Tagged: health

Stealing babies: your classist, ableist, racist trifecta

[Content note: pregnancy, nonconsensual medical treatment]

Chris Miller and Sarah Wilson have both done a fantastic job blogging on this story, so I thoroughly recommend reading what they have to say.

Recap:  an Italian woman in Britain had a mental health issue.  She was pregnant.  The state, for reasons so far unknown, performed a C-section on her without her consent and put her child in care.  This is approximately every level of fucked up.

But now, because more details have become clear, it sounds like a lot of progressive people think it’s not as big a deal, because it was doctors who made the decision to perform the C-section which has now led to this woman’s child potentially being permanently adopted without her consent.

I have a question.

What the fuck are you even doing?

Even the most able-bodied in-full-health no-medical-issues-ever progressive should be able to comprehend that doctors are not gods, and are not infallible, and are certainly capable of making fucked up decisions for fucked up reasons.

Like Dr Joseph Lee who refused to prescribe contraception to a young woman because “his conscience” told him to lecture her about The Duties Of Women instead.

Like the numerous doctors who refuse to perform basic diagnosis on patients who are fat.  (Degenerative spine condition?

Like the doctors who performed the Unfortunate Experiment on New Zealand women.

[EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING for abusive medical practice, genital mutilation]  Or Dr Graeme Reeves who deliberately mutilated women’s genitals while performing surgery on them.

How about the amount of research which shows doctors are more likely to label people of colour as “non-compliant”?  Or prison medical staff coercing incarcerated women to be sterilised?

This isn’t an argument that all doctors are evil and none are to be trusted.  Just as pointing out the utterly shitty culture the NZ Police have towards victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence committed by members of the NZ Police, isn’t an argument that all police officers are rapists.

But frankly, enough of them are that you should not feel comfortable just assuming that doctors – or police officers – are acting with integrity.  Especially when the person on the receiving end of their treatment has the black marks of mental illness, migrant status, and gender against her.

Contraception … in … SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE

No, not quite.

The good news: NuvaRing is in New Zealand! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

The bad news: $75 for a three month supply!  BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

More information on the Family Planning website.

Sometimes our glorious socialised healthcare really drops the ball, and this is one of those times.  A number of the most effective, least side-effect-y contraceptive methods aren’t subsidised the way the good old Pill or Jab are, so it’s bloody prohibitively expensive, especially for long-term use – and a lot of people will spend a huge proportion of their life using contraception.

Of course there’s the cost of research and development and production and all that jazz, but I think there’s another really obvious reason for the good shit being expensive: the manufacturers know that their customers will pay for the good shit.  Because contraception is vital for a lot of people.  It could be the difference between getting through university and having a better-paid job before starting to have a family … or not.  The difference between protecting your mental health by avoiding the physical and psychological costs of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood … or not.  The difference between having a comfortable life raising your three kids … or struggling to feed six.  The difference between learning to live with violent mood swings, irregular or even constant bleeding, nausea and cramping because it’s worth it not to get pregnant … or not.

Access to sustainable, affordable contraception is a huge part in allowing people, especially women, to take control of their lives.  It pays back huge dividends to society.  In our current capitalist model, of course someone’s going to try to make a buck from that, and in New Zealand we do already take steps to mitigate that for some forms of contraception.  I just wish we did more.

Related: Positive Women highlights the major costs involved for users of female condoms.

You’ve just been erased

Remember back when I reviewed Alison McCulloch’s excellent Fighting to Choose (which incidentally you must buy, and read, and encourage others to buy, and read, because it’s really really good) and I said:

Abortion has a long and dramatic history in NZ, but it’s not a history we talk about, or remember.

Here’s another example of that, from the ALRANZ blog.  Three great contributors to the NZ abortion rights movement, whose efforts and beliefs and actions, which benefited so many people*, are just erased from history once they’re gone.

It’s almost like we can’t acknowledge their work because then we’d be politicising things, and as we saw in the backlash against the response of many people to the death of Margaret Thatcher, politicising a dead person is just about the worst thing you can do, even if their entire existence in the public consciousness is political.  Even when their politics – or belief that an abortion is just a medical procedure which people should be able to undergo – is something they themselves were not shy about expressing.

On the other hand, it’s like we don’t want to talk about those past struggles.  Because then we’d have to address those issues as they exist, today, for pregnant people in New Zealand.

Then we’d have to actually talk about people like this young woman who’s been left in the lurch by our healthcare system and urgently needs help to get to Australia for an abortion.  (If you want to donate to help her there is a Paypal option as well.)  We’d have to actually ask ourselves why someone needs to fly to another country to get a safe, straightforward medical procedure.

Don’t let the mainstream media deny us our history, and the reality we live in.


*Attention antichoicers: yes, this is a trap.

Conscience exceptions are for people with a conscience

The ability of doctors to refuse to provide proper healthcare if God says it’s bad is again in the spotlight, with a Blenheim GP refusing to prescribe the Pill to a patient because he decided she needed to have babies, and her views on the matter didn’t mean shit.

Oh wait, sorry, I mean his ~Catholic conscience~ wouldn’t ~allow~ him to ~interfere~ with ~God’s plan~.  And her views on the matter don’t mean shit.  Which, because patriarchy, is something we protect under law.

Sorry, Dr Joseph Lee, but as far as I’m concerned, you don’t have a fucking conscience.

People who think that they get a controlling vote in the reproductive choices of others don’t have a conscience.  People who think that their personal religious beliefs should be enforced on others – especially other who don’t share those beliefs – don’t have a conscience.

Medical professionals who advise teenagers to use the incredibly faulty “rhythm method” because it’s their “destiny” to get pregnant at 16 seriously do not have a conscience.  Medical professionals who also refuse to prescribe condoms, because their religious extremism means they’d rather their patients get sexually transmitted infections which, super-irony-alert, might harm their fertility?  Yeah, no conscience there either.

Medical professionals who say

The only circumstances in which he would prescribe the contraceptive pill would be if a woman wanted space between pregnancies, or had at least four children.

“I think they’ve already done their reproductive job”.

have no fucking conscience either.  It’s not your fucking job to assess whether or not a patient has ticked enough of God’s boxes to access healthcare, you fucking shithead.  You’re meant to be a fucking doctor.  Fucking act like one or get the fuck out.

Oh, and “lead GP” Dr Scott Cameron, who thinks it’s okay to just have a “pamphlet” advising that “some” of your staff won’t provide contraception, and thinks getting reception to “screen” patients is good enough to protect them from being bullied by your religious fanatic employees?  You don’t have a fucking conscience either, mate.  You’ve enabled a religious bully.  I hope you’re happy with yourself.

There is no conscience involved when a brave 23-year-old has to step forward and expose the underhanded, bullying shit going on at Wairau Community Clinic – except for hers.

Here’s the thing about “conscientious objection”:

Medical Council guidelines say personal beliefs should not affect the advice or treatment offered, and should not be expressed in a way that exploits a patient’s vulnerability or is likely to cause them distress.

You don’t think letting a doctor lecture a 16-year-old about how she must have babies because God says so is bullying?  You don’t think that the setting of a community clinic, which, when opened, was heralded as “[making] it easier for those people who struggle to access health care” means the people there are vulnerable?

A truly conscientious doctor would look at the patient in front of him and say, “I’m sorry, I personally don’t agree with contraception.  Here is the number of a doctor who can help you.”  A truly conscientious doctor would have a sign on the door saying “I am not available to prescribe contraception or refer for abortion services.  You can contact [number of a doctor who will].”

But this is never about real matters of conscience.  This is about bullying people, especially women, into making the choices which are approved by patriarchal religious bullshit, choices which will permanently affect their lives, choices which will – because we do not support teen parents well, we do not support unemployed parents well, we do not support working parents well – limit their options and constrain their potential.

Dr Joseph Lee wants to control women.  And Dr Scott Cameron, and everyone at the Wairau Community Clinic who supports him, are letting it happen.

That’s not fucking conscientious.  And it deserves no protection under NZ law.



Perfect antichoice hypocrisy

We baby-hating prochoicers often make the argument that people who are anti-abortion seem to care so much about a foetus, and so little for a baby.

Turns out, they don’t actually care about a foetus either.  Not if its mother needs prenatal care funded by the state.  Just as long as they can force her to stay pregnant.

You couldn’t wish for a better illustration of their real motives.  Just look at Rep. Jodie Laubenberg insisting that she is the most “pro-life” person in the Texas State Senate, literally as she denies necessary healthcare to pregnant people.

I am become fatpocalypse: eliminationism

At some point in this saga, I used the phrase “eliminationist”, and was promptly told off because the person I was arguing with never used that word.

I suppose it’s a bit like how someone can’t be misogynist just because they refer to all women as bitches, because, um, unless they use the word “misogynist” their behaviour can’t be described as misogynist.

Anyway, for people genuinely interested in the concept, the canonical post on it is at Shakesville.  I paraphrase:

When you talk about eliminating obesity, stopping people getting fat, waving a magic wand and making everyone a “normal” weight, you are talking about eliminating me.  Because I’m a fat person.  I’m never going to be a thin person – because diets don’t work.  Because there is no scientific evidence to support the idea you can make a fat person eternally thin.

To actually attain your dream world where no one is fat?  You need to find a way to get rid of me.

And given how we know – from PEER REVIEWED SCIENCE!!! – that weight cycling damages people’s health, that “weight loss surgery” damages your life expectancy if you survive in, and that the medical profession will let you die because they’d rather diagnose all your health problems as being about your weight and not your ovarian cysts or your depression or your multiple sclerosis?

I think we can take a good, informed guess as to how that magical fat-free world is meant to come about.

I am become fatpocalypse: the apology

I’m sorry, everyone.

I’ve been spreading misinformation on Twitter.  Dangerous, subversive misinformation.

I started off with the radical notion that obesity isn’t a health problem.  In the same way that being red-headed or having A+ blood isn’t a health problem.  Those things may be “linked” statistically with certain conditions or illnesses or levels of mortality … that doesn’t make them illnesses in their own right.

Of course, people may say “oh, I didn’t mean individual health, I meant overall health”.  Obesity is still not an illness.  It doesn’t have a diagnosis, it doesn’t have a cure.  It has some incredibly vague and imprecise alleged measurements, and a hell of a lot of very profitable yet completely unreliable suggested treatments.  But I choose not to see that as the same thing.

Also?  BMI or amount of body fat are weak predictors of longevity, and being “overweight” is associated with greater longevity, especially for the 55+ age group; obesity may have a protective factor for people with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease; obese people are more likely to survive a coronary bypass.

But clearly, I was wrong.  My ass is an epidemic.  My boobs are the plague.  Despite my lack of actual health conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease or diabetes, I am fat, and ergo sick.

I pointed out that height is more affected by environment than weight.

Okay, okay, you got me.  I was wrong.  Because weight is 70-80% heritable, and height is 60-80% heritable.  Or it’s 75-85% versus 90-95%.  Either way, the lesson is clearly that I was wrong, and weight is totally something individuals can control, unlike their height, which is fixed by God.

I apologise.

I said fat people do not exercise less nor eat more than thin people.

I was basing this statement on studies which show things like activity-based programmes to reduce children’s BMI consistently fail.

I read Junkfood Science, and learned:

Professors and clinicians David Garner, Ph.D., and Susan Wooley, Ph.D., reviewed 500 studies on the long-term treatment efficacy, the biology of weight regulation, and health outcomes of weight loss, and confirmed that multiple researchers, using a variety of methodologies, have continued to fail to find any meaningful or replicable differences in the caloric intake or eating patterns of the obese compared to the non-obese to explain obesity.

And I discovered this study shows that there’s fuck-all difference between “metabolically healthy” obese people and thin people.

But look, it just makes sense that fat people are lazy gluttons.  Science said so.  Just not here.

I said that no diet works if you study its participants over 5 years.

I am at least smart enough to know that individual studies can be flawed, but I was truly taken in when my research found that meta-study after meta-study after meta-study shows weight loss programmes failing.  If they bothered to follow the subjects for longer than a year.  A lot didn’t.  Probably for totally innocuous reasons.

See the “Also?” link above?

Long-term follow-up studies document that the majority of individuals regain virtually all of the weight that was lost during treatment, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program. Consider the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial, designed to test the current recommendations. More than 20,000 women maintained a low-fat diet, reportedly reducing their calorie intake by an average of 360 calories per day and significantly increasing their activity. After almost eight years on this diet, there was almost no change in weight from starting point (a loss of 0.1 kg), and average waist circumference, which is a measure of abdominal fat, had increased (0.3 cm).

You know what does work to actually improve people’s health?  The Health At Every Size approach.  Which doesn’t result in weightloss.  (It’s even been … PEER REVIEWED!!!  More on that in a later post.)

But it’s probably all just a scheme so fatties can feel good about themselves and justify eating more doughnuts.

I said that successive generations are getting taller, that height is correlated with some illnesses, and that it thus surprises me (note: it doesn’t really) that no one runs around panicking about a tallness epidemic.

This was then presented as me actually arguing that height is a health problem.  At this point I probably should’ve stopped, because I was clearly arguing with someone who had no intention of engaging honestly, but I am a glutton for doughnuts punishment sometimes..

What I tried to clarify – and of course, Twitter is a bad medium for anything more complex than one full sentence – is that fatness is not sickness, and our social responses to sickness are ineffective and oppressive.

Like diets.  Oh, said the other person, I never mentioned diets.  Nope, he just talked about “controlling” body weight.  Because there are totally safe predictable sustainable ways to do that which aren’t “diets”, right?


What there actually are are a lot of studies (PEER REVIEWED! SCIENCE!!!) which show that it’s seriously, seriously hard to permanently alter people’s weight.  In either direction. And despite the constant panic-mongering over THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC, life expectancy continues to rise and the population is getting healthier – in actual measurable things.

There’s the way that messages about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC have led to increased discrimination against fat people – including discrimination in the medical professional which has almost certainly killed people.

The 70-80% heritable link above?  Also notes that stress has a major impact on body weight.  Gosh, I wonder if underprivileged, poor, oppressed minorities, who are so often the Scary Fat People Who Will Eat Your Babies, might be under some stress that Good White People From Nice Schools don’t experience?

The “Also?” link above?  Notes that:

Most prospective observational studies suggest that weight loss increases the risk of premature death among obese individuals, even when the weight loss is intentional and the studies are well controlled with regard to known confounding factors, including hazardous behavior and underlying diseases

So clearly the answer is to be born thin, to thin parents.  But not too thin, obviously.

I apologise, people.  I’ve been wilfully leading you all down a garden path to obesity.  I will not rest until we all look like that fucking creepy vampire Pearl from Blade.  Probably because I’m a jealous bitch, or something.  (Well, I’m sure the more kindly fathaters will pretend to look on me with pity.)

I’ll stop worrying my little fat ladybrain about this now.

Until tomorrow’s post.

Hat tips (and seriously recommended reading):  the Redefining Body Image resources page; Shapely Prose’s immortal FAQ; Dr Linda Bacon, the appropriately-named goddess of HAES; Big Liberty’s Truth Behind Fat: References; Junkfood Science.

Random recommended reading

I just keep finding so many interesting articles on the dozens of blogs I follow that I’m thinking random recommended reading may become a thing, so I’m sticking it on a Monday after my warm fuzzies post because no one should have to do too much thinking on a Monday.

Help Family Planning with an international study on period pain.  You need to be:

  • Between 18 and 50 years old
  • Having regular periods with moderate period pain 
  • In good general health
  • Not already taking hormonal contraception or have an IUD
  • Prepared to use condoms during the study if contraception is required

The News With Nipples takes on the endless fight against bullshit passive-language reporting of sexual attacks (trigger warning for sexual assault.)

Best headline of all time / proof we’re living in the future: Giant NASA spider robots could 3D print lunar base

Mississippi douchebags protest against a school respecting a student’s gender identity.  Because letting a person meet the dress code already in place for their gender is exactly the same as not meeting the dress code at all, and that’s how you know it’s the trans student who wants “special treatment”.

HIV has been cured in a child for the first time.  YES.

Want a good reason to oppose a 4-year parliamentary term?  Check out who’s in favour, and why.

Melissa Harris-Perry on the real Harlem Shake and why white folk seriously need to stop mockingly appropriate shit which isn’t theirs.

How Nusreta Sivac has helped to get rape treated seriously as a war crime.

Gender and the census part 2

Others have posted on the 2013 Census gender issue.  Read them!

Atheist Pinko Sluts Monthly notes the actual, stated reason why “male” is listed above “female”: because people get too confused if “female” is listed first.  What does that tell you about entrenched social programming?

Ironbark notes the problems from a health perspective – the census gender options don’t actually provide compatible data!

Jan Logie MP wants to campaign for more options.  Given that the business case for the next census in 2018 is going to Cabinet in November this year, I’m thinking we may be in for the long haul.

Badtom on Twitter pretty much sums up the silliness of saying that gender diversity isn’t relevant:

We COULD offer non-binary sex options, but that isn’t relevant for most people. Now, question 17: do you have a fax machine?

Save the Family Court from your own apathy

Ben Clark has a great post up at The Standard, quoting heavily from Women’s Health Action and the Auckland Women’s Health Centre, about proposed changes to the Family Court which will basically make it more expensive, less supportive, and force families into pointless mandatory mediation, because when your partner has beaten you and your children but still insists on shared custody because they’ve got ownership/control issues, what you really need is a single hour of counselling and privatised mediation.

It’s based on changes already repealed in Australia which led to the death of at least one child.

Ben’s post lays out the arguments and asks people to submit on the Bill.  And as of writing this post, it has 6 comments on it, compared to 31 on a caption competition.

Of those six comments?  Three are people basically saying “I had a bad experience with the Family Court.”  Two are thoroughly disprovable “waaaah the Family Court hates men waaaaah”.  The commenters are good enough to leave “so I don’t care if it’s privatised and other families have to go through an even worse time than I had” unwritten.  Thanks.

This is patriarchy, people.  Because the majority of abusers are men, because women are largely expected to be the childcarers, the work of the Family Court predominantly (but as linked above, not because of gender bias) revolves around women and children.  Which apparently means it’s part of the Grand Feminist Agenda to Steal Your Children (because of course they’re possessions which you deserve to control, you big ol’ manly man.)

Because we ring-fence domestic violence as “domestic”, as private, as something we don’t want to discuss (unless what we really want to say is “aren’t those brown people evil?”) the Family Court doesn’t get recognised as the vital public service it is.

And now it’s being gutted and its processes are being privatised.  If it were a power generating company, there’d be screams of protest.  If it were a national park, there’d be marching in the streets.  If someone were suggesting the fucking Rugby Sevens be relocated to the Tron, there’d be barricades on Lambton Quay.

But it’s just the Family Court.  So who cares, right?