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Monday, May 29, 2017

A Lesson Learned

“Hey everyone, I want to apologize for being overbearing yesterday. I was trying too hard to make a perfect memory for Aunt Jane. I forgot that nothing is ever perfect and it would’ve been better if I had just let things unfold naturally. The important thing was you all made the time and effort to be there for her special day. I love you all and am so glad and thankful to be part of this amazing family!”

This was the text I sent out to my loved ones after being a control freak the day before. My two sisters and I had planned a special birthday gathering at a restaurant for our eldest sister, Jane, who usually isn’t in town to celebrate on or around the appointed day. Last weekend, however, she had flown in to witness the graduation of our dear nephew from college, so we hatched this party plan for the following Saturday.

Only trouble was, I forgot to get the Lord’s take on our project.

I overbooked myself the day before, then stayed up later than was good for me. Consequently, I woke up late the morning of the event, which kept me from my usual routine of spending time with the Lord before jumping into the day. The stage was set for emotional disquiet and unmet expectations.

I over-organized everyone’s activities, buzzed around snapping pictures people didn’t want taken, then waxed surly when others didn’t dance to my tune. Hence, the need to apologize later for behavior which, while not outrageous, certainly did not constitute my finest hour. I let the god of hostessing make me forget that the sweetest thing I could do to honor my sister’s birth would simply be relax and keep faith at the center of the festivities. Like Martha, I lost sight of the fact that Christ’s presence makes every occasion just right, with or without the trappings.

Fortunately, I have a loving family, and all was forgiven.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 
~ Matthew 6:33

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crosshairs, AKA, Such a Time as This

Readers, I'm always on the lookout for informative articles which underscore my positions. The Left's War on Free Speech in the April 2017 issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis provides an in depth analysis of the issue of free speech, and suggestions as to how citizens can defend it. Thought I'd pass it along. 

Crosshairs.

Everyone I know seems to be in them, myself included, for one reason or another. You know what I mean – that feeling of being the bullseye for an omniscient Archer, who means to train and equip the object of His darts for larger battles down the line. Or, on the other hand, the unsettling sense of being target practice for the enemy.

Yes, the arrow bearer may be Friend or foe. Well-meaning well wishers counsel the one under fire to keep his chin up and bear in mind that God’s testing and preparing him for some greater purpose. Voices from another corner sagely suggest Beelzebub’s making the Christian his plaything, trying to thwart almighty ends.

Either way, it’s small comfort.

Many folks I’m connected with are dealing with job stressors. Some desperately need jobs, and can’t find them. Others are dying to change jobs, but feel stuck in their current positions till they find new ones (cue previous concern). Still others have “good” jobs with benefits, but are so overtaxed by their work environment, they’re hankering for retirement.

For some, employment is proceeding uneventfully, but illness has come crashing into their lives with a vengeance. Others mourn for loved ones who are in prison or rushing headlong into disaster through addiction or irresponsibility. Still others wrestle with desires which loom large – longings they feel God implanted in them and promised to fill – which yet linger, unyielding and unmet.

My current assignment in the crosshairs concerns standing for an important issue – something which, if not addressed, has potential to negatively impact innocent people. The details aren’t important for the purposes of this post, but what does matter is that weathering this storm has caused me to reflect on why we’re here as Christians in the first place, and how we should respond when we find ourselves at odds with powers that intimidate us, be they friends and family, employers or even government.

Turn the Other Cheek

That’s one way of responding to attack, and at times it’s the right one. Jesus counseled believers to “turn the other cheek” in certain situations. The commentaries I’ve consulted suggest this response is optimal when a personal slight has occurred – in this case, a slap in the face, which was apparently considered an egregious insult at the time. Seems Jewish law required the offender to pay a fine to the aggrieved after this particular affront. As in so much of His teaching, Jesus was challenging laws  which had been stretched and twisted to suit Pharisaical ends. 

Bottom line: often, turning the other cheek applies to overlooking personal, non-life-threatening insults, not ignoring actions which could have deadly consequences, especially for innocent bystanders.

Develop Thicker Skin

As Christians, we’re going to need it. As a writer with a Christian perspective, I’m going to need it. I’ve written a novel which will rankle supporters of abortion and other camps. It not only defends the cause of the unborn, but also calls into question reproductive options such as surrogate gestation, which in this writer’s mind places childbearing on a par with who’s going to drive the carpool.

There are, I’m painfully coming to realize, only two ways to behave in life, and especially in the Christian life. We can either stand on the sidelines or join in the game.The game, by definition, involves opposition. Whether we're talking Yahtzee with the neighbors or bullfighting in Barcelona, stakes are involved which matter to players. Stakes can be low – such as penny ante poker – or high, such as passing the bar exam. The higher the stakes, the greater the opposition; hence, the closer we need to walk in almighty company.

The Pacifist Argument

I beg to differ with those who suggest Jesus would have been a pacifist. Despite rebuking Peter for pulling out a sword to fend off His arrestors, He very clearly did NOT condemn the use of a weapon, but rather, its use in this specific circumstance, which had been foreordained and to which He willingly submitted.

Jesus was also not suggesting we look the other way when global terror is on the march. One need only peruse the many instances in the Bible where military strength is described and even encouraged (see https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-pacifist.html) to realize the Bible allows for national defense.

However, we as Christians must realize when we accept the challenge of speaking out against the prevailing wisdom of the day (for example, taking Biblical positions on subjects like marriage and sexuality), we will likely be ridiculed and perhaps even threatened (see 2 Timothy 4:2). This is nothing new. Truth in the face of prevailing wisdom has always been a scarce commodity, and teachers of “tolerance” often exhibit less of this virtue than those they dub haters. Again, the greater the risk of retaliation, the closer we must cling to the Savior.

Examples of Principles Worth Defending

Realize that, just as Copernicus and Galileo faced repercussions regarding what their studies had proven (that the earth was not, despite centuries old “common sense,” the center of the universe - see http://www.nmspacemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.php?id=123), likewise, truthtellers today will have to confront opposition.

We now have scientific evidence that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa. It just took time for researchers to catch up to what God already knew and had revealed to a few trend-bucking scientists. How much more critical that we weigh evidence about life and death issues like abortion?

For example, research is beginning to emerge that preborn children do, in fact, feel pain during the abortion procedure, and not just starting at 20 weeks (see http://www.lifenews.com/2015/05/18/medical-expert-confirms-unborn-children-feel-excruciating-pain-during-abortions/). Consider the following excerpt from former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson’s book, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line, in which she describes witnessing the abortion of a 13-week-old fetus on ultrasound:

At first, the baby didn’t seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby’s side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn’t feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I’d been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. My head was working hard to control my responses, but I couldn’t shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.
The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed in, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that the fetus could feel the cannula and did not like the feeling (Johnson 5).

This is only one facet of the whole ethical question surrounding personhood of the fetus. The battle may be unpleasant, especially for those like me who aren’t naturally wired for confrontation, but discomfort in no way diminishes the importance of staying the course.

Fight the Good Fight

Why should we think we’ll escape criticism and consequences for being in the minority who contend that the emperor really is, after all, standing stark naked in the public square? If a physics concept like the order of the universe brought down enough wrath on Galileo to force him to recant what he knew to be empirical fact, how can we expect moral principles to be any less controversial and costly?

We live in a time when much is tolerated from a personal freedom standpoint, but somehow there’s little room in the discussion for moral objectionsIf we’re going to embrace dialogue and tolerance, surely those rights need to extend to everyone. The First Amendment does not roll over and play dead just because the speaker happens to espouse an "old-fashioned" or politically incorrect viewpoint. Let's not forget that the Fairness Doctrine was repealed because it had the potential to muzzle free speech (or at least keep it on a government-held leash), and was rightly repealed. As Christians, we need guard jealously any assaults on public discourse, for where debate is squelched, behavior is sure to follow.

In the Footsteps of Esther

If we have the mind of Christ, clearly that extends to knowing when to rally the troops versus when to shake things off. Nowhere in Scripture are we promised that acting on convictions which society deems unpalatable will be applauded or even tolerated. However, we can muster courage from the words of a little-known Jew named Mordecai, who counseled his trembling cousin, Esther, to speak out against injustice to her people: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14). 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________________________________________

Work Cited

Johnson, Abby with Cindy Lambert. Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former   
    Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line. Carol 
    Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2010. Print.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thomas Garrett's Legacy: A Modern Day Abolition Issue

Good day, readers! I'm posting the following article which I completed this past February, and updated today in light of new legislative developments. I ask that if the Lord leads, you share it in whatever venue seems right to you. And please consider contacting lawmakers and apprising them of your views on the issues discussed herein.

One small disclaimer: apologies for the variations in font and format, which I suppose are the result of cutting and pasting articles and links into the body of the text. I tried various means of correcting this, to no avail. In the end I decided to let the piece stand or fall on its own merits and research, and trust readers to overlook this minor flaw.
I was especially stunned to learn of the House panel's investigation into Planned Parenthood, and their surprising findings.
I pray many will find the piece worthy of sharing.

Thomas Garrett’s Legacy: A Modern Day Abolition Issue


Subversive Hero

Thomas Garrett helped an estimated 2,700 slaves find freedom via the Underground Railroad when the scourge of slavery marred our land of the free and home of the brave.

Garrett began these “subversive” activities while residing in Pennsylvania, a free state, but remained committed to his illegal operations after relocating to Delaware, a state which had codified into law the enslavement of humans.

Garrett paid a steep price for his involvement. He was attacked in the press, tried in court, and found guilty by none other than then Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, whose later rendering of the deplorable Dred Scott decision was one of the final straws that propelled the United States into civil war.1 Garrett’s legal costs, fees to the tune of $5,400 (a king’s ransom, even for a prosperous iron merchant like Garrett), and being forced to neglect his business to attend to his legal troubles, left him penniless.

But the grace of God through sympathetic friends enabled him to rebuild his shattered life, and ultimately African Americans, for whom he sacrificed his own wellbeing, dubbed him “Our Moses” and carried his body to its final resting place.2

A fitting end to a life finely lived.

Prayer Vigil

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a prayer vigil on a street which bears Garrett’s name. Amnion Pregnancy Center on Garrett Road in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania serves the community and country in ways which would make the former Delaware County native proud. I learned from Amnion’s Executive Director Melanie Parks and Board Vice President Louann Rodgers that Amnion operates on only $325,000 per year, none of which comes from federal or state government. This small agency stretches every dollar to counsel expectant mothers, outfit and diaper babies, and dispense ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, and parenting coaching. They hope in the future to add STI testing and treatment to their list of services.  

In addition, Amnion offers adoption and housing referrals, and links low-income clients to physicians that serve the uninsured and underinsured, as well as to community resources like WIC.3
Not least, Amnion feels a responsibility to serve women who have had abortions. Roughly one in five women in the United States is post-abortive.4  The Amnion chapter of “Surrendering the Secret” offers group support and counseling5 to deal with the guilt and shame that many report as aftereffects of the procedure.6

The cost for all these services?

$0.00.

That’s right. Amnion and other agencies like it, such as AlphaCare (whose annual budget is $586,000 according to Executive Director Karen Hess7) and Delaware County Pregnancy Center (which ekes by on $135,000 per year, per interim Executive Director Helen McBlain8), charge nothing for their assistance. Zero. Zip. Nada. Relying on fundraising and donations, these agencies build bricks with virtually no straw on a regular basis. While some pregnancy centers receive state funds9, others, such as the aforementioned three, receive not one penny of government funding. Nor do they want any. As Hess explains, “No government funds ever. So we can keep sharing the Gospel.”10

Make no mistake: pregnancy centers have an agenda, and they’re not trying to hide it. They make no bones about their huge concern for unborn children, and that concern extends to the spiritual welfare of prospective parents who walk through their doors. While taking care not to thrust a religious world view on their clients, if and when the opportunity arises to offer spiritual hope, these agencies would sooner do without government grants than risk being beholden to its whims and shots-calling.

Another Vigil

As I pondered all this information, my mind flashed back to another Saturday vigil I used to attend. This one took place in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic located in Media, Pennsylvania. My friend and I used to pray regularly with a group of like-minded individuals outside this branch of the organization that performs more abortions than any other health care provider in the United States.11 The Media office does not itself offer abortions, but regularly refers clients to practitioners who do.12

I began to wonder about Planned Parenthood’s budget in comparison with the small purses of the pregnancy centers I’d been interviewing. Shockingly, this massive body rakes in almost four billion dollars a year13, which it doles out to approximately 650 clinics in the U.S.14 This works out to about $6 million per clinic per year, nearly half of which it receives from United States taxpayers.15

One might well wonder what Planned Parenthood does with all this cash, considering it happily accepts payments from insurance companies, Medicaid, and individuals, as well as enjoying non-profit tax exempt status.16 While there’s no denying that Planned Parenthood performs a variety of cancer screenings – not including mammograms, despite claims to the contrary by certain notable figures – and a hefty percentage of STI tests and treatments, their most recent annual report also reveals that they perform 324,000 abortions per year, which constitutes almost 50% of abortions done annually in this country (30).17  

Boasting of “foster[ing] the sexual and reproductive health and rights of individuals, families, and communities,” Planned Parenthood’s website also contains an “Info for Teens” page which offers everything from advice about sexual orientation/gender experimentation to glib videos about masturbation and precum.18 What they do not do with Uncle Sam’s tax exempt dollars is deliver virtually anything in the way of prenatal care; in fiscal year 2015, this champion of reproductive rights reported less than 0.2% of its business coming under this category.19 Adoption referrals made up an even tinier fraction of services rendered by this “family planning” giant – .02% .20

So when my friends and I prayed in front of their offices, we prayed for parents-to-be who made their way into that facility looking for help, and for preborn children who couldn’t speak for themselves. We prayed also for young people, whose world views are still up for grabs. We knew the counseling they would receive inside those doors would focus on contraception (women ages 15 to 24 account for nearly half of contraceptive usage in this country21); prevention and treatment of STIs, half of which occurs among that same population22; and pregnancy termination, 12% of which occurs among teens.23

Ultrasound Usage­­­

Expectant moms who step across Amnion’s threshold are offered the opportunity to glimpse their developing children on an ultrasound screen. This is an unapologetic effort to allow mothers to see their developing children prior to deciding their fates. Many pregnancy centers have found that this simple step allows clients to make a more informed decision as to whether the tissue they’re carrying is a “bundle of joy” or merely a “product of conception.”

On the other hand, not all abortionists use sonography. Some physicians go into the birth canal blindly, without consulting sonograms to illuminate their path. Those who do employ the technology do so to guide cannulas which locate the fetus prior to tearing it limb from limb, or to inject lethal doses of digoxin or other death-inducing drugs into fetal hearts. Ultrasound, if used at all in Planned Parenthood clinics, is utilized primarily for one of two purposes: either to assess fetal age to determine abortion cost – the older the fetus, the higher the fee24 – or to guide a probe/clamp to dismember the fetus inside its mother’s womb, then crush its skull to facilitate exit through the birth canal.25

 Either way, their mission is the same: search and destroy.

The Other Side of the Discussion

Attacks have been leveled at pregnancy centers by such auspicious publications as Time Magazine and Cosmopolitan, claiming misleading advertising and one-sided agendas. Any organization stands to benefit from constructive criticism, self-examination and reshaping, and pregnancy centers are no exception. Judging from the websites encountered in the research for this article, it would appear the Fourth Estate has caused pregnancy centers to clarify their mission and objectives so as to ward off any misunderstandings right out of the gate.

Interestingly, though, the aforementioned periodicals haven’t seen fit to denounce any of Planned Parenthood’s peccadillos like, oh, say, sale of fetal body parts, overbilling of insurance companies, dubious consent forms, disregard for HIPPA regulations, and violation of the Hyde Amendment which bars them from underwriting abortions with federal funds. Rather, both magazines robustly defended the abortion giant; Cosmopolitan went so far as to give the cat bird seat to Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, by running her op ed, in which this leader and spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood reveals the organization’s “liberated” philosophy:

Women's ability to realize their goals requires them to have control of their fertility. If           we want women to have fulfilling careers and economic stability, we have to give them full access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

Above and beyond any practical, economic reasons to respect the right of women to control their own reproductive system, abortion rights are a matter of autonomy and equality.

Condoms break. Birth control pills are not infallible. Intrauterine devices and implants, even, have failure rates, miniscule as they may be. When these things happen, women have to make a whole host of decisions. No member of Congress should interfere.

Women deserve healthy, fulfilling, positive sex (no matter how many times misogynists say it, "keep your legs closed" will never be a valid argument). And they deserve access to reproductive health care and information to make the best choices about sex.26

Government Conclusions

Despite Richards’ noble motives and the accolades and apologist efforts of her media friends, the federal government did not shy away from objectively considering the troubling questions raised by the release of 11 videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s unlawful trafficking in fetal parts and other unethical activities. In 2016 the House of Representatives released its 427 page Final Report by the Select Investigative Panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, validating all the aforementioned allegations.27

The panel included in its report the following further observations about Planned Parenthood and quotations from its founder, Margaret Sanger:

       Planned Parenthood executives who spoke with the Panel noted that 2016 is the 100th
       anniversary of [its] founding … A closer look at the history of the organization,  however,  
       leaves little to celebrate. [It] was founded by eugenicists who believed in limiting the rights
       of people to form families and have children if they had mental or physical disabilities or
       were of the “wrong” race (xxxvi).

Among the founders … were a group of eugenicists, including … Margaret Sanger, who sought to reduce and control population growth, including among the African American community. Sanger saw the eugenics movement as a chance to rid civilization of “racial, political and social problems… Our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependent.”  

She calls those with mental disabilities a “dead weight of human waste” and a “burden of
unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity.”

Sanger wrote that “negroes present the great problem of the South …” (299-300).

Final Considerations

In light of the facts revealed by the House panel and its unabashed disdain for Planned Parenthood’s practices and philosophies, one might wonder why taxpayers are still supporting the organization. No one is disputing that Planned Parenthood serves women and families in numerous ways that pregnancy centers do not and cannot because of their largely unsubsidized budgets. What is up for debate is whether the former’s activities ought to be bankrolled by the federal government. The real question is, is it right for a country founded on “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” to embrace one of those objectives at the expense of the other two?

As we progress through our 45th year in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade – 59 million abortions and counting28– the action required of the new administration and Congress is clear: defund Planned Parenthood. The House of Representatives took a major step in this direction this past week by approving the American Health Care Act, which will withhold Medicaid payments from Planned Parenthood for a year unless it stops providing abortions.29 Now it falls to the Senate to continue the job its legislative counterpart has started. Concerned citizens can find contact information for their senators at https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm, to apprise lawmakers of their views on the bill.

Abortion has been rightly called the slavery issue of our time. Countless African American lives were lost due to the institution of slavery, but among those who survived and managed to thrive in the midst of this national disgrace were the likes of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Booker T. Washington. How much more genius was left unrealized in the name of slaveholders’ rights and servitude to cotton and tobacco we will never know this side of heaven. Likewise, how many scientific pioneers, politicians, and great artists’ lives (Andrea Bocelli tells a poignant story of how his mother refused physician’s counsel to abort him30) have we snuffed out in the name of women’s rights and convenience?

Thomas Garrett saw through his generation’s national lie a century and a half ago, and history has proven his convictions right. He didn’t pretend to have all the answers as to how to integrate masses of uneducated victims into an unwelcoming society. Lincoln himself surely couldn’t have dreamed when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation how many decades would go by before equality would become less a byword than a reality. After years of hacking away at unfair laws and institutionalized racism, our country is still paying the price for dehumanizing an entire segment of the population. What was clear to abolitionists was that every life they spared gave the recipient an opportunity to bestow on society the gifts that person was born with. That hope was reason enough for their crusade, and an end in itself.

Likewise, this author doesn’t purport to have solutions to the child abuse crisis or the glutted foster care system that many raise as justification for abortion. Logic would seem to dictate that we make adoption as affordable and simple to obtain as abortion. That we return to the moral codes that used to bind us as a nation, with or without Scriptural underpinnings, which in theory would make organizations like Child Protective Services less needed in the first place. That we start rewarding the commitment of stay at home parents with tax dollars – perhaps the same tax dollars we pull from the abortion industry.

One way or the other, we will answer for all the unborn blood we’re spilling, just as we continue to reap the repercussions of slavery. The question is, will future generations view ours as being on the right side of history – or the convenient side?

Endnotes

1“Roger B. Taney: Chief Justice of the United States,” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Roger-B-Taney. Accessed February 4, 2017.

3Melanie Parks and Louann Rodgers. Email interview. 23 January 2017.

4“Induced Abortion in the United States,” https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states. Accessed February 4, 2017.

5“Surrendering the Secret: Heal the Heartbreak,” http://surrenderingthesecret.com/. Accessed February 4, 2017.
6Abolghasem Pourreza, PhD and Aziz Batebi, MD, “Psychological Consequences of Abortion among the Post Abortion Care Seeking Women in Tehran,” American Journal of Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395931/. Accessed February 4, 2017.
7Karen Hess. Personal interview. 11 November 2015.
8 Helen McBlain. Email interview. 25 January 2017.
9Jennifer Ludden, “States Fund Pregnancy Centers That Discourage Abortion,” Shots: Health News from NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/09/391877614/states-fund-pregnancy-centers-that-discourage-abortion. Accessed February 4, 2017.
10 Hess. Email interview. 22 January 2017.
11Julie Rovner, “That Vow to Defund Planned Parenthood: Easy to Say, Hard to Do,” Shots: Health News from NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/15/509662288/that-vow-to-defund-planned-parenthood-easy-to-say-hard-to-do. Accessed February 5, 2017.

12 “Media Health Center – Media, PA: Abortion Referral in Media – Planned Parenthood,”  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/pennsylvania/media/19063/media-health-center-2338-91460/abortion-referral. Accessed February 5, 2017.

13 “Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. and Related Entities Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Information June 30, 2015 and 2014,” Planned Parenthood,

14“Planned Parenthood at a Glance,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-at-a-glance. Accessed February 5, 2017.

15 “2014-2015 Annual Report,” Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/2114/5089/0863/2014-2015_PPFA_Annual_Report_.pdf, 32. Accessed February 4, 2017.

16 “Information for Attorneys and Other Professionals,” https://www.plannedparenthood.planyourlegacy.org/attorney.php. Accessed February 21, 2017.

17 “Reproductive Health: CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System FAQs,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm. Accessed January 25, 2017.

18 “Info for Teens,”  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/teens. Accessed January 25, 2017.

19 2014-2015 Annual Report, 29.

20 Ibid.        
     
21 “National Center for Health Statistics: Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15-44: United States, 2011-2013,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db173.htm. Accessed February 4, 2017.

22“Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs),” https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm. Accessed January 25, 2017.


24“In Clinic Abortion Procedures,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures. Accessed January 25, 2017.

25Dr. Anthony Levatino, “Abortion Procedures: What You Need to Know,” http://abortionprocedures.com/#1466802057205-34297158-57fd. Accessed January 21, 2017.

26 Cecile Richards, “The Effort to Defund Planned Parenthood Isn’t Actually About Fetal Tissue Donation,” Cosmopolitan, October 9, 2015, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a47520/cecile-richards-planned-parenthood-fetal-tissue-abortion/. Accessed February 23, 2017.

27 “U.S. House of Representatives Final Report,” Select Investigative Committee of the Energy & Commerce Committee, December 30, 2016. https://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/114/Analysis/20161230Select_Panel_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2017.

Relevant excerpts from the House panel’s report:

 First, the clinics have a checkered history of overbilling Medicaid and of improperly billing items to cover the costs of abortion services, in violation of the Hyde Amendment.

“Second, the clinics did not follow PPFA guidance about compliance with federal criminal statutes that govern the terms of fetal tissue donation. Accounting documents from middleman tissue organizations showed that several PPFA affiliates made a profit from the transfer of fetal tissue.

“Third, PPFA failed to secure compliance with the requirement that doctors who perform abortions certify in writing that the method of abortion has not been changed to facilitate fetal tissue donation. The PPFA executive in charge of this requirement admitted that she regularly changed the method of abortion to facilitate intact fetal specimens …

“Fourth, PPFA guidance on patient consent and the affiliate practice violates federal consent regulations.

“Fifth, the affiliate clinics routinely violated HIPAA privacy regulations to facilitate the harvesting of fetal tissue for which the clinics were paid on a per specimen basis” (309).

“The Panel found a significant history of flawed and unlawful management of federal funds … through audits performed by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by state-level family planning agencies. Of particular concern is the clinics’ false designation of abortion services as family planning services. This practice misallocates federal funds designated for family planning to underwriting abortion procedures … (310).

“First, local affiliates regularly and with little accountability substitute billing codes for approved reimbursements for prohibited activities that violate the prohibition against use of federal funds for abortion services. Second, the affiliates operate with disregard of accepted accounting procedures. Third, the local affiliates that seek to increase Medicaid payment through false billing practices also require close scrutiny about compliance with federal law on receiving valuable consideration for the transfer of fetal tissue” (319).

“The CMP undercover videos revealed a ‘wink and a nod’ attitude by PPFA executives who seemed to communicate that fetal tissue programs help with revenue but don’t get caught because the headlines would be a disaster” (322).

28“Abortion Statistics: United States Data and Trends,” National Right to Life: Protecting Life in America Since 1968, http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf, 1. Accessed February 5, 2017.

29Sandhya Somashekhar and Paige W. Cunningham, “Congressional Health-Care Bill ‘Defunds’ Planned Parenthood,” The Washington Times, May 4, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/congressional-health-care-bill-defunds-planned-parenthood/2017/05/04/afdc3b5a-30f1-11e7-8674-437ddb6e813e_story.html?utm_term=.1f4414b32d5f. Accessed May 6, 2017.

30 “Andrea Bocelli on Abortion – A Story that Touches Hearts,” YouTube video, 2:27, posted by Pietro Schito, June 1, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QfKCGTfn3o. Accessed February 21, 2017.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Out of the Comfort Zone, Into the Conference (AKA, Deliverance 3)

With apologies (and explanation) to my patient readers, to whom I haven't written since January 1, I offer the following:

The Conference

“This is gonna make a great blog article,” I told my friend Mary by way of apology, after keeping her waiting for the second time the morning we were both set to pitch manuscripts to agents at The Philadelphia Writing Workshop. The first offense was when I took too long in the shower and found her patiently playing with her phone as I combed the tangles out of my hair. The second infraction was when I couldn't locate my car in the motel parking garage (panic button notwithstanding) and had to beg the attendant to help me cruise the lot to find my misplaced vehicle. After a harrowing 20 minutes, I emerged from the depths to find Mary had given up waiting at our designated meeting spot and enlisted a motel attendant to help locate her MIA friend.

Mary and I had taken a room together the night before to avoid doing the last-minute rush thing into the city. A darn good idea, too, as I had more than a little agita just getting into Rittenhouse Square Friday night. I’m not a city girl – never have been – and after my thrill-laced adventure into town, I’m convinced, never will be. Combining two and a half hours of rush hour traffic, pedestrian peccadillos, detours, and GPS systems that disregard one-way streets, let's just say the trip was torturous. 

But I'm starting at the end. In the words of Good Witch Glinda, “It’s always best to begin at the beginning,” so, without further ado…

The Idea

Mary Dolan Flaherty emailed me a “Rah Rah, Let’s Write!” article several months ago, after the two of us had engaged in a complaint fest about the pitfalls most writers encounter while honing their craft. At the bottom of the piece was a link to the aforementioned conference, which we both decided to attend. Hence, the room and giggle sharing Friday night.

Alas, if I thought writing had roadblocks, I quickly determined that preparing for a conference to pitch one’s writing signals the starting gun for the mother of all roadblocks.

The Washer

Taking it chronologically, the delays started with the breakdown of my washing machine shortly after New Years. My son beckoned me urgently one evening after starting up said machine, explaining the thing had harrumphed, danced a few inches across the basement floor, then unceremoniously shut off. This necessitated several calls to the manufacturer to troubleshoot and verify what I already knew – the warranty had expired – but they thought they could fix it. Three hundred plus dollars and a missed day of work later, the deed was done, and Mom’s Laundromat was back in business.


The Computer

Next, my computer started misbehaving. You know the drill – sluggishness, refusal to summon the Internet (I think the newest protocol insists we not capitalize the “i” in that all-important, can’t-live-with-it, can’t-live-without-it technological wonder), etc., etc., etc. Don’t get me wrong: the device was upwards of ten years old, had patiently accepted the keying in of three manuscript overhauls –
in short, didn’t owe me anything. But why now!

Despite my objections, and not a few consults and troubleshooting visits from my long-suffering, computer savvy friend, Eileen, the diagnosis proved fatal, necessitating research, complaining, shopping trips, more complaining, and finally, a brand-spanking-new computer. I bragged proudly to Eileen after successfully transferring all my files from the old machine onto an external hard drive, which took a couple of hours away from my writing endeavors, but all to the good, right? Wrong. Turned out the external drive had gone the way of the old computer, and none of my files was retrievable. Cue Eileen, who made yet another emergency trip to my doorstep, only to deliver the unwelcome news that a second file transfer was in order. I grumbled my way through, but at last witnessed the lights of glory in the form of a usable new computer with usable, stored files. Only problem was a new operating system that demanded I learn its machinations before getting any appreciable work done.

The Water Heater… and the Flu

In the midst of all this frolicking, my water heater decided to malfunction. Delightful, hot showers began to wax frigid in the middle of my second chorus of “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” – all this in the middle of winter. What to do? The plumber – who had already dropped by to tighten a loose radiator valve (I believe “phlange” is the actual term he spouted after taking two minutes to fix a problem that cost me a whole day of work) – declared a new appliance was probably in order.

All was set for February 20, a holiday from school so I wouldn’t have to inconvenience my employer yet again – but the best laid plans… Nobody told my lungs I had an appointment that day, so instead of welcoming the plumber, I greeted a bad case of flu, which landed me in the emergency room secondary to breathing problems. My bed and I became besties that week, during which time tissues and inhalers got up close and personal with my airways.


Oh, and the water heater installation? Rescheduled, of course.

The Festive and the Not So Festive

The month of March arrived and, with it, new resolve on my part to hunker down with writing and conference prep. There were, however, two or twenty items yet on my to-do list, not least, the birthday celebrations of both my sons and newly adopted, “labor-less daughter” Elise – all within a week of each other! Happy diversions, to be sure, bookended between less pleasant plot twists like satisfying Uncle Sam’s yearly demand for tax computation, completing school financial aid forms, and tending to a nuisance insurance claim. ¡Ay caramba!

I persevered, promising myself that productivity lay just around the corner. What I hadn’t figured on, though, was a ramp up of work stress, including but not limited to an after-school assignment that went from 45 minutes one day a week to three hour sessions three days a week.

Can you see, neglected readers, why I haven't blogged since the first of the year?

The Deliverance

Somewhere amidst all these amusements, the story of Gideon leapt to mind. 

Gideon, the unlikely war hero, whom kept God waiting while he attempted to verify almighty instructions. Gideon, who carried out divine directions under cover of darkness, lest he receive repercussions from flesh and blood, only to find his covert action was anything but. Gideon, who gathered his nerve while enemies gathered around him.

Gideon, who subjected Omnipotence to terrestrial tests. Gideon, whose army God whittled down to 300 trembling men, to whom He assigned the unenviable task of opposing the mighty Midianites and their Amalekite allies.

Gideon, whose woefully inadequate army God likened to a banal loaf of bread. Gideon, who carried off the bluff of the century with trumpets and torches, resulting in the overthrow of aforementioned enemies.

Gideon, whose victory with ragtag resources gave this author hope of success despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The Outcome

Turned out many of the setbacks I experienced over this past season were actually gifts. Waiting for repairmen and for illness to subside afforded huge blocks of largely uninterrupted time. Time to tweak my manuscript and assemble materials for agent review (never mind that none of said materials ended up being examined by said agents). In addition, I found I work better under pressure than I once thought, managing to pack three months of preparation into three weekends. 

The surprise ending? I didn't hate the process! Rather, I found myself enjoying my characters and story arc, reveling in newfound enthusiasm in the midst of a third rewrite! 

The best part? Two of the three agents I pitched requested a book synopsis and sample chapters! 

Deliverance. Seemed Easter was a fitting day to expound on that theme.

[Jesus] said, "The things which are impossible with men 
are possible with God!" Luke 18:27

For more like this, check out: Reflections by Thea: Deliverance

Reflections by Thea: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited


Reflections by Thea: God Rather Than Men