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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Did you hear about the 16-year-old boy who had a late-term abortion? No, it's not the setup for a sick joke. It's an extremely rare fetal anomaly, and Bitch. Ph.D is using it as a hook for her discussion on how we might reframe abortion. (Let me say, right now, it's tough to reframe the abortion debate. Ever since Roe, we've had two diametrically opposed sides, who are so convinced they're right that they've completely stopped paying attention to the other side. Abortion is not THE issue, but if we could resolve this issue to everyone's satisfaction, the other issues would all look a lot easier.)

It seems clear to me that no one will argue with the removal of a parasitic twin from an adolescent boy's body, given that the twin is presenting serious health risks and has no chance of independent survival. Some folks will say that under NO circumstances will they consider an abortion moral, not in cases of rape or incest, not to preserve the health of the mother. Even these folks, if they are sane, will agree to abortion procedures to save the life of a woman whose fetus has no chance of survival. Ectopic pregnancy (outside the womb, most commonly in an oviduct) is fatal in every case if the fetus is not aborted--and there's currently nothing to be done to save the fetus or allow for for re-implantation. So, as much as the anti-abortion crowd would like to deny it, the question is not if abortion is moral, but when it is moral.

Friends of mine, quite recently, have been trying for a baby. For three years. With fertility drugs. And adoption plans. And donor sperm, guaranteed to be "A+" swimmers. Like others in this situation, they carry a high risk of multiple pregnancy/birth. They are also aware of every pregnancy, even the non-viable ones which implant for a couple days, raise the HCG levels, and waltz off into oblivion. When they told me they were pregnant, I was not impressed. When she went back the next week and the embryo was still there, I was slightly hopeful. They went for their five-week checkup and ultrasound last week, and there was a baby/pregnancy. One of each, in fact; an ectopic pregnancy and a normal, viably implanted embryo. Since that moment there has been a crisis of terminology: is it an embryo, a baby, a "product of conception," or what? How is it possible for these two embryos, fertilized minutes apart, developing at the same rate, to be two such different things? In the minds of the doctors attending them, one is a baby. The other is a problem.

The owner of the uterus/womb, not surprisingly, is torn up about this. She couldn't handle the thought of a termination, nor would it be the best course for their other embryo/developing child, so they went home for the weekend and hoped that things would "take their course". (Ideally, the ectopic pregnancy would not continue developing, and remove itself without requiring surgery or further trauma.) When they went back at the beginning of the next week, they found two heartbeats, amplified by the miracle of modern technology. For the baby/uterine pregnancy, this is a solid developmental milestone. For the embryo/ectopic pregnancy, this is a signal that they have to do surgery. They did so this morning. Mom and baby are fine. The other problem has been removed.

My friends were desperate to avoid this circumstance. Suddenly all the facts they know about this situation were called into question: Was there any way to move this embryo/baby/tubal pregnancy, to save it? (No.) Could they decline to act and see what happens? (She would have ruptured, bled out, lost her life and that of their child.) Was there any way to convince themselves that this "product" was not their future baby, if only it could have developed in the right place? We couldn't find any way to convince them that; we couldn't even agree on which nouns to use when describing their problem.

They were filled with what-ifs (was this the long-awaited girl, this aborted tubal pregnancy?) and told their other children much earlier than they planned to, since they could hide a pregnancy but not a surgery. She is still at high risk of miscarriage. They don't want to talk about baby showers yet. They are experiencing tremendous grief, didn't want to do what they did, despite the knowledge that she would have died, surely, without this intervention.

We can't agree on the nouns, but we keep using the same adjectives: scary. heartbreaking. uncertain. It is not an easy task, bringing life. Nor is it easy to terminate it. Woe to those mothers who must decide to do both at once.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday funnies

Overheard in New York.

Socks are the new sex aid!

Or maybe not.

Found via Pandagon. Who says:
Maybe for the person wearing the socks, sure.

But let's be honest here--nothing looks stupider than an otherwise naked person wearing socks. You don't need a scientific study to prove that, but if you conducted one, you'd probably find that straight women at least (I can't speak for anyone else) have a 50% reduction in ability to regard a man with lust if he's wearing nothing but socks. And, for the record, walking around with a T-shirt on and no pants is always funny.

Suddenly, I find myself on a quest for a sexy sock pattern. Who knows--it could be the new poncho.

Monday, June 20, 2005


No, not that one, ya geeks. Though I was Googling "Firefly" to brush up on my Mandarin. That's another post.

What is it with the idea of this glowy bug? Apparently the name and concept are marketable as a shorthand for "natural" communication. My first lightning bug of the season is always a big event (this year: June 10, in Delaware, Ohio.) and I think I'm not the only one who finds the chemical, Morse-code butts on these insects quaint and romantic. There's an internet phone service which goes by the name. (Though their PR leaves something to be desired: I'd never have found it if not for an unrelated Google search.) There's also the "mobile phone for mobile kids" made by Firefly Mobile, Inc. (Go click; I'll wait.) It is a cute looking little toy, and if you browse through the web page you will find that it comes with different backlights and different shells. It's tiny. It has five buttons. I should love it, and immediately want one for my future kids. Right?

It's also got a parental PIN so that any phone number that isn't stored in the Address Book (20 numbers) can't be received or dialed. If you're calling your little darling from a friend's cell phone, or from an emergency center, the call won't go through. There are big buttons for "Mom" and "Dad", with the international loo symbols on each button. So remember, kids, this phone is only for you if you have both a male and female parent with different phone numbers. You could, of course, program any numbers you wanted into those two hotkeys; "Mom" could be your local crisis center, "Dad" could be your financial advisor. I'm a little disheartened that it reinforces the idea that "normal" kids live in a nuclear family with lots of cell phones. I'm also disheartened at the big lack of text on the phone. I don't think it's a stretch, if I'm letting the boy out on his own with a cell phone, that he be old enough to read the words "Mom" and "Dad" on the screen.

It's small. And cute. And sturdy. And glows. It looks simple, and makes happy blinking lights. No one who is not on your "approved" list can get through.

1) "Mom, can I stay at the park a little longer?" Short answer: NO. My kid won't need a cell phone for that.
2) Since our generation doesn't have the ability to turn off the ringer, we will be physically unable to teach this skill to our kids. (This is already a problem. I was in two different seventh-grade classes this year and got interrupted by a cell phone. One poor girl was trying desperately to turn it off, and it made the Motorola-style "down the drain" noise as she was powering it down. The other incident occured during a dramatic pause in my presentation; I felt like I was the cautionary tale in the movie previews. It was even the archetypal Nokia ring. I threw her out and into the principal's office before the classroom teacher said a word.)
3) Getting unattended calls from the unlocked phone in the depths of your child's backpack, while she is playing with that disreputable friend you cannot stand. Since you're the parent, you feel compelled to listen and make sure she's not in any danger--then you start screaming into the phone, trying to get her attention so she will turn the damn thing off.

I can see the wisdom in giving tweeny kids the ability to connect with their parents, since schedules (post-cell-phone) have gotten so fluid and pay phones have become so scarce. But I'm convinced this isn't the way to do it. My kid's phone will be a full-feature device, with a "silent" option that she will learn how to use before she takes the thing to school. While we're at it, we'll put a clock on the front--analog, of course--and a built-in alarm so she'll have no trouble getting her sweet little butt home on time.

And I'll just keep that little blue toy for myself, and put the sushi delivery place on speed-dial.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

40 more years!

It's late, I'm tired, and I only have 56 minutes left to celebrate, but I feel that I should point out that today is the 40th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case which decriminalized contraception and family planning counseling for married couples.

Misia explains it in lovely fashion. Go read. Celebrate as you choose.

Friday, June 03, 2005

bad news, ladies...

It may not get any better than this.

The Kaiser RH report mentions a new study by the Boston University School of Medicine that says hormonal contraception may decrease a woman's sex drive even after she stops taking it. The big boost in sex drive we were all patiently expecting, after years of non-ovulatory ennui? It might happen. It might not. The study is small, and hotly contested, and the researchers are "very surprised" by the results. (Quote is from Panzey, one of the study's authors, not from the article.) Meanwhile, the other side claims that "the link between testosterone and libido is ... not proven." Um, the last time I looked at the research it seemed clearly proven. Anecdotally, the stories from a female on testosterone and a person who has been there and back are compelling, and seem to show that the relationship between testosterone and sex drive is fairly straightforward. I know more than a few women who would sign up for a little extra testosterone if it weren't so toxic.

This dismissal of the study results reminds me of a statement made recently by a male doctor (whose medical opinion I generally respect) that women didn't gain weight on "the shot" (Depo) because of the hormones, but because they knew they couldn't get pregnant and this subconscious knowledge contributed to their weight gain. Well and good, except:
1) It's not parsimonious. Instead of assuming this common side effect is due to the drug, it's being attributed to the female's emotions (literally, "it's all in her head").
2) Some women do get pregnant on Depo. This doesn't seem to have any relation to whether or not they've gained weight.
3) This drug was originally developed for use on male sex offenders, in hopes of lowering their sex drive. They gained weight, too.


other news from the war:

I don't even know if Brownbeck understands what he's proposing. Since the Catholic Church believes that assisted reproductive technologies are a "grave violation of the principle that procreation should occur naturally," (quote from the Washington Post), it seems absurd that they would go along with anyone donating "adopting" embryos. If you can only create embryos that some one else is willing to donate, then the only folks who will make the list are the very rich. These donations/adoptions are carefully screened, as well, so if your beliefs and lifestyle don't fit with those of the person offering fertilized eggs, they don't have to give them to you.

A gentle reminder to Wells and the other former villagers: if this is all getting a little too feminist for you, you can come back and post, too. The dear readers might welcome something un-ranty at this point.