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Confession time:  I am still not over the 2016 Presidential Election.  I don’t know that I will ever really get over it.  To go from euphoria to despair in just a few short hours, and then to see many of my fears realized over the past two years–it has truly been a demoralizing time for many of us.

Still, hope springs eternal.  And it has been exciting and energizing to see so many people voting this year.

Last year I wore my closest approximation of a pantsuit in tribute to Hillary.  Here is this year’s voting ensemble, a tribute to my political homelessness:

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Election Day is a holiday for public school students, so Lorelei accompanied me to the polls.  She’s almost 14, but she still likes pressing the button for me.

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In 2016, Emily was also with us, and the three of us celebrated what we expected to be an historic occasion by visiting the women’s suffrage statue in Market Square and then breakfasting at Pete’s.  This year, Emily voted early because she had to be out of town today.  But Lorelei and I still went out to breakfast, this year at First Watch, just down the road a piece.

And now, it’s time to watch the returns, and the kids are calling me.  We’ve done all we can do.

Election 3

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On November 2, 2016 I joined Pantsuit Nation, an online community of Hillary supporters.  The group, now almost four million strong, comprised people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by our support of Hillary and fear of a Trump presidency.

I posted an introduction after joining, which you can read here.  And I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome I received.  Over 3,600 people liked my post, and there were 412 comments.  Many people asked for permission to share what I had said elsewhere.  I was showered with love and affirmation, not only from fellow pro-life Catholics but from people of every imaginable ideological stripe, including many, many pro-choice women.  After a year of feeling adrift and alone, it was a heady sensation.

Too bad it didn’t last.

It turned out that without Hillary to hold us together this great movement of women is breaking down along tired and predictable lines, and those of us who are both pro-life and progressive are left out in the cold once more.  The New Wave Feminists, erstwhile official partners of the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, are now officially NOT.  Pantsuit Nation now overflows with post after post of women sharing their positive experience with abortion.

I felt this backlash coming and it’s one reason I’ve mostly only lurked on the pages of the state and local offshoots of Pantsuit Nation.  I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

Rebecca Bratton Weiss makes an excellent case for why the feminist movement needs to embrace pro-life feminists.  This resonated with me especially:  “We have risked personal and professional relationships in our staunch opposition to Donald Trump, our refusal to accept him as representative of anything remotely pro-life. I personally lost a business associate when I spoke out against his boasts of sexual assault, and the latent misogyny in those who dismissed this as ‘locker room talk.’ I’ve been spied on and screen-shotted by right-wingers who seem more interested in controlling women than in saving lives.

I, too, was attacked for my constant opposition to Donald Trump.  As I wrote days before the election:  “Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, said that abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women.”  For pro-life feminists who risked a lot to vote for and publicly support Hillary, it’s adding insult to injury to not only end up with Trump as President but also to be sidelined by those who should accept us as allies.

Note:  I am happy to report that the Knoxville Women’s March has chosen not to officially adopt the national march’s platform and is aiming for an event that is unifying and non-partisan.

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A few days ago I was invited to join a secret Facebook group.  I posted what follows by way of introduction and was overwhelmed by the support, understanding, and acceptance I received, even from people whose beliefs are very different.  Because so many people wanted a way to share what I had written, I decided to post it here with some slight editing to account for the potential wider audience.

As a devout pro-life Catholic, this election season has been a very trying time for me. Never in my lifetime has there been a candidate for President who aligned perfectly with my religious beliefs, and I have dealt with this in various ways in each election.

I wrote for the local Catholic press for many years, including writing a column specifically on life issues. I was the chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee and have 25 years of pro-life activism to my credit. I blog about life issues frequently and post publicly about them on Facebook. And I’m the mother of five children!

Yet none of this has stopped my being the target of vitriol from right-wing Catholics, many of whom will clearly do ANYTHING to justify the fact that they really just want to vote Republican. I’ve been talked down to, threatened with excommunication, and attacked, even as I have tried to create space for discussion on my Facebook wall and explained the Church teachings on voting and conscience which support my actions.

This year, I am voting for Hillary with a clear conscience. Despite my deep disagreement with her views on abortion it is quite clear to me that her other positions and her proposed policies are more in keeping with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and social justice (not to mention the fact that she is way more qualified, not dangerous, and won’t bring disgrace to the office!). I am not holding my nose while I vote either–I am excited to be with Her!im_with_her

For more of my writing about Catholicism, voting, and politics, see the partial list below:

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 2)

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 3)

Catholic to my Toes

VOTING:  Not Toeing the Party Line

Talking to Kids about Politics

It’s Just Not Fun Anymore

Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused

Why Is This Election Different?

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If you’re on Facebook you can’t escape knowing that today’s the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  If you have a diverse group of Facebook friends like I do you’ll have seen a bewildering array of contradictory posts, some commemorating the day as a tragedy, others as a triumph.

Well, I’m assuming by now you know how I view this anniversary.  And I’m here to speak for the women, who, like me, don’t think the unlimited right to abortion is something to celebrate, and who are tired of hearing that “reproductive rights” is the number one women’s issue.

For want of a better way to describe myself, I’ll say I am a pro-life Democrat.  I’m intelligent and well-educated, not a religious fanatic or a “right wing nut-job.”  And I don’t call abortion a women’s issue–I call it a civil rights issue.  Which means that it should be of concern to EVERYONE, not just women.

It’s a constant source of amazement (and distress) to me that people who agree with me about almost EVERYTHING else–attachment parenting, gun control, social programs, all that “bleeding heart liberal” stuff–part ways when it comes to protecting the unborn, the most helpless and voiceless of all.

 

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So the other day I was looking at this sort of small boil thing on my leg (I know, I know, TMI but necessary to the story).  “Do you think this could be a staph infection?” I asked Teddy, figuring he would be the expert since things like that tend to lurk in locker rooms.  “Could be,” he answered.  “Well, if I start to see some necrotizing flesh I guess I will go see a doctor,” I said, and I was only kidding a little bit.

I went with John to his doctor yesterday.  There was no more putting it off.  He hadn’t seen a doctor for any sort of follow up since being diagnosed with diabetes in February.  They called him over the phone to let him know.  They didn’t tell him how to check his blood sugar, or what he should be eating, or anything.  And now he was out of his medicine.  He’d been out of five or so other medications for several months, but knowing so little about diabetes we didn’t know what would happen if he stopped taking that one.  So off we went.

We left $150 poorer, with a lab bill to follow, with a handful or prescriptions that will cost us over $500 every month IF we fill them all every month, and that’s after prescription club card discounts.

The last time I wanted to see the doctor, earlier this year, because my leg was swollen and I was worried about a blood clot, I went to the emergency room.  Yes, I am one of those people.  Why?  Because when I called the doctor’s office where I go when I am sick (which is thankfully never) they said I hadn’t been there in over three years, so I would be a new patient, and they would have to charge me for a check up first, and they wouldn’t be able to see me right away.  And I would have had to pay the whole bill right then.  This also happened to me the last time I got sick enough to need a doctor.  That time (I had walking pneumonia) I ended up at the Walgreens walk-in clinic (I recommend them, by the way.). See, healthy uninsured people don’t get annual physicals.  So they don’t have a relationship with a doctor.  When they get sick, they wait a few days.  Tough it out.  See if it won’t get better on its own.

Emily has student insurance because Spring Hill requires it.  She graduates in May and will enter the ranks of the uninsured unless she finds a job that provides insurance.  Luckily for her she is astonishingly healthy–no antibiotics or doctor visits for illness since the age of two.  The other kids are on TennCare but I’m pretty sure Jake gets kicked to the curb at 19–bad news, since he does take medications that it fully covers.  Teddy will have coverage in college, I suppose, and even if we lose TennCare for the little ones as we have fewer dependents, there is a program called CoverKids for them.

I could write several columns about the failures of TennCare but I won’t because despite all of them I am grateful that my kids have had insurance of any sort.  There were years when they didn’t, when I sucked it up and asked for a bill at the doctor’s office while staring at the sign stating that all accounts needed to be paid in full at the time of service, when we waited a day or two longer than other people might to see the doctor, hoping things would improve on their own, when we paid $100 for eyedrops for a corneal abrasion and used them on pinkeye outbreaks for years in order to get our money’s worth.

So how did we end up here?  Where did we go wrong?  Aren’t those uninsured people, those people who think they are entitled to healthcare, people who don’t work, or who are deadbeats, or who just don’t bother to purchase insurance?

Well no, they are people just like us, which is why I am writing about this very personal topic.  Because I think people ought to know that.

I’m not going to go through the last twenty-plus years and tell the whole sorry saga of our health insurance blues, because it would take too long and probably be boring.  I’ll just hit the high (the low?) points.

Growing up, I never thought about health insurance, and I’m sure you didn’t either.  I went straight from my father’s plan to my husband’s–I got married less than three months after I graduated from college.  I remember how fun it was reading about the plans and deciding which one we should pick.  That was right at the beginning of HMOs, and the Federal Government (where John worked then) offered Kaiser Permanente, which was free but kind of sucked, actually.  But it was a lot better than nothing.

The only problem was that when we moved to Knoxville, Cobra notwithstanding, we were screwed, because there was no Kaiser here.  So with a baby on the way, we entered the ranks of the uninsured.  I got a job at UT that had great benefits, but not for pre-existing conditions!  So Emily was an out-of-pocket purchase, paid off over many long years, as were two of our other babies.

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I was also writing for the Tennessee Register then, and I wrote a long article about the burgeoning health care crisis in this country–something I had never heard of at that time.  All the experts I interviewed said it was only going to get worse.  When I was seeking a position with the East Tennessee Catholic, I showed that article to the then-editor, and he wanted to know what it had to do with Catholicism.  Ah, hindsight.

That was my last full-time job, so I never was offered insurance again.  John was, at his first post-law-school position, but the family plan was so expensive that we couldn’t afford it, plus I was pregnant already and it wouldn’t cover that pre-existing condition–that didn’t stop TennCare from kicking me off though–because I was OFFERED insurance, even though we DIDN’T get it and it wouldn’t have covered me if we had!

Several years later, after John began practicing law on his own (that means no group coverage, people), he found a nice insurance agent who said he could get us affordable private-pay coverage.  He came out to the house and we picked a plan.  A few weeks later, we got the bad news:  because of his pre-existing health conditions, and the medications he was already taking, John had been declared officially uninsurable.

That’s right, folks:  that’s how insurance companies hold their costs down.  They weed out the people who need the coverage most.

After awhile, we did the math.  Paying monthly premiums, the deductible, and the co-pays for people who rarely if ever got sick made it impossible for us to afford the care and medications for the one person in the house who needed it.  We had to drop that insurance and it’s only become less affordable since.

In the ensuing years, there have been times (pregnancies, extended illnesses, excessive medical bills) that we’ve been able to qualify for TennCare in one form or another.  I was able to get my gall bladder removed during one of those times, happily.  In between, John only goes to the doctor for medication refills and we look for patient assistance programs and samples to cover the costs of his medications, or else he goes without “less important” medications.

Something has to be done about the state of health care in this country.  My European friends laugh at our resistance to “socialized medicine.”  They can’t understand why we wouldn’t want what they have.  The Affordable Health Care Act is not perfect, but it’s a start.  I trust the pro-life Democrats’ assurances that they are satisfied with the concessions that were made to them before they voted for the bill.  I may yet read the whole thing (900+ pages) to see what all it includes for myself.   My feelings about the HHS mandate are already on the record but I am still hopeful that it will be overturned or modified.

Reform has to come, one way or another, sooner or later.  It’s coming too late for some people.

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In the wake of Todd Akin’s stupid (really, I could think of a fancier word but I think that one covers it) remarks about rape and abortion, and then VP-hopeful Paul Ryan’s follow-up distancing himself from Akin and downplaying his own oft-stated convictions regarding abortion in exceptional cases, pregnancy and rape are everywhere in the news this week.

I think I have something to contribute, though, and I would like to solicit contributions from you as well, if you have something to add in the comments.

I understand, I believe, the pro-choice position on abortion, as much as I disagree with it: that a woman should have the right to decide what to do with her own body, including whether to become or to stay pregnant. And I think most pro-choice people understand the pro-life position: that abortion is wrong because the unborn is a person whose right to life cannot be trumped by its mother’s rights.

But I CANNOT understand the reasoning behind allowing exceptions for rape and incest. I challenge anyone reading this who holds those beliefs to explain them below.

Pro-lifers and even many people in the muddy middle on abortion often find themselves frustrated by radical pro-choicers who refuse to allow for any limitations on abortion: waiting periods, parental notification, banning procedures most people find repugnant, like partial-birth abortions. But abortion rights activists realize that they have to argue against these limitations because to admit limitations is also to admit that there is something unsavory about abortion, somethings serious, something that makes people uncomfortable. When President Clinton opined that abortion should be “Safe, legal, and rare,” some were uncomfortable with his language because why should it be rare if there is nothing morally wrong about it?

On the flip side, allowing exceptions for incest and rape does much more damage to a pro-life argument. After all, WHY are we against abortion? Because we believe that the unborn child is a human being from the moment of conception and therefore entitled to the protections that human dignity demands from that moment forward. With that as our premise, how can we offer an exception based on how that human person was conceived?

We can’t, not logically. But most Americans have not been trained to think critically. They are uncomfortable with abortion on some level. They are also uncomfortable with allowing suffering of any kind. They look for compromises and find them in limiting abortions to certain trimesters, and to allowing exceptions in certain circumstances.

But offering exceptions based on mode of conception is sexist, honestly. It’s saying, “Well, you poor innocent woman, you shouldn’t have to be further victimized by carrying this baby because it wasn’t your fault.  But as for the rest of you sluts, you play, you pay.”

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