Memo to Rick Santorum: Gifts from God Do Not Include Pregnancy Through Rape

These days I can’t seem to shake a stomach bug in which have caused me to forego two Cleveland Orchestra tickets, miss hours of work, watch Isaiah learn to say “Mama needs rest,” and feel sorry for myself for these and other mishaps.

However, when it comes to Rick Santorum’s latest comments on how raped women should “accept” a pregnancy committed through rape as a gift from God, my stomach issues vanish and suddenly the few coherent marbles rolling around in my head collide to forge a march against Santorum’s utterances.

SANTORUM: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.

Please note the language, description, and advice heaped upon the rape survivor… “She kills her child” “…accept what God has given to you.”

And when Rick Santorum says “we have to make the best out of a bad situation,” what he really means is “let’s just guarantee that kid gets birthed” because I’m pretty sure that Rick Santorum is not going to be by the side of every woman who is raped and ends up pregnant and left with the trauma and decisions of how to move forward. I’m also somewhat confident that Santorum has no idea what it’s like to be either raped or pregnant and inflicting both upon a woman and even suggesting or that it’s a gift from God may be one of the greatest distortions of God’s “gifts” I’ve heard in 2012.

I just lectured last night on the sacramental of confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which include wisdom, right judgment, courage, awe and wonder, understanding, knowledge, and reverence. SHOOT! I must have missed that passage where St. Paul referenced “pregnancy through rape” as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I should send my students an addendum to update that list.

Women who choose to birth their child after rape should have every possible support and resource available to them to cope and heal, physically, emotionally, and psychologically throughout every turn of their journey. Is it possible, too though, to stop demonizing women who do not choose this? Even if their decision is one you don’t agree with? Why is it more plausible to criminalize the abortion of a raped women than to increase the funding of non profits and social services who provide treatment and services to survivors?

I’d challenge and welcome any politician at any local, state, or federal level to speak intelligently to the social and societal norms that contribute to rape culture and gendered violence instead of pressing Santorum’s translation of God’s grace to raped women.
h/t to Feministe

Gendered Pain: A Free Write on Birth, Partnership and the Woman’s Body

There’s nothing sexy about pain.  There’s nothing even remotely redeeming, glorified, cute, or remarkable about pain.

I came into this realization quite quickly Sunday morning when I was dressing Isaiah for mass. I began lowering him to the floor, felt a horribly familiar pop! in my lower back and I immediately recognized that telling radiating heat that spread throughout my lumbar region as I fell on one knee. Isaiah screamed in my ear as he harmlessly wobbled back from me so he peer into my face to see what was wrong.  All he could see was my face going paler by the second and my breath quicken in short spurts and outbursts, trying to control the pain.

No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.

Not again.  Not again.  Not again.  NOT AGAIN.

I just got back to the gym this week.  I just started getting back on the treadmill, back in the zumba studio, back for my first swim in the pool.  I just …

I just got over my back injury from last month.

Remembering my phone was in the inner pocket of my purse, I slowly walked to my purse on the ground and gently leaned forward.  I reached and immediately fell and screamed in pain.

I somehow got my phone, I don’t remember how.  (A friend told me that when her back went out, she blacked out from the pain.)  I remember feeling calmed by the smooth surface of my phone, thanking God it was charged and relieved that Nick was only 5 minutes into his day, ahead of me, and on his way to work.  I whispered frantically to Isaiah that everything was fine and threw him a toy as I winced in pain.  He hobbled away, whimpering at the site of his mother in such disarray and distraction.

I burst into tears and could barely get the words out to Nick, “My back…w-w-went ou-ou-out a-a-a-gain…”

It was at that moment that I retreated from the world, the pain was overwhelming, almost blinding.

A co-worker told me later she saw Nick walking on the street when he was talking to me, all dressed up for work, briefcase in hand, but in an unusual walking speed, “a near run” she told me.  So she stopped and offered him a ride to wherever he was rushing to.  “Home,” he said, “Leese threw her back out again.”

It’s hormones, my chiropractor told me yesterday.  All the hormones and chemicals that loosen the pelvis and back, readying the body to deliver a baby, are still in your body and, likely, the lumbar region isn’t as tight as it was before and isn’t as strong.  Doing household chores and lifting things can sprain, strain, and injure the lower back, says the doc.

All of this from hormones?  Still?  It’s been 14 months.

Hormones and chemicals can linger in your body, doc says.

A number of friends – all who have given birth in the past two years – have confided of their recent and surprising chronic lower back pain, some so severe that it prevents mobility.  Few have found comfort.  All have tried natural healing, gym trainers, chiropractors, physical therapists. This strange community of back pain mothers comforts me.

I toss two pills of Alleve in my mouth and tried to smile at Isaiah in the kitchen.  He put his chubby arms up for me to carry him and starts grabbing my clothes for leverage, like trying to climb a tree.  Nick immediately scooped him up and tries to cheer him up with a jolly, overly boisterous voice.  The shriek out of Isaiah’s mouth was one I could interpret instantly, “What’s the matter with you?  Why won’t you pick me up?”  He’s taken away from me and, out of nowhere, I have an image of him being taken away from me the moment he was born when all I wanted to do was hold him.  I shake my head, and gently stir the boiling orzo.

Is this what birthing mothers deal with, I asked my head as I stare at the back of Nick’s body.  His is so strong, so solid.  Simply clad in jeans and a white tshirt, Nick’s body looked beautiful to me; his wide and capable back seemed fearless.  His stride was fluid, like a complicated piece of piano music keyed effortlessly.  I look down at my body.  A staccato mess of surgeries, stretch marks, and my skin’s opinion of the pregnancy weight gain and loss.   I see my scarred belly from three surgeries with another scheduled in the summer to fix an umbilical hernia.  My inner eye sees an exhausted and red lumbar region, a weakened lower back throbbing with stubborn stiffness.  It strikes me, with almost a pin needle acuteness, that Nick’s body hadn’t changed at all since we had Isaiah.  Nick’s body remained intact, with no incisions, no stretches, no torn anything.

I pause in that realization.

His tongue had never mistaken water for metallic liquid.  His nose never became so sensitive as to be able to detect the cleaning fluid on the floor of a grocer.  His heart ventricles never widened to allow more blood flow.  His calves and feet never swelled with unbearable water retention.  His chest never billowed with heart burn.  His mind never clouded with postpartum depression.  His nipples never cracked with pain so deep that his shoulders shuddered.  His skin never broke out in rashes.  He never vomited from anesthesia or used his foreman to protect a 6 inch abdominal incision against a winter chill.  He never had a catheter put in at the same time as a suppository while compressors pumped blood away from his legs.  He never had an abrasion in the back of his eye because the surgeons forgot to completely close and protect his eyes before surgery.  He never had to take pills to stop, prompt, or control a menstrual cycle.  He never felt a flutter of life in his belly or feel the hiccup of a new being inside his womb.

Because he doesn’t have a womb.

Nick did and does everything a parent could possibly do.  He transformed his emotions, his life, his commitments, and reformed his schedule to accommodate me and every little thing I needed throughout my pregnancy and birthing experience.  He respects anything I tell him or request.  Nick continuously and gladly lays in a metaphorical railroad track for me and our son.  If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what I will do, he says.

But in the confines of my bed, nursing this near paralysis, when I hear Isaiah’s laughter and Nick’s efforts to keep him occupied, I realize, with ringing clarity something that I could not have known or respected prior to going through it myself: our bodies are entirely different and our needs are entirely different.  My body endured all of this and my body cried differently than his. I knew this beforehand, but I never really Knew It beforehand.  Maybe my body never really cried until I became a mother.

So this difference between Nick and I exists.  It exists as sharp as a paring knife, as real as our love.  That difference – that my body changed while his did not – initially sprouted a rocketing resentment against anything him, society, and anyone else that didn’t Get It.  It = women’s bodies are a terrain that only we ourselves can travel.  It is not for anyone to lay laws upon.  It is not to be conquered, violated, disposed, or mishandled.  Along with the resentment, I also noticed a widening reverence for my body.  From which new life travels, the woman’s body is the canal to existence.  It is from our very bones, the calcium of our teeth, the marrow of our own breath that the woman’s body offers and sustains a new being.  The woman’s body is the epitome of automated self-sacrifice.  It is the ground zero of renewal — if the environment agrees that her life is valuable and the time to recover is respected.  We women, we give birth.  And we are also born into a new identity and a new body.

Give.  Birth.



Are there two more powerful and daunting words in the English language?

But we women are also prone to set back and injury because of what our spines uphold.  Our bellies swell with life and our spines pull back to hold us up and in shape. Sometimes, though, the spine gives way and loses its strength.

Pain, whether it’s the lower back or elbow, or migraine, or menstrual, is a debilitating state of existence.  Not because of the physical pain itself.  It’s debilitating because chronic or severe pain draws our minds inward, incapable of fully giving of ourselves to anything or anyone else.  In pain, I become unlike myself.  I don’t unravel.  I do the opposite, I am mummified.  Most people, but especially me, are social beings.  I feel endorphins from conversation, laughter, and intellectual exchange.  However, in the confines of a bed and four walls, my spirit goes down.  My intellect goes dim and my emotions begin to go dark.  Swathed and cast in my own stillness and short breaths, pain dictates my freedom.  I no longer care about anything.  All that matters is finding a pain-free, mobile existence.  Which is why when I check all my social media outlets – email, Facebook, Twitter, newsfeeds, and listserves – I shake my head that the world is celebrating Mardi Gras and International Women’s Day.  I wish I had the energy to care.  I find all kinds of interesting stuff to read, but before my mind digests in the information, my back spasms again and I nearly drop my laptop in shock.

Pain draws us inward.

So for me, today, the one day (unfortunately) that calls women from all over the world to stand together, I lie in bed, with my eyes closed, waiting for relief.  Luckily, for me, I am certain of two things:

patience and writing can be worked on in bed


I do and can stand up for women’s rights and gender justice on a daily basis.  But right now, regaining my spiritual and psychological composure after a back injury and remembering the awesome capacity of a woman’s body seems like my fight for today.

Tomorrow it may be something else.

Tim Tebow is the Best Thing to Happen to Young Women?

The so-called controversial anti-abortion message. From all the coverage, I was expecting a ferocious lion. A very lame commercial came on instead.

Interesting read.

It was written prior to the Superbowl and the unveiling of the controversial Tebow/Focus on the Family ad, but I think Jenkins makes some brilliant points. Her most resonating words are those that critique NOW and its narrow focus on feminism, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom…

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn’t be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one.

Personally, I was up to my eyeballs with annoyance over the anxious and hyped up worry from particular feminist groups who, once again, gave reproductive justice and gender rights movements a bad name with their outcry of this ad being “anti abortion,” while others featuring scantily clad women holding beer bottles and footballs have been deemed acceptable for Superbowl Sunday.

Never mind all the sexist-driven ads which young women watch that bombard them with anti-health messages concerning their bodies, choice, worth, and potential. At least Focus on the Family isn’t hypocritical (with this particular commercial) – they want to celebrate life and families and they do just that with the Tebow clan. While NOW exercises their outrage over this particular ad, a million other commercials which blatantly demoralize and sexualize women go without complaint. Wouldn’t it be something revolutionary if NOW had protested the Go Daddy ads or pointed out how women are often used as a sex appeal accessory in alcohol and beer commercials?

As much as I may disagree with its stance, as much as I could argue with its points, Focus on the Family is, well, focused. Ask feminist and pro-choice leadership groups what they focus on and you’ll find a mess of disagreement and hypocrisy.

The Relationship: Pregnancy, Abortion, Faith, Violence

I attended my first pro-life rally when I was 10 or 11 years old. With my mother on a back breaking smelly bus, we traveled through the night to D.C., arrived, marched with our church group, and boarded the bus to drive home. I barely slept.

The pro-life march was my first trip the our nation’s capital and the magnificent sites were shadowed by the thousands of pro-life marchers I walked with. Huddled under a tent from the dripping rain, I listened to stories of guilt-ridden women who’d had abortions and realized their mistake.

I held a sign of some sort. I don’t remember what it said, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of “Love them both. Choose life.” As I held my mother’s hand, I smiled at a group of women in business suits who I thought looked like congresswomen. They smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up sign, my heart soared.

I was ten when I walked down the pro-life avenue and clung close to my mother as pro-choice advocates stood with their signs on the outskirts of the march. As I passed a group of pro-choice ralliers, one said to me and my group of walkers, “You all make me sick. I want to spit on you.” I buried my face into my mothers stomach, afraid of what might happen.

My mother whispered into my ear, “You pray.”

I thought she meant for my safety so I threw a prayer skyward that sounded something like, “Please God, I don’t want to be attacked. I don’t want to be spit on. I just want to walk.”

* * * * *

I was 25 when I moved in with Katie*. She worked at the local Planned Parenthood and though we went to the same undergraduate university, I’d never met her before. We got along swimmingly. I worked at a university’s women’s center, she at Planned Parenthood and we mostly talked women’s issues, feminism, and the differences that lay between us.

One night, over a tiny wooden table with crowded plates of rice and chicken, Katie asked me, “So, where do stand on abortion? Does your faith steer you pro-life or the women’s center steer you pro-choice?”

I slowly swallowed my food, hating that question, and deliberately delayed because I wanted my heart beat to slow before I answered. A shot of adrenaline always pulsed through me when I spoke of issues of reproductive health, abortion, life, and faith.

“I don’t think you’ll like what I have to say. No one does. I don’t identify pro-life and I don’t identify pro-choice. I don’t think either ‘side’ has the vision for what women in this world need.”

I moved my eyes from her face, knowing the line of questions that were coming.

“But do you believe in a women’s right to an abortion?” Katie wasn’t eating anymore.

“I believe in women. I believe that all this crap and dialogue is bullshit. I believe we haven’t been given the funding, education, and means to even think beyond having a baby or having it terminated. We don’t even envision the kind of LIFE women should be given and so we aren’t given the options we deserve, the resources we need, or even the chance to consider what else is possible with our lives. So when you ask whether a women has a right to an abortion, all I think of are ALL the things, all the basic things that women don’t have that lead to make her choose between ‘life’ and ‘choice.’ It’s not that simple.”

Katie resumed munching on her rice and chicken, “Well, yeah. I mean, women don’t have access to the education and resources they need in general, but that’s a whole other conversation.”

I looked up, “Is it?”

* * * * *
A few months have passed since that discussion and I come home to find Katie watching Desperate Housewives. I made a snide comment about trashy evening programs that do little for our brains and notice she is not throwing back any signature sarcasm. I ask her what’s wrong.

Katie tells me a long story. She tells me a long story on the slashed tires she’s endured. The man who photographs her car license plates. The daily protesters outside her office. The security measures when she walks into work everyday.

I listen to this woman, my friend, who tells me what it’s like working at a Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati, Ohio. I think about the mild harassment endured when I tell people I work at women’s center – a non-medical facility – where it is always assumed I provide information and possibly even assist abortion procedures.

It is then I realize that there are several battles going on, but one war. There are different battles of those who fight the front lines of gender equality, those of us who try to raise consciousness and educate about the damning effects of essentializing the characteristics and roles of women and men and ignore anyone else who doesn’t fit our expections. And then there are those on the front lines of reproductive rights who go live an almost double life. Katie tells me how she has two resumes she sends out, one that is open about Planned Parenthood and another that softens the position and her role in its function. Katie tells me endless stories of dinner parties gone awry because of political debates, family gathers that bleed awkwardness because of her work, and the silent assumptions of acquaintances when she shares the nature of her occupation.

* * * *
Today in the news there is much talk about the murder of Dr. Tiller and even our normally calm Mr. Obama President expressed his “shock and outrage” about what has been called a”reprehensible act of domestic terror.”

According to the Op-Ed in the New York Times, this is the fourth killing since 1993 of a physician who provides abortion procedures. Not to minimize this heinous and unthinkable crime, but let’s look at the global picture of abortion via reproductive rights. Four murders in 16 years averages to one every four years.

Every minute of every day, a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications. Approximately 530,000 women and girls die worldwide from such complications every year, including as many as 70,000 women and girls who die from botched abortions, according to Population Action International.
* * * *

But those women dying is not a crime because most of them occur in “developing” countries. All the women who die from botched abortions do not have reactions from our President because…simply because it’s women who are dead from botched abortions.

The President from D.C. says it’s time to find common ground. I disagree.

It’s not time to find common ground, it’s time to admit there is no common ground and, still, cease fire.

It’s not time to try and say pro-lifers understand pro-choicers or vice versa because the decades of divisive rhetoric has split this country into a segregation deeper than red and blue states.

There’s no time to find common ground when so many women are dying from lack of education, resources, and freedom. I believe the access to healthcare, education, and information trumps the rallies and cries for choice. True freedom is full access to the knowledge of health, consequence, givings and sacrifice of our actions. Why are we so damn staunch in our fight for abortion and so up in arms when a physician is murdered? Albeit, it’s a tragedy, but LOOK AT WHAT WOMEN IN THIS WORLD ARE ENDURING.

But as so many have reiterated to me, when I speak of vision and freedom in regard to reproductive health and “choice,” it becomes “a whole other conversation.”

As long as it remains a whole other conversation, it will never be our reality.

Philippines, Birth Control, and Religion

This is a great article about the bursting birth rate in the Philippines and the growing problems with birth control, availability of modern contraception, and a growing population with a president who thinks that natural family planning is going to curb the problems of a developing nation.

In my own struggles of a devout feminist, devout Catholic identity, I cannot fathom how a country is supposed to move out of its poverty when they are growing in population and their economic resources are depleting. The links are definitely worth checking out as well.

This world.

I tell ya.

Sometimes I think we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.