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My Theory Of Some Of It

18 Jun

I have this theory that if I spend a few hours a day thinking really hard, concentrating like orange juice, I can reduce the size of my butt. I figure that I’ll be expending energy with all that thinking and that it will be like exercise. Further, my theory states the fat will melt off my prodigious posterior and not, say, my delicate wrists, because I’m concentrating (like orange juice) specifically on my Buttfatt™.

Now, when I say “theory”, I mean like how your Uncle Merle has a theory about the gubment controlling the weather with contrails. I mean it in an idiomatic sense. I do not mean it scientifically. A scientific theory is different–vastly–from my grandmother’s theory that all weekend operators were bitter spinsters otherwise they wouldn’t be working the weekend. 

I also start many sentences with, “theoretically”. Like I’ll say to my beloved, “Theoretically, if you were going to poison me, where would you hide my body?” Or, “Theoretically, if a bear and a fox played rock paper scissors, would the bear always play paper and the fox always play scissors?”

Each time I use “theory” in those contexts, a scientist’s head explodes. In theory.

Here are two things I know about scientists:

  1. They don’t like girls.
  2. They hate it when you use “theory” to describe things like how you think Obama created Ebola in his bathroom lab.

Okay, so maybe only half that list is true for most scientists. The ones I know, anyway. Admittedly, I don’t know many because they tend to leave my presence when I say things like, “Have you ever wanted to mate a cockroach with a racoon?” Or, “Do you ever get really baked and play with mercury?”

In science, a theory is the interpretation of facts. Evidence is presented to support a hypothesis. It is tested and debated. It takes years, decades even. It’s not like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew wakes up, thinks, “Wow! I bet that if you bury a bunch of half-full [scientists are always optimists] paint cans in the earth, it might be bad!” Then he goes and fires off a paper to Important Science Stuff Monthly. And then everyone reads it and is all, OOOH! Yes, let’s make this the law of the land! THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS!!

No one denies the sun shines on the earth at different times. That’s because of rotation and revolution and whatnot. Guess what? That whole business is a scientific theory. JUST LIKE EVOLUTION. JUST LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE.

And? Further? The Pope doesn’t need to be a scientist (even though the argument could be made he is) to advance the theory of climate change. Christians are supposed to be stewards of the earth. Dude gets it, I’ll give him that. At the end of the day, do you really believe releasing massive amounts of carbon monoxide into the air or burying petroleum-based products in the soil won’t harm our earth? Saying that Pope Francis shouldn’t have an opinion on global warming is ridiculous. What is the line that says it’s fine for him to interfere in a decision my doctor (a scientist) and I make about my reproductive health, but not about climate change?

People make me crazy. I have a theory they do it on purpose. Excuse me now. I seem to have misplaced my tinfoil hat.

What Will I Do?

22 Jan

I’ve been putting off my piece for Blog For Choice Day because I’m not entirely sure what to say. I know. Shut up. This year’s question is, “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?” The problem is that a lot of times, I think I’m doing it just by voting for someone.

We had a bit of an issue here in Shelby County in the fall. I wrote about it here, but the gist of it is that Shelby County has been contracting with Planned Parenthood for many years. Planned Parenthood has used federal Title X money to provide such services as breast cancer screening, family planning information, pelvic exams, and STD screening. Because it is government money, it is not used for abortions. The problem was that back in the fall,  Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell caved in to pressure from state Republicans such as Hizzoner The Gubner Lite, Ron Ramsey, and decided the Godless Satan that is Planned Parenthood should not get the contract. It was awarded to Christ Community Health Services. Christ Community is staffed with good people doing good things–unless you need an abortion or birth control. Despite Christ Community’s inability to comply with the terms of the Title X grant, the Shelby County Commission sent the money there anyway. A commissioner I supported, Steve Mulroy, made an eleventh hour decision to vote to award the contract to Christ Community because, as he wrote on his Facebook page,

” I KNEW there were almost certainly 7 votes to support CCHS, regardless of what I did.  Even after Commissioner Bailey changed back to PPGMR, I KNEW there were 7 votes (or more) for CCHS without me .  Since the outcome was a foregone conclusion, I decided to at least get assurances re: compliance monitoring, so that at the end of the contract period, we would have hard data to decide whether opponents’ concerns re: proselytization, abortion counseling, and emergency contraception were warranted. If they are, we can revisit the contract. Some in the audience may have thought I was the crucial 7th vote, because they saw the voting screen light up with 6 names in green, then a pause, and then my name in green.  Not so.  Newly appointed Commissioner Taylor, too new to be able to vote using the computer system, had already indicated his support.  I knew there were already 7 votes, and I knew an 8th was on its way.  I was either the 8th or 9th vote for this, depending on how you count it.”

So, what am I going to do? I’m going to pay more attention. It’s more than a question of whether or not a particular candidate is pro-choice. Wearing a pink ribbon on your lapel in October does not make you a champion of women’s health issues. The issue, for me, is what will you do to respect my privacy? What will you do to ensure equal access to health care? What will you do to make abortion safe and rare? If you reduce your campaign to a single issue–even if it is women’s health–you are not my candidate. The problem is that we, as voters, have allowed ourselves to be single-issue voters. And that stops for me this year.

I’m taking the old saying about all politics being local to heart this year. I’m concentrating on local and state issues first, national issues second. I figure if we get the local solved, the national will soon follow. I’m going to support public servants rather than politicians. I’m going to keep pushing the idea that one’s personal religious views do not get to dictate public policy.

I will be a politician’s worst nightmare: An informed voter.

The Battle, Not The War

9 Nov

I’m trying to do a big girl grown up piece for Like The Dew. I’m having trouble stringing everything together. Fortunately, you dear people are used to my semi-coherent ramblings, so I don’t feel bad for just posting a bunch of stuff and letting you sort out the meaning. Like reading tea leaves. Or entrails.

Here are some thoughts about yesterday’s personhood vote:

  • I’ve been asked a couple of times today if I was surprised about the outcome of the election. No, I wasn’t. Understand, however, I’d be saying the same thing had personhood passed.
  • Normally I’m not a political wonk. I don’t study the numbers like baseball fans study statistics. I did wonder how the poorest counties, the Mississippians who could least afford for this amendment to pass, voted. I looked at AP results by county. Turns out, of the twenty counties (of 82) in Mississippi with the lowest per capita incomes, only two (Marion and Greene) voted to ratify. One showed a tie (Benton) and two were not reporting results (Tunica and Wilkinson).
  • Was there an income gap? Of the five counties with highest per capita income, only Lee County voted yes. Tupelo is in Lee County and is the home of Donald Wildmon, former leader of American Family Association and a vocal anti-choice leader.
  • Here’s what I think. I’ve got nothing to back me up on this, just my gut. I think there were many Mississippians who felt they had to publicly support personhood, then got in the voting booth and voted what their consciences and good sense told them. I think there were women with husbands supporting the measure who, in the privacy of the voting booth, decided to stand up for all the women this would impact.
  • I think Mississippians saw beyond the slick websites and highly-paid lobbyists to see this was a purposely vague amendment with dangerous ramifications well beyond banning abortion.
  • Remember, the overwhelming majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. That little fact gets lost in the fray.
  • Like MacArthur and herpes, this issue will be back. Personhood proponents are well-funded zealots who will not go away.
  • I think this amendment scared people into paying attention. I think voters will remember this and make an effort to educate themselves better on ballot issues.
  • Tennessee, you’re next. There’s an amendment out there saying that women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion.

Some Thoughts Before The Vote

7 Nov

I’m not the brightest knife in the six-pack. Shut up. (I used to have this friend who always got her clichés wrong. It was hard to beat a dead horse when he was down. Things were slow as vinegar in April) I just have my own way of learning. It must work because last week I was watching this super-neat NOVA program called “The Fabric of the Cosmos” and they were talking about something and I was all Higgs particles! He’s talking about Higgs particles, y’all! And then I went on to discuss the Large Hadron Collider, AS I DO, and Chuck got all glassy-eyed like I do when he’s talking about hunting rifles, and I was all point well taken.

I’m not saying he’s not interested in the Hadron Collider or doesn’t get it, I’m saying he knows having it explained by someone whose only physics classroom time came from half a semester of high school physics taught by the soccer coach makes him assume I’m leaving some important stuff out. And admittedly, describing the Large Hadron Collider as, “This particle accelerator thing where they want to smash atoms together to see what they throw off and do a bunch of science, ” is not the most comprehensive explanation out there.

The other night I was reading something having to do with all of the above and I started thinking about eyes. The human eye is much used by creationists and proponents of intelligent design to discredit evolution. How, they say, could such an intricate thing come about by evolution? Does it not show the force of something greater? Well, no, I don’t think so. If the eye were to have been created as-is by some God-force, why is it so intricate? Why not create something that’s easy for its owner to understand and therefore easy to fix when broken?

The thing about using God as a means to explain science is that there’s a whole lot of And Then A Miracle Happens in the explanation. It’s no different from my boneheaded attempt to explain the workings of the world’s largest particle accelerator. Science and religion can absolutely coexist, but they do not need to be confused with one another.

Mississippi’s personhood vote tomorrow has been making me think a lot about the intersection of science and religion. I haven’t heard anyone make an argument FOR pershonhood that does not have a basis in religious belief. I don’t believe religious people need to leave their beliefs at the door, but I do think that faith must guide secular decisions, not overwhelm them. Personhood is a secular issue.

Personhood says that your rights are no different from the rights of a clump of cells. Personhood says that you, with all your thoughts, your conscience, your consciousness, don’t deserve any more special consideration than the products of conception.

Mississippi, you think you’re sucking from the government teat now? Wait until Personhood is the law of the land. How many more people will it add to your welfare rolls? How many doctors will stop practicing because they can’t get malpractice insurance and because they fear criminal prosecution? How many more police, public defenders, district attorneys, and prisons will you have to add? How many businesses will leave? How many businesses will never open? How much money are you willing to spend? Because if this amendment passes tomorrow, the cash registers of lawyers start heating up. Personhood will immediately go to court and it will stay there for years. And Mississippi, you will pay for it.

It seems that the people behind the personhood initiative have done a good job at making voters think this issue is easy. That it’s black and white. If you’re against abortion, you vote yes. If you’re a godless communist, you vote no. This vote is not about religion. It is about rights. It is about defining man-made law. No one wants to amend religious text with this vote. You are not defying God by opposing this measure.

I know that I’m sort of preaching to the choir with this piece. If you’re reading my blog, chances are it’s because you tend to agree with me. Either that or you just have too much time on your hands. And are a masochist. I guess what I’m asking is that you not go ignorantly to the polls. Read the amendment. Think about what it really means for you and your family. Think about how it’s going to impact your business. If you pray, pray about it. Voting no does not mean you sanction abortion. It means you care about your family and your community. It means you respect the law. It means you understand issues are never just black and white. It means that you are not so gullible as to let a bunch of well-paid lobbyists create a big government theocracy in your backyard.

Click to visit Mississippi Secretary of State website

You Don’t Get This Sort of Stuff in Scientific Journals

25 Oct

Everyone has that one teacher. You know the one. The teacher that is such an inspiration that you’d thank him or her upon receipt of an Emmy or Nobel. I had several of them. But other than one great chemistry teacher, I can’t say any of them taught science. I’m willing to say that it could have just been me. I had some great math teachers, but they went right past me as well. Had math been taught as a language, my life would have been different, I believe. Math IS a language that explains science. And science is what they do on MythBusters. And I can get down with some MythBusters.

Chuck and I recently watched a PBS program on arctic dinosaurs and learned more about biology and geology in one hour than we learned in 17 years of schooling. Bill Bryson and John Polkinghorne have taught me about astronomy, paleontology, and quantum physics. Mary Roach taught me about cadavers and is now schooling me on the afterlife. Later in the week, she and I will be going to outer space. I get around.

I’m reading Roach’s book Spook, which is about what science thinks about the afterlife. I’ve just finished the section she devotes to ectoplasm. Ectoplasm, as any good GhostBuster knows, is the slime that ghosts leave behind. Or something. Ectoplasm was really big around the turn of the century and on into the 1920s. Your more highfalutin theatrical mediums used everything from cheesecloth to, well, animal entrails to approximate ectoplasm. They would secret away the effluvia to, well, um…here’s an excerpt:

And now I’m going to pass the microphone to William McDougall. For how many chances do we have to hear a Harvard professor hold forth on vaginally extruded extoplasm? “There is good evidence that ‘ectoplasm’ issues, or did issue on some and probably all occasions [from] on particular ‘opening in the anatomy’ (i.e. the vagina),” allowed McDougall in his summary statement for Scientific American. “The more interesting question is–How did it come to be within ‘the anatomy’? There was nothing to show that its position there and its extrusion from that place were achieved by other than normal means.” In other words–please forgive me–she stuck it up there and then she pulled it out.

I’ll just leave it at that, okay? That’s not even the part that struck me as really interesting. It has never occurred to me that conception was “discovered”.  I know, I know. I really SHOULD have paid more attention in science class. I vaguely remember the name Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and, if pressed, could probably have remembered mostly on my own that he had something to do with microscopes. I could not have remembered, however, his sperm work. He and these other science dudes thought sperm contained a tiny, tiny, tiny person. Eggs, well, they were there, certainly. Any farmer knows the importance of eggs, but only as vehicle or incubator. Leeuwenhoek actually tried to peel back the tiny green curtain of  spermatozoa and find the tiny person inside them.

Then a bunch of stuff happens and we learn how babies get here. Please, you don’t read me for my sparkling scientific commentary.

My curiosity was piqued when Roach mentioned a philosopher and Catholic priest, Norman Ford. In 1988, Ford wrote a book called When Did I Begin? I looked the book up and he got my attention in the  first paragraph. Ford writes, “As a lecturer in moral philosophy and in the philosophy of the human person, it has always been important for me to know when a human person begins. In cases of rape it was necessary to know how long after the attack it was morally permissible to attempt to prevent a human embryo originating as a result of violence. This knowledge was crucial in differentiating morally between actions that prevented conception and those whose effect was really abortifacient.”

Wait, what?

Ford goes on to argue that personhood (generally referred to as “ensoulment”) does not begin until the point that identical twinning is no longer possible. That’s about two weeks after conception. For a religious person, the question was what happens to the soul if the soul arrives at conception, but the the zygote goes on to become twins? Ford believes twins need not do with half a soul. Because that zygote could become two distinct people with distinct souls, Ford says, “[T]he cell cluster can best be understood as human biological material but not a unified living human organism.”

Later–and hold on to your garters for this one–he writes, “Any philosophical theory that places the beginning of the human person at fertilization needs to be examined if it appears to conflict with the facts of modern biology.” He says that to uncover the philosophical truth of the beginning of a human person, we cannot be afraid of science.

Look, I know these words can be used against me. In fact Mary Warnock, who wrote a later introduction to Ford’s book, is responsible for the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Among other things, this law specifies when abortion is legal and banned research using human embryos more than 14 days old.

So what’s my point?

I do not believe I was a person from the moment of fertilization. Let’s assume for a second there is a God or some force God-like. God has made me more than the sum of my parts. I think, I feel. I have emotions. Oh, do I have emotions. (Sorry, honey!!) I have a conscience and I have consciousness. Calling the product of fertilization a person strips away the very foundation of what makes us human. If you want to say life begins at conception, fine. Cells dividing is life. It’s what happens when you grow tomatoes. A living thing, a pistil, is combined with another living thing, a stamen. Do it right and you get baby tomatoes. But do you slice up the flower of the plant and put it on a bacon sandwich and call it a tomato? No, because it’s not a tomato. Could you? Sure. But that’s be a BLF, not a BLT.

A sperm is a living thing. An egg is a living thing. Together they make a clump of cells. If all goes well, and it’s estimated that it does only 50% of the time, the clump gets implanted. Is it a person? Nope. It’s a zygote. Then it’s a blastocyst. The blastocyst, by the way, has an inner cellular mass that produces the embryo. The outer layer forms the placenta. So if this zygote–this fertilized egg- is a person, why are we getting rid of the placenta? Is it not worthy of exultation too? Some people bury it. Some people eat it. Most of the time it’s incinerated as medical waste. But why? Is that placenta not a person too?

You know why that sounds ridiculous? Because it is. Just as ridiculous as making human life about nothing more than a clump of cells. The question of what makes us human, what makes us people, is not something that can be legislated. If you believe abortion, birth control, IVF is wrong because you define a person as a lump of cellular material, that’s fine. You don’t have to take birth control pills or have an IUD, get IVF should you not be able to conceive by other means, or have an abortion. But don’t tell me that I can’t. It is not your business.

Personhood should be a philosophical question, not a political one. You want to make a fetus a person? Are you going to change the drinking age to 20 and 3 months? Can we now vote at 17 and 3 months? Drive at 15 and 3 months? What if I go past my due date? How do we figure that out then? Will my embryo get counted in the census? Does this mean we get more politicians to represent these zygotes? Because that’s just what we need. We absolutely need politicians who are concerned with nothing but zygotes so we can finally get a few to represent the rest of us. The humans. The living. The tax payers.

It’s About Civility In Public Discourse, Stupid

19 Sep

As you may know, I worked in retail for the longest 5, 476 years of my life. There were so many things about it I loved. Dealing with irate, irrational people was not one of them. There is a certain sort of person who is so lacking in power in other areas of his or her life that he or she takes the time to be a complete and total prat to service industry workers. We all know those people. (Not you, dear reader! Anyone with the taste and intelligence to spend time reading MY blog would never be a dick just because you could, RIGHT?)

There’s the guy who will rant about how you ruined his entire day because the mayo was spread too thick on one quarter of one half of his sandwich. The woman who insists you call 74 other stores to find another skirt because the seventeen you have in her size are all clearly mislabeled and are really eights, not twelves. And my personal favorite, the man who comes in the store EVERY MONTH to complain to the credit department–knowing FULL WELL there is no credit department in the store anymore–that he was charged a finance charge even though he paid his bill IN FULL and will not accept the true, rational, and clear explanation that had he paid it within twenty-five days, he’d not accrue a finance charge, but as he waited to the twenty-seventh day, BOOM. Just like it says in very clear language at the bottom of the bill. Possibly the ONLY clear statement on the bill.

Take your average blowhard, add in politics, religion, and maybe an ovary or two and you got yourself a shootin’ match, hoss.

It is in dealing with these blowhards I have learned that the best thing to do when everyone is yelling is to lower my voice in a husky Suzanne Pleshette way. Imagine I’m reading this to you in that voice.

It’s been a tough year for women’s health. At some point, and I must have been absent that day, it was determined that all women’s health comes down to is abortion. And further, as best I can tell, as long as you don’t have one, think about having one, know anyone who has had one, support people who will provide one, or say the word three times while looking in the mirror, your ladyhealth will be stellar!

Here in Shelby County, a federal grant was pulled from Planned Parenthood. I mentioned this briefly the other day, but I want to go into a little more detail. This grant is Title X (as in 10) money that the federal government gives states to use exclusively for family planning.

As part of Title X of the Public Health Service Act (1970), money was allocated to be given to state and local health departments, community health centers, independent clinics, and other agencies. Here are some things this money may be used for:

  • Access to contraceptive services, supplies, and information
  • Breast and pelvic exams
  • Breast cancer and cervical cancer screening
  • STD screening, education and prevention information, and counseling
  • Pregnancy diagnosis and counseling

According to the Health and Human Services website, “The Title X family planning program is intended to assist individuals in determining the number and spacing of their children. This promotes positive birth outcomes and healthy families.” Priority for the use of Title X funds is given to low-income individuals.

The Shelby County Health Department has subcontracted to Planned Parenthood for several years. Back in the spring, Shelby County notified the state that it lacked the staff and facilities to continue the services Planned Parenthood delivered.

So here’s where we run into problems. Hizzoner Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has made it his mission to put Planned Parenthood out of business. He wanted to end the “shell game” he said Planned Parenthood was playing. Hizzoner and his ilk refuse to believe–even in the face of federal laws and proof positive (entities taking money must keep detailed records and statistics of patients and procedures)–that Planned Parenthood is not using federal money to provide abortions.

Here’s where we are right now. Shelby County has not been gracious enough to state publicly exactly why Planned Parenthood was jettisoned and Christ Community Health Services was funded in its wake. County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that a six-person team ranked proposals from Christ Community, Planned Parenthood, and Memphis Health Center. County Mayor Luttrell says Christ Community was ranked highest.

I’m not going to knock Christ Community. I believe they are good people doing what they believe to be the Lord’s work. I have an amazing amount of respect for healthcare professionals who work in clinics that provide services for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients.

I happen to believe a faith-based organization cannot be unbiased when counseling about family planning and reproductive health options.

In order to take Title X funds, minors must be treated. Let’s say you are a 16-year-old sexually active girl and you have found the courage to do the smart thing and look at birth control options. A Title X clinic must counsel you, recommend the best birth control option for you, supply it to you, and not notify your parent or guardian.

Now let’s say you’re a GLBT young adult who wants to do the right thing and get vaccinated for HPV. You’re marginally employed and uninsured. How comfortable are you going to be going into a clinic with the word “Christ” in its name? Will that deter you from getting vaccinated? Would it deter you from getting a pap smear? What about tested for HIV?

I truly believe the perception of religious bias will keep the poor, the disenfranchised, the people who can least afford to be sick from seeking healthcare.

Beyond that, this is a dunderheaded move by Tennessee Republicans to take control of women’s reproductive rights. This does not make abortion go away. In fact, if a woman who receives Title X services asks for pregnancy counseling, pregnancy termination MUST be included in the discussion along with foster care, adoption, and prenatal care. I wonder how well money from religious anti-choice donors will keep coming in to a clinic which will now be federally mandated to discuss pregnancy termination? Will conservative Christians continue to support a clinic that will be federally mandated to discuss more than abstinence with its young patients?  The anti-choice movers and shakers have accomplished an amazing thing–money for nothing. By putting this money in the hands of an anti-choice, anti-birth control facility, they have rendered this money useless.

But back to my original point: civility in public discourse.

It is near impossible to have debate about reproductive rights without it devolving into a shouting match involving Bible verses, bogus statistics, and name calling. I am not a horrible ogre because I believe a woman has a right to choose whether or not she takes a pregnancy to term. I do not believe you are a moron because you have a moral or religious opposition to abortion. I do believe that what I choose is not your business. I do believe that your religious opposition to abortion does not mean you get to ban it. This is not a theocracy. There is no Sharia Law here. I don’t happen to like that federal money can be used to subcontract to a faith-based healthcare provider–even those with a more “liberal” agenda. But you know what, we don’t need to yell about it.

I’ve been talking to people about these fetal pershonhood amendments. The anti-choice personhood movement has done a great job talking about how they will ban abortion at the state level. They haven’t done such a good job talking about how fetal personhood affects birth control. Why? A conservative Christian couple might never look at abortion as an option, but more than likely they’ve looked at some type of birth control method outside of separate bedrooms. The Separate Bedroom Method of birth control isn’t going to raise a lot of money. Point is, no discussion I have had has turned into a shouting match. The reason, I believe, is that in these conversations we have genuinely been moved to find understanding from the opposite side. I do think that when people are fully engaged in understanding, breakthroughs happen. But if one side of the debate is going in with the attitude that theirs is the only opinion that matters, breakdowns happen instead. When time is spent shoring up an argument rather than reacting to what the opposing side has said, you miss a lot of important information and a chance for understanding. How many times have you fought with your honey and haven’t even heard what he or she said because you were busy planning your attack? I mean, in my case it’s zero, obviously. But I am told this happens with some regularity.

Mr. Finance Charge up there could have saved himself the hassle of coming into my store every month to complain to the non-existent credit department if he had just listened the first time. After two months of not listening, we all just assumed he liked to bitch. I like to bitch, too. Can’t beat a good bitch session for venting. VENTING. Not solving problems other than the need-to-vent problem.

I don’t believe we’re a nation of extremes. I really don’t. Squeaky wheels get press. People who believe passionately in something but who are rational and level-headed don’t get the air time zealotry does. How many people know who Michelle Bachmann is? How many know who Elizabeth Warren is? I’d love to see that poll.

By the way, as I sit here writing this, something interesting came up in my Twitter feed. A CNN poll shows 78% of the country is pro-choice. So it just goes to show you that even though the anti-choice voice might be loud and well-funded, it’s not the majority’s voice.

 

 

 

Why You Need To Care About Personhood

8 Sep

I don’t even know where to start. So I guess I’ll start with a story.

In March of 1993, Dr. David Gunn, an OB/GYN practicing in Pensacola, FL was shot three times in the back and killed by anti-choice terrorist Michael Griffin.  It was said that Griffin was under the sway of a man called John Burt. Burt had claimed to be “spiritual advisor” to a group responsible for bombing several women’s clinics. In 1991, Burt purchased land next to the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services Clinic where Dr. Gunn practiced, and Burt and his followers used this land to raise holy hell without violating obstruction laws. Burt was known to carry a jar containing “Baby Charlie” which he claimed was an aborted four-month-old fetus.

Griffin, after fatally wounding Dr. Gunn, gave himself up to police who were called to respond, not to a shooting, but to a protest on clinic grounds. It has been reported that after stalking Dr. Gunn, Griffin said, “Don’t kill any more babies,” and then shot Gunn  three times at point blank range. For those with short term memory issues, I’ll remind you that Joe Scarborough first represented Griffin at trial. Yes, THAT Joe Scarborough. He also worked for Griffin’s family, free of charge, supposedly to protect them from the media. Later in 1993, Scarborough turned Griffin’s defense over to another lawyer. After a four hour deliberation, Griffin was found guilty. He is currently serving a life sentence in Okaloosa Correctional Institution.

The murder of Dr. Gunn and the escalating violence surrounding women’s clinics spurred the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act, introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy. While protecting protesters’ First Amendment rights, this act, among other provisions, protects women from being physically barred from entering a clinic.

Burt, for his part, was linked to the murder of another doctor as well as Dr. Gunn. Like Griffin, he had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. (Both men claimed to have left the group due to an incompatibility with Christian doctrine) In 2003, Burt was arrested for molesting a child in his Our Father’s House which was ostensibly a home for runaway girls and unwed mothers. He is currently serving an 18 year sentence. After a civil trial, the Gunn family was able to take possession of the land adjacent to the clinic.

Why am I telling you this? I spent a lot of time in Pensacola and lived there for about four years. When I moved into Pensacola proper, I lived about three blocks from that clinic. They were forced to erect giant privacy fencing and utilize escorts wearing bright yellow vests to get patients in and out of the clinic. Every day I passed protesters. Occasionally I would roll my car windows down and listen to the hate and vitriol spewed at women doing nothing more than going to the doctor.

I also identified with David Gunn, Jr. who is just a few years older than I. I could not imagine what it was like to be in my early 20’s and have lost my father. Especially to have lost him for nothing more than doing his job. My best friend and I went to the benefit concert L7 and Pearl Jam played the year after Dr. Gunn’s death. Later we went to a candlelight vigil for Dr. Gunn. I remember being struck at the passion, the eloquence with which David Jr. always spoke.  I don’t know that I could have been that self-possessed. Scratch that, I know I couldn’t have. I think of him from time to time because he took something so horrible, so disgusting, so personally difficult, and turned it into something positive. And I have to say, I admire the hell out of that.

I just got back from a public hearing in Mississippi about this Initiative 26 that’s on the ballot in November. Now, before you go accusing me of sticking my nose into Mississippi politics again, I will tell you that what happens in Mississippi matters to women everywhere. What happens in Missouri matters to women everywhere. Same with Kansas, Colorado, or Georgia.  Once Roe V. Wade became the law of the land, the anti-choice movement realized they were not going to get far bullying women on the national level. They were going to have to work at the state level. And work they have.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office has produced informational pamphlets for the three ballot initiatives. Initiative 26 reads as follows:

Ballot Title: Should the term “person” be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?

Ballot Summary: Initiative #26 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons,” as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.

What this initiative seeks to do is to give fertilized eggs, zygotes, all the same civil rights you and I have. An embryo would be a person. A cluster of cells would be a person. Now, people like lobbyist Brad Prewitt, Executive Director of the yes on 26 Campaign Coalition, say that there is no doubt when life starts. It starts at fertilization. And they want to argue that point a lot. Personally, I’m not going to argue with him. If you have cells dividing, that’s a life of some sort. In his argument for 26, he states that the Supreme Court noted if “personhood” of the embryo were established, the abortion rights case would collapse. So in a Hail Mary political move, anti-choice zealots have decided to twist both science and the Constitution and call a fertilized egg a person. A sentient being.

Let’s say that you are against a woman’s right to choose. On the surface, this sounds like a great amendment, right? No more abortion in the state. It goes further than that. Say goodbye to your IUD. Say goodbye to the birth control pill. Say goodbye to in vitro fertilization (IVF). In fact, you might as well say goodbye to reproduction. What doctor—or more to the point, what doctor’s malpractice insurance—is going to want to treat a pregnancy with a chance of miscarriage? If you miscarry, and 26 has amended what it means to be a person, you’ve just murdered someone. Is your doctor just as responsible as you are for this murder? Did your doctor not stress all the things that could cause miscarriage? Maybe she should have put you on bed rest for nine months with a feeding tube and a catheter? That way you wouldn’t have to stress yourself getting up and down.

Sound ridiculous? How is that more ridiculous than calling a clump of cells a person?

Anything that interferes with an egg’s implantation into the uterus would be criminalized as an abortifacient. Mirena, for example, would be criminalized because it thins the lining of the uterus to interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. While the main way in which hormonal birth control works is by preventing an egg from being fertilized, there are other mechanisms. Cervical mucus is thickened as a natural defense against sperm reaching the egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus. This is the reason birth control pills and the new generation of IUDs are prescribed for women with heavy periods and debilitating cramps. A thinner lining of the uterus means less to pass during a woman’s period. Personhood would take that option away from you. I’m sure it’s no biggie for you to skip a few days of work every month. Oh, I know. You can take some heavy narcotics for the pain! I’m sure that wouldn’t interfere with your work at all. Especially if you were like a nurse or something. No biggie. Just eat more red meat to keep your iron level up.

If you are a woman who has taken her sexual health very seriously by using condoms to prevent both pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted disease, you’re not safe either. Personhood would make the “morning after pill” illegal. So if the condom broke, oh well. You shouldn’t have been slutting around in the first place. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble carrying that fetus to term and then giving the baby up for adoption.

Personhood Colorado has said the great thing about personhood is that, “it will make sure that children in the womb are treated exactly the same as children outside the womb.” I suppose that means rather than just going to work pregnant, every day will be “Take Your Fetus To Work Day”. Or maybe it means they just want to ignore the fetus as much as they ignore the result of an unplanned pregnancy. At the Mississippi Secretary of State’s public hearing on personhood Tuesday, I learned there are orphanages all over the place. Just drop that baby off at one of those.

The personhood movement is one more way anti-choice zealots want the government to regulate what goes on in your home. And, yeah, I’ll go here: It’s another way men say to women, we know what’s better for you than you do. The anti-choice movement says it’s against big government. And it is. As the saying goes, they want government small enough to fit in my uterus.  Big government is not, apparently, keeping the state out of my bedroom. Oh, I see. It’s small enough to fit in my bedroom.

Personhood proponents say that people like me have a “Chicken Little” mentality. I won’t disagree with that, actually. If that’s what they want to call concern about my reproductive freedoms, I’ll give them that one. My whole life I’ve watched my government—local and federal—turn its back on women’s health issues. So when a bunch of men decide they know what’s better for my family than I do, I start getting a little concerned. (No woman spoke in favor of 26 at the hearing I attended) I’ve been struggling with exactly what I wanted to say about the attack on reproductive health being anti-woman and anti-family. I’d like to share this from We Took Over The World. He was able to clearly articulate what I’ve been struggling with.

Where are the vocal pro-lifers, standing up for the right to life of the already born?

Being pro-life should mean being in favor of protecting all human life, not just those that haven’t yet made it out of the womb. If we want to have a credible discussion of a pro-life nature, it has to include all human life. An honest discussion of whether or not America is “pro-life” would include fetuses, the potential mothers who might accidentally kill themselves during a back alley abortion if they don’t have access to the procedure…and those in this nation who are not fortunate enough to afford to provide reasonable nutrition to themselves and their families.

In reality, everyone in America is pro-life to some degree, but we can’t find common ground by legislating extremes. Cutting off Planned Parenthood funding under the auspicious guise of protecting a fetus is not pro-life when underserved women lose access to their primary healthcare provider.

If we’re going to be a better country, we have to find a unified pro-life stance upon which we can all agree. One that protects as many lives, born and unborn, as reasonably possible.

I think that’s it right there. I don’t know people who are really for abortion. I know people who want the right to make the choice to do what’s best for their families. I AM pro-family. I AM pro-choice. Life means something more than just a collection of dividing cells, but that’s what these personhood initiatives say. And that’s the truth. Personhood takes life to the ultimate scientific extreme. It leaves out free will , it leaves out the moral compass anti-choice people are so fond of talking about, it leaves out our souls—that non-physical thing which makes me ME.  Personhood says you are no more than a beating heart. That is about the most anti-life stance I can think of.