Savita Halappanavar | Denied Abortion Dies from Septicemia

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The ‘War on Women” became a seminal issue of the 2012 United States presidential election. Never before had women’s issues been at the forefront of a political contest in which many men openly revealed their utter ignorance of how women’s bodies functioned, while waging an all-out campaign to eliminate the legal statutes that guaranteed the right for women to seek and secure safe abortions.

While Americans were discussing abortion rights in the abstract, last month an Indian woman living in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar, 31, died because she was not allowed to receive an abortion.

Her tragic story began when she presented to University Hospital Galway because at 17 weeks pregnant she was experiencing unusual back pain.

By all accounts Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar were happy with the upcoming addition of a child to their family, so this sudden development was worrisome. Savita, a dentist, and her husband, an engineer, waited for the results of her internal examination, but when the doctor returned with the prognosis it was devastating. She was fully dilated, her amniotic fluid was leaking, and the child would not survive.

Doctors told her that she would miscarry in a few hours, but instead according to a report in the Irish Times today, she “died of septicemia a week later because, even after doctors confirmed that her baby would certainly die, they refused to perform a life-saving termination of the pregnancy citing the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country.

This is a clear case of when the religious beliefs of attending physicians outweighed their Hippocratic Oath. Though, the Halappanavar repeatedly begged the doctors to induce labor since it was clear that the fetus would not survive, but each time doctors refused to perform the life-saving measures required to save Savita’s life, asserting that as long as there was a fetal heartbeat they would not terminate the pregnancy.

Over the next few days medical personnel seemed to take inordinate care of the fetus, checking every few hours to see determine if its heart was still beating. Meanwhile, Mr. Halapannavar had to watch Savita deteriorate as poisonous blood course through her body. Once it was clear that they could not save her baby, Mrs. Halappanavar once again begged for the doctors to induce labor to end the pregnancy, as before, these requests by all accounts were assiduously ignored.

Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar are Hindu and thus believed that they were not subject to the prohibition against abortions which governs the religious lives of Irish Catholics. Even when Mr. Halappanavar explained that they were neither Catholic nor Irish and that under the Irish law, a woman has a “legal right to an abortion where there is a ‘real and substantial’ risk to her life,” the doctors still refused to save her life.

Two months prior to Savita’s death, on 13 September 2012, more than 140 Irish medical professionals from the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, mental health, and molecular epidemiology attended a symposium to discuss abortion as a tool to save a mother who has a problematic pregnancy that is life-threatening.

At the conclusion of the conference the symposium issued ‘the Dublin Declaration.’ Drafted by leading medical experts in maternal healthcare the document asserts that “abortions are not medically necessary, and thus abortion has no place in treating women and their unborn children." (Source: Zenit)

Thus, Savita perished after a week of suffering and with the knowledge that she had already lost her child and that she would most certainly die.

Meanwhile, across the pond, America pro-choice supporters mounted a vigorous defense of Roe vs. Wade while combating ignorant beliefs about pregnancy espoused by many far-right conservatives like former Representative Joe Walsh.

The Illinois Rep. proclaimed that because of "advances in medicine and technology, you can't find one instance" in which an abortion would be necessary to save a mother's life. It was also his belief that the health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time for any reason ... there's no such exception as the 'life of the mother.'

When women’s freedom and the right to self-determination is held hostage by religious beliefs, cultural bias, or patriarchal dominance, death is sure to follow. Whether by stoning or honor killings or medical neglect, the net result is women everywhere remain at risk as long as a few people can impose their will and belief system about women’s bodies on society at large.

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The Rabbit Hole of 'Legitimate' Rape

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:22 p.m. EDT, 20 August 2012

Rape Victims in American MediaGlobally women are under assault and their rights are constantly under attack by religious extremists, misogynist, and cultures in which they are viewed as chattel.

Americans by and large think of the challenges these women face as daunting, yet far removed from the realities of most women living in the U.S. for whom protections of women’s reproductive rights has been legislated into law.

That was until Saturday, 19 August 2012, when Republican Congressman Todd Akin stated a position that is widely held by conservative Americans but rarely voiced. The belief that a woman cannot get pregnant through rape, with a subtext that is much more revealing because it implies that if a woman is raped and gets pregnant then she must have wanted it and is only afterwards crying foul.

This is straight out of the text book of religious extremists of any faith who believe that if a woman is raped she caused it by dressing provocatively, by engaging in risky behavior such as walking to her car after work, going out to have a drink with her girlfriends, coming home late, or being sexually active.

When the Afghanistan Taliban executed a woman last month because of accusations of adultery, the world was outraged, but it was expected as par for the course for those ‘crazy Muslims who treat their women like animals and make them completely cover up.’

But, there is no difference between the Taliban and the Republican conservatives who are running for election during this 2012 American election cycle who hold extreme views on women's reproductive rights and in particular the rights of rape victims. The definition of rape has been continuously narrowed and defined by them as ‘legitimate or forcible,’ which can be extrapolated to exclude statutory rape, date rape, and incest.

Thus, by this definition any woman who cannot prove that she has been raped by a preponderance of evidence of being physically and violently assaulted is deemed to be lying and therefore not deserving of the assistance. In fact, according to Akin, if a woman is raped and conceives then she can’t possibly have been raped.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” ~ Republican Congress Todd Akin

Under this premise, not only should the woman suffer further indignity by carrying to term the child of the man who raped her, the child must come into the world baring the stigma of being the product of rape, and thus the woman and the child are given a lifetime sentence simply because they were the unfortunate victim of a sexual assault.

According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), “In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.”

1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies” — an estimated “32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”  (Source: The New York Times)

The only thing that makes this case more alarming is that it revealed the extent to which women’s rights in this country have been under quiet but aggressive attack by a group of men who desire to control women’s reproductive rights. There is no difference between these American politicians and members of the Taliban and other extremists who believe that a woman does not have the inalienable right to self-determination and reproductive choice.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw6j-weI5FE]

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The Fallacy of Western Love | Meriam Al Khalifa

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 02:12 a.m. EDT, 15 June 2011

BAHRAIN - This post is about Meriam Al Khalifa who is a young Bahrani woman who eloped with an American serviceman and left her home in Bahrain during the night without the consent or knowledge of her family.

The picture to the right is of another beautiful Arabic woman Fathima Kulsum Zohar Godabari, who unlike Meriam Al Khalifa, has comported herself with the dignity expected of a woman of her station within the confines of her society and Islamic faith.

Her photo is used to both illustrate the nature of the wealth, lifestyle, and religious nuances that doomed Meriam and Jason Johnson's relationship from the beginning, as evidenced by their divorce filing on November 17, 2004 after five years of marriage. Several news programs featured the story of her 'escape' from Bahrain with her loving boyfriend when his tour of duty ended. As I watched the interview and how they interacted together, waves of emotions came over me.

First, the American media glorified the enormous disrespect Meriam displayed toward her family in allowing the exuberance and headiness of new love override common sense and propriety. The portrayal of this story was subtly propagandist in the assertion that despite the odds Western ideals can vanquish Middle Eastern tradition. Ultimately, their story demonstrated nothing more than youthful naiveté and indiscretion.

We have all been young and even as adults we can become intoxicated by the powerful and euphoric feeling of new love. During this time we can't bear to be separated from our new romantic partner, in our eyes they can do no wrong and the exuberance that we feel seems as if it will never dissipate.

Second, it didn't work for Romeo and Juliet, and in general it doesn't work in real life either. As I watched the interview during which they chronicled her journey to the States and her subsequent meeting with her in-laws, it became almost unbearable to watch. Meriam came from a very privileged background and as she sat a picnic table in a tiny back yard it was clear from her reaction that this was not the life that she thought she would have when she fled Bahrain.

In Bahrain, Meriam lived in an extremely affluent neighborhood that is home to families associated with the Royal Family and other high-ranking government officials. Her family's compound as depicted in the interview was a mansion worthy of a Palm Beach estate. Although, some would classify her existence as that of a beautiful bird in a gilded cage; she was nonetheless cared for like a bird whose wings have been clipped. Because of this and other reasons, it became apparent that she was ill-equipped to live as the wife of a hardworking, family-oriented, blue-collar serviceman.

Finally, there was the issue of faith. Unfortunately, in all faiths the pull of the world is often too strong to resist and thus religion becomes loosely worn by many of its practitioners. Unlike Islam, Orthodox Judaism and Christianity with which most people are familiar, Jason is an observant Mormon.

The fact that he is Mormon was less emphasized in the interview than the fact that Meriam is Muslim. Having grown up within a very patriarchal Islamic family, I know that the formative years and the nuances of culture, society, and faith which are inculcated at that time are not easily sublimated. I suspect that this may have also played a part in the demise of their relationship.

In Orthodoxy it is the responsibility of the a wife to take her husband's family as her own and to accept their ways as her ways. This would be nearly impossible for an Islamic woman to do, especially if the faith to which she would be subject is vastly different in its understanding and core beliefs. For a Muslim one of the basic tenets is that there is only one true God, and there were no other prophets after Muhammad.

This would, from a Muslim's perspective, disqualify members of "The Church of Christ Latter Day Saints (LDS)," who believe that the true, restored church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr., who is considered a prophet. Through religious revelation, he embarked upon the literal restoration of the early church, which included the re-establishment of the Church of Christ and later propagated by Brigham Young who is also known as the Modern Moses. (Source: Wikipedia)

I am not normally in favor of divorce, nor am I happy at the dissolution of someone's marriage, but in this case I differ. I feel that this marriage should have never occurred, and I believe that by its dissolution a whirlwind affair was revealed for what it was, a Western fairytale.

Though fairy tales often dispense cautionary wisdom, the lesson here is that illicit love adversely impacts more people than intended, and in the end little more than sexual pleasure is gained and often with regret and recrimination.

I could glean nothing more about the outcome of Meriam Al Khalifa's life upon her return to Bahrain, but I hope that this youthful indiscretion does not mar her life forever, nor render her unsuitable for a future marriage or motherhood.

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Frida Kahlo | The Thorned Princess

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:43 AM EDT, 18 May 2011

"I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best." - Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, Self-PortraitMEXICO - Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are two painters who lived extraordinary lives defying conventional standards of conduct and mores of their day.  Frida was born on July 6, 1907 and died on July 13, 1954 after a long and protracted illness.

Although Frida did not consider herself a surrealist painter, her paintings portray otherwise.  Within the universe of her canvases she depicts her emotional and physical pain with exquisite poignancy. Even someone with a cursory knowledge of surrealism can easily decipher the objects of her derision and disgust.

Her physical pain was the result of a trolley accident in which she suffered serious injuries, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. Also, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability." (Source: Wikipedia)

As a result, by 1944 Frida's health had deteriorated to such an extent that she had to wear a steel corset Broken Column, 1944for several months.  The straps of the corset held her spine in place but its rigidity left her unable to move and only able to stand upright or lie supine.

The portrait to the left depicts her damaged spine. The nails piercing her face and body represent the physical pain she has endured since her accident. The larger nail piercing her heart represents the emotional pain caused by Diego.

Her relationship with the famed Diego Rivera was renown for its volatility, dramatic arguments and public altercations. Diego had a larger than life personality and was of immense stature and girth.  He was also a philanderer.

Diego's infidelity caused Frida immense suffering.  In response Frida would often engage in extra-marital affairs during their many separations. One of her more famous relationship was with the famed dancer and performer  Josephine Baker.  Frida's inability to completely sever her relationship with Diego Rivera is in my observation symptomatic of an abused woman.

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Published: 18 May 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Steven Stosny, a counselor and the founder of CompassionPower, an anger and violence management program which treats people convicted of abuse in the home call this cycle a "pendulum of pain."  Although Frida and Diego's relationship was emotionally abusive  and not physically, it none the less followed the same pattern.

Abuse victims will "leave out of either feThe Two Fridas Kahloar, anger or resentment," Stosny said. "But then, after the fear, anger or resentment begins to subside, they feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and that takes them back."

After a violent incident, there is often a "honeymoon period" during which the abuser may apologize profusely, give the victim gifts and persuade the victim to stay, experts say. But when that period is over, the abuser may once again reoffend. " (Source: CNN)

All of these complexities can serve as a distraction from her talent or can augment and flesh out the breadth of her humanity and her struggle to define herself in the patriarchal society into which she was born; and the male dominated field of painting which she chose as a career.  We shall never know but the 2002 biopic goes a long way toward illuminating her struggles.

The eponymous film Frida, directed by Julie Taymor, in which Salma Hayek portrayed the artist with Alfred Molina playing Diego is based on Hayden Herrera's book. The film grossed $58 million worldwide and worth seeing to get a full picture of the nuances of this complicated woman's extraordinary life.

Watch the official trailer of the film "Frida." (Click here to view)

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