December 1, 2009
Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death,” 1989
From The Body: What Can You Do, See, Hear and Know on World AIDS Day 2009?
The theme for World AIDS Day this year is HIV treatment access and human rights. Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality” bill is therefore relevant to this discussion:
The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.
“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.
(Rather an unfortunate topic for Pastor Rick Warren to declare himself apolitical on, then, no?)
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.
Also from Human Rights Watch: World AIDS Day: Punitive Drug Laws, Policing Practices Impede HIV/AIDS Response
Now that the U.S. has lifted the travel ban for people with HIV, the International AIDS Society has announced that it will hold its 2012 conference in the US, which will be the first time the conference has met here since 1990. (I recently read about the Society’s early meetings in And the Band Played On; I hope to have a review posted within the next few days.)
Education is still essential: Michigan teenagers, for example, are still becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate.
From Sex in the Public Square: Thinking Local on World AIDS Day
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »
August 26, 2009
“[L]et us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.”
–Senator Ted Kennedy, from his his 1980 address to the Democratic National Convention
Senator Kennedy was a complex figure indeed, even if one ignored his personal life*. Nevertheless, he helped Congress make a number of great strides toward progressive ideals**, and I expect his loss will be especially palpably felt (and has been felt already) during the continuing health-care-related struggles. I wish peace and comfort to his family and friends.
*I realize, of course, that that “even if” is pretty damn loaded.
**Hyperbolic? Oh, most definitely. After all, this is a memorial.
August 24, 2009
Perhaps my favorite discussion of the current debacle that is the health care debate is Michael Bérubé’s Chávezian Airspace exclusive interview with “the whole entire American mass media!” It’s mostly my favorite because it made me laugh as I beat my head against the desk, as opposed to other discussions, which just made me beat my head against the desk.
TransGriot discusses the sexism and racism inherent in the discussion of whether or not Caster Semenya is “really” a woman, and Cara takes Germaine Greer to task for the transphobia in her discussion of Semenya and gender.
And speaking of transphobia, I was jazzed to see that city leaders in Lawrence, KS are debating “whether to approve a new city ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity.” The comments on the article are, sadly, full of fail, and I was ready to write them off entirely after skimming the first few, until I came to this gem:
I hope they pass this so women have to pay as much as men do for car insurance.
Women only get 70 cents for every dollar a man gets which is unfair because now the man only has 30 cents.
My train of thought went something like this: Oh jeez, another “what about the menz” guy who… wait, what? No, dude, see, the 70 cents is… you can’t be seriously saying… spluh? I mean, surely this is a disingenuous argument, not someone genuinely misunderstanding the “women make 70 cents for every dollar men make” talking point, right?
On a cheerier note, for those who may be looking at attending a college or university in the near future, Campus Pride has put together an LGBT-friendly campus climate index. I haven’t yet checked to see how my alma maters scored, but I’m definitely curious.
Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start!
July 24, 2009
I was getting caught up on the blogs yesterday and came across Christie’s story of her mother’s battle to get adequate care during her recent struggle with cancer (with an update here). I defy anyone to read that first post and afterward claim that our health care system doesn’t need a massive overhaul.
I think there’s more to it than that, though; I think perhaps it’s a story that indicates the need for a sea change in society, not just in the health care industry. It’s a story the likes of which I’ve heard before, not to that extreme, but there are certainly similar elements: a woman of a certain age (or older) is not taken seriously when she complains of severe pain, and after entirely too much time goes by, it’s finally determined that the source of the pain is metastatic cancer. (Obviously such experiences, at least insofar as one’s pain not being taken seriously goes, are not limited to older women suffering from cancer, but like I said, I’ve heard that particular tale all too often.) It comes back to what I would argue is one of the essential elements of feminism (or perhaps even progressivism in general): trusting women’s (or poor people’s, or People of Color’s, or Queer people’s, etc.) experiences, and their perceptions thereof. There seems to be a paternalistic mindset here: “I know better than you what you’re going through, and I am going to trust that knowledge over your assertions.” What causes such a mindset? Perhaps more importantly: what can we do to change it?
February 9, 2009
Doctor: Is she your sister?
Willow: She’s my everything.
–Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5:19, “Tough Love”
Nearly a year ago now I spent a week in the hospital with my mother as she underwent cancer treatments. Every morning I went downstairs to retrieve a wheelchair with which I would deliver Mom to her appointments. Mom had introduced me as her daughter to just about everyone we encountered upon our arrival and afterward, and our relationship was accepted as a given. No one ever asked me what I was doing pushing an empty wheelchair into an elevator or walking to the food court by myself. I never had to prove my relationship with my mother – which was rather handy, considering that we have different last names and I don’t generally travel with my birth certificate.
I thought of that hospital experience I came across this story over the weekend. It is the sort of story that is becoming terribly, heartbreakingly, familiar:
As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.
Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.
Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.
My knee-jerk reaction to this story was: this is why we need same-sex marriage. Upon further reflection, though, it’s clear to me that the situation is far more complex than that. I think the root of the problem really lies with a limited definition of family – generally restricted, as it was at Jackson Memorial Hospital, to “immediate family and spouses.” That definition excludes more than just long-term partners – what about, for example, situations in which a grandparent or aunt or uncle stepped in as a child’s primary caregiver, and that child is now an adult? If the (adult) child is in a car accident, shouldn’t that grandparent or aunt or uncle be allowed to see their loved one? Furthermore, what about step-parents, or people whose family aren’t related to them by blood or romantic relationships?
I also thought about identification in emergency situations. As a general rule, if someone says, “You have to let me see him; he’s my husband/brother/father,” do people at the hospital take them at their word, or do they ask to see some sort of ID? What if, as I alluded to before, the last names are different? If Janice Langbehn had just told the people at the hospital that Lisa Marie Pond was her sister, would that have solved the problem?
I appreciate that hospitals have these policies because they want to protect their patients (at least ostensibly). I don’t have any suggestions as to how hospitals could accommodate expanding definitions of “family” while still keeping patients safe and un-harassed (though that begs further questions: what if the patient is estranged from their immediate family? What if their spouse is abusive?). Still, I can’t help but feel that these policies – or at least their enforcement – have a judgmental feel to them, that hospital officials consider themselves the arbiters of what is and isn’t family. And it seems to me that the only people that ought to be making that decision are the family members themselves.
December 3, 2008
(How is it December already?)
On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings
On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé
On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman
It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!
October 5, 2007
September 27, 2007
Now, on Aug, 29 2007 my husband and I suffered a devastating miscarriage. Being near midnight we went to the ER. The hospital was very compassionate about our loss and was able to get us in quickly and expedited our treatment. The following day I called BCBS and informed them that we had made a visit to the ER, and was told it wasn’t necessary to call them just for ER visits, but only when we are admitted. Believing that BCBS would never make the mistakes at they did the previous and only time we have used our insurance I thought everything would go smoothly. Boy was I wrong!
On, Sep, 21 2007 I received a statement for BCBS that they were denying all of the claim. I called them and asked why they were denying the entire claim, and was told by Jane, “We do not cover ELECTIVE abortions. If you chose to terminate your pregnancy for non-health threatening reasons, BCBS will not cover it.” WTF!!!??? I asked her, “Are you saying that my records state that I had an ELECTIVE abortion, in an ER at 12 o’clock in the morning?” It was then, I think it clicked in Jane’s mind what she was dealing with and told me how sorry she was. I lost my cool and even started crying. I had a miscarriage not an abortion, and being treated in such a condescending way by BCBS really ticked me off. Thinking what an incredibly huge screw up, BCBS will be right on it trying to fix this, well you would be wrong. I was told to call the hospital and have them fax over my records stating I didn’t have an elective abortion. Who the heck can get an elective abortion in a busy ER at 12am, anyway?
And an update, with clarification:
I just got off the phone with the hospital and was told that the claim was not miscoded. The billing clerk told me that the wording clearly stated that I had had a spontaneous miscarriage and not an elective abortion. I was also informed that this is common practice with BCBS of Kansas City to deny miscarriage clams as an “elective abortion.”
On one hand this story leads a number of commenters (and readers, I imagine, myself included) to conclude that universal health insurance would be an improvement over this garbage. Others suggest that what we really need is a more competitive marketplace, with doctors and surgeons (etc.) competing for customers via price wars (because when someone’s cutting me open, cost should totally be more important than the surgeon’s track record [/snark]), and insurance should be more like car insurance, where it’s used for emergencies only, rather than preventative maintenance along with emergencies. Some people said the woman in question obviously should switch insurance companies (like we usually have a choice?); others suggested that she should be sure her policy actually covers expenses related to miscarriage (because it would be acceptable if it didn’t [/snark]).
I don’t really have anything to add; I just wanted to call attention to the story. It’s a fairly extreme example, but as you can see from the comments thread, this kind of thing happens all the time.