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Selling Stencils and Playing Doctor

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Hobby Lobby will no longer be forced to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees due to their religious objections.  Specifically, Hobby Lobby’s case targeted birth control that they considered to be abortifacients that would cause a miscarriage or abortion in an already pregnant woman.  Plan B and Ella, both emergency contraceptives that simply prevent implantation and do NOT cause abortions, are being blocked.  Two IUDs are also being blocked due to the misinformation that they too cause abortions.  The internet has exploded with Hobby Lobby’s supporters and opponents attacking each other with spit and venom.  The decision has been called both a victory for religious freedom and an attack on the freedoms of us all.


Hobby Lobby’s website, in response to the question “Is Hobby Lobby imposing the religious views of its owners on its employees,” states:

Of course not.  The Greens and their family businesses support the individual liberties of all their employees.  The very notion turns the facts and the law on its head.  In fact, it is the federal mandate that violates the deeply held religious beliefs of the Greens by forcing them to violate the law or violate their belief that life begins at conception – a choice no company should have to make.  And by threatening extensive fines, the mandate would place a substantial burden on the Greens’ practice of their faith under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That’s why a federal appeals court ruled in their favor. Meanwhile, Hobby Lobby offers coverage for 16 of 20 drugs and devices included in the mandate in its health plan, and the four objectionable drugs and devices are widely available and affordable, and employees are free to obtain them.

There is obviously no law that is forcing any business to offer health care coverage that would include abortions.  The four birth control methods in question do not cause abortions to occur and seriously toe the line on when life is actually created.  To the woman using them, the IUDs are no different from any other birth control method.  Plan B and Ella are fantastic options for couples who experience an emergency such as a broken condom, or even a woman who was sexually assaulted and wants to ensure that no child results from the involuntary union.  It’s unfair to say that any woman who has used any of the four methods in question has potentially received a number of abortions.  It’s incorrect to compare the two.  Preventing implantation and removing a fetus are two VERY different things.


The biggest issue for me here is that the Supreme Court just allowed a company to make a health care decision for their employees.  Hobby Lobby is not directly handing money over to their employees per request for doctor visits and medications, but using United Healthcare (I believe) to provide coverage.  Their religious beliefs should not be allowed to have this long of a reach, and certainly should not be reaching into the health and well being of their employees.  The life begins at conception argument is a fine argument to make, but it’s not right for the religious standing of the people on top to affect the type of care that every single woman on the bottom will receive from their doctor at a reasonable or at no cost.

I’m worried about what this decision will mean for the future.  If a gay couple adopts and requests maternity leave, can that be denied due to religious objections to homosexuality?  Can an employer decide that no medications will be covered due to their religious belief that medicinal healing goes against their God’s will?  Those seem like ridiculous notions, but then again I thought that it was ridiculous for Hobby Lobby to object to those four “evil” forms of birth control.  And here we are.  God trumps law.  God trumps employee rights.  God trumps insurance companies, doctors, and individuals unable to start their own business and play nicely with the people they employ.  Maybe I’m off base here but in my opinion, if I’m not having an abortion on company time and/or on company property, it is none of my employers goddamn business what I choose to do and certainly not their right to control the quality of my health care.

Please weigh in!  Leave your thoughts, knowledge, opinions, and rants in the comments section.



Choose Life Or Else

Recently, a federal judge in North Carolina has decided that a plan for his state to offer Pro-Life license plates is unconstitutional, based on the fact that there is no plan or proposal to offer Pro-Choice plates as well in order to represent both viewpoints fairly.  His decision was based on his interpretation of the First Amendment and that the Pro-Life plate without a Pro-Choice plate to counter it would violate that amendment.


No matter where I happen to be headed, I always spot a vehicle with some sort of Pro-Life propaganda stuck to the rear bumper or window.  “Pro-Life:  It’s Not Just YOUR Body.”  “Babies Don’t CHOOSE Abortion.”  “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart.”  “It’s Not A Choice.  It’s A Child.”  The words vary, but the message is always the same:  Life begins at conception and to abort a fetus is to commit murder.  It doesn’t surprise me at all that a proposal would be made for vehicle plates to also display this message in North Carolina, following suit of many other states.  I’m just not quite sure I want to see it on any more government issued materials.

In my state, if you don’t wish to opt for the standard plate, you may pay extra and get a specialty plate for a university, various military branches, organizations such as Riley Hospital, D.A.R.E., and Breast Cancer Awareness, or sports plates for the Indianapolis Colts.  Some plates have an obvious message, such as D.A.R.E. to keep off of drugs and Humane Society to make a plea for the spaying and neutering of animals, but they are messages of safety, of common sense and reason, and of no controversy.  Only a fool would protest a cancer awareness plate.  Introducing a plate that addresses the issue of abortion is simply too much, yet I can go get one for my car if I wish.


The debate on whether or not abortion is murder and whether or not it should be legal is definitely a hot topic.  It’s one that demands discussion and desperately needs some sort of resolution.  It has the power to divide our nation and to fill people with rage and discontent.  It often is the deciding factor on who we vote into office, who we choose for medical care, and even who we associate with in our personal lives.  It’s an issue that, in my opinion, is easily resolved by making abortion 100% legal and 100% safe for women who choose that route and who are early enough in their pregnancy for it to be considered.  It is not an issue, however, that is appropriate to slap on a government issued vehicle identification plate.

As an atheist, I was bothered enough by having to pay extra for a Colts plate so I wouldn’t have the standard plate on my car with “In God We Trust” emblazoned along the bottom.  Indiana is not a state who can say that 100% of its population believes in God and can therefore have “In God We Trust” come standard on plates.  It’s discouraging that an option does not exist that doesn’t cost me extra, but at least there is the option to have a godless plate in favor of choosing one of the many causes or organizations offered.  The judge’s decision to deny the Pro-Life plate due to the lack of a second option makes sense to me, as I can relate, but the denial should also be because it’s just not appropriate.  License plates can and should be a form of self-expression, but they should not dip into controversial issues and should not force viewpoints upon society.


If the concern is children who aren’t being given a chance at life and if the goal in the Pro-Life plates is to generate extra funding to assist pregnant women who are conflicted and who need assistance, surely some middle ground can be found that will appease all parties without being forceful or inappropriate.  The concern is obviously for children, so why not come up with a plate with a background that emphasizes the rights of those of us who are too young to speak for themselves?  It needs to be kept neutral and positive, something that is unoffensive and unobtrusive.  As adults, we can do that.  Right?

Unfortunately I imagine that the majority of those who are in support of the Pro-Life plates, and those who already have one, are more concerned with having people be 100% informed that they are Pro-Life than about actually helping women in need and fixing the ongoing problems that the abortion debate has caused and will continue to cause.  They want their message to be heard loud and clear, demanding change without getting their hands dirty and doing any work in support of their cause.  If you feel strongly enough about something to slap it on your car and display it in public, you need to start feeling strongly enough to get involved and work to bring about change.  Talk is cheap, especially when it’s coming from license plates and bumper stickers.


With over half of the country issuing Pro-Life license plates and only six states not concerning themselves at all with it, it seems that I am in the minority in thinking that these plates are stepping over the line.  At the very least, since it doesn’t seem that we can rid ourselves of these plates, all states who offer them should also offer a Pro-Choice version.  It’s not the path I would like to see us go down, but at least it’s fair to both sides.  Ideally, we’d find middle ground, but I doubt people can be reasonable enough to get to that point and find a neutral solution.

Let me be clear; I have no problem whatsoever with people choosing to slap Pro-Life stickers all over their car, or even getting a vanity plate that spells out some sort of Pro-Life message.  My problem is with the fact that it’s on a license plate background.  My issue is that almost thirty states have this plate and only now has one judge in one state spoken up and denied it because it mutes one side of a very controversial debate.  This is no better than trivial office spats where people leave post-its on a dirty microwave to try to get someone to step up and clean it, only here we are using license plates instead of post-its and abortion rather than a mess.  Either way, sticking notes on things solves absolutely nothing.  The abortion issue will not be resolved via license plate.  We need to knock it off.

God’s Will And My Body

“You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case — of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”Richard Mourdock

I haven’t always been an atheist heathen.  I was raised Catholic, baptized as a baby, received my communion, and was confirmed as a member of the Catholic church as a teenager.  At 16, I would accompany a friend to youth group in the Baptist church he belonged to.  I prayed when things were good and prayed even more when things got rough.  I believed that my past friends and relatives were watching me from heaven and I hoped that I was a good enough person to land there myself.  And then, I went through a string of awful events in my life that no amount of prayer or belief could fix.  I was even shunned by a local Catholic church for having a child out of wedlock.  I lost my belief and I’m okay with it, but I do still understand and respect those who believe in God and would never insult them for it.

I was trying to avoid weighing in on Mourdock’s comment, but it’s been bothering me and I can’t seem to escape it.  It’s a topic that hits close to home in a way for me; I didn’t get pregnant due to a rape or anything of that nature, but I went through some other things on the list of things a woman should never experience.  I also lost 90% of my belongings, including things that are irreplaceable.  The list goes on and is a tad too personal to list here, but the point is that I suffered and was surrounded by people telling me that it was God’s will and that God had a plan for me.  God was pushing me, testing me, and preparing me for something great.  God would never give me more than I could handle, so I shouldn’t worry.  God knows best.  I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that my personal shit storm was part of some greater being’s plan for me.

I understand the belief that life is a gift from God.  The creation of a human life is a special thing regardless of religion and should be respected.  I understand the belief that life begins at conception; I don’t think the fetus can be considered a life until further into the pregnancy, as it is too underdeveloped in those early stages, but I respect those who believe it begins at the moment the sperm and the egg collide.  What I do not and cannot respect is the idea that God has it in His plan for women to be brutally raped and for a pregnancy to result.  I do not believe God would want these women to be mentally scarred and to bear a child that is a constant reminder of this violent and personal attack.  I do not believe that anyone would continue to worship a God that would cause so much pain and suffering, throwing babies into awful situations with abandon.

This is ultimately an issue of whether or not abortion is right and proper.  Is it wrong for a woman to get an abortion regardless of the situation or is it wrong only when abortion is used as a form of birth control due to the irresponsible actions of the man and woman?  Mourdock isn’t the only one who feels abortion is wrong; Republican Todd Akin stated that women cannot get pregnant if they are victims of “legitimate rape” because their bodies will just say no.  It amazes me what people will say when they are pro-life and believe abortion to be a horrible and unthinkable act.  To say that a pregnancy caused by rape is God’s will or to say that a pregnancy is impossible if the rape isn’t legitimate is insulting, incorrect, ignorant, and pretty idiotic.

The National Abortion Federation states that “surgical abortion is one of the safest types of medical procedures. Complications from having a first-trimester aspiration abortion are considerably less frequent and less serious than those associated with giving birth. Early medical abortion (using medications to end a pregnancy) has a similar safety profile.”  Research shows that abortions performed before the 24th week of pregnancy do not cause the fetus any pain since they happen before cells are specialized, so there can be no pain to the fetus because there are no nerve cells formed yet.  In some cases, choosing abortion is a better option than having the baby.  This naturally doesn’t mesh well with everyone’s beliefs, but women should be given the right to choose and to seek out abortions so long as they are done safely in a clinic and done early on in the pregnancy.

Abortion is now and should remain an option for women who are raped and find themselves pregnant while still reeling from their attack.  Women should have the right to rid themselves of every memory of a rape, especially in the case of incest, without being made to feel guilty, to feel like monsters, or to feel like it wasn’t a rape because they secretly wanted it to happen.  I find it wrong when women get 7 or 8 abortions due to their irresponsibility with birth control, but I respect their right to do what they wish with their body and with the fetus prior to it becoming too developed.  In the case of rape, there should be no question of whether a woman has the right to abortion, and especially no nonsense about the father’s rights; once he made the decision to sexually assault a woman, he lost his rights to any child that may have come from that attack.

It frightens me a bit how much and how strongly religion is brought into politics.  There is meant to be a separation between church and government, and we’ve definitely seen evidence of this in our schools, as Christmas celebrations have become treeless holiday parties, prayers are banned, and God must be absent.  We are so extreme about keeping our children in a religion-free learning environment, yet the people who we elect to lead us, both state and countrywide, are allowed and almost expected to make their religion known and to quote their God while proposing policy?

This is not a country where God is an absolute.  Not to be rude, but you can’t prove His existence and you can’t force every person in this nation to accept Him as their one and only God.  As such, this country should not have to hear politicians throw God around while trying to create such serious policies as the legality of abortion and whether or not a fetus is a viable life during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Of course the politician should use their belief system to guide them, but they should not be coming out and stating that X is true because God says so.  That isn’t law.  To a nonbeliever such as myself, that is fiction.  It’s convenient to say God wills it so, and since God cannot be seen, heard, or confirmed, it’s all too easy to say X and Y is His will since it cannot be questioned.

Everyone is free to believe what they will, but when you are a person who has the power to change our nation, you must base your arguments in logic and provide concrete information and solid reasoning.  Had Mourdock simply stated that he has a moral issue with abortions in any case and while he sympathizes with woman in situations of rape and incest, he simply can’t say that he is in full support of abortion, I doubt people would be hitting him as hard as they are right now.  Instead, he chose to throw God into the mix and declare it His will that victims of rape and incest find themselves pregnant.  He made himself look foolish and he reconfirmed my belief that there are too many politicians using God as their scapegoat when they can’t quite find the right argument to use in order to make their point.

I want to conclude with the words of Reverend Susan Russell, Episcopal priest from California:

As a priest and pastor I can’t count the number of times I have met with, talked with, counseled with and engaged with people who struggle to make sense of “the God thing.” Many of those conversations start out with the statement “I don’t believe in God.” But once I get them to tell me about the God they don’t believe in, it turns out I don’t believe in that God either.  Because here’s the deal: If I thought my only choice was between “Richard Mourdock’s God” (who “intends” that a woman bear the child of her rapist) and “No God,” then I would be an atheist faster than Mitt Romney can change positions on a political issue.

But I am not an atheist. The God I know and serve is one of justice, love and compassion — not judgment, exclusion and condemnation. The Jesus I follow is the one who preached peace, challenged poverty and liberated women. And the church I belong to is one that stands proudly in the prophetic tradition — committed to putting our faith into action on the issues of social justice that challenge our generation just as our forbears did in theirs.

As theologically indefensible as I find his position on a woman’s right to choose, the First Amendment protects his right to be whatever kind of Christian or Muslim or Jew or Buddhist or Atheist they choose to be.  What the First Amendment does NOT protect is the right of any of us to write our theology into our Constitution — something Joe Biden got totally right in his vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan“I accept my church’s position that life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body.”

There are many things at stake in this presidential election, but choosing between faith and freedom is not one of them. Protecting the freedom of others to believe what they choose to believe about what “God intends” protects not only our own freedom to believe what “God intends” but defends our democracy from the very real threat of theocracy embodied in the policies of candidates like Richard Mourdock. And that is a battle worth fighting — no matter what you believe or don’t believe about God!

Life Begins At… Where Again?

I read yesterday that Mississippi will be voting shortly on a constitutional amendment that declares a fertilized human egg a legal person.  This “could effectively brand abortion and some forms of birth control as murder” according to The New York Times, who also report that “the amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest, and some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.” 

Upon conception, a fertilized egg is nothing more than a ball of unspecialized cells.  During the 5th and 6th weeks of pregnancy you begin to see the first signs of liver and lung formation as well as changes to prepare for ears and a mouth to grow, the arm buds form, and you have a bit of a tail.  In the 8th week, fingers and toes become apparent but are still webbed, the brain is developing, and genitalia begins to form.  The end of this week also marks the beginning of the fetal period, where most organs are present but still developing and operating at minimum.  The brain and nervous system don’t begin operating rapidly until week 27; activity prior to then is mostly simple reflexes and jerk reaction to stimuli.  It is at this point of major brain activity that I consider the fetus to be a person, as do many courts who have made certain cases double homicides when the mother is far enough along in her pregnancy that the fetus could survive outside the womb had it been given the chance.  Prior to that though, regardless of the joy parents feel once they learn they are expecting, what you are carrying isn’t legally or developmentally a person.  Not just yet.

Abortions are risky but they are no more dangerous than childbirth itself when performed in the first trimester, and some consider an abortion to be even safer than childbirth because there is a lesser amount of stress put on the body among other reasons.  There are women in this world who use abortion as a form of birth control, terminating pregnancies left and right because they are too irresponsible to use proper protection.  I don’t agree with abortion in this type of situation, but I also don’t oppose it because it is their right to do what they wish with their body.  They are not murdering a child nor are they taking someone’s life.  They can walk into a clinic and terminate as many pregnancies as they choose.  While I might think they’re irresponsible in their behavior, it’s not my place to comment to them on it nor is it my place to try to stop them.

What Mississippi is proposing is irrational; their argument is emotionally based rather than factually based.  They propose we decide that a sperm and an egg that joined just yesterday is the same thing as you and I, the same thing as my son and my husband.  They propose that the morning after pill, Plan B and others, should be illegal even though these pills do NOT terminate an existing pregnancy, but prevent it from happening which rids the body of nothing more than a few cells that have yet to implant and begin forming anything close to resembling a human being.  They propose that if I am raped by a strange man or a relative, I am stuck with my rape and/or incest baby because it’s the right thing to do, completely disregarding my emotional state and the fact that seeing this baby may make me insane, as it would be a constant reminder that I was violated.

Whether or not I have a baby is up to me, my husband, and partially my doctor as he or she would be there to advise me of negative consequences of conception and birth.  The government doesn’t have any say over my uterus and what I choose to keep in there or take out of there.  In general, abortions can be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, before the fetus is well-developed and well before it can survive outside of the womb.  This is the safest time for it to be performed and there is no reason whatsoever that any female should be denied an abortion so long as she’s of age and is physically fit to undergo the procedure.  She should not be called a murderer or chastised for her decision.  She should not have the government ruling her own body.

If I had a miscarriage at 22 weeks, my baby that would have been will not receive a death certificate because there was no birth certificate.  We don’t celebrate our day of conception, we celebrate birthdays.  I’m not 31, I’m 30 because my life began when I made my appearance at the hospital in New York and not when my parents decided it was baby making time.  You can’t claim your unborn baby on taxes because they don’t exist yet and have no social security number.  What Mississippi is proposing simply doesn’t fit with the way society works.  If life truly begins when that one lucky sperm burrows into an egg, then everything above and more must change as well.

Mississippi is proposing this amendment because they don’t like abortions.  Well, I don’t like traffic but that doesn’t mean we should pass a law to keep nonessential people off of the roads.  Abortion is a touchy issue and although I happen to support a woman’s right to choose, I have zero problem with people who are pro-life so long as they aren’t the extreme idiots who bomb clinics and murder doctors in between protests.  We all have our opinions about it, but an opinion and a feeling shouldn’t dictate the law.  It’s not wrong to terminate a pregnancy in the 8th week, it just makes certain people sad.  It’s not dangerous to terminate in the first trimester (and sometimes later) but it is very dangerous to allow government to have this control over us as well as to force women to seek abortion in dangerous places since they are unable to obtain one legally.

For every pro-life argument I hear I can think of two pro-choice counterpoints.  In an ideal world we would have no murder and no premature death and no disease or heartache.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a Pixar movie.  There are so many more important things for Mississippi and other states to do with their time other than find ways to ban abortions.  Rather than try and protect kids before they even come kids, how about spending time assisting children in our country who live in poverty, are abused and neglected, are born addicted to drugs because their mother couldn’t quit, who don’t receive proper education, who go hungry, who have disabilities and don’t get the proper assistance, or the countless other issues facing today’s youth.

I feel as though this push for government to control whether or not women can get an abortion is just one step down a slippery slope of insane controls to be handed over to the government.  Should they also tell me what method I must use during childbirth; can I use an epidural or must I use the water birthing method?  Will they allow use of condoms or will that be some sort of manslaughter since thousands of potential baby making sperm are going to waste?  How far will it be allowed to go?  I can only hope that the majority of people out there feel as I do and this insane vote to amend the constitution becomes ancient history.

UPDATE 11/9/11:   Mississippi voters Tuesday rejected a controversial amendment that would have defined life as beginning at conception.

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