Which Candidate is Pro-Life?

If you’re Christian (and especially if you are a Catholic Christian), you’re likely to want to vote for the pro-life candidate. The question is: are either of the major party candidates pro-life, and, if so, which one? Many say that Trump is the pro-life candidate because of his promise to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, but is this credible, or enough? Here’s my take on it. I am using the website onetheissues.org as a way to quickly check their stances.

Abortion

Trump is now claiming to be pro-life, but his statements in that regard are hardly stellar. In one breath he praises Planned Parenthood, but in the next says it must be defunded, or just the abortion part. He says he’s against late abortions, but gives an exception for rape, incest, or health. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong. Full stop. No exceptions. Also, the health of the mother exception could be broadly applied, depending on the doctor. Furthermore, since technology has advanced to the degree it has, second trimester babies can survive! I personally know a 24-weeker, so I fail to see why such a child would need to be aborted instead of delivered and cared for. As far as I know, he has said nothing about how to reduce the number of abortions beyond restricting abortion (and as I pointed out, his statements on that sound more like rhetoric than anything that would make a real difference, in my opinion).

Clinton, of course, is pro-choice. She uses some of the same language, though, saying that she’d support restrictions on late-term abortion, provided there are exceptions for the life/health of the mother. Sounds rather like Trump’s statement, there. Despite what some viral posts have said, she hasn’t said she’d legalize abortion to 36 weeks with no exceptions. She has also said that she would prefer to encourage foster and adoption as a way to reduce the numbers of abortion. I know many who would love to foster or adopt but who have been unable to do so because of cost, waiting lists, etc.

ETA: I just learned that Clinton is in favour of abolishing the Hyde Amendment, and that is not good.

Conclusion: Neither candidate is truly anti-abortion. One could debate whose stance would reduce the number of abortions more.

Court:

This is the point that many stress, saying that the next president will likely appoint 3-4 justices. Here, though, we can’t just look at what the candidates say, but at what the Senate make-up will likely be. Trump says he’ll appoint justices like Scalia (though in the past he’s commented that his sister, who is liberal, would be a good justice); it’s a pretty good bet Clinton would not appoint justices like Scalia. I think the GOP shot itself in the foot, though, when McConnell refused to even allow a vote on Gardiner, who is a moderate and could have made a good justice. So I’m not confident that there will still be a Republican majority in the Senate, which means that if Trump is elected, he’s going to have to compromise on his choices if the Senate is to approve them. I don’t know if either side will have filibuster-proof majority, so Clinton may also have to make concessions to avoid a filibuster.

Immigration:

Trump has said he wants to add an ideological test to immigration and to restrict/ban Muslim immigrants from entering.  Besides violating the Constitution, it also isn’t pro-life. These are people seeking relief from horrible situations (some of them). We don’t believe in only helping people who are Catholic – we believe in helping everyone because we are Catholic.

Clinton has said she’d end the mass deportations and such, though I was under the impression that she was involved with that under Obama.

Healthcare and family leave:

I have no idea how Trump feels about paid family leave, though if I had to guess I’d venture to say he’s against a federal law on that. I could be wrong, though, so I won’t take that into consideration. He’s in favour of more competition with health care. On the one hand, I can see how would seem to make sense, except that I think, in practice, the poorer people would still be up a creek. Access to good health care shouldn’t hinge on the economic status of the person seeking it.

Clinton is a supporter of paid family leave, which is a huge need. So many parents must return to work immediately after the birth of a child, even though that isn’t in the best interest of the parent or child, because they cannot afford to stay home even for a few weeks. Supporting paid family leave is pro-life. Having a policy like that may even reduce abortions because a woman will know she doesn’t have choose between losing her job, paying for day care, or having a child. Interestingly, she doesn’t seem to be in favour of a single-payer system, so that needs work. Everyone needs to be able to access truly affordable health care (and that is not possible at the moment, at least in my state).

So, yay for paid family leave. Neither is perfect on health care.

Gun control:

Yes, I consider gun control to be a pro-life issue. Many seem to have this idea that they’ll be John Wayne and save the day; I’m sceptical.

Trump says mental illness is the problem but that guns save lives. Clinton points out the high number of gun deaths in this country (which, yes, includes suicides and accidents, but those things wouldn’t be as common, either, without those guns) and supports gun control. To me, that is pro-life. I know others disagree and point out that there are law-abiding gun owners. I know that. I also see how some gun supporters have this idea that they’ll then be safe, yet in order to be a responsible gun owner you can’t just keep a loaded gun in easy reach because you have to ensure kids can’t to them (thus the accidents). I know that wouldn’t apply in every situation, since there aren’t always kids around. I also see how police must immediately assume that people have guns, and therefore there is a more adversarial approach to policing. Maybe it’s just because I lived in the UK, where neither the citizens nor the police carry handguns, and I never felt the need for one. Even when my house was broken into (while we were at home), I didn’t feel the need to have a gun, and I doubt I would’ve been safe with one because I would’ve been too quick to grab it if I had it. I know that isn’t a universal. Also, I feel that just blaming mental illness isn’t an answer. It’s true that many mass shootings are carried out by those with mental health issues, but the vast majority of those with mental illness are danger only to themselves and need help, not further stigma. I am not stigmatizing gun owners (or I’m not trying to do so), because I know the majority are good citizens. I simply see no good reason why everyone needs the ability to own hand guns.

Jobs

Trump has contradictory statements, at one time saying to raise the minimum wage and another time saying the opposite. I can hope that his most recent statement (raising it) is what he’d actually do, but given his frequent contradictions, I don’t know that I can trust that.

Clinton also says she’d raise the minimum wage. Both say they’ll bring back jobs from China. They aren’t incredibly different in their statements here.

Death Penalty and Torture:

Trump supports both of these. Interestingly, so does Clinton, to a degree. She does say that torture cannot be part of our policy, but did condone some exceptions in 2006, apparently.

So, who is pro-life? Neither of them. You could weigh the different issues and see which one is more pro-life if you insisted on voting with a major party, or you could find a third party that is truly pro-life (I recommend looking at the American Solidarity Party), or abstain from voting in the presidential election. Just don’t claim that one of the major party candidates is truly pro-life, because it isn’t true.

On Listening

Dear person with whom I only spoke briefly but who was so sure you knew the cure for my son’s cvs:

I was hurt by your comment. Not because of what you said, but because you didn’t listen. You didn’t listen, because you didn’t even ask. You didn’t ask what the cause of it is (for him, it’s caused by a fatty-acid disorder that requires him to take L-carnitine daily). You didn’t know that there are others in the family with milder symptoms of this, and that I am also on L-carnitine to treat this. You didn’t ask if diet played a role (it does, but not in the way you suggested; we know that dairy is a trigger for him at times, as is chocolate). You didn’t know that we’d tried fixing it without meds, but that it didn’t work. You didn’t ask, and therefore didn’t know, that he sees a good team of doctors, in genetics and GI, who have actually gotten his episodes under control. You had no idea how often I’ve heard that my boys would be cured if they just made this or that dietary change and that I’m just fed up with hearing it.

I would’ve gladly told you all these things, if you’d asked and listened. Really. I don’t openly share these things unbidden, but if you had shown you were truly interested and asked, I’d have divulged more details.

But then, I wasn’t listening to you, either. I didn’t listen to the subtext in what you were saying. In telling me that this dietary change would fix my son’s problem, I didn’t listen to hear that, most likely, you or someone in your family had had a great success with a medical issue through making this dietary change. I didn’t listen for the gratitude you have for that cure, and the excitement to share that relief with others. I didn’t think to remember the times I’ve found a seemingly miraculous fix and have been overzealous in sharing that with others without listening to their unique situations. Situations where the cure I found might not work for them.

Maybe next time you’ll ask and listen before immediately suggesting a cure. Maybe in your zeal you’ll forget to listen. I can’t control that. But I hope that next time, I’ll be sure to listen to the subtext and not completely dismiss you, even if I don’t think your suggestion a good one for me.

Being Frugal and Saving Isn’t Enough

Did you hear about the family with 13 kids and no debt? Now, let me begin by saying that I’m happy for them, truly, but I am also angered at the insinuation in the article that their feat is possible for everyone. They don’t even see how they have been very privileged in their opportunities and contacts and such.

For example, the article said that, at the husband’s first job when they were married with kids, he never made more than $36,000, as if that is a mere pittance. It isn’t a huge salary, to be sure, but it is more than a lot of families make. Even a small difference in salary can make a huge difference. He later got a better job that made $40,000, then $60,o00, then $110,000/year, so hardly the norm for a lot of people.

Then there’s the mention of saving 25% of their income. That is laudable! I often see people saying to save 10%, give 10% to Church, and live on the other 80%. Even that is a stretch for many families, though. For some, every cent earned is spoken for, and nothing can be put back in savings, no matter how frugal and how much they plan. So telling such families that they just need to plan better and be more frugal doesn’t actually address the fact that the ability to put back in savings isn’t always possible even with doing that.

Speaking of being frugal, I couldn’t help thinking about how the things they bought to eat, which are indeed on the cheaper end of things, wouldn’t work for my family. I know having a nightshade allergy isn’t common, but not being able to buy potatoes does make a huge difference with the grocery bill. As does needing to buy coconut milk, rice milk, and Earth Balance. Oh, and the chicken breasts which are more expensive than thighs, but child with gallstones can’t eat the thighs. Obviously if no one in the family has special dietary requirements, then shopping as they did is possible and is a good lesson, again assuming one has the cash available to take advantage of the specials (there’s a good article on how being poor is actually quite expensive because you can’t take advantage of sales and specials and buying in bulk).

They bought a house out of foreclosure, saving quite a bit. That’s great. The house was in great disrepair, and they were able to get friends to help with everything. That may not sound like much, but having that kind of help is huge. Not everyone has that kind of community. I wish they did. I also have a bit of an issue with the possibility of profiting off of someone else’s misfortune. Maybe it’s just because we sold our house on a short sale and are still paying on a house we no longer own, but I’m rather sensitive about such things.

Finally, they speak of how others have given them a lot of things, including cars. That is huge! I know people with fewer kids who need cars but aren’t gifted them. Again, let me be clear that I’m thrilled that people are generous to this particular family. However, this point shows that it isn’t just the family’s own efforts that have made all this possible. Having access to a reliable vehicle is a huge need for a lot of families, especially in the (many) areas without reliable public transportation.

I’m glad this family has been so lucky. Let’s just no pretend that all families can do what they did, or that they did this all themselves without a ton of help from their community. Let’s recognize that they had a lot of advantages, and made the most of them.

Why I Can’t Be Colorblind

“I don’t see color. Everyone is awesome and the same in my eyes.” Thus says the white “colorblind” person. That was how I looked at life for many years, never realizing that simply doing that was itself a sign of my white privilege.

When I said I didn’t see the differences in color, I didn’t consider the different heritage of the other person.

When I said I didn’t see the differences, I didn’t see that the other person was treated differently just because of his skin color.

When I said I didn’t see the differences, I imagined people of every color living exactly the same way I, as a white woman, do. I pictured this ideal as everyone conforming to white culture, not considering that to do that, they had to lose their own.

So no, I’m not colorblind now. I see the differences – their beauty, yes, but also their struggles. I know there are struggles others have that I will never have, simply because I was lucky enough to be born white. I’m not perfect at this. But recognizing it is the first step. Here’s to many more steps in the right direction (I hope).

Yoga

Every so often I hear the argument that the asanas from yoga are inherently sinful/satanic and that those who use yoga* for exercise are opening themselves up to demonic possession/influence. Now, if someone is incorporating Hindu philosophy in their practice of yoga, even without the overt worship of Hindu gods and goddesses, I could see that being true. The question, then, is whether simply doing the motions as a part of stretching is de facto participation in Hindu philosophy. I would contend that it’s entirely possible, and that the majority of those in the west who practice yoga are simply exercising.

Objection 1: specific motions absolutely mean specific things.

This is the first thing I often I hear. It’s the idea that, even if someone has no knowledge or intention of worshipping a Hindu god, putting yourself into a certain position is de facto worship of that god and will open you up to demonic influence (since pagan gods are demonic).

This objection has always puzzled me because, as Catholics, we are often at the receiving end of similar objections from some Protestants. Certain Protestants insist that we Catholics worship Mary and statues. Their proof is that we bow and kneel before images. Since bowing and kneeling are used in worship, the argument goes that a Catholic bowing or kneeling before a statue is therefore worshipping the statue (or what the statue represents). Catholics (rightly) counter that bowing or kneeling alone is not sufficient to be worship, but that intent matters. After all, we say, bowing to your partner in square dancing doesn’t mean you’re worshipping that other person. Therefore, bowing alone doesn’t mean we’re worshipping, and so that argument is invalid.

Similarly, I’d say that our intent with yoga matters. If I’m doing the sun salutation to worship the sun, that’s a problem. If I’m doing it to stretch out my back, that isn’t.

Objection 2: the asanas were developed specifically to worship Hindu deities

That leads me to the second objection, which states that the asanas were developed specifically for the purpose of worshipping Hindu deities. This line has been often repeated, and so I decided to do a bit of detective work to see if this was true. What I found surprised me. As it turns out, most of the asanas are modern inventions and are actually the result of British influence! British calisthenics were combined with native practices to create these asanas. So the motions are not inherently tied to Hindu gods, but are, I would contend, a perversion of good stretches.

Objection 3: more on objection 1

In Objection 1 I dealt with consciously doing certain postures, but for the purpose of exercise, not worship. There’s another side to that objection, though, which is: what happens if someone unintentionally performs a yoga posture? For example, if someone is standing up, is he automatically in mountain pose? If a person squats down in a wide squat, is she in goddess pose? Can one do yoga unintentionally? If my child gets a cut on his finger and comes to show me, with just his middle finger extended, is he making a rude gesture?

I think the answer to all of those is no. Again, intent matters. There’s nothing inherently rude about a middle finger – saying there is is a perversion of my good body. There’s nothing inherently wrong with squats and stretches and the like, whatever it is called. If someone is seeking solely to exercise and stretch, I fail to see the problem.

Objection 4: Namaste is pagan

This objection is somewhat tangential, though not completely. One of the objections I sometimes hear about yoga is that the word Namaste, often used in yoga, is a pagan word and should not be said. The problem with that is that Namaste is actually the way you greet someone in the Hindi language. A Catholic priest from India greeting someone in his native tongue would say “Namaste.” Just as “good-bye” originally was a contraction of “God by ye” but now holds no such connotation, so “Namaste” no longer is tied to Hindu religious beliefs. Now, if a person is saying it with the intention of making a statement of Hindu belief, that is different, but simply saying it is no different than saying hello, really.

Final point:

If a person truly believes that yoga is pagan and satanic and yet does it anyway, that is a problem. But if a person is simply trying to exercise and stretch, with no other thoughts in mind, I see no problem with it.

*When I speak of yoga (lower case y), I am speaking of stretches, not the Hindu practice, which I denote as Yoga with a capital Y. Whether the stretches should still be called yoga if no Hindu practice is involved is another matter.  Some are ok with the motions if called something different, like Pilates, and some contend that even that is wrong. For now, I continue to use the word yoga.

Reality of Labor

My post on the realities of NFP made me think about the reality of labor versus what I was told in my antenatal classes. The midwives running the classes were perfectly nice, and I know they were trying to fit in what they saw as relevant information for all while not scaring anyone, but I felt they did me a disservice. Moreover, the student midwife who was with me when I was in labor with Kieran must have believed the generalizations, because she didn’t listen too me as a  unique woman in labor, but thought of me as a “standard woman in labor.”

So what did they teach me in that class that didn’t match reality? The first was that there would always be at least a 30-60 second break between contractions, even at the height of labor. With my first, though, I could feel another contraction at the same time one was tapering off, so there was no break between contractions. Perhaps that was because he was posterior, I don’t know.

Speaking of the baby being posterior, no mention was made (as far as I remember) about how position in labor could affect the baby’s position. He didn’t turn posterior until I laid down on my back in labor. At that point, he turned and pressed on my sciatic nerve, making it nigh impossible for me to move out of that position again. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second and talking to my community midwife that I learned there were better positions for labor and birth that could minimize my chances of having the baby turn posterior and minimize the chance of tearing. For my other births I have chosen to labor upright on a birthing ball, and give birth either kneeling or on all fours.

In that class, we were also told how women tend to dilate about 1cm an hour. So when the midwife checked me while I was screaming that I couldn’t do this any longer and it turned out I was only 3cm, I gave up. The midwife didn’t look at me overall, just that number, and declared I had a long road ahead. An hour later I was pushing and he was born, because I’m that special person who doesn’t follow the “rules.”

I don’t remember any mention of the reality of transition, either. Oh, it was mentioned, but not in detail. This was the worst disservice, I feel, because had I known what transition was like, I would’ve known it was almost over instead of just giving up at that point. I know transition is incredibly difficult to describe, though the Bradley book does a good job of that. I wasn’t told that saying, “I can’t do this!” means you’re probably in transition and will therefore be pushing soon. I wasn’t told that the pain of labor in transition is at least partly psychological (not that the pain isn’t real, but that the struggle and pain is not just in the body, but in the mind and psyche – like I said, it’s hard to describe).

I wish these things had been noted in antenatal classes so that my first labor would’ve been a little less of a mystery. I wish I would’ve understand more what my body was doing that first time. I know it’s impossible to completely understand it before going through it, and even after that it’s a little different each time. I’m more confident in my body now, though (which my midwife appreciated, as I could tell her I’d phone for her when I started vocalizing because I knew I’d have 1-2 hours, max, from that point). I do understand that the midwives didn’t want to scare anyone, and they had to deal with a range of people who have different bodies, but I feel at least some of this could have been addressed to take away some of the mystery and better prepare us.

NFP: Awesome or Horrible?

In official articles on NFP, you often hear how wonderfully awesome it is. Go to the NFP Commiseration group, and you’ll hear some people say how horrible it is. So which is it?

It’s a bit of both, and it’s okay to admit that NFP sucks sometimes and yet is also a good thing. I’d argue that we need to be more upfront about the realities of NFP instead of painting it as all sunshine and roses, or as the worst thing ever. I think most couples will have times where NFP is nice, and times where it isn’t, just as they’ll have times where it’s easier to love each other and times where it isn’t. Just as fasting from food is a good, but hard, discipline, periodic abstinence is a good, but hard, discipline. Just as I don’t know anyone who really enjoys fasting from food, I don’t know couples who really enjoy the periodic abstinence. But, if you let it, it can bring benefits.

Sometimes the benefit, though, is simply endurance. This is where we need more realistic discussions on NFP. If someone were having a hard time dealing with fasting, we wouldn’t say, “you must be doing it wrong,” or “oh, but fasting is so wonderful!!!” No, we’d say, “I know it’s hard. Here are some ways that can help you get through it. And keep your eye on the big picture and the ways this can help you in your relationship with God if you let it.”

With NFP, though, the conversation tends to focus only on the potential benefits without any recognition of the difficulties, or else to focus only on the difficulties without talking about real ways to help through those times (and please don’t say SPICE). Ideally, both people in the relationship are on the same page when it comes to using NFP, but in reality that isn’t always the case, and this makes it more difficult for those couples. NFP can still bring benefits to such couples, but they also need strategies to help with the periodic abstinence. They need to know that, if one method requires long periods of abstinence, another method might be a better fit.

Thankfully, there are multiple good methods out there right now, and more being developed all the time. Now there are monitors and apps that can help take the guesswork out. Most of those are geared towards those who are seeking to conceive, but some, like Marquette, can use a monitor to achieve or postpone pregnancy. Many instructors, myself included, will work with couples online so they needn’t be reliant on whether there’s an instructor for their chosen method in their area.

So back to the point – NFP isn’t always wonderful, and it isn’t always horrible. It can be both, either, or neither of those. Real conversation about NFP acknowledges these facts, and seeks to offer real solutions, or at least real encouragement, for when it’s hard.