Dying, Again

My grandmother is dying, again. It’s something she does sometimes, almost dies but doesn’t. She’s been at it for nearly ten years. If she was a normal grandma and we had a normal relatirelationship, I’d probably be sad. Instead I’m holding my breath.

Waiting. Waiting to see if this dying takes, or if we’ve got another decade to go. Waiting to see if this is the time I can truly shake off the last shackle binding me to her. Waiting to have feelings about it all. 

I do love my grandmother. She abused me and she killed people, but I do. She was my primary maternal figure, both violent and fun. My best and worst childhood memories center around her, orbiting her as we all did. It feels perverse to love her, disrespectful to the dead. 

The woman she is now can’t remember tossing me into the backyard swimming pool as I squealed in rapture, can’t remember striking and killing a pedestrian with her car, can’t remember soothing me after nightmares, can’t remember all the lives her carelessness lost. It’s hard to think of her as even being my grandma. 

I’m waiting to know if this is time for the overpowering and ruinous emotions I expect to have when the woman I literally worshipped eventually dies. My coldness now is simply so I won’t have to be overwhelmed by grief and love for her more than once. Once is all I can take. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 34 (FINAL)

Contraception can be an asset, a tool, a path to freedom. Having control over one’s own fertility can be empowering. Hormonal birth control can reduce symptoms of menstruation, or even to stop menstruation altogether. In the United States over 90% of women have used some form of birth control (including barriers like condoms and cervical caps), including Catholic women. 

 A 2011 survey of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that one in four victims of domestic violence was subjected to birth control sabotage. Birth control sabotage is when one partner interferes with the other’s ability to use effective contraception. This can look like hiding or tampering with pills, refusing to wear a condom, or forbidding their victimized partner from using contraception. 

While the common trope of this depicts a woman puncturing a condom to ensnare a man, the reality is the opposite. Most victims of birth control sabotage are women and most perpetrators are men. Abusive men know that pregnancy and children together are highly effective means of keeping their targets financially or otherwise reliant on them, and therefore less able to leave. That’s why domestic violence victims have unplanned pregnancies and abortions at higher than average rates. 

There is a cultural stereotype of a woman who has had multiple abortions: she’s foolish and slutty, possibly insane, most likely on drugs, and should probably be sterilized for her own good. This doesn’t reflect the truth, that clinic staff are trained to spot multiple abortions in a short timeframe and recognize that as a red flag; that most patients who have three or more terminations are being deprived the right to prevent pregnancy, and that forced sterilization is eugenics. 

Birth control itself is not eugenics. Abortion itself is not eugenics. Eugenics comes when cognitively disabled people are sterilized against their will, when generations of Native children are stolen, when Puerto Rican women are used for experimental drug trials without their knowledge or consent. The racism, ableism, and classism underpinning eugenics socially and financially coerce poor, disabled, single, young, and women of color to control their births more than they would like. That is the real eugenics. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 33

Much as I wish eugenics ideals were only favored by the now-openly-Nazi political right in America, that’s not the case. Abortion rights proponents are often quick to cite fetal disability as a strong reason to keep abortion legal. While I support unrestricted abortion access without requiring a reason, this special exempting for disability makes me uncomfortable. Fetal disabilities vary from incompatibility with life to conditions which are not fatal at all. 

Since the introduction of prenatal testing for Down Syndrome, a non fatal chromosomal disability, the abortion rate for positive test results has grown steadily higher. It is now estimated over 90% of positive test results lead to abortion. Of those which don’t, only some of the resulting children have a form of trisynomy. False positives occur, but at a rate which I could not find reliable citation for. 

Research funding for an autism “cure” has predictably been shunted to genetic testing, and scientists are closing in on identifying which genes are “risk factors” for the neurology type many suspect Albert Einstein had. “Excessive” brain growth in utero has been determined to be a sign of autism detectable in the wound. It breaks my heart to know this scientific advancement will mostly be used to discourage autistic birth, to eugenically select against autism. 

When the Zika virus was first linked to microcephaly, many activists and organizations called on the Vatican to lift its total abortion ban given the weight the Church has in Central and South American laws. They argued that surely the aged religion could make an exception to prevent disability. The church did not. Once the matter was settled, those same abortion proponents mostly did not turn to fundraising for children with microcephaly or resources for their parents. Nor did the Vatican. 

Both the anti choice right and pro choice left despise disabled people. Both sides engage in “inspiration porn” which objectifies disabled people. Both use us. The right claims every life is sacred and demands we be born, while cutting every social welfare program that could give us a decent quality of life. The left is more willing to tolerate our present numbers, but largely doesn’t question the premise that preventing more disabled life is the most moral path to take. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 32

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder. 

After the murder of Dr. Slepian the killings stopped, for a while. Dr. Ggeorge Tiller, who survived a 1993 assassination attempt, was gunned down in his church on May 31, 2009 in Wichita, Kansas. In 2015 a shooter attacked a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three and injuring many more. He was found incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. 

So-called “lone wolf” terrorists like these are sometimes mentally unstable, prone to conspiracy theories and extremist beliefs. The mainstream anti abortion movement knows such insane people are in their midst. Instead of urging caution, temperance, and mental health care among picketers, they ignite their passions and fury. When Republican politicians and Christian preachers call abortion providers “baby killers”, radicalized people hear ” justifiable homicide.”

One of the extremist charges picketers like to claim is that abortion is slavery, or the Holocaust, or genocide. They like to invoke the revulsion we feel about such racial horrors, but are themselves antisemitic and racist. White elderly men shout abuse at poor black teens and adults trying to get abortion care, not knowing or caring that the maternal mortality rate in the US is two to six times higher for black patients than white. 

In the United States and in the world, roughly one in three women will need an abortion in her life. But this figure conceals who needs and want abortions the most often, and who can access them. In the US the most common abortion patient is a white woman, yet white women terminate at one of the lowest rates. Women and trans gender people of every race, religion, and economic class terminate, but poor single mothers terminate most often.  

Eugenic pressures and prejudices against young mothers, single mothers, poor mothers, disabled mothers, and mothers of color all influence the uneven frequency and distribution of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Those same population groups are the most likely to have difficulty accessing reliable contraception, for all that they are not trusted to raise their own offspring. The only approved course of action is adoption: giving the babes to older, married, financially secure, abled, white mothers to be properly raised. 

Eugenics & Contraception, part 31

This post includes stories of terrorism and murder.

One month after the contentious 1996 election, an assailant stabbed Dr. Calvin Jackson eleven times, causing him to lose fourteen pints of blood before he was stabilized. The stabbing took place outside Jackson’s New Orleans medical practice. Police apprehended the man responsible later that day when he entered a Baton Rouge clinic, but they released him. His whereabouts are unknown. 

A series of attempted murders began in 1994, with three Canadian abortion providers shot in their homes by sniper rifle. Dr. Garrison Romalis was shot in 1994; Dr. Hugh Short was shot in 1995; and Dr. Jack Fainman was shot in 1997. All three doctors survived. Another non fatal shooting took place in Rochester, New York on October 28, 1997. Dr. David Gandell was injured by flying glass but not struck by the sniper’s bullet. 

Those shootings were never solved though many pro choice activists and researchers believe the man responsible is currently in prison for murder. The Vermont born terrorist joined the Lambs of Christ – a Christian Identity violent, racist, homophobic, anti contraception and abortion Roman Catholic group. Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot in his kitchen at around ten o’clock at night on October 23, 1998. He died of his injuries. 

The murderer fled the country. While the anti abortion terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s had sought notoriety and martyrdom, standing around and waiting to be arrested, the more political terrorists of the 1990s tried to evade capture. He was placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted list. The killer went through Mexico and Ireland before being apprehended by French police. The US Attorney General promised the death penalty would not be an option, as condition of the extradition treaty with France which abolished capital punishment in 1981. 

The killer was convicted of second degree homicide and sentenced to the maximum of 25 years to life imprisonment. He was also charged and convicted in federal court with violating the Free Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and with illegal discharge of a firearm. For that he received a sentence of life in prison, plus ten years. He is serving these sentences at a Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia. 

Guest Post: MS Awareness 8/8

I live with chronic pain – every moment of my life is pain of one degree or another. I am currently able to work full-time, but that is due in part to my ability to work from home if necessary and the flexibility my manager allows me such as leaving early on days I’m not feeling well or letting me have days off no questions asked because I just need a rest. I also have a handicapped parking placard hanging in my car because walking for long distances not only exhausts me, but it causes muscle spasms in my back and legs which increases my pain dramatically; I’ve even had spasms in my back so severe they dislocated a rib.

However, I didn’t realize that’s what happened – I thought I just had a very painful muscle knot in my side. It wasn’t until I asked my wife (who at this point is my full-time caregiver, doing things like cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, and doing the lion’s share of caring for our pets because I no longer am able to do so) to massage my back and then felt the rib pop back into place (resulting in literally instant relief) did I realize what happened. I had spent an entire week with a dislocated rib, working every day and just assuming I had a very bad muscle knot that needed to be worked out.

There is good news, however. I now have a wheelchair so I can go on more outings (being limited to either home or work has been detrimental to my quality of life) both in my neighborhood (which has wonderful walking trails, beautiful foliage and wildlife, and a gorgeous lake) and to things like the mall, museums, or coming up here soon, Tampa Pride. I also have been on the same medication for over a year now with positive results – not only have I had zero relapses in over a year, but my most recent MRI shows no active lesions and no new lesions which means as of right now, my MS is stable. This is the best possible thing to expect while dealing with this disease and I hope my remission lasts a very long time.

I wanted to make March all about MS in my small world – making daily posts with facts about Multiple Sclerosis in an attempt to educate people who may not know much, if anything, about it. Facebook is how I’ve been sharing information and when I was offered the opportunity to create a post for Ania and Alyssa’s blog, I had to take advantage. For such a common disease, most people know nothing about it, to the point where people find out I have it, tell me their relative or friend or neighbor has it, and then proceed to ask me about it because despite knowing someone dealing with MS, they don’t actually know anything about MS.

It can be scary, it can be isolating, but it isn’t the end. Multiple Sclerosis is not a death sentence and you can live a fantastic life with it. I know I am.

Guest Post: MS Awareness 7/8

The next morning I received a visit from the staff neurologist who sat on the edge of my bed to tell me he knew what was wrong with me; he calmly told me all the tests confirmed a condition called Multiple Sclerosis. I then blew his mind when I in turn calmly told him that I was familiar with the disease as my father had it (he passed away in 2007 from heart failure unrelated to his MS) and my half-sister (my father’s daughter from his first marriage) has MS. I told him I knew what it was and I was just relieved it wasn’t a brain tumor or stroke (the two fears that had been plaguing me since the ambulance picked me up).

He let me know they’d begin intravenous high dose steroids, getting me a referral to the University of Florida’s neurology department, and providing me with a prescription for a medication I was to take daily via injection. Shortly after, a social worker from the hospital came to speak to me and she let me know my insurance might cover at home care for the remainder of time I needed the IV steroids. Lucky for me my insurance plan DOES cover that option and I was able to be released from the hospital on my third day. The remaining two days I needed the IV treatment, a nurse came to my home and administered everything. The medication was sent to my home same day via courier.

This began Hell Year. 2014 was nothing but back to back relapses and a rapid worsening of my condition. The medication prescribed wasn’t working and my new neurologist was trying to find something that would. I was out of work for over a month after I was released from the hospital and I spent most of that month taking IV and then oral steroids. I would wean off the steroids only to be hit again with worsening symptoms in a matter of days.

What began as vertigo and nystagmus quickly morphed into muscle spasms, muscle weakness, partial paralysis of my throat, jaw, and tongue, neuropathy in roughly 80% of my body, and chronic pain. I lost feeling in my hands and arms and had to re-teach myself how to write, type, and do basic tasks with my hands. To this day I only have partial feeling in my hands, neuropathy which will never go away.

A year and a half after my diagnosis I was on my second DMT and woke up one Saturday with no feeling below the waist. My wife had to carry me to the toilet, to the bathtub, had to bathe me. We had purchased a cane several months prior, but it wasn’t enough with no feeling in my lower body, so we bought a walker. It took five days of IV steroids and over five weeks of oral Prednisone before I arrived at my new normal, which is severe neuropathy in the left side of my body, especially my left leg and foot, and partial numbness in my feet and legs. I had to re-learn how to walk and still have to drive barefoot as I cannot safely feel the pedals if I have shoes on.