Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Hey you have a one in two chance of surviving the pregnancy

Nov 15th, 2012 6:13 pm | By

Here’s a nice one from 1998, via Stacy. Not Ireland – Louisiana.

Michelle Lee knows she should not have another child. Her heart pumps so weakly and  irregularly that she has waited 2 1/2 years for a new one. The strain that  pregnancy puts on the body, her doctors had sternly warned her for years, might  kill her.

So last month, when she discovered she had accidentally gotten pregnant, Lee,  26, faced an agonizing prospect: saving her fetus or saving herself. She loves  babies. Yet, finally, she went to Louisiana State University  Medical Center, the century-old hospital whose cardiologists tend to her heart,  and said she wanted an abortion.

The hospital refused.

A committee of five LSU doctors concluded that Lee’s chance of dying was not  greater than 50 percent. And under Louisiana law, a public hospital could not  perform an abortion on Lee unless her life were endangered. They decided her  case didn’t meet the test.

Meh. 50 percent. Those are pretty good odds.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A consortium of Irish doctors

Nov 15th, 2012 5:16 pm | By

Jill Filipovic on the death of Savita Halappanavar.

She died after three and a half days of excruciating pain. She died after repeatedly begging for an end to the pregnancy that was poisoning her. Her death would have been avoided if she had been given an abortion when she asked for it – when it was clear she was miscarrying, and that non-intervention would put her at risk. But the foetus, which had no chance of survival, still had a heartbeat. Its right to life quite literally trumped hers.

It wasn’t even (as I’ve seen some mistakenly say) an attempt to save the fetus. It was just a refusal to act because the doomed fetus still had a pulse. It was just a determined decision to let both die rather than save one – the adult one with existing hopes and plans and work and people who loved her.

Just two months ago, a consortium of Irish doctors got together to declare abortion medically unnecessary. They claimed that abortion is never needed to save a pregnant woman’s life, and stated: “We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

Tell that to Savita Halappanavar, you evil bastards.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Secular Medical Forum

Nov 15th, 2012 4:38 pm | By

Ok I’ve found a good thing. We shouldn’t need it, but since we do, it’s a good thing that it exists. The Secular Medical Forum.

The Secular Medical Forum campaigns for a secular approach to current major health issues.

We are opposed to religious influences in Medicine where these affect the manner in which medical practice is performed. We campaign to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition of religious values and activities on people who do not share the same values and beliefs.

The SMF directs itself to the improvement of the human condition. SMF members do not recognise the assumed authority of religious bodies and we challenge their traditional privileges in healthcare service provision or decision-making.

It commented on the death of Savita Halappanavar.

The Secular Medical Forum believes that this death could have been prevented if Ireland’s law on abortion focused upon the need of vulnerable patients, rather than upon Catholic doctrine.  The SMF believes that healthcare should be provided free from the intrusion of religion.  Bioethics is hindered, not helped, by relying upon religious sentiments.

The SMF is aware that women around the world suffer due to the imposition of religious beliefs which takes away their autonomy over their own bodies.  If this case had occurred in the United Kingdom, it would have been legal for Mrs Halappanavar to have a safe abortion.  However in the UK there is the continual threat to abortion rights by religious groups who wish to inflict their particular beliefs upon other people.  The SMF defends the right of religious people to hold their beliefs; however, patients must remain free from unwelcome religious interference.

The SMF hopes that Ireland’s abortion laws are reformed so that this tragedy is not repeated.

I wonder if the US has an equivalent organization. It certainly needs one.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Hospital administrators interfered

Nov 15th, 2012 12:05 pm | By

More detail, from the full report by the National Women’s Law Center.

the Study revealed four serious lapses in care resulting from religious restrictions:

  • Doctors performed medically unnecessary tests, resulting in delays in care and additional medical complications for patients. These tests were done solely to address hospital administrators’ concerns that the treatment complied with religious doctrine.
  • Doctors transferred patients with pregnancy complications because their hospitals’ religious affiliation prohibited them from promptly providing the medically-indicated standard of care.
  • Hospital administrators interfered with doctors’ ability to promptly provide patients with the standard of care.
  • Hospital administrators interfered with doctors’ ability to provide patients with relevant information about their treatment options.

The religious administration of these hospitals is over-ruling the technical decision process of doctors, and endangering and sometimes killing women by doing so.

Why, exactly, is this being allowed?

One illustrative horror story:

Yvonne Shelton, a nurse employed in the labor and delivery unit at a nonsectarian hospital in New Jersey, refused to assist in two cases of women experiencing serious pregnancy complications: an emergency hysterectomy of a woman who was eighteen weeks pregnant and experiencing a life threatening condition, and another patient, also with an pregnancy that was not viable, who needed to have labor induced in order to save her life.83 Based on her religious beliefs, Shelton refused to assist in any procedure that terminated fetal life. She considered such procedures to be unacceptable abortions, even though nothing could be done to save the pregnancies and the procedures were necessary to save the women’s lives.

The hospital offered Shelton a transfer to another unit where she would avoid such conflicts, but she refused to make the change. After being fired, Shelton sued the hospital, claiming religious discrimination in violation of Title VII, the federal law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of religion. The court ruled in favor of the hospital. It found that the hospital’s transfer solution had been a reasonable accommodation, and that its overriding responsibility was to protect a patient seeking emergency care.

Note that. Shelton not only refused to assist, she refused to do a different job. She wanted to insist on staying in the very job she refused to do, so that she could prevent women from getting needed medical care. She wanted to make women like that die.

With respect to Catholic-affiliated hospitals, they are governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which provide guidance on a range of reproductive health services including surgical sterilization, family planning, infertility treatment and abortion.

They are “governed by” Catholic religious directives. Hospitals are governed by Catholic religious directives.

Medical care is a technical subject. It’s not religious doctrine. Religious directives should play no role in the governance of any hospitals.

We don’t let Catholic religious directives govern engineering firms, do we. No we don’t. We don’t want papal edicts deciding on the safety of airplanes or bridges or tall buildings. Why do we allow Catholic religious directives to govern hospitals? Is it because it’s only women who are killed by this disgusting policy?

Most individuals and even many health providers presume that the Directives’ prohibition on the provision of a range of abortion services applies only to nonemergency pregnancy terminations of otherwise viable pregnancies. But the Study is consistent with anecdotal accounts that provide strong evidence that some hospitals and health care providers have interpreted the Directives to prohibit prompt, medically-indicated treatment of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, placing women’s lives and health at additional and unnecessary risk.10

As did University Hospital Galway.

Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss before twenty weeks gestation, occurs in ten to twenty percent of all diagnosed pregnancies.11 The standard of care depends on the condition which caused the miscarriage as well as the particular circumstances of the patient. One factor is whether the patient is stable, or unstable. An unstable patient is one who is “within reasonable medical certainty” likely to experience a “material deterioration” of her condition during a transfer to another hospital.12 Signs that a patient is unstable include heavy bleeding, severe pain, and a rising temperature — an indication of the onset of an infection.13 If it is determined that nothing can be done that would allow the woman to continue her pregnancy, the established standard of care for unstable patients who are miscarrying is an immediate surgical uterine evacuation.14 In the case of such a patient, immediate uterine evacuation reduces the patient’s risk of complications, including blood loss, hemorrhage, infection, and the loss of future fertility.15 A delay in treatment may subject a woman to unnecessary blood transfusions, risk of infection, hysterectomy or even death.16 (Emphasis added.)

As happened at University Hospital Galway.

I’m now wondering if anybody has any actual figures on this. It seems pretty clear that many of these deaths won’t be reported in the way Savita Halappanavar’s was – they won’t be reported as malpractice at the behest of religious doctrine. But perhaps some have been?

At any rate – it’s a fucking outrage, it has to be stopped, attention has to be paid.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s not just Ireland

Nov 15th, 2012 10:35 am | By

I’ve been re-reading the National Women’s Law Center report on religious restrictions at hospitals that put women’s lives at risk, from January 2011. It’s about what happened to Savita Halappanavar last month and what happens to a significant (but unknown) number of women because of religious bullshit surrounding the termination of pregnancy. It’s about hospitals substituting religious bullshit for technical medical understanding and experience.

The summary is Women’s Health and Lives at Risk Due to Religious Restrictions at Hospitals, New Center Study Shows.

What it tells us.

The Center’s report, Below the Radar: Ibis Study Shows that Health Care Providers’ Religious Refusals Can Endanger Pregnant Women’s Lives and Health, demonstrates that certain hospitals, because of their religious beliefs, deny emergency care, the standard of care and adequate information to make treatment decisions to patients experiencing miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. The study and report focused on cases where no medical intervention was possible that would allow the patient to continue her pregnancy and where delaying treatment would endanger the woman’s health or even life.

Exactly what happened to Savita Halappanavar, you see. University Hospital Galway denied her the standard of care, because of religious obstruction. She died.

“Most women assume that when they go to a hospital they will be offered the best medical treatment options for their diagnosis,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger. “But this report paints a chilling picture of women with ectopic pregnancies or suffering miscarriages who are not offered the full spectrum of medically appropriate treatment options because they have gone to a hospital whose religious affiliation conflicts with the provision of those options.”

And they won’t be told that, so they don’t report it. If they die, their relatives don’t report it.

The reports highlight stark cases where doctors noted a discrepancy between the medically-accepted standard of care for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and the treatment provided by hospitals due to their religious affiliation.  For example, while the standard of care for certain ectopic pregnancies requires patients to receive the medication methotrexate, doctors in the study reported that their hospitals forbade the use of the drug.

A fetus can’t survive an ectopic pregnancy. Methotrexate dissolves the fetus. The godbotherers forbid it – they want the woman to keep on having the fetus stuck in her fallopian tube until the tube bursts.

One doctor in the study reported several instances of potentially fatal tubal ruptures in patients with ectopic pregnancies at her Catholic-affiliated hospital.  She said that her hospital subjected patients with ectopic pregnancies to unnecessary delays in treatment, despite patients’ exhibiting serious symptoms indicating that a tubal rupture was possible.  These patients, therefore, were denied emergency care to which they were legally entitled.

Which puts their lives at risk, as well as their future ability to reproduce.

And here is the situation in that hospital in Galway. Emphasis added.

In some of the miscarriage cases described in the Ibis Study, the standard of care also required immediate treatment. Yet doctors practicing at Catholic-affiliated hospitals were forced to delay treatment while performing medically unnecessary tests.  Even though these miscarriages were inevitable, and no medical treatment was available to save the fetus, some patients were transferred because doctors were required to wait until there was no longer a fetal heartbeat to provide the needed medical care. This delay subjected these patients to further risks of hemorrhage and infection and could have violated their right to receive emergency medical treatment under federal law.

This isn’t priest-ridden Ireland we’re talking about, this is the US of A. This is priest-ridden healthcare in the US of A.

Some doctors at religiously affiliated hospitals are speaking out. Dr. Robert B. Holder, an ob-gyn at Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, a Catholic–affiliated hospital in Sierra Vista, Arizona told the Center: “A couple came into the ER after the wife had miscarried one of her twins at home. When I determined that the remaining twin was in a hopeless situation, this couple faced a tragic, heart-wrenching decision. After helping them make the medically appropriate decision to complete the miscarriage, I contacted the hospital’s administration to seek permission to perform a uterine evacuation. I wasn’t granted permission and I was told to inform this already traumatized couple that their decision was seen as “unethical” per the Directives.

“I was ashamed and angered when I transferred this patient by ambulance to a secular hospital in Tucson, 80 miles away to get proper care,” he added.  “This patient was successfully treated in the end, but ultimately she didn’t receive the treatment she was entitled to in her local community hospital.”

That’s disgusting. It’s all disgusting.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Three doctors

Nov 14th, 2012 5:31 pm | By

Via PZ, another doctor weighs in, making it very clear what the treatment for Savita Halappanavar should have been. It’s medical knowledge from an OB-GYN plus Jen Gunter has actually had the same complication herself.

Not only do I know these scenarios backwards and forwards as an OB/GYN, I had ruptured membranes in my own pregnancy at 22 weeks, a rescue cerclage, and then sepsis. I know how bad it can be.

As Ms. Halappanavar died of an infection, one that would have been brewing for several days if not longer, the fact that a termination was delayed for any reason is malpractice. Infection must always be suspected whenever, preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes, or advanced premature cervical dilation occurs (one of the scenarios that would have brought Ms. Halappanavar to the hospital).

Read the whole post. It’s informative and infuriating.

There’s an update.

Since posting this piece I learned that Ms. Halappanavar’s widower reported that she was leaking amniotic fluid and was fully dilated when first evaluated. There is no medically defensible position for doing anything other than optimal pain control and hastening delivery by the safest means possible.

Ben Goldacre wonders if any of the doctors involved were also involved in the recent statement that abortion is never needed to protect the life of the mother.  It looks as if the answer is yes.

…one of the organisers of the conference was Eamon O’Dwyer, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway, which is attached to University Hospital in Galway, where Savita Halappanavar died.

A response -

Certainly Eamon O’Dwyer is an interesting character. He’s at least 85 years old. He was raised by the Christian Brothers and has been happy to defend them in print.…. He was performing symphysiotomies until quite recently…and is generally serious God-squad.

It would interesting to know how much influence he has on the policies of the hospital which is not, apparently, overtly religious.

Jesus H fucking christ.

Update: the post I did on that conference last month.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Doctors weigh in

Nov 14th, 2012 4:59 pm | By

On Michael Nugent’s post about Savita, a midwife named Clare insisted that an abortion wouldn’t have saved Savita’s life.

This case is very clearly nothing to do with abortion. Pro “choicers” have simply seized upon it and dishonestly pretended that abortion would have saved her life. This scenario is not unusual in obstetrics and whether she aborted or not, what she needed was close monitoring and  timely, effective prophylactic antibiotics. There are a number of similar cases of women who have also died of septicaemia following legal abortion.  Had this unfortunate woman aborted, precisely the same risks of infection would have remained.


The miscarriage didn’t kill Savita, septicaemia did. Septicaemia is also a major risk following abortion. Abortion does not stop people dying of septicaemia.

As to your descibing Savita as being ” in the middle of a long miscarriage” the likelihood is that she was in the middle of a *threatened” miscarriage. Obstetric terminology does not refer to a pregnancy as a miscarriage until fetal demise. Until that point miscarriage is *threatened*. Under ordinary circumstances a woman with a threatened miscarriage is given appropriate care and monitoring in order to prevent such needless death. Here in the UK where abortion is perfectly legal, women with ruptured membranes and threatened misc are not offered abortion in case they might develop septicaemia and die. That would be absurd.

She got her head handed to her, along with an even clearer picture of what happened to Savita.

From EL -

As a medical person, you should know the difference between premature rupture of membranes in a viable fetus, and in a 17 wk pregnancy. Finally,  you know, or should know if you are a midwife as you claim, that an open cervix and leaking amniotic fluid is a risk for amnionitis, and the longer the duration, the more increased risk. Remember the old saying “never let the sun set twice on a laboring woman”? Since there was no chance of viability, antibiotics along with evacuation of the uterus was the correct treatment. Especially for someone in severe pain.

From Dr Kitty -

Clare, she had PPROM at 17 weeks with cervical dilation. BY DEFINITION this pregnancy was not viable. Even if the cervix was not dilated, second trimester ROM leads to fatal lung hypoplasia. Even if there was no ROM an open cervix will not close. It was an incomplete miscarriage.

Whether FH was present or not is IRRELEVANT, the treatment of a second trimester incomplete miscarriage is to evacuate the uterus ASAP to reduce the risk of bleeding and infection. The longer the cervix is dilated with ROM the higher the risk of chorioamnionitis developing and the greater the chance of sepsis. She was septic well before ERPOC was even performed, so it was too little, too late by then.

The treatment of chorioamnionitis requires prompt removal of the infected tissue, i.e. the membranes and placenta. IV antibiotics alone do not cut it.

She requested the pregnancy be ended. Her life was at greater risk the longer she remained pregnant.

If she had had a D&E or medically induced miscarriage the day the pregnancy was found to be non viable there is EVERY chance she would still be alive.

And a followup -

Clare you’re a MW, so your field is normal, uncomplicated, birth. I assume you’re quite good at that.

Your knowledge of pregnancy complications is not as good, so I’ll help a little.

A threatened miscarriage is when there is bleeding in the fist trimester without cervical dilation. Bleeding in the second or third trimester without cervical dilation is a placental abruption. When the cervix is dilated it is an inevitable miscarriage. When there is a significant ROM before 24 weeks there usually isn’t sufficient amniotic fluid to allow foetal lung development, leading to lung hypoplasia and death.

Women with second trimester ROM in the UK are absolutely offered TOP, because the pregnancy is considered non viable and the risk of developing chorioamnionitis is high.

Women with second trimester cervical dilation and prolonged very preterm labour ARE offered TOP, because the cervix is not designed to stay open for days on end, the uterus is not designed to contract for days on end, they are in pain, and the pregnancy is going to end before viability regardless.

Do feel free to double check everything I’ve typed against your gynaecology textbook and the RCOG green tops.

Decisive, I think.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Some coverage

Nov 14th, 2012 4:20 pm | By

Una Mullaly at the Irish Times has collected coverage of the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Future plans -

A vigil and protest will be held at City Hall in Belfast on Thursday (15th) at 5.30pm.

In Galway, where Halappanavar died, a candlelit vigil is planned this Saturday (17th) at 5pm.

A vigil will also take place in Dublin at 4pm on Saturday. At the protest on Wednesday evening, speakers urged those in attendance to gather on Saturday and tell their friends and family to do the same.

In London was organised to take place outside the Irish embassy at 6pm.

Some of the international coverage -

The LA Times headlines their report “Death of woman denied an abortion causes uproar in Ireland”.

The New Statesman has a comment piece, with Sarah Ditum writing “For too long, Irish women have been the victims of cruel politics and heartless zealots: it is time to listen to the campaigners who speak for the simple truth that women’s lives matter.”

Gawker posted the front page of Wednesday’s Irish Times.

Cosmopolitan writes a ‘what if’ report saying, “Sure, this took place in Ireland—not the U.S.—but with some American politicians pushing to remove the right to choose, it’s a scary sign of what life could be like for women in the U.S. if they get their way.”

Oh shit – Cosmo – you’re underinformed. Some Catholic hospitals in the US already do what University Hospital Galway did. Life is already like that for some women in the US. Cosmo, please Google the Bishop of Phoenix.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Here too

Nov 14th, 2012 11:38 am | By

It’s not just Ireland. Don’t think that. It’s Poland, it’s Nicaragua…it’s the US.

A recent study entitled “Assessing hospital polices & practices regarding ectopic pregnancy & miscarriage management” investigated whether and how doctors’ treatment decisions regarding these potentially dangerous conditions are affected by working in religiously-affiliated hospitals.1 This Study focuses on Catholic hospitals as the largest religiously-affiliated provider in the United States,2 and uncovers disturbing examples of treatment practices that increase the odds of medical complications that place women’s lives and health at risk. The religiously-based limitations on doctors’ treatment of serious pregnancy complications documented in the Study contravene core principles underlying federal, and sometimes state, laws that are intended to protect patients.

This means situations exactly like that of Savita Halappanavar.

If it is determined that nothing can be done that would allow the woman to continue her pregnancy, the established standard of care for unstable patients who are miscarrying is an immediate surgical uterine evacuation.14 In the case of such a patient, immediate uterine evacuation reduces the patient’s risk of complications, including blood loss, hemorrhage, infection, and the loss of future fertility.15 A delay in treatment may subject a woman to unnecessary blood transfusions, risk of infection, hysterectomy or even death.16 Some Catholic hospitals, contrary to the opinion of leading Catholic ethicists and theologians,17 apply the Directives to prohibit doctors from providing any treatment to a woman having a miscarriage if there are still fetal heart tones, even when a doctor has determined that nothing can be done to save the pregnancy and the woman’s health is placed at risk by delaying immediate treatment. These hospitals will require that doctors withhold treatment until there are no fetal heart tones, or there are specific indications that a woman’s life is at risk, such as the onset of a serious infection.

Not Ireland. Not Poland. Not Nicaragua. The United States.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Ireland speaks up

Nov 14th, 2012 11:19 am | By

There are demonstrations all over Ireland right now, to protest the horrible needless cruel death of Savita Halappanavar. Jen Keane (@zenbuffy) is there. People are estimating the one outside the Dail at 2 or 3 thousand, on only five hours notice.

A selection of tweets.

Ruairí McKenna@ruairimck

Just back from #actiononx protest at Dail. Hope politicians are listening. NEVER AGAIN #savita

Organisers says over 2,000 people have attended a sit-down protest for #Savita outside Leinster House

Ellen Newman@SmellenNewman

#Savita refused abortion due to doctor’s religious bias. The first thing we learn in med school: religion plays no part in medical decisions

Ciarán J. Martin@CiaranJMartin

2000-3000 believed to be gathered outside the Dáil now, hear the people speak #Savita

mark wright@markwrightuk88

RT @boucherhayes: 2000 – 3000 at #Savita protest now. All Kildare St traffic stopped.


Pictures from the #Savita vigil in Ireland are making me cry actual tears. She had a heartbeat too.

Noel Dolan@cybernoelie

#Cork: Quite a large crowd has already gathered for #Savita outside the Opera House.

SEO for SME@Malcolm_Oakley

Ireland and Poland both have total disregard for woman – … #Abortion #Savita #Poland #Ireland

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Michael Nugent on the death of Savita Halappanavar

Nov 14th, 2012 10:25 am | By

There’s a protest outside the Dail right now. You can follow it on Twitter via #Savita. Michael Nugent is there. He wrote a blistering post on the subject before departing.

…while Savita was dying, the Catholic church was running an immoral propaganda campaign to mislead Irish people into believing that pregnant women will always get the medical care they need in Irish hospitals.

And Irish politicians were yet again refusing to legislate for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. They have now repeatedly refused to do this for twenty years, since the Irish courts established this right in the X case.

We have such a law in the US, at least in the case of hospitals that get federal funds (which most do). On the other hand it’s not enforced. Catholic hospitals are allowed to let women die the way University Hospital Galway allowed Savita Halappanavar to die. Both countries are doing evil in this respect.

… just two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on complaints from three anonymous women (known as A, B and C) who had to travel from Ireland to England to have abortions, for various different reasons.

The European Court found that there is no automatic right to an abortion under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that two of the women did not have a right to an abortion, but that Ireland had violated the Convention with regard to the third woman.

The reason was that abortion is legal in Ireland when the life of a pregnant woman is at risk, and the Irish state had failed to provide an accessible and effective procedure by which a woman can have established whether she qualifies for a legal abortion.

Twenty years after the X case, and two years after the ABC case, pregnant women in Ireland are still caught in the grip of Catholic dogma and political cowardice.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has responded to the ABC ruling by launching a new campaign to stop the Irish Government from carrying out its duty to legislate. The campaign’s website is at

Outrageous lying name for the site – “choose life” indeed – they chose death for Savita Halappanavar.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Theology killed Savita Halappanavar

Nov 14th, 2012 9:30 am | By

Nice work, Ireland. The Bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, must be feeling very proud of you this morning. In Ireland, hospitals damn well do what the church tells them to do, and let women die rather than terminating a miscarrying pregnancy.

Savita Halappanavar died of septicaemia at University Hospital Galway a couple of weeks ago, because she had a miscarriage and the hospital refused to abort the dying fetus.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

This was a hospital. Not a church. Not the pope’s living room. A hospital.

Mr Halappanavar said an internal examination was performed when she first presented.

“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.

“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said, ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.

“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.

“That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics.

“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

She was extremely ill, she was sick and in pain, they knew how to cure her, and they refused to do it. She asked them to and they refused. No, they said. We won’t. You just have to stay sick and get sicker. We refuse to treat you. This is a hospital, we are doctors, and we refuse to treat you.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Turn the other buttock

Nov 13th, 2012 4:59 pm | By

A new low. In Melbourne rabbis are threatening victims of child sex abuse in order to intimidate them out of reporting the abuse.

During a conversation with the victim the rabbi allegedly told him reporting the abuse now would do nothing but destroy the life of the alleged sexual perpetrator and his children.

“In cases like this, that are such a long time ago … the proper approach is to let him go,” he said.

Other shocking suggestions made by the rabbi included:

TELLING the victim he had invited the abuse because he wasn’t religious enough

SAYING children as young as five were abused because they were obsessed with sex, including with animals

ADMITTING he knew about allegations of abuse by the alleged perpetrator several years before the victim was allegedly abused.


It is understood the alleged perpetrator continued to offend for several years before ultimately relocating overseas.

In defending his decision not to report the alleged assaults to authorities the rabbi said he believed the attacks were consensual.

“We are talking about very young boys and everyone is saying they agreed to this,” he said.

Godalmighty! Very young children and “they agreed” so…


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Dadoo ronronron dadoo ronron

Nov 13th, 2012 4:10 pm | By

How does Scientology get away with it, exactly?

It charges money – a lot of money – for everything it does, but it calls itself a religion (one made up by a writer of pulp science fiction) and get a religious tax exemption.

How does it manage that? Why did the IRS say “Ok, you get your tax exemption, what the hell, why not”?

You know what “auditing” does? It restores your beingness.


That’s what it says!

The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is  accomplished by: (1) helping individuals rid themselves of any  spiritual disabilities; (2) increasing spiritual abilities.

Beingness. Does that have any connection to the ground of all being?

Through auditing one is able to look at one’s own existence and improve  one’s ability to confront what one is and where one is. There are vast  differences between the technology of auditing, a religious practice,  and other practices. There is no use of hypnosis, trance techniques or  drugs during auditing. The person being audited is completely aware of  everything that happens. Auditing is precise, thoroughly codified and  has exact procedures.

A person trained and qualified to better individuals through  auditing is called an auditor. Auditor is defined as “one  who listens,” from the Latin audire, meaning “to hear or listen.”  An auditor is a minister or minister-in-training of the Church of  Scientology.

A person receiving auditing is called a preclear—meaning  “a person not yet Clear.” A preclear is someone who, through auditing,  is finding out about themselves and life. The period of time during  which an auditor audits a preclear is called an auditing session.  A session is conducted at an agreed-upon time established by the  auditor and preclear.

And for an agreed-upon sum of money; a large sum of money.

An unlimited number of questions could, of course, be asked,  which might or might not help a person. The accomplishment of Dianetics  and Scientology is that L. Ron Hubbard isolated the exact questions and  directions to bring about spiritual freedom. The questions or directions  of the process guide the person to inspect a certain part of their  existence. What is found will naturally vary from person to person,  since everyone’s experiences are different.

Regardless of experience or background, however, the individual  is assisted in locating not only areas of spiritual upset or difficulty  in their life, but the source of the upset. By doing this, a person is  able to free themselves of unwanted barriers that inhibit, stop or blunt  their natural abilities and increase these abilities so that they  become brighter and more spiritually able.

Why do people believe this stuff? Why does it work?

Why do people take Ayn Rand seriously?

Did L Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand ever meet?

Did anyone ever see them both at the same time? Are we completely sure they’re not the same person?

Is it something in the water in Los Angeles?

I have many questions. I’m not going to ask an auditor for help though.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Breakfast with Agnes Bojaxhiu

Nov 13th, 2012 12:02 pm | By

Oh, this is depressing. A 2010 article by Jeff Sharlet (I was browsing him for background on “The Family” and the Ugandan kill-the-gays bill) on how Hillary Clinton moved to the right on abortion at the behest of (gag, choke) “Mother” Teresa and “The Family” at the 1994 (gag, gag) “National Prayer Breakfast.”

HC was at the 58th annual nationalprayerbreakfast in 2010, and there she got nostalgic about the late Albanian nun.

In  her address,  Clinton sentimentally recalled meeting Mother Teresa at the 1994  National Prayer Breakfast. Mother Teresa had used her platform as guest  speaker to chastise the Clintons (standing right beside her, smiles  stretched to the breaking point) for their nominal support of abortion  rights. “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to  love, but to use any violence to get what they want,” Mother Teresa  said, and went on to suggest adoption be promoted as an alternative to  abortion. “Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child.”

Well, that’s the problem with having national prayer breakfasts where people in government go to be all goddy, isn’t it. They get blackmailed into forgetting all about the women who simply don’t want to be pregnant, and instead get all sentimental about “the child” who doesn’t exist yet, at the behest of a religious fanatic who thinks pain is a prezzy from Jesus.

The Clintons remained seated, yet  both — particularly the ever-politic Hillary — understood how  behind-the-scenes power politics work within the Christian Right, and  responded to the rebuke by finding “common ground” with the nun.  Although Clinton didn’t mention this in her public reminiscence last  week, after C-Span stopped taping and the breakfast plates were cleared,  Fellowship head Doug Coe gently brokered a peace between Hillary and  Mother Teresa.

Coe left the Breakfast with one of the most  powerful women in America in his debt for political services rendered.  And Mother Teresa had the satisfaction of watching Hillary’s support for  abortion as a fundamental right give way to an acceptance of it as a “tragedy” — one that should be made as “rare” as possible. In the long  run, Hillary turned a public scolding into a highly visible friendship with a figure whose widely accepted moral bona fides came with an  explicitly anti-abortion imprimatur from the Christian Right.

Read on, if you have a strong stomach.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The bishops prattle of humility

Nov 13th, 2012 11:12 am | By

The US Catholic bishops are chastened by their failure to impose their religious views on the electorate last week, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan lectured them yesterday on what to do about it.

To think harder and realize that they should pay more attention to human well-being as opposed to pretended goddy mandates?

Don’t be silly.

After sweeping setbacks to the hierarchy’s agenda on Election Day, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Monday (Nov. 12) told U.S. Catholic bishops that they must now examine their own failings, confess their sins and reform themselves if they hope to impact the wider culture.

“That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a repentant heart,” Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the 250 bishops gathered here for their annual meeting.

Repentant for being bossy authoritarian theocratic bullies who abuse the illegitimate power of the pulpit to try to force people to do things that are not good for them?

Don’t be silly.

On Monday, various speakers reiterated that they were not about to change their beliefs or policy positions, but they indicated they have to rethink their strategy. Dolan’s approach in his presidential address was to repeatedly stress the theme of humility and the need for bishops to go to confession to renew themselves spiritually so that they can then preach their message more effectively.

They need to pretend to be more humble so that they can force people to do what they pretend God commands. There’s nothing humble about that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The real thing

Nov 13th, 2012 10:42 am | By

There’s a conversation (or a thread) at Christianity Today about the Ugandan anti-gay bill that its sponsors say will pass in time for Christmas, jingle jingle jingle. I just want to look at one comment because it’s such a pure example of how not to think about such things. It’s not at all surprising; don’t go expecting anything like that; it’s just that it’s usefully pure.

I do not advocate killing homosexuals. I think Uganda is on the wrong track here. But I also do not believe that we should glorify a behavior that God has clearly condemned. Sin is sin. Sin is rebellion against God. You cannot be a Christian and live a holy life unless you repent and turn from all sin. Otherwise you do as the writer to Hebrews says and “crucify Christ all over again.” I do not hate homosexuals but I am called by God to preach the life giving Gospel to all people who are all sinners so that they might be freed from their bondage. As a Christian the Bible teaches us the thoughts of God and how to live a righteous life. I do not understand it all. Some things may not always make sense but I accept it by faith just as I accept God’s gift of salvation for me.

See what I mean? It’s got it all, and it’s just disastrous.

There’s a behavior that “God has clearly condemned” so we have to condemn it too, without further thought and for no other reason. It’s just an order, that’s all. “Sin is sin.” No further thought. “Sin is rebellion against God.” No further thought. Just the dogmatic insistence on obedience to a magical name, who is purported to have clearly condemned something (clearly? really? more clearly than other items in the bible that no one pays any attention to?).

And then he (his name is Jeff) admits he doesn’t understand it all and that he accepts it by faith. Fabulous. What about the bit of the bible that says to kill the witches? What about the passages that command genocide? What about everything that’s missing from the bible?

It’s so pure. Sin is sin. Sin is rebellion against God. The bible teaches us how to live a righteous life.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Hundreds of library books tossed into the fire

Nov 12th, 2012 5:06 pm | By

Salman Hameed tells us more about that girls’ school in Lahore that was torched by an angry mob because a teacher accidentally photocopied the wrong page of the Koran for an exam. It’s heartbreaking.

He starts with Umair Asim and his passion for astronomy.

But what truly lights up Asim is his passion for public education. During the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009, Asim helped lead and organise numerous public observations in Lahore as well as in government schools in smaller cities and towns in Punjab. Wherever he went, he would bring his telescope with him. During IYA, it was a common sight to see Asim standing in front of an audience of 500, first explaining to them basic principles of astronomy and then entertaining long lines of people – from ages eight to 80 – to show them craters of the moon and rings of Saturn.

It is not hard to explain where his passion for public education comes from. His parents established Farooqi Girls’ High School 34 years ago. It is now considered one of the premier private schools in Lahore. Asim also serves as vice principal and I get emails from him when a student or students from the school would take top positions in the province-wide exams.

And now it’s gone. Incinerated.

The accused teacher is now in hiding and the police have arrested the 77-year-old principal of the school. He also happens to be Asim’s father, and his appeal for bail has been denied by the court. Asim and the rest of his family are now in “protective custody”.

But what is the future of Asim, his family and the accused teacher? With the charged emotions around blasphemy, once accused, it is virtually impossible to ever be safe afterwards, even if the court clears your name. Like the era of European witch trials, Pakistan is going through its darkest phase.

If she is lucky, the accused teacher will be able to find asylum out of Pakistan. Asim’s father, now sleeping on the floor of a jail cell, will have to cope with the fact that all the effort that he and his wife poured in for those past 34 years is gone.

And Asim – one of Pakistan’s brightest gems – must be wondering if he will ever feel safe in a country where he shared his love for astronomy with so many people.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Compulsory haircuts

Nov 12th, 2012 2:52 pm | By

Via Tarek Fatah…

Life on the metro in Cairo.

Two niqab-wearing women assaulted and forcefully cut the hair of a Christian woman on the metro Sunday, the third such reported incident in two months, raising fears of a growing vigilante movement to punish Egyptian women for not wearing the veil in public.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said in a statement that the assaulters called the Christian woman, who is 28 years old, an “infidel” and pushed her off the train, breaking her arm.

Well isn’t that pleasant. You’re on the train, minding your own business, and a couple of women in bags chop your hair off, call you an infidel, and break your arm in the process of throwing you off the train. All because you have the audacity not to be of their religion and not to be in a bag.

EOHR Director Naguib Gabriel urged the interior minister to address the recurring attacks on unveiled women before it becomes a common practice.

Last week, a woman wearing the niqab cut the hair of a 13-year-old Christian girl, Maggie Milad Fayez, in the metro. That same week, an Egyptian court gave a female teacher in Luxor a six-month suspended prison sentence for cutting the hair of two 12-year-old girls after they refused to cover their heads.

It’s all cut cut cut, isn’t it. Hair, genitals, hands, feet – just have to cut something off, for the greater glory of gudd.

Mainstream religious scholars say wearing the veil is compulsory for Muslims, but that no one can be forced to wear it.

Then don’t say it’s “compulsory,” you fools. If it’s compulsory that means that people can and should be forced; that’s what the word means. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that things are compulsory in your religion but then pretend that no one can be compelled to comply.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Same sex marriage will make all children orphans!!

Nov 12th, 2012 12:31 pm | By

The Vatican, shaken to its core by the shocking US elections in which three states voted for legalizing same-sex marriage and no states voted against it, has raced to reiterate its own stupid insistence on the obvious and the wrong.

“In western countries there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union,” said Father Federico Lombardi.

“It is a question of admitting that a husband and a wife are publicly recognized as such, and that children who come into the world can know, and say they have, a father and a mother,” he added.

There you go – an imbecilic combination of obvious and wrong which add up to nothing.

Dude, the fact that two women can marry doesn’t somehow mean that a wife and a husband are not publicly recognized as such. I know this. I know this for a fact. Apparently you don’t, because the Vatican is as isolated as if it were on Mars before the arrival of any Rovers, so I will assure you, from my own knowledge: wives and husbands are still publicly recognized as such. It happens all the time. I mean, granted, there aren’t constant shouts about it wherever they go – but then that was true before, too.

In other words, nothing has changed. Nothing has changed for straight couples. They haven’t been made Uncouples overnight.

Also, children can and do still know, and still say they have, a mother and a father. Nothing has changed there either. Not a thing. No children are looking around in shock and wondering why they can no longer say they have a mother and a father. No children are staring at their parents in amazement and saying “why aren’t you my mother and father any more?!!”

Try again, Father Lombardi. Try to think of something that’s not just stupid mindless obstinate distaste cultivated into pious hatred. We’ll wait.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)