Owning Myself

I have been thinking about choice and control a lot in the last week.  The the Silence is the Enemy blog campaign, and the murder of Dr. Tiller have coincided with a time that I am having to make a number of medical decisions.  All of the medical people I have been dealing with have been carefully discussing options with me, and completely respectful of my choices. I am in control of what is done as much as anybody can be.

It is startling and uncomfortable to note that many would want that control taken away from me if I were a pregnant woman.

At the core of the anti-choice movement, and the rape culture is the unspoken idea that women in particular, but also children, and any one weaker than their attacker, do not own their own bodies.  They do not get to say how they are used and who uses them.

The anti-choice people want to make the debate about ‘killing babies’ and ignore the forced pregnancy aspect of their position.  Listening to them over the last week, I have heard no concern for the mothers whose babies are killing them, or whose babies have died inside of them and need to be removed to protect the mothers health.  These are the people Dr. Tiller helped when no one else would.

I do not condsider a fertilized ovum to be a person, but even if I did, I could not grant that person the right to commandeer the body of another person to serve its needs.  Many, even most, parents are willing to sacrifice for their children.  But if they are not willing, no court will compel the parent of a five year old to donate blood, much less a kidney or bone marrow, or part of a liver to save their child’s life.  How can a fetus have greater rights than a five year old?

Ultimately it comes down to the question of who owns my body.  If it is mine, no one should be allowed to use it without my consent.

Silence Is The Enemy

There is a concerted effort in the blogosphere this month to draw attention to the mass rape of women and young girls, particularly in Liberia.  It is being organized by Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection.  She will have updates throughout the month, and has a list of actions we can take to raise awareness.  This has to stop being the unspeakable crime, because if we can’t speak about it we can’t stop it.

She and a group of other bloggers will be donating all of their blog income this month to Doctors Without Borders, who treat many of the victims.  Income is determined by blog traffic, so you can contribute just by clicking through to the blogs. You can find a list of the blog coalition here.  If you follow any of these blogs in a reader, you need to click through to the blog itself to generate the increase it traffic that will increase contributions.

You can also increase the profile of this issue by blogging about it yourself, and linking to these blogs.

Update:  The bloggers who are donating their proceeds are:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/
http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/
http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/
http://scienceblogs.com/bioephemera/
http://scienceblogs.com/neurotopia/
http://scienceblogs.com/authority/
http://scienceblogs.com/drugmonkey/
http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/

Motherhood and Medical Ethics

I find the blog reactions to the octuplet mom interesting.  It falls largely in the extremes — she is a sick freak, or her decisions about what to do with her body are none of your business even if it is going to cost us money.  I find my self disagreeing with both extremes.

I suspect she may have some mental health issues, but I am not in a position to judge what they are, and mental health issues rate sympathy, and should have rated intervention by those close enough to the situation to do so, including the fertility clinic, not scorn.

As for the automatic “her-reproductive-decisions-are-none-of-your-business” response, I can’t agree with that either.  And it is not because she is poor, or unmarried.  I would have at least some of the same issues with this even if it had been a rich couple that could afford to provide for these kids in a manner I can only dream about.

There is an economic issue.  Since Kaiser delivered and is caring for these premies, and I am a member of Kaiser, and currently struggling to make my health insurance payments in a declining economy, this is somewhat more personally ‘on my dime’ than just the fact that the taxpayers will wind up paying to care for these kids in a number of ways, and we will. But money is not the primary issue.

Fertility treatment is a legitimate use of medical resources, and should not be contingent on marital status or wealth, but it should not be used to produce high multiple births.  If she had produce 14 kids in 7-14 pregnancies, I might question her judgement, but I would not consider it my business.  But pursuing a high multiple birth by having 6 embryos implanted (reports are saying 2 of the embryos twinned in utero) is unethical, and the clinic had an obligation to refuse to do so, even if she wanted it.  This action put not only the mother at risk, but insured ensured that all of the babies would be premature, low birth-weight babies that would have life-long problems.  Even if the potential parents have the money to pay for all of the medical care themselves, and all of the help they will need to raise the children, it would still be unethical.

That is why this should not have happened.  Not because she isn’t married, and doesn’t have any money.

A Cynical and Insulting Choice

Palin’s primary qualification appears to be that she has breasts. She is a cynical attempt to appeal to dissaffected Clinton voters, under the assumption that the only reason they were supporting Clinton is that she is a woman. Palin’s positions are diametrically opposed to those taken by Senator Clinton. To assume that a large number of former Clinton supporters would switch to McCain because he chose a female running mate is insulting.

The C-word

There has been a lot of speculation in the blogoshpere about whether McCain called his wife Cindy a c***, as reported in The Real McCain by Cliff Schecter. Those who reported it were unwilling to be identified, and that undercuts the claim’s credibility, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. (I must confess a lot of that doubt is an argument from personal incredulity. It’s hard to imagine that someone stupid enough to say that in public could get elected to anything.)

But there is also the profile of Cindy McCain in Newsweek. It was supposed to help her shed her Stepford wife image, but I have to say the cover picture was a poor choice, unless she was supposed to look like a mannequin with a rod up her — spine. The article itself presented her in a more favorable light, a woman who had raised her children pretty much alone, though she could certainly hire all the help she needed, and she didn’t have to worry about paying bills. I also think there’s more than a little self-deception in her pretending she was a Navy wife whose husband was deployed to Washington — and telling the children that. But while going through two miscarriages, recovering from and addiction to pain killers, and learning to walk again after a stroke by herelf may say good things about her strength, it says nothing good about her husband. That he was absent for two of her three miscarriages is unfortunate but understandable. Miscarriages happen suddenly and can be over very quickly. That he never noticed her addiction, says something about how much attention he paid to her, but again, addicts can be very good at hiding, and he wasn’t around much. Her mother noticed, and prompted her to quit. Both of those things are understandable, but leaving her to recover from a stroke by herself is not. He wasn’t taking care of their children while she recovered; the children stayed with friends, while she rented a condo in San Diego and focused on her recovery. The article didn’t say what he was doing that was so much more important than his wife and children.

I try not to judge other people’s relationships. Heaven knows I have friends and family who have chosen partners that seem to me to be unfathomably bad matches. Although, I suppose, if what she wanted was children, and what he wanted was a political power base and the money to fund his first campaign, then this was actually a very good match, but in a very real sense this is all none of my business, even though they chose to present this material in Newsweek.

But if he doesn’t respect his wife, why should I expect him to respect any other woman? And he doesn’t appear to respect his wife. Cindy McCain earned a master’s degree in special education from USC, while he finished near the bottom of his class, but he denigrates her achievement by calling USC the “University of Spoiled Children.”

Then there’s the biker rally where McCain went in search of a crowd. He suggested his wife should enter the beauty contest for the title of ‘Miss Buffalo Chip.’ This is not the Miss America Pageant. This is a competition where the ‘talent’ involves demonstrating how you eat a banana (think Dangerous Beauty), and the swimsuit competition is very skimpy bikinis and very suggestive dancing, all for the title of ‘Miss Dried-Out Bison Shit.’ And he thought his wife should join in the fun. Either he didn’t know what he was suggesting (Given that crowd I find that hard to believe. It was a biker rally with all that biker implies, and no, I am not suggesting that everyone who rides a motorcycle is a biker.) in which case he should have bloody well found out before he suggested it, or he did know, and though it was okay. Unlike the things mentioned in the Newsweek article, this was a public expression of what he thought of his wife.

Should personal boorishness disqualify one from high office?  We have certainly had boors in the oval office in the past, and if he was just embarrassingly boorish, it would be one thing, but this attitude toward women and women’s issues is also clear in his policy positions. If they did not translate into current attitudes and policy positions, his antics as a young fighter jock in the strip clubs of Florida would not be relevant, but they do, and they are.

It all makes the allegation in Schecter’s book seem more likely. I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that particular charge, but the doubt is shrinking. As for whether he should be president, there is no doubt. Absolutely not.