn't anything else I can say after that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
17 January 2003
Hit me with your rhythm stick

I tend to give relatively little thought to the matter of contraception, partially because I had The Operation in 1981, but mostly because the number of sexual partners I have had in recent years can be counted on the fingers of no hands.

Patty at Pdawwg, however, has given it a lot of thought:

[I]f you ask me, getting rid of The Pill strikes me as a good idea. Who thought it was a spectacular idea to prevent conception by shutting women's bodies down from their natural functioning? Surely all the money spent on developing the birth control pill could have been better put into really good equipment (I'm thinking like those way cool blood sugar machines they make for diabetes monitoring that my dad had) that with 99% accuracy shows a woman's fertile time so all she need do is abstain to prevent conception.

Instead we take drugs that can lead to "nausea, vomiting, bleeding between menstrual periods, weight gain, breast tenderness, and difficulty wearing contact lenses" for the minor side effects and blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, worse migraines, faster-growing tumors, increase the need for insulin for diabetic women, increased depression, irritability (like we need more of that!), water retention, leg cramps.

If this is the best medical science can offer us, I'd prefer a vet.

I suspect that were something like this offered to us guy-type persons, we would run like hell. Of course, were we the half of the species that got pregnant in the first place, world population would be something like 300,000 and they'd give out two-for-one abortion coupons at the Hy-Vee.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 PM)
26 January 2003
Some choice

One common complaint from abortion-rights advocates is that the opposition is unyielding, implacable and adamantine. I assume that by making this complaint, they wish to position themselves as flexible and open to compromise.


Karl Born, writing in Hoosier Review, describes one particularly warped incident at Indiana University. The IU chapter of Campus for Choice had posted a list of firms to be boycotted for supporting "anti-choice, anti-women causes." One of the targets was Wendy's. Why? "Dave Thomas is very anti-choice. Thomas was adopted and believes all women facing unwanted pregnancies should give their children up for adoption."

This contains, so far as I know, three words of truth: "Thomas was adopted." And also so far as I know, Dave's foundation has as its primary goal finding homes for thousands of children already born; adding to the waiting list is a secondary consideration at best. But that's not the real point. What I want to know is: Does Campus for Choice believe that if a woman decides to go through with the birth and give up the child, she has not made a choice? Or that she has made a wrong choice?

Maybe I'm missing something here, but on the face of it, this looks every bit as dogmatic and inflexible as the anti-abortion folks are supposed to be.

Oh, and Dave? I think I'll have a Classic Double with Biggie Fries and a Frosty. And if you would, see what Joshua Claybourn is having.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 AM)
22 April 2003
Preparation F

The manufacturer of Plan B, a so-called "morning-after" pill designed for after-the-fact birth control, has requested the FDA to take the drug off prescription status.

I don't have a problem with the concept generally please note, this is not RU-486, the so-called "abortion pill", or a variant (486DX?) thereof but one question gnaws at me: Plan B is, in essence, a standard contraceptive pill packing a very high dosage. Routine doses are still on prescription. (As George Carlin grumbled back in 1971, "You still need a note to get laid.") There's something slightly weird about having to get a prescription for a standard dose of something while the blockbuster dose is right there on the shelf next to the Pepto-Bismol. If the FDA approves the change for Plan B, shouldn't all contraceptives of this sort come off prescription? If your answer is something like "Good Lord, nine-year-old girls would be buying them," you can see why I might be concerned.

I hasten to add that my interest in this is purely academic: my children are grown and can make their own decisions, and, well, it's not like I'm going to be putting anyone in any particular jeopardy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 AM)
1 June 2003
Doctors 1, Activists 0

This Newsweek/MSNBC piece buries its hook in the middle, but it's a serious hook indeed:

No matter what legislators, activists, judges or even individual Americans decide about fetal rights, medicine has already granted unborn babies a unique form of personhood as patients.

Which perhaps suggests that legal definitions of "viability" are, or at least are on the way to becoming, obsolete. And if "viability" goes, what becomes of Roe v. Wade, which specifies the point of viability as the point at which states may ban abortion outright?

For the first thirty years after Roe, it was assumed by both proponents and opponents that the issue would ultimately be settled in the judicial arena: Roe would either be strengthened or scrapped. Now I'm not so sure. If the medical technology advances, the legal definitions will likely change as well; before long, Roe may actually bar more abortions than it permits. I don't expect the hardcore activists on either side to be satisfied with this predicament, which is reason enough to look forward to it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:46 PM)
29 December 2003
The wrappings of misconception

Dawn Eden is not impressed by this campaign by the American Foundation for AIDS Research:

To imply that women who do not carry condoms are failing to protect themselves from AIDS which is what amfAR's Web site explicitly states as it refers to the ad's "shocking statistics" is an insult to me personally and to every responsible, non-condom-toting woman I know.

The true message of the amfAR ad is that everybody's doing it, and those who don't "protect" themselves are just plain irresponsible. This is a valid message if one's target audience consists of B-girls, bags, bawds, bimbos, blowers, broads, call girls, camp followers, cats, chickens, chippies, concubines, courtesans, fallen womans, floozies, harlots, hookers, hostesses, hustlers, loose women, molls, nymphomaniacs, painted women, party girls, pickups, pink pants, pros, scarlet women, sluts, streetwalkers, strumpets, tarts, tomatoes, tramps, trollops, white slaves, whores, and working girls.

It is not a valid message if one is targeting ordinary single women.

(I break in here to note that I don't know anyone meeting the above description, and if I did well, never mind, you know the joke.)

If amfAR truly wished its ads to be "arresting," it would go against the pop-culture stream and take a stand in favor of sexual restraint. But scientists will find a cure for AIDS long before that organization dares to profess that people should be "responsible" for anything other than "protecting" themselves from the effects of their own irresponsibility.

Myself, I don't claim that my ongoing extended period of celibacy is any kind of moral statement. On the other hand, it is quite clearly effective in warding off HIV, not to mention substantially less expensive than other techniques. (Condoms cost money; dates cost even more money.) And while I have had my own doubts about abstinence-only programs, it's clear that at least some of them work, and I'm not inclined to sneer at the results they get: the age groups at which these programs are directed really should not be sexually active, for reasons which go beyond the simple Thou Shalt Not.

Then there's this:

I still have urges to do things that would require what amfAR so delicately calls "protection." But I know that even if such protection were 100% effective against HIV, it would still be 0% effective against a much more certain disease arising from sex without love: heartsickness. Loveless sex is a very poor Band-Aid against loneliness, and it ultimately keeps the wound from healing.

Twenty years ago, I probably would have scoffed. Not today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 AM)
5 May 2004
Do as we say, but not here

Minus the buzzwords, this seems reasonable enough:

Adolescents tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers are participating in risk behaviors. In almost any functioning social system, the majority of individuals are making healthy decisions and are avoiding risky behavior. However, many individuals in the majority typically believe that they are in the minority i.e., that "everyone else is doing it." Such misperceptions can be harmful because they can provide a sort of false peer pressure, encouraging young people to take risks that they would rather avoid. Programs employing a social-norms approach attempt to correct misperceptions by providing accurate information about true peer norms, either through instructional activities or through social marketing campaigns. Developed over the past decade or so, this approach has been quite successful in reducing risk-taking behavior in the area of drinking and drug abuse.

William F. Bacon, PhD, who came up with this, is associate vice president for research and evaluation at Planned Parenthood of New York City, and his statement appears on the Planned Parenthood Web site.

You might assume from this that the organization actually seeks to reduce "risk-taking behavior." A glance at their Web site for teenagers, Teenwire, suggests otherwise. Dawn Eden has done more than glance, and she's appalled:

The main story linked on Teenwire's front page is "Be Prepared for the Prom," which informs teens that prom night is a big night to lose your virginity. It seems that all that talk on Planned Parenthood's main Web site about changing teens' "social norms" and upending the "everybody's doing it" philosophy is sooooo last year.

At the very least, there's a serious disconnect between what Planned Parenthood is telling adults, who write the checks, and what they're telling teenagers.

As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
13 May 2004
"They say I'm a killer"

Live from New York: Dawn Eden meets Dr James D. Watson, and apparently the good doctor has gotten himself snared in a whole new helix. In answer to a question no one asked, he said:

Everyone's doing research in genetics and nobody's doing service. Because it's too controversial to help mothers so that they can give birth to healthy babies.

What's with this outburst? Totally unbidden, sneering all the way and anyway he thinks those mothers should abort those babies who aren't healthy.

Dr Watson has never been exactly secretive about his views, but there's a difference between merely reading about them and hearing them expressed at high volume on the other side of the room.

Dawn's reaction:

There was no way that I could argue with him it wasn't the time or place, and I don't believe I could have swayed him. But I'm sure he could see the emotions on my face the desire to be respectful, mingled with stifled horror and pity.

I could only wonder what would make someone whose work had brought so much healing decide that the best way to prevent sickness is to kill people.

For some reason, I find myself thinking of Ike Turner, unquestionably one of the major architects of rock and roll, and by all accounts someone you definitely didn't want to date.

If there's a Deep Truth here, it's this: doing good things, even great things, doesn't assure you a position on the side of the angels.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
1 July 2004
Getting ova

"Limiting access to the Pill," says this piece in Prevention, "threatens a basic aspect of women's health care."

(And please note that while there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of small-p pills, there is only one Pill.)

The piece is called "Access Denied," and you know it's serious, because Planned Parenthood is involved and because there's a hint of some shadowy anti-abortion cabal Out There Somewhere.

Dawn Eden thinks the piece, written by Caroline Bollinger, is ridden with paranoia:

Bollinger's fearmongering is based upon the presumption that the professionals who refuse to prescribe or dispense birth-control pills are unreasonable people. Like so many secular reporters covering religious topics, she assumes that no intelligent, feeling human being would believe that life begins at conception. One senses in her article the liberal paranoia that President Bush and his appointees, if given the chance, would turn America into an evangelical-Christian theocracy.

But I don't believe that Christians stop working their brains when they start working their faith. I believe that the very same person who would have the faith and courage to take a principled stand on a life issue, would also have the reason to see when it's fair to make an exception.

Even if one day I went to the drugstore and the pharmacist refused to fill my prescription, I still can't imagine being unable to find a pharmacist who would fill it. When one has faith in the reasonable nature of people in general, one does not fear the opinions of a few. The First Amendment, which allows Americans to remain faithful to their religion in the workplace, assures that this nation will not be a theocracy, because it protects the diversity of citizens' opinions and faiths.

The only thing I'd quibble with is in the second paragraph I quoted. I don't think it's implausible that our theoretical pharmacist could accept the possibility of an exception; however, since prescriptions don't necessarily contain the details of why a particular drug is being prescribed, the pharmacist may not have the information needed to make that sort of judgment call.

As for a national movement to outlaw oral contraceptives in general, don't expect it to go anywhere until there's a lot more research on the topic. For the moment, scientists are still perplexed as to how the darn things work in the first place; gauging potential side effects is another matter entirely.

And one larger question looms: Will people turn away from pharmacy as a career if they feel it presents them with an increasing number of moral or ethical questions?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:53 AM)
19 August 2004
Next: codpieces with condoms

I mean, really, a pro-choice thong?

Is it just me, or does it look like they ("they" being Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, and its friends) are pulling out all the stops to make abortion not only socially acceptable but downright cuddly?

Dawn Eden observes:

The ad copy for the thong shouts, "Buy your pair now before they are all gone!" I assume the "they" refers to the product and not future generations.

Actually, that was one of the milder things she said.

Some of us over the years have been uncomfortable with the whole idea of abortion but haven't been quite ready to call for an outright ban. But if its proponents are going to treat it as some sort of lifestyle choice, of no more importance than "Hmmm, flats or heels tonight?" well, let's just say they're setting themselves up for a lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Yeah, yeah, I know: it's a routine medical procedure. So is vasectomy, and they don't have thongs for that.

Oh, wait, they do.

Jeebus. Welcome to the Age of Trivialization. Please take a logo-branded seat and wait your turn.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
4 September 2004
Watching the defectives

I take my lunch at 42nd and Treadmill at about 12:25. There is a television set in the breakroom, and the advertising that pops onto the screen reflects the presumed demographics of viewers at that hour; there are lawyers, payday loan services, trade schools, lawyers, auto dealers promising no credit check, and lawyers.

I haven't decided which of the two legal firms who dominate this time slot on this channel is more of an irritant. The doughy guy who trots out every catastrophe known to man and then says "Call me, I know what to do" is certainly annoying.

But there's another spot in which a girl soliloquizes about facing an unplanned pregnancy, in which she notes, "I barely make enough money to care for myself." This ad, from an attorney who specializes in adoptions, is certainly lower-key, but what bugs me about this spot is the fact that the poor girl's situation is easily avoidable. Not that anyone will ever say so to the potential Jerry Springer guests who watch television at half past noon.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 AM)
11 October 2004
Grasping the obvious

October, says Planned Parenthood, is "October is National Campaign for Healthier Babies Month," and, well, who can argue with that?

Consonant with this month's theme, the organization is calling your attention to their articles in the "Having a Healthy Baby" series, which opens, logically enough, with Planning Your Pregnancy. It's a good-enough exposition of its type, though Dawn Eden notes that they missed one major point.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 AM)
29 October 2004
Run, Spot, run!

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I see this: those wonderful folks at Planned Parenthood telling your kids my kids would simply laugh, but then they're grumpy and cynical like their old man that not only is it okay to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but we shouldn't overlook the erotic potential of livestock.

If you've been looking for a reason to avoid contributing to this organization (apart from the Federal dollars, which of course were yours to begin with, that it somehow absorbs on a regular basis), this stuff is the best you'll see all year.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
16 November 2004
Now in the easy-Fallopian pack

Thirtysomething years ago, George Carlin was cracking wise about prescriptions for contraceptives "You still need a note to get laid" and hinted that someday The Pill would be sold over the counter, in which case it would need catchy brand names: PregNot, Nary-A-Carry, Fetus Fail, Poppa Stopper, Womb Broom.

What Carlin didn't anticipate was a spray-on contraceptive, now being readied for testing in Australia. Dawn Eden, noting that application of the new product is ostensibly "as easy as putting on perfume," has proposed more appropriate brand names: Eau de Baron, Sans Fruites, Spéede.

But the last word remains Carlin's, for he did come up with the ultimate name for this hormonal spritz: "Inconceivable." I can see the ads (and the obligatory "fragrance" strips) in Harper's Bazaar already.

Still unnamed: an oft-rumored but never-developed male contraceptive, which, in the best American "More power!" tradition, could be called "SeedWhacker."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 AM)
18 November 2004

If you pop open a package of Cytotec® (misoprostol tablets), you'll get the following information [link requires Adobe Reader]:

Cytotec (misoprostol) is being prescribed by your doctor to decrease the chance of getting stomach ulcers related to the arthritis/pain medication that you take.

Do not take Cytotec to reduce the risk of NSAID induced ulcers if you are pregnant. Cytotec can cause abortion (sometimes incomplete which could lead to dangerous bleeding and require hospitalization and surgery), premature birth, or birth defects. It is also important to avoid pregnancy while taking this medication and for at least one month or through one menstrual cycle after you stop taking it. Cytotec has been reported to cause the uterus to rupture (tear) when given after the eighth week of pregnancy. Rupture (tearing) of the uterus can result in severe bleeding, hysterectomy, and/or maternal or fetal death.

Scene: A conference room at Planned Parenthood. ROESENCRANTZ and WADENSTERN are at opposite sides of the table. Each is thumbing through a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference. There is no sound but the occasional "Hmmm..." from one or the other. And then....

WADENSTERN: This sounds promising.

ROESENCRANTZ: What've you got?

WADENSTERN [reading]: "Can cause abortion, sometimes incomplete, yadda, yadda, yadda... can result in...." Yes! Here it is! "Fetal death!"

ROESENCRANTZ: Outstanding. Let's get Women on Waves on the horn. And see if we can't get some of this stuff for the home office.

A personal note: I have actually taken this drug, which is also sold combined with an anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac sodium) under the brand name Arthrotec®. Once. It made me violently ill. I decided I'd rather take my chances with the ulcers.

(Via the ever-alert Dawn Eden.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
1 December 2004
A step beyond Ludovico's Technique

In the Netherlands, physician-assisted suicide is legal: a person of sound mind in extreme pain may request a lethal dose of sedatives.

Now the Groningen University Hospital has proposed guidelines for ending the lives of newborns, persons in irreversible coma, and other individuals who cannot make the decision for themselves. Scary enough and that's before the revelation that they've already begun implementing the procedure on their own.

The Groningen Protocol, estimates the hospital, might apply to as many as ten persons per year; in 2003, Groningen reported the euthanizing of four infants.

Francis W. Porretto is appalled:

The idea of legalizing the medical execution there's no point in mincing words of "people with no free will," at the discretion of their attending physicians and a supposedly independent panel of other physicians, should be shot down at once.

Are there no exceptions?

It would be lunacy malevolent lunacy to premise a law allowing doctors to make such decisions on a handful of hard cases. Far better that the practice remain formally illegal under all circumstances, and trust juries to recognize and allow the exceptions as they arise.

I can bring myself to support doctor-assisted suicide, generally: it is, after all, a choice made by the patient. But where the patient can't make that choice? This is way too Clockwork Orange for me.

Speaking of "choice," the very word lately has been imbued with political implications. What would a "pro-choice" organization think about the Groningen Protocol? Dawn Eden suspects they'd like it just fine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
3 January 2005
A case for doing without

"Your modern girl," wrote columnist Cynthia Heimel, "is often pondering the perils of birth control. As well she should be, since each and every method sucks."

This observation of hers dates from the early 1980s, but after looking at the Consumer Reports "Guide to Contraception" (February 2005; you'll have to be a subscriber to read it online), I'm inclined to agree: there is indeed a high level of suckage inherent in the process.

The highlight of the piece is bannered "Your comparative guide to contraceptives": it's one of those trusty CR charts, just like the one you look at when you're buying a used car. "Between the polar opposites of contraception, abstinence (0 percent failure rate) and doing nothing to prevent pregnancy (85 percent failure rate), there are myriad choices." Indeed there are. And to make it interesting, where there is the possibility of variability, two failure rates are cited for a method: one for when used "perfectly," another for when used "typically." Some of the users, I conclude, you really have to wonder about.

Each method, apart from the two listed in the banner, is listed with a failure rate or two, price, usage notes, "how it works," advantages and disadvantages. For most methods, the list of disadvantages is longer than the list of advantages, and when there are two failure rates, the variance is striking: the diaphragm, for instance, fails six percent of the time when used according to instructions, and 16 percent of the time in Real Life. These are not wonderful odds, yet this is one of the methods with the fewest drawbacks.

When I was married, we went through a number of these concoctions and contraptions, and didn't much like any of them: the Pill made her ill, various IUDs were rejected as too intrusive, and marketing efforts notwithstanding, no one, I submit, actually likes condoms. With the second child on the way, we decided on sterilization, and of the two possible paths, one was clearly easier.

While this has worked out well enough, I suppose, it's still a fairly drastic step. Then again, any of these methods should be considered drastic: having children is presumably not everyone's goal in life, but whether we like it or not, the biological reason we have the sexual drive we do is to produce those very children, and biology doesn't take being thwarted lying down, so to speak.

Oh, yes, they did mention abortion in a sidebar. It was, I think, a reasonable assessment of the actual process, though I'd question their definition of "fatality risk."

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:26 AM)
11 January 2005
Call it a "safety issue"

Last week I brought up the "Guide to Contraception" in the February 2005 issue of Consumer Reports, and noted that you'd have to be a subscriber to read it online, as has been the practice at ConsumerReports.org for some time now.

I have since learned that this is not so. For some reason, this section has been put on the site for free, which I find surprising, and which Annie at After Abortion finds appalling:

Looks like CR has sold out, with an apparent hidden agenda, wanting to propagate their personal ideology and gross misinformation free of charge to the unsuspecting, trusting public. I am incensed.

At the very least, they seem to consider this topic to be at least as important as product recalls, which are generally offered for free on the site.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:54 PM)
30 January 2005
Stretching the truth

The right side of blogdom has had a lot of fun with the most recent Consumer Reports condom test, which ranked a condom distributed by Planned Parenthood as the least effective.

Obviously their latex products, which are given away for free, are worth the price, but how about their advice?

Every reputable sexuality education organization in the U.S., as well as prominent health organizations including the American Medical Association, have denounced abstinence-only sexuality education. And a 1997 consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health concluded that legislation discouraging condom use on the grounds that condoms are ineffective "places policy in direct conflict with science because it ignores overwhelming evidence ... Abstinence-only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs and given the fact that we face an international emergency in the AIDS epidemic" (NIH, 1997).

I'd like them to try to explain this:

The African nation of Uganda, until recently suffering one of the worst cases of post-colonial political corruption and social misery, has surpassed all expectations in its AIDS program based on abstinence and social cohesion. Uganda has decreased its rate of AIDS by as much as 75% in some demographics, an unprecedented success in the story of African AIDS combat.

You want more statistics? Here you go.

This actually explains much about those crummy condoms Planned Parenthood distributes: after all, their logic is also full of holes.

(Addendum, 31 January, 5:50 pm: As apparently is mine, in spots. See comments. Also, see Bruce's take on this issue.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:04 AM)
19 February 2005
And should they be called "dying" wills?

The ongoing case of Terri Schiavo has inevitably brought up the case of "living wills," something up to now I haven't bothered to file, and I'm beginning to think that, contrary to the advice of various medical and legal types, I may not want one.

I mean, I can say right now that I'd want a DNR order should the circumstances seem to call for one, but how do I know I'd feel the same way once they do?

A couple of pertinent quotes today by way of The Dawn Patrol, both as comments to this post. First, from Dawn's mother:

The problem with "living" wills is that they rely on healthy people to project how they will feel is they later have a catastrophic illness. The will to live is so profound that we cannot possibly know that we will not want to live under even the most appalling conditions. In many many cases, it looks worse to you than to your dear family member who is laying there.

And following up, McGehee:

Frankly, I would think the presumption should be that in the absence of a living will you assume the injured person would want to live. The judges who have ruled otherwise ought to be tarred and feathered.

Under their irresponsible juris"prudence" it is now necessary to have a living will to ensure that you don't get killed by the state if you're unable to say after the fact that you want to live.

At the very least, should they find me comatose, they should afford me the opportunity to kvetch about it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:29 PM)
22 February 2005
One more day

Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer has issued an emergency stay blocking removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube until Wednesday afternoon, and has scheduled a hearing in the case for that morning.

Yes, I've heard all the arguments on both sides. And maybe it's just me, knowing that I failed in my own marriage, but I have a real problem with someone who once said "until death us do part" subsequently trying to accelerate that death.

Not that what I think counts for anything here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:59 PM)
23 February 2005
One more day, and one more day

Judge George Greer has extended his stay of a court order blocking Michael Schiavo from pulling his wife's feeding tube for another two days.

So a one-day stay is followed by a two-day stay. If only this could be arranged exponentially: the next stay would be four days, then eight, and so forth, until Terri outlives all of us.

Says La Shawn Barber of this development: "I hope my life never hinges on a judge's whim."

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:00 PM)
8 March 2005
As the countdown continues

It's called "The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act of 2005", it was introduced by Senator Mel Martinez and Representative David Weldon, both Florida Republicans, and its purposes are as follows:

(1) to facilitate balancing the acknowledged right of persons to refuse consent to medical treatment and unwanted bodily intrusions with the right to consent to treatment, food, and fluids so as to preserve their lives;

(2) in circumstances in which there is a contested judicial proceeding because of dispute about the expressed previous wishes or best interests of a person presently incapable of making known a choice concerning treatment, food, and fluids the denial of which will result in death, to provide that the fundamental due process and equal protection rights of incapacitated persons are protected by ensuring the availability of collateral review through habeas corpus proceedings.

Or, in other words, to prevent debacles like the upcoming execution (it doesn't qualify as anything else) of Terri Schiavo, scheduled for ten days from now.

(Courtesy of Patterico.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 PM)
16 March 2005
It shouldn't happen to a dog

Terri Schiavo has forty-eight hours [link requires Adobe Reader] to go. Andrea Harris sums it up:

I'm not Catholic. And I think what they are planning to do to Terri Schiavo Friday is murder. There's not a thing wrong with that woman except that she has a damaged brain, so she can't sign checks and cook meals for her needy hubby. But by playing on the "ew, ick, a drooler" factor that comes to play when people see a brain-damaged person (and the shame people feel when they have that reaction) Mr. Schiavo with the collusion of my state's court system has made it so a perfectly innocent woman can be put to death in a way that would get a jail sentence and many shrieking denunciations of the perpetrator if it were done to a dog. But well, dogs can fetch, so they're more important than a brain-damaged woman. As for me, I'm hoping to get out of this state in a few years; Florida's not a healthy place to get sick in.

If that doesn't make you squirm, consider this:

Oh dear Providence: please grant that I never have a spouse who has such great concern for me, especially when I have other family members who are willing to look after me. The spouse (who, in giving orders prohibiting rehabilitation, coincidentally guarantees she never presses charge against him, indeed never speaks at all) claims preserving his wife's life is against her wishes while noting the financial burden of her continued care; the family pleads that where there is life there is hope, and that the costs do not matter, that somehow they will find a way.

Please consider, Dear Reader: Which would you prefer? Love like Terri's spouse, or love like that of her parents?

The actions of the spouse would appear to be in conflict with a loving spouse, but not in conflict with a malevolent one. But that is merely circumstantial evidence. He cannot be prosecuted for speculative malevolence for his ailing spouse.

But a justice system that was not detached from its obligations under the social contract would clearly see the potential conflict and mercifully take the ailing daughter from the custody of the spouse and put her in the care of her parents who will look over her without financial gain.

And one thing more bothers me. American liberals, who fancy themselves the protectors of the downtrodden, have been utterly silent on this matter. Can it be because they don't, even for a moment, want to appear on the same side of an issue as those hated "pro-life" people?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 AM)
18 March 2005
Honest ingenuity

Drudge has this out no other sources yet that I can see.

**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET**
The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the Drudge Report has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.

Members of Congress went to the U.S. Attorney in DC to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed.

As Drudge says, "Developing."

As McGehee says, "Dang! Dia-freakin'-bolical!"

(Update: A writ of habeas corpus [link requires Adobe Reader] has been filed by Terri's family.)

(Update, 11:20 am: Fox News reports the House Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed Terri, two attending physicians, the hospice administrator, and Michael Schiavo. They are to appear next Friday at 10 am. Via BlogsforTerri.)

(Update, 2 pm: Judge Greer tells them what they can do with their subpoena.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
19 March 2005
Pesky lives

The Lonely Lib/Con reviews the case of Terri Schiavo, and sees another issue in its shadow:

It is indeed an echo of the abortion debate, where the issue is so fiercely polarized that pro-choice forces are finding themselves arguing that there's no moral difference between expelling a microscopic clump of cells and killing a viable infant in mid-birth, but that there is a difference between killing the infant during birth and killing it immediately afterward.

In service to their ideology they've entirely sacrificed both reason and humanity. Compared to that, a man who wants to kill his wife for money is easy to sympathize with.

There's no money in abortion, of course, unless you're the provider of same; what makes these issues run parallel to one another is the idea that a person should die for the convenience of another.

Should this notion prove defensible, I'll start working on a list.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:55 AM)
Silent testimony

Nodak Jack contemplates that Terri Schiavo subpoena:

After watching the baseball hearing, I'm convinced that even in her "vegetative state," she'd make more cogent arguments for her side than Jose Canseco made for his.

No argument here.

And furthermore:

One of my listeners even suggested that she may be more alert than some of the members of Congress in front of whom she'd be placed.

("Listeners": Jack is co-host of "Noonday with Jack & Sandy" on WDAY radio in Fargo, ND.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:42 PM)
20 March 2005
Behind brown eyes

About two years ago, Justin Katz wrote a song from the perspective of Terri Schiavo. Opening verse:

Maybe if I try real hard
I can move my finger just a little bit
Maybe if I make some noise
I can make them understand

In E-minor, of course.

We don't really know what's going on inside her, apart from the first signs of hunger. Certainly I don't. But what we know about what's going on outside is disturbing enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
21 March 2005

The Oklahoma House delegation (four Republicans, one Democrat) voted unanimously in favor of S. 686, the Senate bill to put Terri Schiavo's case under the jurisdiction of the federal courts, signed by President Bush early this morning.

Thanks, guys.

(The complete roll-call vote is here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
A libertarian perspective, maybe

As distinguished from the libertarian perspective, since I suspect there exists substantial debate among libertarians and among members of the actual Libertarian Party.

The topic, of course, is Terri, and Marty Beckerman weighs in with this commentary at Dawn Eden's place:

As a libertarian, I support doctor-assisted suicide but you're right, the Schiavo case is sick. If this woman can actually still speak (and her family wants to keep her alive, despite the state's wishes), the dictatorial Communists in the Democratic Party have finally revealed their utter contempt for all human life, not just babies. You'd think the lefties and feminists would fervertly support a woman whose husband is killing her for money and a new slice of tang but no, Zero Population Growth is too important. If the Dems are so famously concerned about appealing to Middle America after Kerry was destroyed at the polls, what the hell are they thinking?

I'm looking at this case on libertarian grounds, not moral grounds if a government official orders you killed even though you're physically responsive, the majority of your family wants you to live and you've committed no crime, that's despotism.

Some consider suicide the ultimate human right. It's certainly the last one. And I don't really have a problem should the medical profession offer assistance, provided:

  1. There is irrefutable evidence of the patient's intentions;
  2. The patient's family is willing to accept those intentions as stated.

A tossed-off Beckoid "I'm a loser, baby, why don't you kill me?" does not strike me as particularly irrefutable.

This is, however, as far as I'm willing to wade into the waters of euthanasia: I am not the best judge of slippery slopes, perhaps, but as a wiser man than I once said, "You never think you have need of any chocks until you're in the truck, and you realize it's rolling down the hill. Backwards."

For myself, I haven't decided one way or another, haven't filed any legal documents or anything, but I figure there are worse ways to go than being shot out of a cannon.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:47 PM)
22 March 2005
More truth than poultry

Someone got to this site recently with the search query what is a pellet court.

If you ask me, it's something like this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 PM)
As empty gestures go, not bad

The Oklahoma House has passed without dissent a resolution commending the Congress and President Bush for their last-minute attempt to rescue Terri Schiavo.

Text follows:

WHEREAS, the Founding Fathers affirmed in the Declaration of Independence that government's role is to protect and defend the inalienable right to life with which we are endowed by our Creator; and

WHEREAS, activist judges across the United States have abused the powers accorded them by, respectively, the U.S. Constitution, the Congress, and the various state constitutions; and

WHEREAS, Florida's Judge Greer has misconstrued the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence, cheapened the value of human life, and set a dangerous legal precedent wherein government is allowed to place an arbitrary value on human life; and

WHEREAS, in its findings, the court ruled without sufficient evidence that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS); and

WHEREAS, advocates of the forced starvation of Terri Schiavo have endorsed the notion that human life has value in proportion to the degree of burden that the support of that life may place on others; and

WHEREAS, convicted murderers and terrorists are accorded more due process rights and privileges than have been granted to Terri Schiavo; and

WHEREAS, certain elected and appointed officials across the United States continue to try to move our culture from a sanctity-of-life ethic to a "quality-of-life" standard in seeking to justify passive and active euthanasia; and

WHEREAS, a culture of life is essential to the protection of liberty and freedom.


THAT the Oklahoma House of Representatives commend the United States Congress and the President for their actions to protect the life of Terri Schiavo; we urge U.S. District Judge James Whittemore both to order an immediate injunction to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube and to hear Schiavoís case anew; and we implore the U.S. Congress to seek whatever additional remedies are at their disposal to protect and defend Schiavoís life and the culture of life in the United States.

THAT copies of this resolution be distributed to the President of the United States, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, and members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.

At this writing, Judge Whittemore has already washed his hands of this matter; presumably Rep. Thad Balkman, who wrote this, will forward copies to the Sanhedrin of the Eleventh Circuit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:13 PM)
24 March 2005
Judicial review

You remember this, I'm sure:

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing-eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing-eye dog, and then at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing-eye dog. And then at twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow.

But that's not what I came to tell you about.

For this tale explains far more about Judge Greer than you probably imagined.

Actually, it's not like he can't see at all; it's just that his vision is not correctable to near 20/20. Still, a prediction: Once this gets around, your friendly neighborhood death-cultist will point and say, "See? They're trying to tear down a differently-abled judge!" Of course, anyone who actually says "differently-abled" with a straight face goes immediately to the top of the To Be Euthanized For The Common Good list.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 AM)
The inverse of the Living Will

Call it the Living Won't.

And unlike the usual formal legal documents, it doesn't require stilted legalese to make its point. [Possibly not safe for work.]

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 AM)
Where there's a will

Steve Sailer, talking about the quest for a bequest:

[M]illions of Blue State Baby Boomers are in line to inherit a bundle ... but not if Mom or Dad lives forever or, especially, if his or her slowly declining health requires a fortune in expensive care. A nice quick fatal heart attack would do the trick, but with Lipitor and the like these days, oldsters are going slower.

So, when you wonder why a lot of people, especially Democrats, are okay with starving Terri Schiavo to death instead of having her kept expensively alive, follow the money.

It's hardly the only reason, but it's out there, and part of a big topic that almost nobody wants to talk about in 21st Century America.

It's fascinating, if not even slightly surprising, how often "follow the money" works.

I am, of course, part of a long line of people who didn't leave much of an estate, a practice I expect to continue.

(Via La Shawn Barber, who has quite a collection of Terri-related material at this link.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 PM)
26 March 2005
Policy driven by emotion

Susanna Cornett considers the Terri Schiavo case, and she disagrees "with a lot of people you'd assume would be [her] ideological soulmates."

For example:

Somehow this issue has become a huge rallying call amongst religious people, and quite frankly I don't understand why. I don't think it advances the anti-abortion cause to fight for every flicker of life in every human shell no matter what kind of life remains for that person.

I think what's motivating them is the belief that in Terri's case, there's more than a mere flicker. Still, we are, as Susanna says, "at the mercy of battling medical experts," and the truth of the matter may never be known with certainty, especially with the designated guardian intent upon destroying the evidence.

She is most troubled, however, by the Congressional intervention:

I think it is, very simply stated, wrong. I am a firm advocate of state's rights. As a conservative, I am for strict interpretation of the Constitution, and for holding to the states as much autonomy as we can. By that I mean, I think the states Constitutionally hold all rights to make decisions about their jurisdictions, with limited exceptions as stated in the Constitution.

And furthermore:

So, you say, let a woman die just so we can preserve a philosophical ideal? People have died for less, and are dying for precisely that in Iraq. But that aside, I say again that the issue comes down to the medical determination, and while I think some of the courts in Florida have behaved arrogantly, I can't say they have behaved illegally. Terri's case is not an easy or clearcut one. Emotionalism, in my judgment, will always lead to bad law.

That latter, at least, is indisputable.

I do recommend you read the whole thing: it's a thoughtful, reasonable essay, and after all, what good am I if I only refer you to articles that agree with me?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:52 AM)
And then, the counterargument

As if in response to the previous item, Francis W. Porretto will not entertain discussions of federalism in this regard:

An innocent person's rights trump all considerations of governmental structure or judicial procedure. That includes the right to life, which is not something that can be suspended on a hopelessly interested person's say-so. If it is otherwise, then there is no conceivable argument by which private parties owe any allegiance to any level of American government. Any "principle" that allows a government to set aside an innocent person's right to life is no principle decent men should respect.

Why do I get the feeling I've just seeded the clouds with ACME" Whirlwind Pills?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:05 AM)
27 March 2005
Just because

A farmer in Cabot, Vermont was convicted of starving his cows to death; his one-year sentence was suspended, though he will serve 30 days on a work crew.

I wonder if they suffered much. Former State's Attorney for Washington County Tom Kelly, in an October interview, claimed they suffered "tremendously."

(Via The Currency Lad. Disclosure: I had a steak Friday evening.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:09 PM)
28 March 2005
Machiavelli has an off day

Was the Congressional action to save Terri Schiavo a cynical political ploy? Michael Barone says no:

It is possible that Democrats, if in control, might not have summoned a special session. But this was not a purely partisan issue. Democrats did vote for the bill and made its passage possible. Proceedings in the Senate could have been stopped by a single objection to a unanimous-consent request. No senator objected. Minority Leader Harry Reid cooperated fully with Republicans. In the House, enough Democrats returned from recess to provide the necessary quorum, and 46 Democrats voted for the bill, while 53 voted against.

Were all these Democrats and Republicans acting cynically? I don't think so. Take Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat who worked for the measure. Harkin's interest arose from his long concern for the disabled he was a chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and his desire to protect the rights of the incapacitated. Were his views informed by his Roman Catholic faith? I don't know, but what if they were? Legislators are under no obligation to have moral principles entirely divorced from religious beliefs. I can't answer for every member who voted for the bill or against it. But the quality of the debate suggests to me that large majorities on both sides were acting out of reasoned moral conviction more than political calculation.

And besides, the political fallout from the move, if you believe the pollsters, has been almost entirely negative. Evil Genius Karl Rove simply doesn't make this kind of mistake.

If I have any cynicism here, it stems from that dubious "talking points" memo that was somehow passed off as Republican instructions.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
29 March 2005
Help like this we didn't need

Rich Lowry at National Review Online's The Corner, on Randall Terry:

I'm guessing that everytime he opens his mouth on TV support for keeping Terri Schiavo alive drops another couple of points.

On that basis, Jesse Jackson will likely kill off whatever support remains.

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:15 AM)
31 March 2005
An honor I dream not of

Sometimes, I have to admit, Ann Coulter just nails it:

Today's brain twister: Would you rather be O.J.'s girlfriend or Michael Schiavo's fiancée?

As McGehee might say, "That's gonna leave a mark."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
Good night, Theresa Marie

Surely the next world will hear you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 AM)
1 April 2005
Now that she's gone

I've never met Stephen "Brute Force" Friedland, previously celebrated in these pages for his Apple single "King of Fuh," a silly but delightful bit of whimsy that of course would never be allowed on the sanitary American airwaves. (You can get a taste of it here.) But I figured from that song alone that he was hardly the Brutish person his name implied.

"Terril," said Force to Dawn Eden, "is a state of consciousness in which one observes the world, is in horror of it, and yet is absolutely powerless to individually do anything about it." Along these lines, he's penned the following verse:

now that she's gone
take my heart why don't you?
primitive poli-wizards
cut out the heart of humanity
and retire to your white house,
to your gracie mansion,
to your swiss alps,
escargot up euthanasia's nose to you,
judges of life and death,
you make the fashists
look like boy scouts,
you dark magnets
pulling with your laws,
attracting with your courts,
holding hollow ikons
speaking with your mouths
full of cement
you've gotten what you want,
now leave the angels
to wrap you
in the shroud of love and
conspire for the remnants
of your shattered soul

Thanks, Brute. Some of us needed that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:04 AM)
14 April 2005
Heart and soul

A little something from Vent #226:

This was the first time anyone had actually used the word "stillbirth", and we were absolutely horrified. "We're still not getting any readings," they said, pointing to the fetal-monitoring apparatus. How could this be? "Sometimes they strangle themselves on the cord." Fighting back the tears, we resolved to get on with the delivery; there would be time enough for mental anguish later.

This was, as it happens, a few hours before the birth, and the alarms proved false.

But suppose they tell you something comparably horrible halfway through the pregnancy? What do you do then? Amanda Witt tells a story of two couples who took what today is probably the road less traveled:

[T]heir actions were, according to most of our country, insane. Carry an irrevocably damaged baby to term? Whatever for? Why not abort the thing, clear your womb, make room for another pregnancy, a healthy baby.

Fortunately for them, abortion was only suggested, not forced. But the days when it will be required are, I suspect, coming. Already we read about HMOs paying to abort babies with cystic fibrosis, while refusing to cover medical care for them after birth; we read about civilized countries killing disabled infants after birth, even babies whose defects are not terminal or even painful, but simply inconvenient. Already doctors talk about "futile care," stopping therapy, removing feeding tubes, "euthanizing" the aged, the disabled, the ill, the injured, the senile; expanding the categories of uselessness wherever difficulties, suffering, or complications encroach upon our simple "right" to unencumbered happiness.

I find it rather hard to characterize a country which jacks up its infant-mortality rate for the sake of convenience as "civilized," but maybe that's just me.

No, neither of those poor damaged children lasted too long in this world. Reason enough, I think, to hope for a world to follow.

And the young lady in the opening who was supposed to have strangled on the cord? She'll be twenty-seven years old this summer, and has a child of her own.

(By way of Francis W. Porretto. The link, I mean.)

(Update, 8:30 pm: Would you believe "wrongful-birth" lawsuits?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:17 PM)
15 April 2005
Final option

Michele caught a lot of flak, generally undeserved, during l'affaire Schiavo, and she's issued a statement that isn't a manifesto, but could be:

I would like to see laws enacted that would allow, with specifications and limits, a person to choose death over instances where they may be dying, in pain and agony, for a long time. It's about dying with dignity. Dying without protracted, prolonged pain. About choosing the option to go quietly and peacefully rather than lingering in a vegetative state for years. My option. My choice. Again, within specific guidelines and limitations. I don't think someone should be able to say "I lost my job, my wife left me, let me check myself into a hospital and have them kill me legally."

Of course, things like this will never happen, because the Slippery Slopists will be there to say, IF...THEN. If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll eventually want your whole house. And if you give a person the right to die with dignity, eventually you'll be killing everyone who's not blonde haired and blue eyed. And those who aren't screaming about Hitler will yell about God. It's God's choice when you die. It's God's will when you die. Only God can choose when a life should end.

I am, of course, somewhat bemused by the notion that by asking for that one last shot, I am somehow thwarting the will of God.

I do worry about that slope, because there are people not many, but enough to mention who would happily bring us a few steps closer to the Soylent Greening of America, who for whatever reason feel that caring for the infirm is somehow an affront to their sensibilities or to their future affluence. But advocating the right to die for oneself does not inevitably translate into advocacy of a full-fledged euthanasia program: were I in straits that dire, I might want my plug pulled, or I might not lately, I'm thinking the latter but I would never be able to try to talk someone else into it, and I resist the idea that there should be any policy beyond "It is a matter solely up to the individual."

Life is precious. One does not choose to give it up except under the most extreme circumstances. Should your choice be irrevocable and indisputable, I believe you should be allowed to do so and absent either of these criteria, life must be preserved.

Although I might make an exception for people who routinely scream about Hitler.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
17 May 2005
The Church of the Triglycerides

We have a "sick fascination" with weight and health, says Deb, and maybe it's an inevitable by-product of our increasingly-secular age:

I may not be a churchgoer, but I think there's something very healthy about a strong faith in a force that's beyond human control.

I think this is the sickness that we're suffering from, and it becomes worse and worse as we take our faith away from God or fate or whatever you want to call that power and transfer it to humanity: we believe that we can control everything. And I think this is what leads to the viciousness of the current moralizing, which continues to get more and more overwrought the more secular our society becomes.

Emphasis added. We can, I believe, control more than we think we can, but anyone who thinks my first priority for the rest of my life has to be shedding these few extra pounds deserves a pie in the face not that I'm going to waste a perfectly good pie on some shmendrick's face.

Deb continues:

And oddly enough, this belief has taken on the character of a sort of superstition, and now instead of praying that we'll be blessed with a long life, or making an offering to a goddess or a saint, we diet and run and lift weights and count on that to protect us. Sadly, there is something in the human animal that wants to demand that others must share the same belief system or forever be other, open to demonization.

And that demand remains constant, even as the evidence for it dwindles.

Why, yes, I will have fries with that, thank you.

(Update: Deb follows up here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:31 AM)
20 May 2005
That new abortion package

Today Governor Henry is expected to sign House Bill 1686, which requires parental notification before an abortion can be performed on a minor, criminalizes the killing of a fetus in the process of killing the mother, and mandates "informed consent," which means basically that the service provider must hand out a state-approved packet of information regarding the procedure and its, um, consequences.

Meanwhile, Reproductive Services of Tulsa has filed a legal challenge to the bill, saying that the parental-notification measure lacks guidelines for waivers. New York attorney Bebe Anderson, representing the clinic, stated:

Our client, Reproductive Services, already strongly encourages all of its young patients to involve a parent before having an abortion, and in fact, most of them do. But it's the minors who have the most difficult family situations or who have no family situation ... those minors have to be able to go to court, and they've got to be sure they can do that and have it done quickly.

The Legislature in Oklahoma failed to include any time frame in which the court must act on a petition or for any appeals.

Oklahoma Republicans are busy taking credit for the bill, despite the fact that its House and Senate authors are both Democrats.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:33 AM)
24 May 2005
What goes around

I guess, if you're Judge Greer, all those Schiavos look alike.

(Via AKA Mike Horshead.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:13 PM)
15 June 2005
Terri: aftermath

The Terri Schiavo autopsy report is available here [link requires Adobe Reader], and it answers most, if not all, of the questions that arose. It is apparent that her condition did not arise from mistreatment, which is a relief: I would hate to think that it had. And the damage to her brain was more extensive than the Schindler family had hoped, or than perhaps they were willing to believe.

I still don't think this was enough of a justification to starve her to death, but what's done is done at least, on this side of the line that separates this world from whatever follows.

Addendum, 16 June, 7 am: Andrea Harris reminds us:

[E]ven if some people did have the hopes that she might recover some of her brain function, that was NOT the main reason so many people opposed her cruel and pointless court-approved murder. The main reason so many people opposed her cruel and pointless court-approved murder was because it was cruel and pointless.

And besides, if we weeded out everyone whose brain function was reduced below 50 percent, we'd lose most of our television and a rather large number of Congressmen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:59 PM)
2 August 2005
Slouching toward extinction

A startling prediction from Francis W. Porretto:

When reliable sex-selection techniques for planned children become available, your Curmudgeon expects that would-be mothers will select heavily for girl babies over boys. After all, the decision will be left in their hands, won't it? Can't have those nasty old men exerting any control over a woman's precious "right to choose," now, can we? And twenty years later, economics will rear its head, and young women desirous of mates will discover that the demand greatly exceeds the supply.

I think his projected outcome is correct, but how he gets there is definitely arguable. For one thing, women, I suspect, are more likely to be found in the anti-abortion ranks. Dean Esmay reports:

[G]o to a pro-life rally some time, and you'll notice that women, many of them women who've had abortions, tend to dominate these events, and usually outnumber the men.

And men, of course, could be said to have a vested interest in preserving the availability of abortion, especially if they hope to sow mass quantities of wild oats. If anything, this would propel women to select for more boys.

What's going to decimate the ranks of males, more likely, will be the very factors FWP mentions elsewhere in his article:

  • American women live, on average, three years longer than American men (78 vs. 75).

  • More than half the real property in the country is in women's names.

  • Staggeringly more research funding is devoted to breast cancer than to prostate cancer.

  • When the comparison is properly controlled for differences in academic qualifications, experience, and sufficiently specific job responsibilities, American women now out-earn American men, hour for hour. (Bet you've never read that anywhere else.)

  • Despite all the above, American law is festooned with explicit preferences for women over men, and with mechanisms whereby women are favored over men both politically and economically.

(Incidentally, if there's a magnetic ribbon promoting prostate-cancer research, I don't want to see it.)

And already, in the county in which I live, there are 82 single men for every 100 single women. Similar figures prevail in FWP's neck of the suburban woods. (Methodology here.) I have no reason to think the ratio will approach 1:1 by 2025.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
6 August 2005
Your basic lose/lose scenario

I'm not even sure I can excerpt this, but let's see:

Because of various health issues, April Thompson said she had reason to believe she might never have a child.

When she got pregnant, the joy she wanted to share with her employer quickly turned sour when, she said, her boss demanded that she get an abortion or risk losing her job.

Thompson's attorney, Ed Buckley, said the woman eventually was fired by Piedmont Management Associates, a homeowners association management firm, for refusing to get the abortion.

Thompson recently filed a lawsuit in Fulton County [Georgia] Superior Court against the company and its president, Celia Ebert, on grounds of discrimination and emotional duress. "We believe that the conduct of forcing a woman to get an abortion falls into intentional infliction of emotional distress," Buckley said.

And that's just what it does to the woman.

It gets better, or worse:

Thompson was suffering from endometriosis, and a doctor recommended a hysterectomy to handle the condition, which can lead to severe pain and infertility.

Thompson, 30, sought a second opinion from a fertility doctor and decided on laparoscopy surgery. According to the lawsuit, when Ebert found out Thompson was seeing a fertility doctor, she told her she was "worried that she was trying to get pregnant."

"If you get pregnant, you will have to move because I am not putting up with any babies around here and you also won't have a job," the lawsuit says Ebert told Thompson. "The guys and I do not even hire single mothers because of the problems. I know you have some great delusion that you will be a great mother, but you won't you can't even take care of your dog."

In December 2004, Thompson's doctor told her laparoscopy surgery did not address her medical condition and recommended the hysterectomy. Thompson said Ebert agreed to give her medical and vacation time for the procedure. On Jan. 24, Thompson went in to schedule her hysterectomy and was told she was pregnant. According to the lawsuit, when Ebert found out, she demanded that Thompson get an abortion.

Let's focus on that line about "The guys and I do not even hire single mothers because of the problems." What was the official response by Ebert's attorney to the lawsuit? You guessed it:

"Piedmont Management is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in its employment practices."

Except, of course, when there might be "problems."

Aldahlia cites this case as "The Crossroads of Conservatism," and asks:

Do you say what the Free Market Fundies say in situations like this? That an employer has a right to demand whatever they want from employees in an "at will" contract?

Or, do you say that business is the end-all, be-all of existence, the Guiding Hand of God, but that fetuses are more important than Adam Smith?

This balancing act would baffle Cirque de Soleil.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
8 August 2005
Swelled with pride

The husband of Terri Schiavo was honored by a group that advocates guardianship services for his years-long efforts to get his wife's feeding tube disconnected.

It was a "controversial choice," said the Florida State Guardianship Association, but they wished to honor his commitment to his wife's reported (by him) request.

Still no word on a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize for Timothy McVeigh.

(From NRO's The Corner.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:20 PM)
18 August 2005
More victimized than thou

La Shawn Barber posed this question to the pertinent segments of the population:

If a significant number of women begin choosing to abort their babies because doctors discovered a "gay gene," would your stance on the "right to choose" change or shift in any way? Would the number of women killing these "defective" babies make a difference? Is one potentially gay dead baby one too many?

Not being a fan of abortion anyway, I wouldn't have to budge on my own stance. (Killing someone for being gay is heinous; killing someone for potentially being gay is more so.) But I can see how balancing this particular equation could be difficult for some people.

One version of the mathematics of it, according to ShrinkWrapped:

I would suggest that this is not as much of an issue as La Shawn might expect.

In the world of PC, all groups are valued in relation to their degree of victimhood. Homosexuals are ranked very high as victims. Pro-choice women are also victims but the moment a pro-choice woman decided to abort a pregnancy because of a "gay" gene, she would lose her status as a victim, becoming a homophobe and therefore an oppressor. Her rights to an abortion could then be abrogated without much concern.

And that would seem to be that, though I'd like to get hold of the Official Victims List and the methodology by which it is prepared. Presumably there is a unit of victimization, and each entry on the list is valued at some number of units. (Bonus points if you can come up with a name for the unit.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
26 August 2005
Maybe he's just trying to help

Sometimes the stories write themselves:

A judge allowed corrections officials to forcibly feed convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad while he awaits trial in the county for six October 2002 killings.

Muhammad had not eaten anything since being transferred to the Montgomery County, Md., jail on Monday, corrections officials said in court documents filed Thursday. He was apparently upset with the food he was being served and the handling of his legal material.

Doctors had concluded that Muhammad, 44, was at risk of serious injury or death if he continued his hunger strike, corrections officials said. Judge James L. Ryan issued an order allowing officials at the county jail to forcibly feed and hydrate him.

I mean, it's a good thing he was a sniper, or they might have let him starve to death.

Oh, wait:

Muhammad has already been sentenced to die following a 2003 conviction for a sniper shooting in Manassas, Va.

My mistake. You can't let someone on Death Row just, you know, die.

(Via Joe Kelley.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:45 AM)
17 October 2005
When botulinum isn't enough

"It's the ultimate, death-dealing irony," says Amy Welborn of this:

Britons desperate to halt the ageing process are being injected with the stem cells of aborted foetuses at a clinic that charges £15,000 for a controversial new cosmetic treatment. Despite warnings from biologists in the UK that the process is unproven and could be harmful, dozens of British women have flown to Barbados in the hope that the injections will make them forever young and possibly even boost their sex drive.

The treatment is also available in Ecuador, Russia and Ukraine, where it was developed by scientists to treat Parkinson's disease and blood disorders. But converts claim that wrinkles can be ironed out and the fresh face of youth restored.

"It is the most natural form of healing there is," said Barnett Suskind, chief executive of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IRM) in Barbados. "You think better, sleep better, look better. Your quality of life improves and your libido certainly improves."

And, well, what else are you going to do with an aborted fetus? Squeeze baby oil out of it?

The use of tissue from aborted foetuses has also raised ethical worries. But Mr Suskind said he was "100 per cent sure" the treatment would be available in Britain "within five years". He added that the IRM would publish results of clinical trials in a "highly respected medical journal" by next year, and said the process had been analysed by leading stem-cell biologists in Britain and the United States.

"Ethical worries"? Gee, ya think?

Obligatory Silver Lining: Well, at least they're not embryonic stem cells. Technically.

(Via Andrea Harris.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 AM)
8 March 2006
Winchester '73

Which would be 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade.

In this Vent, I complained about a new abortion "reporting" measure being pushed by Rep. Susan Winchester (R-Chickasha), which I characterized as "intrusive." This KWTV news clip might actually make it look even worse than I said it was. [Brief ad before clip begins.]

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:00 AM)
20 March 2006
Featuring the stylings of Run-D&E

Well, this seems innocuous enough:

You can win an iPod!

Come in for an appointment at any of our 8 health centers before April 30th and enter to win an iPod.

This is a current promotion by Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, and it got Dawn Eden wondering what sort of tunage might be appropriate.

The Curt Jester has now revealed the complete playlist, and it's extensive: "every sound but ultrasounds!"

Remember: offer expires on the 30th of April, and they're serious about expiration.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
21 April 2006
Stopping short of full condomnation

Carlo Cardinal Martini has asserted that, should one member of a married couple be suffering from HIV/AIDS, the use of condoms, otherwise forbidden by the Vatican, is "a lesser evil".

Cardinal Martini (not this one) made this statement in an interview with the Italian magazine l'Espresso, saying that the fight against AIDS must be pursued by all available means. There has been no comment from the Vatican as yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:39 AM)
26 April 2006
Second curse, same as the first

You might have seen this story before; I know I have. From Vent #182, back in January 2000:

Wednesday afternoon, I was ambling back to the office when I felt a familiar twinge in the upper torso. I cut my speed down to the bare minimum, but kept going. So did the pain. I got back to my desk and popped an aspirin, and then another. Eventually it stopped, but when it did, it was replaced by a dull numbness that kept moving up and down my right side as though it was looking for a place to park. I was on the phone to the doctor's office, and coworkers gathered around me waiting for the show to begin.

By now I was functionally, if not literally, brain-dead, and a brace of staffers herded me into the van (does it really count as herding if there's only one herdee?) and hauled me off to the hospital, where the first disturbing vision came right away a sign reading "Triage". Now I know the dictionary definition doesn't insist upon it, but I couldn't help imagining some ghastly post-disaster scenario where a handful of Red Cross volunteers are trying to sort out the victims with the best chance for survival. As it happens, cardiac patients get high priority in Triage, and it was less than half an hour before I found myself flat on my back in the E.R. and wired, if not for sound, certainly for telemetry.

The verdict came quickly: I would be admitted for further examination. That was the good news. The bad news was that the admission was more or less tentative, since the hospital did not, in fact, have any available beds. I shuddered at the thought of spending an entire night on a gurney, surrounded by enforced sterility and subjected to the regular-as-clockwork torment of the automated blood-pressure cuff. By 10 pm, they had somehow found some beds, and some poor soul had to wheel me up two floors and into the farthest corner of the building. I do hope he got a raise.

What was different this time, other than the fact that I'm six years older:

  1. I can't take aspirin anymore.

  2. I insisted on driving myself to the E.R. In fact, I parked at the farthest corner of the lot, on the arguable basis that if the walk didn't kill me, I wasn't going to die tonight.

  3. About 9:30 pm, they cut me loose and sent me home.

But lying there, tubes running hither and yon, not truly immobile but not far from it either, I thought about how terrible it would be just to keep lying there until the lights go out forever.

Maybe I should take up skydiving.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 PM)
9 July 2006
Burned by the source

Note to potential pro-life polemicists:

If you want to dramatize your point with quotations from supporters of abortion rights, you might not want to gather those quotations from The Onion.

Just saying.

(Via Caterwauling.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:01 AM)
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