Tag Archives: women

The Morality of Abortion

I usually look forward to the Friday evening PBS NewsHour when Mark Shields and David Brooks have a brief time to discuss current news. Not so last night, when both men voiced their dismay over the current effort in Virginia to extend abortion rights through the 3rd trimester.

Neither the so-called liberal (Mark Shields) or conservative (David Brooks) qualified their remarks with an acknowledgement that they were men and didn’t know what it meant to experience pregnancy. Neither one admitted that they had no idea what might force a woman to make such a traumatic decision. They both growled about “infanticide” and “what is this country coming to.”

For shame.

It doesn’t take much intellect or time to discover the reasons a rare late term termination might be needed. All you have to do is read the stories of women who have faced such a terrible choice. But first, let’s get something straight.

Women who go through months of pregnancy are not under any circumstances going to decide on a whim to terminate. Hormonal-driven instinct commands the woman to do everything possible to protect that soon-to-be child. But sometimes hard facts and common sense dictates she make a heart-wrenching decision.

Here’s one woman’s story:

The day of the MRI finally arrived. She was 35 weeks, 0 days. By the end of it, Kate and her husband had the hardest answers they’ve ever received.

Their daughter had moderate to severe Dandy-Walker malformation. But that wasn’t the only diagnosis; Laurel also had a brain condition in which fluid builds up in the ventricles, eventually developing into hydrocephalus and possibly crushing her brain. She had a congenital disorder too, in which there was complete or partial absence of the broad band of nerve fibers joining the two hemispheres of the brain.

What this meant was Laurel was expected to never walk, talk, or swallow. That was if she survived birth.

Kate asked her doctor: “What can a baby like mine do? Sleep all the time?”

“Babies like yours are not generally comfortable enough to sleep,” the neurologist said.

“That is when it became very clear what I wanted to do,” she says. “The MRI really ruled out the possibility of good health for my baby.”[1]

Here’s another couple’s experience:

After seeing the ultrasound at UVA, Lindsey noticed the growth had enveloped half of Omara’s face and spread around her neck to the back of her head. When the doctor entered, they expected the worst. Again, the term lymphangioma came up. But so did cervical teratoma. Only an MRI could determine decisively, but whether it was malignant or benign, it could be fatal to the baby.

“You could just tell the energy in the room was like: you should end it, it’s not going to turn out well,” she says. The doctor told them they could terminate the pregnancy since Omara’s chances of survival were slim. Matt and Lindsey were crushed by the prospect. They wanted to fight.

Twenty days after seeing the first signs of trouble, they learned that Omara had an aggressive form of lymphangioma growing out of her neck. The diagnosis came in the form of a dense two-page MRI report. The fast-growing, inoperable tumor had grown into her brain, heart, and lungs. It had wrapped around her neck, eyes, and deep into her chest. It was so invasive, it was pushing her tongue out of her mouth.

Her chances of living to the age of viability or birth were slim. Lindsey and Matt made the heartbreaking decision to follow through with an abortion at about 24 weeks. They were just a few days away from it being an illegal termination.[2]

Or this:

…our child came with technical terms like hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The spine, she said, had not closed properly, and because of the location of the opening, it was as bad as it got. What they knew — that the baby would certainly be paralyzed and incontinent, that the baby’s brain was being tugged against the opening in the base of the skull and the cranium was full of fluid — was awful. What they didn’t know — whether the baby would live at all, and if so, with what sort of mental and developmental defects — was devastating. Countless surgeries would be required if the baby did live. None of them would repair the damage that was already done.[3]

Other severe fetal abnormalities which might occur:

  • anencephaly, characterized by the absence of the brain and cranium above the base of the skull, leading to death before or shortly after birth.
  • renal agenesis, where the kidneys fail to materialize, leading to death before or shortly after birthlimb-body wall complex, where the organs develop outside of the body cavity
  • neural tube defects such as encephalocele (the protrusion of brain tissue through an opening in the skull), and severe hydrocephaly (severe accumulation of excessive fluid within the brain)
  • meningomyelocele, which is an opening in the vertebrae through which the meningeal sac may protrude
  • caudal regression syndrome, a structural defect of the lower spine leading to neurological impairment and incontinence
  • lethal skeletal dysplasias, where spinal and limb growth are grossly impaired leading to stillbirths, premature birth, and often death shortly after birth, often from respiratory failure[4]

One women described being in labor before the doctors discovered her baby had no skull (anencephaly). Data of such malformed fetuses show that:

7% died in utero
18% died during birth
26% lived between 1 and 60 minutes
27% lived between 1 and 24 hours
17% lived between 1 and 5 days
5% lived 6 or more days[5]

These are cases referred to in recent remarks by Ralph Northam, Virginia’s beleaguered governor, as newborns who would be made comfortable until they die of natural causes.

Let me state unequivocally that the ONLY person(s) who should be involved in a decision about abortion is the woman, her partner, and the physician. No one else can possibly understand all the elements involved in such a decision, nor does anyone have any right to a say in the decision. Certainly the government has no right to decide who is born.

These are not only difficult decisions based on a woman’s ruined hopes of giving birth to a healthy child, but also difficult because of outrageous costs involved in keeping a deformed baby alive. Massive expense accrues daily when survival means intensive neonatal care for which most parents are ill-equipped to pay. The expense then falls to the medical community and in most cases is passed off to the government where taxpayers foot the bill.

Why? What is the benefit to taxpayers in keeping alive for a few hours/days/weeks – or in some cases, years—semi-human beings who can never function as a human being? In many ways, we’ve created this problem by advancing science and medicine to a point where extraordinary means can keep a newborn alive when nature would have terminated its life at birth. In many cases, both the mother and fetus would have died.

We as a nation need to get past the idea that every fertilized egg is going to become a normal person.

If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?  I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral. After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties). It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state.[6]

We need to encourage women to seek medical opinions in every pregnancy and make use of prenatal testing to the greatest possible extent. When a fetus is found to be compromised, expectant couples should be encouraged to abort instead of shamed for even considering it. Abortion should be available through every gynecologist in every part of the nation.

Already fifty percent of Medicaid dollars are spent on children, many of whom were born with severe defects that can never be cured. These children won’t grow into normal adulthoods no matter how much they’re “mainstreamed” in public schools or how much special treatment they receive. Yet somehow this subject never comes up in discussions about the federal budget and the mushrooming costs of Medicaid.

Is life without mental function “human life”? Is life without capabilities beyond those of a six-month-old “human life?” An advanced civilization should seek quality of life, not quantity. As science and medicine learn more, we become more able to sustain life even in the most vegetative state. At a point where “life” can be created in a petri dish, it’s time we talk about what human life means.

Above all else, we need to respect the individuals confronted with terrible decisions about their potential offspring and let them decide what is best. It’s their DNA, their future. They have the right and responsibility to decide. No one else can.

~~~

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/18/late-term-abortion-experience-donald-trump

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/stories/my-late-term-abortion/

[4] https://scienceprogress.org/2013/05/fetal-anomalies-undue-burdens-and-20-week-abortion-bans/

[5] http://www.anencephaly.info/e/report.php

[6] https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/should-one-be-allowed-to-euthanize-severely-deformed-or-doomed-newborns/

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Have a Sexy Easter, Y’all

Genrich_Ippolitovich_Semiradsky_-_Roma,_1889 (1)

Henryk Siemiradzki. Phryne in Eleusus (1889)

This morning my Facebook newsfeed included an image of a bloody thorn-crowned Christ on the cross. I’ve never understood why death is enshrined in our culture, especially at a time we’re seeing the natural world revive from winter. This is spring. Why worship death?

In reality, spring equinox and the celebration of Easter are simply new names for one of the oldest observances of mankind—the renewal of life. For millennia, sex has animated the celebration. Without sex, life would stop in its tracks.

So why has our celebration of spring has been stripped of its sexual origins and reframed in death?

Judeo-Christian religion has led the war against sex, somehow missing the point that perfect life in the Garden of Eden must have included sex. If not, then if Eve hadn’t tasted the apple, we wouldn’t be here. So it hardly follows that humans weren’t intended to have sex. Otherwise, what was the point of God’s fabulous creation if Adam and Eve were going to be the whole enchilada?

So right off the bat we can see that Eve and sex got a bad rap. Here we’ve been led to believe that sex and those troubling genitalia are intricately linked with sin and that’s why women are less than men and why men need to rule women with an iron hand.

No one can argue that religious rules came before sex. Sex existed from Day One, before primates, before cities. Unless of course you believe that God created Man and then crafted Woman from Adam’s rib and then boom, you had people without sex. (This story gets complicated if you ask how these two people produced the rest of us without incest.)

In the days before Christianity, civilizations worshipped sex as the best possible ceremony for welcoming spring. Now, not so much.

Unless spring break counts.

In case you haven’t already figured this out, I’ll warn you in advance that modern ceremonies tied to the spring equinox have little to do with celebrating the magical renewal of life and everything to do about controlling sex. Here’s my take on how that happened.

Among hunter-gatherers, women found it useful for men to bring food, skins, firewood, or other ‘gifts’ to exchange for sexual favors, sewn leggings, and a slab of fry bread. Women, stuck with staying home with the children, tended the fire and performed other more sedentary tasks while men ranged far afield in search of mammoth. Slowly, they began to connect the amazing dots between sex and reproduction. It was women who performed the magic.

Sex magic became ritualized as fortified settlements developed in fertile lands and material wealth could be accumulated. Pesky traveling salesmen entered the community. With wealth inheritance, keeping track of paternity became an issue. Rules governing and restricting females and their sex were necessary. Who wants his hard-earned herd of goats going to a son who looks at lot like that visiting salt dealer?

As the need for powerful enforcer gods developed to control unruly masses in crowded cities, traditions celebrating the springtime renewal of life became more complicated. They still needed sex magic to ensure fertility in their herds and crops. So they came up with ritualized sex.

In Sumeria, one of the earliest known civilizations, sex was celebrated at the spring equinox as part of fertility rites. A young woman would sit on the grounds of the goddess Ishtar’s temple and wait for a man to couple with her, a requirement to be fulfilled before she could get married.

Similarly, ancient Egyptians enshrined the sacred sex ritual in their god stories. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother Set then revived by his beloved sister and wife Isis, who found all the discarded parts of him except his phallus. So she crafted one out of gold and mated with him, producing the god Horus. Osiris thus died and was reborn. For sex.

In ancient Greece, the god of the spring equinox was Dionysus. He was associated with flowering plants and fruitful vines and survived a painful winter to celebrate the revival of life. Not surprisingly, the spring festival of Dionysia involved obscene songs and erotic dances intended to stimulate plant growth. In a continuation of tradition from prehistoric Crete, peasants participated in sex orgies on freshly plowed fields.

Slowly, power shifted away from the female’s sex magic as men took over. The idea of a male hero’s death and rebirth gained traction. Temple prostitutes might perform spring rites with the king or priests, but let’s not have the wives and daughters randomly consorting with men in freshly plowed fields. Gradually priestesses originally reserved for sex rituals became virgins dedicated to the (male) gods.

Our old friend Dionysus ranks among the most famous stories of death and rebirth in ancient religions. His mother Semele, a mortal impregnated by none other than Zeus, became the target of jealousy from Zeus’ aging wife Hera who suggested that the Zeus Semele thought got her with child wasn’t really the god Zeus. Acting on the idea Hera planted, Semele demanded Zeus show proof that the father of her child was in fact the All-Powerful Zeus.

  • Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he agreed. Therefore, he came to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, could not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the unborn Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh.[1]

Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer reached the obvious conclusion that old religions were at heart fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. In his work The Golden Bough, he argued that the king was the incarnation of a dying and reviving god, a solar deity who underwent a mystic marriage to a goddess of the Earth. He died at the harvest and was reincarnated in the spring.[2]

So how did we get to a spring equinox religious ritual called Easter that includes not even a hint of sex? I mean, what is less erotic than the crucifixion? Last time I checked, Christ never enjoyed marriage, mystic or otherwise.

By now, everyone knows that Christianity superimposed itself onto old pagan traditions and holy days. So it’s no surprise that the Germanic custom to celebrate the lunar goddess Ostara on the first full moon after the spring equinox has become the Catholic Church’s method to set the date for Easter. And—you might have guessed—there’s also a direct connection between Ostara and Easter. The Germanic Saxon word for Ostara was Eostre: Easter.

Circa the time of Christ, folks needed to spruce up those old spring revival traditions from our pastoral past. What could be more logical than to replace the fecund female with the dying hero? The symbolism says the same thing—important stuff dies and then comes back to life. Only now, renewal of abundant crops gives way to life in an immortal hereafter gifted to humanity by a male Trinity bereft of any female sex.

You see how this works. Discredited by her pas de deux with a snake, Eve is the cause of God’s displeasure. She’s got no traction. It’s now up to the guys to keep the gods happy.

Meanwhile, with fairly little recognition for what lies beneath our modern customs and under the benign tolerance of the Church, we continue with a few of the old pagan accouterments of the Easter season—bunnies (an ancient symbol of fertility and new life) and eggs.

  • “The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of coloring and eating eggs during their spring festival.”[3]

Robbed of her sexuality by divine insemination, the most revered female of the modern Christian church—Mary—becomes little more than a uterus by which the Divine Male is born to become the savior of humanity.

There’s something wrong with this picture.

~~~~~

 

A local (Northwest Arkansas) event celebrates women and the rites of spring through March 27. To learn more, visit The Goddess Festival.

A good source for an overview of the topic is Ancient Origins.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysus

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough

[3] – See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-pagan-origins-easter-001571?page=0%2C1#sthash.xUSOEla5.dpuf

Thoughts on Women (Candidates)

Marina-Bychkova-20

Popular dolls created by Russian-Canadian artist Marina Bychkova feature a female with pubescent breasts and childlike eyes and body. While Bychkova intends to reflect her thoughts on “numerous social issues and aspects of our humanity” with her dolls, they instead portray the intensely conflicted self-identity of the modern woman.

In the current political situation where we find ourselves confronted with a viable female candidate for the presidency, questions about women’s real status in the United States have bubbled to the surface. On first glance, criticisms about Hillary Clinton seem substantial. The beleaguered emails, for example. That she doesn’t verbalize her ‘message’ as well as Bernie. But while conservatives and Bernie fans alike point to this and other purported deficiencies, there’s little comparable discussion of male candidates’ shortcomings.

Despite the advances in women’s rights, the fact remains that many take a dim view of women who dare to step out of their traditional roles as supplicants, mothers, and helpmates. If she speaks loudly, she’s shrill and aggressive. If she presents her life experience, she’s bragging or exaggerating. But my topic isn’t Hillary or the fact that she’s the most qualified candidate in the field and that she is, without doubt, experiencing a pernicious assault.

It’s my view that the impetus behind this assault is that she is a woman. My topic is the status of women in our culture today.

Women assume they want respect, equal pay, and an independent, self-confident lifestyle. But if you look around, you see women appearing in public as giddy waifs. Hairstyles blind them. Skirts hobble them. Shoes produce a helpless stagger. I’m not the first to weigh in on the regular absurdities of women’s fashion and I readily agree that not all women buy into the fashion parade. It’s largely younger women eager to emphasize sexual allure in competition for male attention. But it’s also largely younger women who despise Hillary Clinton for reasons they can’t fully explain.

For women not comfortable with themselves or with their confused role in our culture, Hillary is a threat. As women have invaded the workplace and other venues previously occupied by males, many are driven by a need to demonstrate submissiveness. Hillary isn’t submissive.

Uneasy with the gender dynamic, women dress in crippling shoes while peering through the hair in their eyes to say, “Okay, I’m working here beside you, but I’m a helpless little thing.” <giggle>

Recently I read an article arguing that we live in a pedophile culture. The author angrily postulated that the ongoing incidence of pedophilia is perpetuated by male demands that women look like little girls in order to be sexually attractive. In other words, men really want pubescent girls and reward females who fill those expectations. To meet the demand, women starve themselves and remove body hair in order to satisfy male expectation.[1]

This attitude is part of the problem. Men are not in control of what we wear or whether we shave our legs.

I’ll just quickly point out that until a hundred years ago, men were expected to marry much younger females because (a) until at least age thirty, men had not established enough of a livelihood or home base to support a wife and inevitable family, and (b) by age fifteen (onset of puberty), women were considered ripe for marriage and their parents were eager to marry them off.

This tradition of the much older man pairing with a much younger woman goes back at least to Greece and Rome where a fifteen to twenty year difference in age between the bride and groom was the norm. I could argue that this longstanding cultural pattern has created a behavior bias sublimated in countless subtle social clues and which contributes to the tendency for women to emphasize their youthful appearance and for men to desire women who appear young.

Underlying this long-established pattern is the assumption that the youthful female is a virgin, thus assuring the male that any offspring are unquestionably his.

Well, hello. We have birth control. We have genetic testing to determine paternity. The population of our ‘tribe’ isn’t suffering, so women are no longer valued as brood mares tasked with producing a team of farm workers or warriors. In theory, our increasingly sophisticated culture places more value on qualities of men and women besides their ability to produce offspring.

The author of that article mistakenly assumes that men’s desires determine how women present themselves. I disagree. Are men excited by women peering through locks of hair? Does a female staggering in four inch heels trigger male lust?  Can’t men become sexually aroused by women devoid of all the mascara, push-up bras, and pencil skirts?

Fashions are adopted and sustained by women. Yes, we might agree that men expect it. But I’d be willing to wager that men won’t stop wanting sex no matter how women look. After all, some men have sex with blow-up dolls, less-than-lovely prostitutes, and even the random sheep.

It’s the competition among females that creates this false world of absurd fashion. Tighter skirts and higher heels allow a woman to say “Look at me, not that homely bitch over there.”

It’s a pedophile culture if women make it that way. If they identify with images like the Enchanted Dolls created by Bychkova or even with the more developed waif doll Barbie.

One would think that as the female has gained the right to vote, own property, become educated, participate in the business world, and yes, run for president, she has also realized that hooking up with a man doesn’t have to be her only role in life. But there are two big stumbling blocks to that realization. One is that many women have no ambition but to have babies and be a housewife. I’ll go out on a limb here and postulate that this particular point of view is shared by more than half the female population. Maybe they’re hewing to the course embraced by their mothers and grandmothers. Maybe they see great importance in creating family.

Maybe they’re selectively evolved to do little but breed.

The other stumbling block to women’s real independence is that men have become less empowered. It’s as if without women in subjugation, men don’t quite know how to act. Women who exhibit the logical end stages of independence (i.e. Hillary) create too much cognitive dissonance for large segments of the population. Rushing into the void is an onslaught of scandals, ‘lies,’ and mistrust to help explain an otherwise illogical revulsion.

Confusion incited by these shifts in surface gender norms leads to interesting activities. Not only are women unwittingly compromising their independence through restrictive fashions, they are fantasizing about the good old days. For example, consider the wildly popular “Fifty Shades of Gray” in which a simpering virgin claims a perverse billionaire’s heart by accepting his need to dominate her. That he eventually backs off the whips and chains to a lesser degree of domination undercuts the point. He’s the power figure. Their relationship works because she accepts his need for control and because he loves her so much he’s willing to give up something he enjoys. Kind of.

Probably aside from the author’s intent, the story serves as a metaphor for the conflicted state of male-female relations in our modern age. Is it the Darwinian fate of the sexes that women will always crave the powerful male who slams her against the wall and has his way with her? Are women hardwired to look for warrior males because at one time such men were her only protection?

If the lucrative romance literature market serves as any measure of what women want, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

Beneath that thriving fictional world, however, is the reality that women today often share with their male partner the responsibility for child care, house care, and earning income. They may initiate sex or take a dominant role in sex play. Those pesky surface gender norms require they be partners in a complex relationship that is both rewarding and exhausting.

What a relief then to pick up a novel that wipes away all the modern obligations and allows her to cavort, however fantastically, in a highly charged romance where all responsibility has been removed, where the perfect male anticipates her every need and forces her to accept what is best for her. Where she is perpetually a teary-eyed, childishly innocent creature in need of male support.

It’s worth remembering that marriage is still considered the greatest accomplishment in a woman’s life.

These undercurrents that drive women to take on submissive appearance and to flock to entertainment that enshrines submission may in fact tell us something about the unliberated psyche of today’s women. It bears consideration that many women may remain hardwired to a primal pattern of submission that doesn’t go away just because of birth control pills and the right to vote.

The behaviors exhibited by a powerful woman like Hillary strike many of us as foreign and even unnatural. Women who are able to move beyond instinctive gender roles and compete with men for the most powerful positions of business and politics trigger suspicion and dislike. In the hearts and minds of many who have yet to recognize their own inner biases, she is not to be trusted.

 

[1] http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/09/28/youve-heard-of-rape-culture-but-have-you-heard-of-pedophile-culture/