Jesurgislac’s Journal

December 16, 2009

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 2

Catherina Lorena Cenzon-DeCarlo is an ER nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Or was. She’s suing her employers because they forced her to save a patient’s life by a means DeCarlo disapproved of.

A woman was brought into ER at Mount Sinai, 22 weeks pregnant, suffering from preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is the third leading pregnancy-related cause of death in the United States, after hemorrhage and embolism. Preeclampsia is the cause in an estimated 790 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. cite

The triage system at Mount Sinai’s ER figured there was a six-hour window to save this woman’s life. And, as this article in EMS Magazine makes clear in a shy kind of way:

If the patient is experiencing severe preeclampsia or eclampsia, consider rapid transport to an appropriate medical facility. The one definitive procedure to reverse preeclampsia or eclampsia is to deliver the baby and placenta. Thus, careful consideration must be given to transporting to a medical facility that is able to manage acute obstetric emergencies. cite

the only certain way to save a woman’s life if she’s suffering from severe preeclampsia is to perform an abortion.

The only person whose opinion matters in this case is the pregnant woman herself, or whoever she has granted her medical power of attorney: ER staff have the job of saving lives, and if the woman came in unconscious and without a decision-maker, it’s the medical staff’s responsibility to save her life by performing the abortion.

So what does this “pro-life” nurse do, asked to help save a woman’s life? She refuses, claiming (without any prior knowledge of the case: she first set eyes on the woman in the OR where the abortion was to be performed) that the preeclampsia isn’t advanced enough to warrant an emergency abortion. On being threatened with insubordination and patient abandonment for, well, being insubordinate and threatening to abandon a patient, DeCarlo went back and helped to save the woman’s life, under protest. (Apparently she wants everyone to know, this Nurse DeCarlo, that she was only willing to save the woman’s life after having been threatened with career-ending disciplinary procedures. Otherwise, she’d just have left the woman to die. But, if you threaten her career, under protest, she’s willing to help save a life. Nice.)

Pro-lifers by definition believe women (other women) are slaves, breeding animals, incubators: bodies to be used to generate babies, not entitled to full human rights. But even the owner of a breeding animal will agree to abort when continuing the pregnancy will kill: even the operator of a piece of machinery, a mere incubator, may take pride in the proper operation of a machine and ensure it is not “used till broken”. This kind of attitude, this belief that a pregnant woman can be left to die rather than save her life by performing an abortion: this is aggressive mistreatment of an enemy.

It is a horrid irony that these people call themselves “pro-life”.

June 2, 2009

Pro-life is what they call themselves

Doctor George Tiller was murdered by a thug who had listened to rhetoric from the pro-life movement that told him over and over and over again that the life-saving medical care Doctor Tiller provided was murder.

The pro-lifers who used this rhetoric are now saying: “oh, this is nothing to do with us. Just because we claimed that women who got late-term abortions were selfish bitches who were murdering their own babies, just because we claimed the doctors who performed these abortions were killers – it’s got nothing to do with us and the language we use that one of our number ended Doctor Tiller’s work and his life by murdering him. We reject that murder! Those people are nothing to do with us! We’re standing right over here washing our hands, and we still think:

What Tiller did was wrong. Make no mistake. He was not providing emergency care to rape or incest victims. He was not treating sick women with appropriate medical procedures. He was performing late-term abortions, which means that he was destroying fetuses that might have survived outside the womb. In other words, he was killing babies.” actual pro-lifer without shame

Face-saving apologies and mouthed regrets: no shame over the rhetoric that led one of their number, a pro-lifer with a gun, to end the life of one denounced by the pro-life movement as a murderer.

George Tiller joins the sad record of others murdered by the pro-life movement for providing health care: Doctor David Gunn; Doctor John Britton, and James Barrett; Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols; Robert Sanderson; and Doctor Barnett Slepian.

We should also remember June Barrett, who was shot by the same pro-life attacker who murdered her husband, but who survived; Doctor Calvin Jackson, stabbed 15 times by a pro-lifer who wanted to kill him; Doctor David Gandell, injured by flying glass when a pro-lifer shot through the window of his home; and Emily Lyons, severely injured in the pro-life bombing which also killed Robert Sanderson.

These are all murders and attempted murders committed by the pro-life movement over the last 26 years.

There have also been 175 arson attacks, 179 instances of assault and battery, 41 bombings (and 642 bomb threats), and 406 death threats. Between 1999 and 2002, pro-lifers sent clinics that provide abortion over 640 anthrax threats. NAF statistics

That’s the pro-life movement. That’s what happens when you use rhetoric claiming doctors and nurses are committing murder, when they provide essential health care for women.

“Quit is not something I like to do,” [Doctor Tiller] said. He said he firmly believed his patients needed him and that he had the “strong support of his family”.

Dr Tiller outlined a conversation he had had with his daughters – two of whom are physicians – in which he said the importance of his work was crystallised.

“My daughters came into my study,” he said. “I was reading. And they said, ‘Daddy, if not now, when? If not you, who? Who is going to stand up for women with unexpected and badly damaged babies?’ I had the support of my family, and we were able to proceed ahead.” BBC

Doctor Tiller was a courageous and noble man: there is now apparently only one other doctor in the whole of the United States who will act to help women in this awful situation. Just one. The pro-life movement have either murdered or intimidated every other doctor who might be willing to help.

From Balloon Juice:

In 1994 my wife and I found out that she was pregnant. The pregnancy was difficult and unusually uncomfortable but her doctor repeatedly told her things were fine. Sometime early in the 8th month my wife, an RN who at the time was working in an infertility clinic asked the Dr. she was working for what he thought of her discomfort. He examined her and said that he couldn’t be certain but thought that she might be having twins. We were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get a new sonogram that hopefully would confirm his thoughts. Two days later our joy was turned to unspeakable sadness when the new sonogram showed conjoined twins. Conjoined twins alone is not what was so difficult but the way they were joined meant that at best only one child would survive the surgery to separate them and the survivor would more than likely live a brief and painful life filled with surgery and organ transplants. We were advised that our options were to deliver into the world a child who’s life would be filled with horrible pain and suffering or fly out to Wichita Kansas and to terminate the pregnancy under the direction of Dr. George Tiller.

We made an informed decision to go to Kansas. One can only imagine the pain borne by a woman who happily carries a child for 8 months only to find out near the end of term that the children were not to be and that she had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy and go against everything she had been taught to believe was right. This was what my wife had to do. Dr. Tiller is a true American hero. The nightmare of our decision and the aftermath was only made bearable by the warmth and compassion of Dr. Tiller and his remarkable staff. Dr. Tiller understood that this decision was the most difficult thing that a woman could ever decide and he took the time to educate us and guide us along with the other two couples who at the time were being forced to make the same decision after discovering that they too were carrying children impacted by horrible fetal anomalies. I could describe in great detail the procedures and the pain and suffering that everyone is subjected to in these situations. However, that is not the point of the post. We can all imagine that this is not something that we would wish on anyone. The point is that the pain and suffering were only mitigated by the compassion and competence of Dr. George Tiller and his staff. We are all diminished today for a host of reasons but most of all because a man of great compassion and courage has been lost to the world.

From the National Network of Abortion Funds:

The Network has also received many requests from women who received care from Dr. Tiller and from activists in the reproductive justice community to set up a Fund in Dr. Tiller’s name. In response, we have established the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund to assist the women to whom George Tiller dedicated his life. The Fund will assist women in the second trimester to pay for abortion care, as well as pay for travel and lodging en route to providers. To donate to the Fund in Dr. Tiller’s name, please send contributions to:

George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund
c/o National Network of Abortion Funds
42 Seaverns Ave.
Boston, MA 02130

You may also donate online at www.nnaf.org/tiller.html

March 11, 2009

To the courageous people who save so many lives each year

Belatedly: I found out via that yesterday National Abortion Providers Appreciation Day in the US.

Thank you for what you do. Thank you for saving the lives of my friends who’ve had abortions, and who – because you were there – did not lose their lives or their ability to have the children they wanted to have, when they wanted to have them.

And this is what the pro-lifers do to women’s health care:

A decade ago, after an Atlanta clinic was bombed, Ms. Welsh had to take terrorism prevention classes. “I’m a director of a nonprofit, and I’m sitting there thinking, Why am I learning about letter bombs?” she recalled. “My board decided after that, only I could open the clinic mail — I was the only one they insured, to save money on the premium.”

On July 11, 2008, protestors picketed Ms. Welsh’s retirement party.

It’s been years since there was violence at the Hope clinic. In 1982, the clinic was firebombed, and eight months later, the owner and his wife were kidnapped for a week, before being released. When Ms. Burgess arrived as director in 1990, all the windows were still boarded.

But in 1999, she opened a new clinic building that is twice as big and tastefully decorated with paintings, dried flowers, framed letters of commendation from former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. The building was designed like a fortress — walls are three cinder blocks thick, windows are bullet-resistant and out front is a concrete booth where an armed guard is stationed.link

January 24, 2009

Global Gag Rule: GONE

From IPAS:

First implemented in 1984 during the Reagan administration, the policy bans any organization receiving U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide any abortion services or to lobby their own governments to make abortion laws less restrictive. (The Helms Amendment, passed in 1974, made it illegal to use USAID funds for any abortion activities.)

President Clinton repealed this: President George W. Bush reinstated it. When Bush’s staffers complain that Bush didn’t get the “credit” for financing work against AIDS in Africa, they prefer not to consider that in November 2005, the Bush Administration formally expanded the Global Gag Rule to U.S. global AIDS funding under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). The restrictions appeared as part of a five-year, $193 million request for applications (RFA) for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in Kenya: the RFA, entitled, “HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis, treatment, care and support” referenced the gag rule twice in stating eligibility criteria, stating that all consortium partners must “agree, to abide by the Mexico City Policy [the official name of the global gag rule], the Tiahrt Amendment, and all USAID policies and regulations.” cite

From How a US policy restricting family planning funding is hampering efforts to fight HIV and AIDS by Kathambi Kinoti (Resource Net Friday File Issue 254, December 2005):

The global gag rule has disrupted the crucial HIV/AIDS intervention role of FPAK, Marie Stopes and numerous other organizations. Just as it is impossible to separate family planning services from efforts to fight HIV and AIDS, it is impossible to separate family planning services from abortion-related issues. When an anti-abortion muzzle is put on reproductive health providers, all the other beneficial seivices that they provide are eroded. Without adequate access to contraception and reproductive health care and education, the rate of both safe and unsafe abortions will increase. Most family planning centres also have to deal
with the after-effects of underground, unsafe abortions.

Pretending that the war against HIV/AIDS will be won when sex takes place within the confines of marriage is counterproductive, and restricting funding solely to organizations that promote the myth is lethal. It will result in a waste of money and the victory of HIV and AIDS.

There’ll be a lot of pro-lifers angrily protesting the repeal of the global gag rule across the right-wing blogosphere. Today, tomorrow, all year. They’ll call Obama the “pro-abortion President”. What these complaints about this repeal reveal is: these are people who do not give a damn about the lives of some of the poorest women in the world. They do not care if women in Ethiopia, Nepal and Nigeria lost access to family planning clinics. They do not care about the sixty thousand or more women each year who die from illegal abortions.

All they want is to sit in their safe little houses rubbing themselves up with their sense of superior morality that, by God, their taxes don’t go to pay for clinics that also provide abortions! They are, in the classic sense, Pharisees: indifferent to anything but their own feelings of moral superiority.

Dr Gill Greer, the director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, estimated the gag rule had cost the group more than $100m for family planning and sexual and reproductive health programmes during the eight years of the Bush administration, which she said amounted to 36 million unplanned pregnancies and 15 million induced abortions. These pro-lifers will try to claim they support the global gag rule because they oppose abortion… proving them either liars, or stupid.

“The gag rule has done immense harm and caused untold suffering to millions around the world. It has undermined health systems and endangered the lives and health of the poorest and most vulnerable women on the planet by denying access to life saving family planning, sexual and reproductive health and HIV services and exposing them to the dangers of unsafe abortion.”cite

The global gag rule is gone. Nothing can undo the damage Bush did by reinstating it and enforcing it, especially in Africa where his extension took so much money away from useful anti-AIDS programs – how many people became infected with HIV because Bush wanted to pander to the Christian right? – but it’s gone, and the world is better for it.

November 14, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 9

What’s next?

9 Repeal the global gag rule.

The Global Gag Rule was re-instated by George W. Bush on his first day office. It was a promise of symbolic support to the misogynistic Christians who are the backbone of the forced pregnancy movement, and it was a warning to people round the world who regard women as human beings and care about human life.

The global gag rule is a rule that no recipient of US aid may advise women on where they can get an abortion. They may not even talk about the need for safe legal abortion, or the damage that lack of safe legal abortion does to women.

In a world where lack of access to safe legal abortion kills over 60 000 women each year, the global gag rule is a monstrosity, justified by hypocrites who claim “each life is precious” – and who don’t care how many people die because of it.

Okay, break’s over!

September 28, 2008

Being “Pro-life” has nothing to do with being pro life

A few years ago on Obsidian Wings, Von (then one of the conservative front-page posters) put up a pic of a fetus and titled the post Why I’m pro-life. (Von added that his partner is pro-choice, and that they have long ago quit having dinner table conversations about it.)

When debating with or about pro-lifers, I am in the habit of using their own name for their own movement, because I do think people have a right to name their own identity: but I also feel that it’s necessary to point out that being “Pro-life” is not actually, literally, about being pro-life: it’s about being pro forced pregnancy.

One of the “pro-life” commenters on my post The basics: why pro-choice is the only moral option took exception to my pointing this out: Opple claimed it was an unfair attack, but of course it is not:

Being pro-choice means that, regardless of your personal opinion about abortion, in general or in particular, you support every woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not she will have a baby, and every pregnant woman’s right to make decisions for herself, in consultation with her doctor, regardless of how advanced her pregnancy is. Although being pro-choice and being feminist are intrinsically intertwined (a person who believes women ought not to be allowed to control our own bodies is patently not a feminist…) a person need not necessarily be a feminist to be pro-choice: you could hold sexist beliefs about women without necessarily believing that women ought to be used as incubators.

Being pro-life means being part of a movement that believes the government should have the right to force a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, and that the legislature and the courts should have the right to make medical decisions for pregnant women, overriding their wishes and their doctor’s advice. Von’s excuse for being part of this movement is, he asserted by his post, the cute li’l fetus argument: which would make more sense if those cute li’l fetuses really did incubate in jars rather than requiring a pregnant woman to make use of her body and blood and resources in a nine-month effort that may jeopardise her life.


I adopted a cute lil’ American fetus
from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!

Forced pregnancy, or as a friend says “forced labour”, is a much more accurate name for the movement to deny women the right to access abortion: but pro-life is so utterly contradictory that it almost works as a label so divorced from the reality of their political movement.

Around the world each year, more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth due to lack of proper care. What does the pro-life movement focus on?

The Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule was reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in January 2001. Officially termed the Mexico City Policy, these restrictions mandate that no U.S. family planning assistance can be provided to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to: perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

Called the “gag” rule because it stifles free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues, the policy forces a cruel choice on foreign NGOs: accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services – but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients – or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance. (The Global Gag Rule Impact Project)

The Global Gag Rule Impact Project notes that “the gag rule is eroding family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. There is no evidence that it has reduced the incidence of abortion globally. On the contrary, it impedes the very services that help women avoid unwanted pregnancy from the start”. (Over a year before Bush reinstated the global gag rule, a paper was published that showed countries that have poor family planning services have a high rate of abortions: there was no global correlation between easy access to safe/legal abortion and a high abortion rate.)

Von and Sebastian (both front-page pro-lifers on Obsidian Wings – though both are currently on hiatus) have both consistently argued against universal free health care in the US – both only support people having access to health care if it can be made profitable to someone. They have consistently refused to explain how their ideological belief that anyone too poor to have health insurance does not deserve decent health care, fits with their ideological belief that no woman ought to be allowed to decide to terminate a pregnancy: and it is that refusal that firmed my belief that even pro-lifers who otherwise come across as decent, sensible, honest people, are being more or less insincere when they claim that they only want to prevent women from having the legal right to choose because they care about the fetuses. “Care for fetuses” is not expressed by denying women healthcare, or denying pregnant women mandatory paid maternity leave with the right to return to work, or by arguing that the baby can always be taken away from the mother as soon as born and given to wealthier parents – the old “adoption instead of abortion” argument, which in any country with so many unwanted children in need of adoptive parents, is just about the ugliest argument for forced pregnancy that anyone could possibly make.

I wrote this over four years ago:

We can all agree that abortion is a bad choice to have to make. Where are the pro-life Republicans calling for free health care for pregnant women and for all children to the age of 18? That basic, human help alone could make the difference between “Can afford” and “Can’t afford”. Where are the pro-lifers calling for free contraception to be available to all? For free daycare and nursery schools available to all low-income parents? For good, detailed, thorough sex education (the Netherlands have an excellent model) available to all children, well before they’re old enough to be actively interested in sex themselves, and regardless of their parents’ opinions on how much their children ought to be kept in ignorance? How many pro-lifers – Republican or Democrat – are actively campaigning for parents to have federal employment rights enabling them to maintain a career and be good parents? (I’m not just talking maternity leave or paternity leave or even “children’s sick days”. I’m talking an end to the work culture that says you don’t get promoted unless you’re putting in 12-hour days at your desk and always have unused leave at the end of the year.)

I’ve written similar comments since: no conservative pro-lifer has ever tried to engage this argument, and justify their denial of care to pregnant woman with their insistence that every fetus must be protected.

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