Posts Tagged women’s health
This story is making the rounds of the leftosphere:
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.
St. Thomas More is a Catholic hospital and member of Catholic Health Initiatives, which is the lead defendant in the wrongful-death suit. The framing of the story is about CHI’s defense:
But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.
That’s where all the attention is going on this story: it’s so hypocritical of CHI to claim “fetuses are not persons” when the Church’s usual position is to twist women’s health into pretzel shapes in honor of their embryos. In an abstract moral sense, this is a valid point and it’s worthy of discussion, but in a legal sense, this is hardly news. When you’re getting sued for a large amount of money, your defense has nothing to do with your own principles and everything to do with how the fact pattern relates to the law. As far as the law is concerned, CHI’s lawyers are simply doing their jobs. It is not the legal defense team’s responsibility to uphold the Catholic Church’s stance on unborn life. We could say that it’s hypocritical of CHI to let their defense team make the argument that fetuses are not persons, but this is the sort of thing that goes on in lawsuits. They do what it takes to win.
What I think is much more significant to the case, and in much more pressing need of discussion, is the fact that the hospital had to page an obstetrician and wait for him to arrive at the hospital when a pregnant woman was having a lethal health crisis. If Dr. Staples had come to the hospital quick as he could, then, sure, they might have saved Lori Stodghill and/or her twins. However, if there had been an OB and anesthesiologist already on-deck, they might have also saved Lori and/or her 7-months-gestation twin boys. If we’re going to make this case a matter of fetus-worshipping hypocrisy, we should be asking why St. Thomas More Hospital didn’t step up their game by having a surgical team available on the OB floor at all times. Surely, the cost of having those professionals on hand would be a bargain if it sent a few more healthy babies home with their parents.
Once we get started down that road, we see that St. Thomas More is far from alone in making pregnant women with emergent crises wait for a doctor to arrive from home. ACOG’s position on VBAC, for example, recommends (but does not require) that expectant parents and their providers seek hospitals with immediately available staff to perform an emergency c-section if they’re pursuing a TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean). The fact that many hospitals do not have that immediately available staff means that many post-cesarean mothers are unable to find care for vaginal births in later pregnancies. Even putting aside the question of birthing options for healthy mothers, the fact remains that many hospitals do not have surgical staff available at all times to handle obstetrical emergencies. Surely, a 7-months-pregnant woman having a heart attack qualifies as an emergency that warrants having a surgical team immediately available.
This, in my opinion, is a much more significant issue than the way CHI is handling a lawsuit. The larger issue is that our healthcare system is inconsistent about handling obstetrical emergencies. If a hospital does not have a surgical team immediately available at all hours, that hospital does not provide emergency obstetrical care. If there are no hospitals in a given area that meet ACOG’s recommendation of “surgical staff immediately available in the maternity ward at all times,” then the childbearing women of that area do not have access to emergency obstetrical care. Life-threatening emergencies happen to pregnant women at all hours of the day and night.
The Catholic bishops of Ireland have released a statement regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and it makes about as much sense as we’ve come to expect from the organization that created and maintained the Magdalene Laundries. Here you can read it in full. More prominent bloggers have already given their responses to the “moral” positioning and “medical” information contained therein, and on those fronts, I’m just nodding along with them.
The part that I want to address is this one:
I’m still glued to the #Savita hashtag on Twitter. It’s a sickness.
While I was browsing through the Savita-related Tweets today, I came across someone Tweeting these…words.
I’m not going to link to the Tweets. I don’t want to bring further attention on this person’s Twitter account, and besides, the idea is not unique to her. I don’t want to pick on the user.
The message is true but so obvious it contributes nothing but white noise. Of course Savita would have grieved her child if she’d survived. In fact, we don’t even need to speculate on the matter of how Savita “would have” felt if she’d walked out of that hospital, because we have her husband telling us how she DID feel about her miscarriage in the small window of time in which she was still alive. She knew her daughter wouldn’t make it, and she was devastated. She really wanted that baby, but she knew the pregnancy wasn’t viable. She knew it, the medical team knew it, so what did she do? She asked the doctors to terminate the pregnancy. Savita really wanted to be a mother, but even more than that, she wanted her cervix to close up before she developed a life-threatening infection.
Then we have this:
But…seriously? No one is accusing the “baby” of anything. She was going to die no matter what, and the medical team knew it. “Defense” is a totally inapplicable concept to the fetus that died along with Savita.
However, when we’re talking about what someone would have said to Savita about her miscarriage if she’d survived: actually, I can picture myself saying to someone like her, “I’m very sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you’re okay.” I have friends who’ve experienced miscarriages. I had a conversation with one such friend about a year ago, soon after her loss. She was upset, and I was upset for her, but I was also happy to see that she had made it through the experience with minimal physical injury.
Why would I say such a thing? Why would I tell my friend that it’s good that she’s recovering so well?
Because her life does not forfeit all meaning when she fails to bring a fetus to live birth.
And that brings us to this…fascinating…idea.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
Do you mean to say that it’s better that Savita died, because now she doesn’t have to mourn her pregnancy loss? Because that is…pretty much what the Tweet above suggests.
When Savita found out that she was losing her 17-week-gestating daughter, you know what she wanted? She wanted a prompt termination to protect her own life and health. She asked the doctors to evacuate her uterus so that the process of losing her fetus would not put her life in danger. She didn’t want to die along with her unborn daughter. Savita wanted to live with her grief.
She wanted to live.
But, because “this is a Catholic country,” they refused to extract the fetus before her heart stopped beating, and as a result of that delay, Savita died after days of horrible pain.
So, tell me: does that make her daughter any less dead?
Is the loss of Savita’s unborn little girl somehow less tragic because Savita isn’t around to grieve?
I have seen what happens when women get the appropriate medical care during miscarriages. You know what happened to all my friends who suffered pregnancy losses and lived to tell about it? They got on with their lives. Nearly all of them have since had children. I held and kissed one of those post-miscarriage babies less than a week ago. He’s beautiful and perfect in every way, and his parents are thrilled to have him. None of those children would have been born if their mothers had been left to die of sepsis from incomplete miscarriages.
Savita wanted to be a mother, and if her life had been saved with a prompt termination, she could have still had children. Her daughter was beyond help, but Savita still had a life to lead. Her mother now has to live without her.
You may have heard about the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Galway, Ireland on October 28th due to a preventable infection that resulted from a protracted miscarriage.
I’m at work now, so I’ll give you a quick round-up.
The most thorough coverage is from Michael Nugent.
Most of the links I just posted are from non-theist blogs, but even the post at the site dedicated to reproductive health issues frames the case as a matter of religious oppression.
The reason for that emphasis is in the answer Savita and her husband received from the hospital staff when they requested a medical termination of the non-viable pregnancy: “This is a Catholic country.”
That is not a scientifically or medically meaningful explanation. Mrs. Halappanavar was denied life-saving care because of laws based on Catholic beliefs. The fact that Savita was not Catholic did not save her from dying under Catholic rules. Of course, we all expect someone to follow the laws of the country in which they’ve decided to live. The doctors at University Hospital would not have escaped prosecution for providing an abortion simply because their patient was of a different religion than the majority of the country. That there is the problem: doctors in Ireland who care for pregnant women have to fear prosecution if they perform abortions, even to save their patients’ lives. If the law only makes sense from within a religious framework, then it is effectively forcing other people to live within someone else’s religion.
When those religion-based laws result in easily preventable deaths, one might even call it a violation of human rights. Savita could have recovered, gotten on with her life and had more babies. Instead, she was left to die of septicemia after days of horrible pain because “this is a Catholic country.”
It’s Labor Day weekend, and where I live, that is a big deal, and the big deal takes up a lot of space and makes a lot of noise, so I’m kind of hiding in my apartment for most of the weekend to avoid the crowds who take up the sidewalks and the random motorists who don’t know how to get to the mall. Right? Right. Meanwhile, Representative Roscoe Bartlett, from my very own state of Maryland, is not thinking very clearly about the way he answers questions regarding abortion rights:
“Oh, life of the mother – exception of life of the mother, rape and incest. Yeah, I’ve always — that’s a mantra, you know, I’ve said it so often it just spills out,” he said. “If you really – there are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest — compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage.” …. [I]n terms of the percentage of pregnancies, percentage of abortions for rape as compared to overall abortions, it’s a tiny, tiny percentage,” Bartlett said. [...]
“Most abortions, most abortions are for what purpose? They just don’t want to have a baby! The second reason for abortion is you’d like a boy and it’s a girl, or vice versa. And I know a lot of people are opposed to abortion who are pro-choice,” Bartlett said.
I think that a pregnant woman who “just [doesn't] want to have a baby!” has a very good reason to have an abortion. I want babies to be welcome family members to invested, enthusiastically consenting mommies and their partners.* If a woman gets pregnant accidentally and simply doesn’t want the child, she is not a moral failure for getting an abortion. The fewer women who have babies just because they forgot their birth control, the higher percentage of children born to parents who actually want to have children, and therefore put a bit of thought and effort into taking care of them, the fewer children who are neglected or abused. In this regard, abortion is not a tragedy, much less is it a crime. Abortion prevents tragedy. It is much easier to say to new parents, “You have a baby, now take care of it” if they actively decided to bring that child into existence.
The second “reason” is just bunk. Sex-selection is not a major problem in America. Where sex-selection is an issue, it’s in cultures that value boys more than girls, and where girls’ lives are, let’s face it, kind of shitty. Where pregnant women don’t have the option of aborting female embryos, their daughters are up against infant exposure, abandonment, malnutrition and medical neglect. This is a much bigger problem than what their mothers want. It’s also about their fathers and grandparents, as well as the other families around them. People like Roscoe Bartlett seem to think that a society will somehow become less misogynistic if women are told that their lives have no value except for making ALL THE BABIES. People like me seem to think that if a culture views daughters as equally valuable children as sons, then terminating pregnancies just to avoid having girls will no longer be an issue. With that in mind, we seem to think that if those daughters are allowed to decide what to do with their grown-up lives, including how many children to have (if any), that will do a lot more for women’s place in society than just forcing women to give birth to daughters when their in-laws are violently determined to have grandsons.
His final sentence is just nonsense. “Opposed to abortion who are pro-choice”? No. You’re making shit up. You’re just opening your mouth and letting noise come out. If abortion is not an option, there is no such thing as pro-choice.
*And gay daddies. I think fertile young women should not be coerced into continuing their unwanted pregnancies for the benefit of any couple in want of a child. But if a woman decides to make a baby for a gay couple, or any infertile couple that wants a baby, that’s awesome. What’s important is that babies have families that really want them.
Ever notice how pretty much every advocacy organization in this country which includes the word “family” in its name is focused on misogyny, homophobia and racism? If we see it in the plural form, then it might be okay, such as “healthy families” or “women and families,” but in singular, it’s nearly always bad news. Groups like Family Research Council are full of terrible proposals for women and children, and they keep repeating this word “family” to make horribleness sound nice.
The House GOP just passed a reauthorization of VAWA with all the good new stuff taken out.
In past years, VAWA enjoyed bipartisan support and garnered little controversy. This time around, however, top Religious Right groups have rallied against the bill due to the protections it would extend to immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of domestic abuse. These groups, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and the Southern Baptist Convention’sEthics and Religious Liberty Commission, made noise on Capitol Hill and are most directly responsible for the events that will unfold in the House today.
And…what do these people have to say? Concerned Women for America took the lead in writing to Senators:
We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans nationwide, are writing today to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This nice-sounding bill is deceitful because it destroys the family by obscuring real violence in order to promote the feminist agenda. […]There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.Further, this legislation continues to use overly broad definitions of domestic violence. These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims. Victims who can show physical evidence of abuse should be our primary focus.
They use “family” to mean that it’s better for children to grow up watching Daddy beat Mommy to a pulp (and possibly put her in an early grave) than to help Mommy take the kids and get away from Daddy. Such situations often also involve violence on children, but I suppose it would be so much worse for children to grow up without their fathers:
In 1998, Johnson was arrested by the Perrysburg Police, again on domestic violence charges. According to the police report, Johnson provided a “very similar” account of the incident to that his wife Ofelia and 14-year-old son gave police. Both wife and son reported that Johnson had Ofelia Felix-Johnson in a wrist lock, and when the son attempted to stop Johnson from hurting his mother, Johnson put the son in a head lock such that he was “unable to breathe and was choking up food,” according to the police report. After the son broke free, the police report continues, Johnson “put his right hand around [the boy's] throat and pushed [him] against the wall with his back to the wall and choked [the boy] for about 5 seconds.”
Timothy Johnson is one of the people who signed the letter opposing the Senate’s version of VAWA. Yes, I’m sure a convicted wife-batterer and child-batterer would know all about the demise of families.
In a sane world, a phrase like “family values” would bring up a commitment to caring for your kids, loving your partner, being there for your siblings and taking care of your elderly parents and grandparents. In public policy discussions, “family values” should refer to policies that empower people to build and maintain healthy family relations, but there is no room for battering in a healthy family. Part of caring for your kids is not beating up their other parent. Part of caring for your kids is also raising them in an environment in which you, and they, are not subjected to violence.
To say it “destroys the family” to empower battered women to leave their abusers assumes that a family no longer exists if the husband and father is no longer in it. It assumes that upholding a man’s relationship to his wife and children—even if the relationship is a toxic one—is more important than allowing women and children to live without battering. If that’s what “family” means, then, fuck it: I’m promoting the Feminist Agenda. Concerned Women for America can go concern themselves right off a short pier.
Gov. Heineman really does not want any “anchor babies” in his state:
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman vetoed a proposal to restore Medicaid-funded prenatal care for illegal immigrants on Friday, but the initiative could still survive if the state legislature rejects his move next week.
And, what is his reasoning?
Heineman, who is anti-abortion, also said he had “grave concerns” that some funding could go to abortion provider Planned Parenthood and that Nebraska could become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants because no bordering states offered similar coverage.
Let’s go over that again: he’s vetoing Medicaid coverage for prenatal care for undocumented women, because Planned Parenthood provides prenatal care.
He doesn’t like abortion, but he also doesn’t want undocumented women having babies in his state, and he is afraid that if he does not join neighboring states in a race to the bottom, then additional money will end up with Planned Parenthood because they care about pregnant women and their eagerly awaited babies far more than Dave Heineman does.
I enjoyed Ms. Nasrin’s speech at the Reason Rally and was all excited to see her join FreeThoughtBlogs, and then barely out of the gate, she came out with this. (Teal Deer version: “All prostitution is sexual slavery. Because I say so.”)
Since the network is called FreeThoughtBlogs, there should have been no surprise when other members of the community expressed their disagreement with Taslima’s post.
So now, Taslima is all like, “Why are all you meanies attacking me by saying I’m wrong?!” No, seriously, that’s pretty much her angle:
I hope we all Free-thought bloggers believe in freedom of expression. My opinion on prostitution is nothing new. Most feminists believe prostitution or sexual slavery must end. I do not want to be misunderstood. But it looks like a war started against me on FTB because I said something politically incorrect. I feel suffocated because I am opposed by a group I proudly belong to, a group of atheists, secularists, humanists, rationalists.
If you’re now smashing your face into your keyboard in horrified disbelief, then congratulations: you might be a good fit in a skeptical community.
There seems to be something about my comments that her blog doesn’t like, because I’ve posted twice so far and both have been snagged in “awaiting moderation” status. Since Taslima has allowed much more negative and aggressive comments to appear, I will assume it’s a technical glitch and not actually an attempt to keep my questions from appearing, but anyway, here is the comment I have attempted to leave on her post:
Yes, they do believe in freedom of expression, and that is why they are posting their disagreements with your assertions. It’s not a war against you; other bloggers respect you too much to ignore you when you write something they find objectionable. No one is trying to stop you from posting what you have to say. But when they disagree with your ideas, they will say so.
Belonging to a group doesn’t mean disagreements won’t happen. Freethinkers, pretty much by definition, expect to have arguments amongst themselves.
Shit, I hope this doesn’t turn into a case of genuinely Bitter Rifts. She just got there.
ETA: She’s thanked me for my comment. You’re welcome, Taslima. I hope you stick around, and I hope you enjoy some lively debates in the future.
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times has very nicely put together a handy round-up of people who hate women, as shown by their reactions to the latest renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. You’d think that protecting women from abusive, violent partners would be something that any politician would happily get behind, but this time, the Act includes some provisions that some GOP Senators and other defenders of Family Values just can’t stomach. The offending items include but are not limited to:
The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.
Can you see where this is going?