Sunday, January 30, 2005

Neo-cons and Zealots and Homophobes, oh my!

The Arlington Group, a coalition of conservative religious organizations, quickly fired off to Bush political guru Karl Rove a private letter signed by such figures as Bauer, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Focus on the Family's James Dobson, conservative standard bearer Paul Weyrich and evangelist Jerry Falwell. They laid down a none-too-subtle threat that the Administration's "defeatist attitude" on gay marriage might make it "impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."
Oh for crying out loud, what the fuck are these guys afraid of? I know a lot of people who have problems with the idea of gay marriage but are OK with civil unions/domestic partnership (which they think grant the same rights as marriage, but doesn't), it's the word "marriage" that weirds them out. Even most of the folks who don't like gay people & think they shouldn't be allowed to marry, think amending the constitution is going to far (we've never amended the constitution to restrict rights before, talk about taking a step back).

So fine, these guys think they need a consitutional amendment to protect the sanctity of marriage that must be between a man and a woman because gays cannot procreate? They need to prove this by including the following in the proposed constitutional amendment to define, strengthen and protect the sacred bond of marriage and the stability of the American family:
  1. Define marriage as a life-long committment between a man and a woman with the primary purpose of procreation and child-rearing
  2. Revoke all no-fault divorce laws
  3. Ensure all couples are suitably prepared for marriage prior to approving and issuing a marriage license
In order to achieve this, all couples should be required to go through and pass a state-mandated pre-marriage counseling program (or an equivalent religious program that meets state standards) prior to being granted a marriage license. Additionally:
  • Unmarried couples who have a child out off wedlock without putting the child up for adoption, should be required to get married
    • these couples will be required to go through specialized state mandated marriage counseling during the pregnancy
  • Divorce will only be granted if/when a spouse is convicted of domestic abuse (of the other spouse or their children)/rape/child molestation/similarly violent crime and/or adultery
    • In cases of adultery, a couple should be forced into legally mandated marriage counseling with first disclosure
    • a child born of an adulterous relationship when the married partner does not have children with the current spouse would result in dissolution of the marriage (with penalty against the adulterer) and required marriage between the parents of the child
    • in the case of a child born out of an adulterous relationship with one or more of the parents being married with minor children from the marriage, final determination of marital status, custody and any applicable penalties would be decided by family court
      • these adulterous couples will be required to go through specialized state mandated marriage counseling programs and will not be allowed to divorce due to adultery (progressive criminal penalties for adultery will apply starting with first disclosure of adultery)
As marriage will be limited to heterosexual couples because the official purpose of marriage is primarily for procreation and child rearing, methods of reproduction outside of sexual intercourse will be made illegal in the US. Couples wanting to have children will be allowed to adopt; it is anticipated that all couples who marry will have children unless they are of advanced age at the time of marriage that precludes having children or they have children from a previous marriage (i.e., widows or those who were legally divorced as described due to one of the criminal acts described above - those convicted of crimes leading to divorce will not be allowed to remarry unless approved by family court).


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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Planned Parenthood's relationships w/ Adoption Agencies: does PP do enough options counseling?

OK, so I was on a board earlier and there was a thread about the original judge in the Roe V Wade case ripping the ruling, etc. which obviously generated some discussion. One of the guys who is adamantly pro-life (honestly thinks pro-choice is really pro-abortion, I think I've partially disuaded him of that notion) with the belief life begins at conception therefor abortion is murder. He's very active in his church and involved in some sort of pastoral counseling of women post-abortion, and these women have pretty much implied a big lack of options counseling and pressure to abort from PP and other clinics. Anyway, among his comments included a concern that PP and society at large doesn't do enough to promote abstinence and a feeling that if we in the pro-choice movement really are about keeping abortion "safe, legal and rare" and not big propopents of abortion for convenience, PP would do more to facilitate and promote the adoption option. I gave him some information and started thinking about whether there were any formalized relationships between PPFA and adoption agencies; I knew there were some informal ones and but I think less than 5% get referred (which could be for many reasons). I came across some interesting information on the individual regions and adoption referral and then I came upon this:
Virginia Planned Parenthood Facility First in Nation to Offer "Choice"
from The Pro-Life Infonet, August 6, 1999

Ronoake -- Women walking into the confines of Planned Parenthood of Blue Ridge Inc. have two choices regarding their unborn child: Through one door, they may choose to abort her. Through another, they can put her up for adoption.

Although there are 900 Planned Parenthood agencies and 130 affiliates nationwide, this is the only Planned Parenthood facility where the false pro-abortion notion of "choice" is partially a reality.

This combination of abortion and adoption, which has gotten mixed reviews from pro-life groups, is the brainchild of David Nova, 38, president of the Roanoke clinic. He is also the past president of the local Reform Jewish temple, and "choice," he says, is part of his religion.

"This new building will be operationally pro-choice," he says refering to the new 2-million dollar facility they are building. "All choices will be available: abortion, adoption and prenatal care."

To date, there have been no adoptions resulting from the arrangement, but one is under consideration.

According to Virginia Department of Health figures, there were 821 abortions in the greater Roanoke Valley in 1997. Mr. Nova's facility averages 15 abortions a week; one of the few places in Southwest Virginia where women can get them.

Will the new system bring down abortion rates? "It might," he says.

Mr. Nova, a past deputy director for Amnesty International, took over the abortion facility 10 years ago. He was on staff when it began doing first-trimester abortions in 1995.

Its long-term business plan also included adoptions, a possibility that has been a hot topic in Congress this summer.

According to the Adoption Awareness Act, introduced July 14 in the House and co-sponsored by 40 members, federally funded health clinics such as Planned Parenthood must present the "adoption option" to their clients. Otherwise, they lose their funding under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.

This would greatly affect Planned Parenthood, which receives $45 million annually from Title X. In 1998, the abortion agency provided prenatal care to 17,000 people, performed 166,900 abortions, and made 5,500 adoption referrals -- 3,881 less than in 1997.

The Adoption Awareness Act would establish a $7 million-a-year grant program for adoption training. The "adoption option" had been the subject of casual conversation at Roanoke Planned Parenthood for years, as the agency had an informal relationship with several adoption agencies.

Peter Pufki, executive director of Children's Home Society of Virginia, stepped in. Planned Parenthood was already referring women to CHS, which does 45 adoptions a year. However, there was no in-house counselor with whom women could discuss adoption.

"We felt it was more powerful to provide that option here instead of sending them along," Mr. Nova said.

In April, a licensing agreement was announced whereby Planned Parenthood would give CHS office space and CHS would pay Planned Parenthood $1 for each woman referred to it. CHS' nameplate was then stenciled on the clinic doors. A CHS staff member comes to Planned Parenthood one day a week, usually on the days when the most pregnancy tests are done.

The new facility, which will increase the clinic's space from 7,000 square feet to 11,000 square feet, will include free pregnancy tests, prenatal care for uninsured and Medicaid women, a drive-through window for pill pick-up (another first for Planned Parenthood clinics, Mr. Nova says), and a garden for "contemplative thought."

The reason for the pregnancy tests? The local Crisis Pregnancy Center does them free. Tom Clark, director of the CPC of Roanoke Valley, declined to comment about the expansion.

"It's irrelevant," he says. "What Planned Parenthood does is their business." There has been some bad blood between the two groups in the past, dating from the time a few years ago when Planned Parenthood bought the building that housed the CPC offices. When its lease came up, Planned Parenthood refused to renew it.

It was an "awkward" situation, Mr. Nova admits, which is why the adoption license has been an attempt to secure some good publicity. "This gives us greater legitimacy in having the interests of the mother first," he says.

This fall, Mr. Nova plans to offer adoption services in two other affiliated abortion centers in Blacksburg, Va., and Charlottesville. The latter clinic recently received an $800 grant from an Episcopal church to train staff on adoption procedures.

Jim Sedlak, founder of Stop Planned Parenthood in Stafford, Va., says offering adoptions is a ploy to get the public's mind off of abortions at the agency.

"This announcement by Planned Parenthood in Roanoke came after a major effort last year by the state of Virginia to offer a 'Choose Life' license plate, the proceeds from which would go to places that provide adoptions," he said. "Just observing the way Planned Parenthood operates, it interests us that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia would be the first to offer these services."

The Roanoke abortion facility stands out in several ways. Not only is it the first in the country to offer the adoption option, but it also employs a female "Southern Baptist" minister to counsel women regarding abortions --another first, apparently. She told a local newspaper that Scripture is "ambiguous" on the subject.

Mr. Nova will travel to Chicago this month to describe his program to a national gathering of CEOs of Planned Parenthood clinics. He has already received a phone call from one Chicago adoption agency about his program.

"I certainly think this is a great idea," he says. "I think there's a lot of interest out there, but it requires a great fit . . . two agencies that can work well together."
Obviously, as you read through, it's apparent that any attempt a Pro-Choice group/agency makes at reducing unwanted pregnancies, discouraging sex for those who are ill-prepared to handle it, and adoption referrals/counseling will be viewed as disengenuous by those whose agenda is something other than wanting to discourage irresponsible behavior and the consequences of it, but I think this is the sort of thing we should be promoting in addition to better education and contraception.

In order to be eligible for Title X funding, PP needs to perform options counseling to all women seeking abortion services. Many state laws mandate options counseling as well. By options counseling, I am not advocating PP staff tell a woman/girl she must consider keeping the baby or putting it up for adoption and try to talk a woman out her decision to abort (though, I'm sure the religious right would advocate and mandate that if they could). This being said, I think it would be wise to expand on the relationships the regional PP offices already have with adoption facilities and, possibly, have more official ties either akin what's been enacted through the Blue Ridge PP facilities or have a counselor on site from the adoption agency/WIC/etc. should someone ask more questions about options and/or seem unsure about their decision (to ask that woman if she wanted to speak with one of the other counselors - not to force them on her). While most women go in for both appointments at a PP clinic (many states require informed consent and procedure w/counseling sessions at least 24 hours apart) with their minds made up and unwilling to accept even the mandated options counseling, some are ambivalent and some do second guess their decision - those could be offered information on referrals (if appropriate), etc. when they are sent home to ensure they do want to go ahead with the procedure. In many instances, having someone readily available on site would be extremely helpful to these women (and very convenient for them as well).


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Monday, January 10, 2005

Holy shades of Margaret Atwood, there's more to reproductive rights than abortion?!

Women's reproductive rights also include not being subjected to requirements of routine pregnancy testing (for non clinical reasons) and requirement to get pregnant and the ability to take precautionary measures to avoid pregnancy. Granting the government excessive latitude to demand additional, unwarranted access to our bodies via legislation regarding reproduction could open the door to a multitude of possibilities depending on those in power.Are you reallysure the religious right will stop at "abortion on demand" or will the next step be to make contraception illegal? Consider the possible ramifications. . .
Scenario I
Laws could be changed to restrict access to contraception and limit abortion to: pregnancy that is imminently life-threatening to the mother; pregnancy resulting from rape or incest; one parent suffered from a serious hereditary disease or a disease likely to cause serious congenital malformations; the pregnant woman suffered from a serious physical, mental, or sensory disorder; advanced maternal over age 45; or the pregnant woman had given birth to at least four children that were under her care. Except in the case of a life-threatening situation, abortions will have to be approved by a medical board and be performed in the first trimester in a specialized unit. Women who obtain illegal abortions, and those who perform them, will be subject to fines and imprisonment.

Additionally all women of reproductive age will be required to undergo regular gynecological examinations at their place of employment. Pregnant women will be monitored until delivery, doctors were required to report all women who became pregnant and gynecological wards were under continuous surveillance. Investigations will be carried out to determine the cause of all miscarriages.
Scenario II
Laws could be changed to require all pregnant women to submit to having their medical records scrutinized by an objective panel of experts (not their personal doctor) through-out their pregnancy:
  • ALL pregnant women will be required to have the same battery of pre-natal testing with continuous follow-up and testing for fetal defects (genetic and developmental), as well as testing of their own health (including dietary evaluation to ensure they are eating and drinking exactly as prescribed by nutritionist).
  • At any point in time, the panel of experts following their pregnancy can order them to terminate said pregnancy due to meeting standardized termination criteria
    • Only pregnancies that meet this standardized abortion criteria may be terminated
      • anyone obtaining or performing a non-eligible (illegal) abortion will be subjected to criminal charges
    • All pregnancies that meet criteria must be terminated
To ensure no women intentionally defy medical protocol requirements in order facilitate meeting abortion criteria; a woman will be held criminally negligent if it is determined she has any culpability in the health issues leading to the pregnancy meeting abortion requirements.

The only "opt-out" policy for those who object to abortion is voluntary sterilization (to avoid being forced to undergo a procedure they find morally objectionable).

Additionally, to ensure no unsafe and illegal abortions are attempted, all females biologically capable of reproduction will have to submit to monthly pregnancy tests (Tanner staging will be done routinely on pre-pubescent females to determine when they are capable of reproduction and avoid missing accidental pregnancies in this population) to ensure all pregnancies are followed from as soon after conception as possible through to resolution regardless of outcome.
Scenario I is not conjecture, it is Romanian history between 1966 - 1984 under the leadership of Nicolae Ceacescu. Remove the information in color and you have legislative changes as requested by the "Pro-Life" Movement (subject to change, of course).

Am I being a typical, hysterically paranoid, liberal female?

Recently, John Cosgrove (R-78) proposed and amendment to VA HB-1677 as follows (italicized language was added to the bill; bold emphasis is mine):

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 32.1-264 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 32.1-264. Reports of fetal deaths; medical certification; investigation by medical examiner; confidentiality of information concerning abortions; penalty.

A. A fetal death report for each fetal death which occurs in this the Commonwealth shall be filed, on a form furnished by the State Registrar, with the registrar of the district in which the delivery occurred or the abortion was performed within three days after such delivery or abortion and shall be registered with such registrar if it has been completed and filed in accordance with this section; provided that:

1. If the place of fetal death is unknown, a fetal death report shall be filed in the registration district in which a dead fetus was found within three days after discovery of such fetus; and

2. If a fetal death occurs in a moving conveyance, a fetal death report shall be filed in the registration district in which the fetus was first removed from such conveyance.

B. The funeral director or person who first assumes custody of a dead fetus or, in the absence of a funeral director or such person, the hospital representative who first assumes custody of a fetus shall file the fetal death report; in the absence of such a person, the physician or other person in attendance at or after the delivery or abortion shall file the report of fetal death. The person completing the forms shall obtain the personal data from the next of kin or the best qualified person or source available, and he shall obtain the medical certification of cause of death from the person responsible for preparing the same as provided in this section. In the case of induced abortion, such forms shall not identify the patient by name.

C. The medical certification portion of the fetal death report shall be completed and signed within twenty-four 24 hours after delivery or abortion by the physician in attendance at or after delivery or abortion except when inquiry or investigation by a medical examiner is required.

D. When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother woman at or after the delivery or abortion or when inquiry or investigation by a medical examiner is required, the medical examiner shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall complete and sign the medical certification portion of the fetal death report within twenty-four 24 hours after being notified of a fetal death.

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

E. The reports required pursuant to this section are statistical reports to be used only for medical and health purposes and shall not be incorporated into the permanent official records of the system of vital records. A schedule for the disposition of these reports may be provided by regulation.

F. The physician or facility attending an individual who has delivered a dead fetus shall maintain a copy of the fetal death report for one year and, upon written request by the individual and payment of an appropriate fee, shall furnish the individual a copy of such report.
It's extrememely important to note that the state of VA defines "fetus" as the "product(s) of conception" regardless of age (that is from the moment of conception). After receiving a multitude of e-mails, Cosgrove stated that the intent of the proposed revision was to aid Chesapeake police in the investigation of full-term babies abandoned shortly after birth and reported still-births (3rd trimester) not attended by a physician; he has stated he will now revise the proposed amendment to state just that. Why this wasn't clearly delineated from the outset is beyond me, especially considering how the word "fetus" is defined by the VA legislature; had the language been accepted as originally submitted, it would have opened the doors wide open for additional intrusion into the private lives of female citizens.


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Friday, January 07, 2005

Safe, legal and rare. . . really guys, this isn't a new stance

I'm pretty sure that the idea of abortion being safe, legal and rare has been around for at least 10-20 years and this, along with complete reproductive rights/privacy regarding medial issues, is the agenda of the Pro-Choice Movement. While those who refer to anyone who supports reproductive rights as abortionists or pro-abortion may not want to believe this, it is true nonetheless. Until recently, I think that most of this country knew full well, even those with extreme views on the "pro-lfe" side, exactly what the position of the Pro-Choice movement really is . This is why attempts to overturn Roe v Wade have failed & why those of us who grew up during/after the 70s felt safe about it. I think this is why the extremists invented the "partial birth abortion" which is something so abhorrent that almost everyone shudders at the thought of it. PBA was used as a litmus test in the most recent elections and it worked. The D & X procedure is real, incredibly rare, and done in the most dire of situations (I'd be willing to bet only the most extreme fanatic would condemn the decision). In order to "research" the claims of those against the PBA, the government forced reviews of medical records (I'm not sure all clinics fought and/or lost the cases to prevent this) and was either unable to find any example of what they have called PBA or is unwilling to provide even anecdotal evidence of it (which means if they found a case, they knew it would have the opposite effect of what they want). Those who label themselves pro-choice are a diverse bunch ranging from those who may actually support abortion as a method of birth control (I've never met anyone who would admit to that, but would not be surprised that they exist) to those who think abortion is wrong but understand that this belief is based on personal/religious reasons but do not think they have the right to impose those on others.

We are all painfully aware that there is one very big fact on which we do not all agree and do not have the ability to prove/disprove who is right at this point in time, and that is what defines "human life" and when it begins.
Even within the Abrahamic religions, which all believe the soul is what makes human life distinctly different than other life, there is a disparity of belief when ensoulment occurs. I'm not even sure all the Christian denominations are in agreement with each other on this point. Those who don't believe life begins at conception, would not reasonably believe abortion is murder. For those who agree with you that human life begins prior to actual birth there are other issues to be considered, such as at what point in time does "human life" begin and when does this unborn life have rights that supercede the rights of the mother?

So, you say you want to stop the senseless murder of unborn babies? Impact demand by attacking the root of the problem. Make unplanned/unintended pregnancies so rare the elective abortion rate will plummet:
  • comprehensive health education including "sex" education (I actually think this should be taught as part of the life science corriculum, not by a gym teacher or school nurse). Sex education should include:
    • all aspects of reproduction (anatomy/physiology, menstrual cycle, oogenesis & spermatogenesis)
    • open an honest discussion the responsibilities related to and the potential consequences of sexual activity
      • this should include non-religious/non-judgmental discouragement of sexual intimacy until adulthood, when the possiblity of being able to handle the responsibilities associated with those consequences is more likely
      • this must also include discussion of all effective means to avoid the potential consequences of sexual activity
  • increased funding of research into new, compliance-friendly contraceptive agents that are used prospectively to prevent ovulation/spermatogenesis/fertilization
  • improved access to contraceptive agents along with improved labeling regarding contraceptive failure
    • sticker labeling on hormonal contraceptives regarding medications, etc. that can interfere with the medications and potentiate ovulation with advise to practice a barrier method in conjunction with the hormonal contraceptive when using meds that can cause contraceptive failure
You in?


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