Abortion Less Traumatic Than Childbirth, Study Finds

February 1, 2011

As the abortion wars heat up once again, there’s a new study out that’s sure to add fuel to the fire. A leading medical journal reports that having an abortion may be less damaging to a woman’s mental health than having a baby.

The study — which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week — tracked 365,550 girls and women in Denmark who had a first-trimester abortion or first-time delivery between 1995 and 2007. Researchers selected females with no history of mental health problems prior to getting pregnant. They then compared the rate of mental health treatment (as measured by an inpatient admission or outpatient visit) within the 12 months after the abortion or childbirth as compared with the 9-month period preceding it.

The study found that women who had an abortion sought psychiatric treatment at roughly the same rate before and after that event, while the incidence with which women who gave birth sought counseling increased dramatically after having a baby.

Specifically, one percent of women sought help for possible mental disorders in the nine months before the abortion, while 1.5 percent did so in the 12 months that followed. On the other hand, 0.3 percent of women who gave live birth visited a psychiatrist for the first time in the nine months before birth compared to an average of 0.7 percent in the year that followed. So even though women seeking abortions are statistically more likely to have emotional problems to begin with, the study concludes they actually “suffer” less after the abortion than their counterparts who have children.

The scholars’ conclusion? Contrary to popular belief (and heretofore received scientific wisdom), women’s mental health is not seriously compromised by having an (early) abortion.

Read the rest of this story at www.politicsdaily.com

 

Image: Pregnant Woman by Bete a Bon-Dieu via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Huck Finn, Censorship And The N-Word Controversy

January 7, 2011

My ten year-old came home from school the other day with an assignment from his teacher: to write an original story based around the concept of a “ship wreck.”

He promptly sat down at the dinner table and began composing his opus. It was the story of a “tan skinned” pirate of Somali origin who hijacks a boat with an AK-47. In broken English, the pirate threatens all the passengers on the ship with his weapon. Then they die.

When my son showed me his essay afterwards, I was mortified. “You can’t write this!” I exclaimed. “You sound like a racist!” I then forced him to expurgate the most offensive passages from his text, including the color of the pirate’s skin and the derogatory description of his accent.

But when I recounted this story to an English friend of mine, she just shook her head. “Oh you Americans!” she said, laughing. “You’re so hung up on political correctness! An English teacher would neither notice nor care about any of this. Lighten up!”

I was reminded of this vignette earlier this week when I read that a new edition of Mark Twain’s classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is coming out in February. In the new version, all instances of the N-word – which appears more than 200 times in the book – are to be expunged. In its place, the book will employ the term “slave.” (“Injun” – a derogatory term for Native Americans – will also be replaced by “Indian.”)

Read the rest of this story at www.PoliticsDaily.com

Image: Huck Finn by CaZaTo Ma via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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PTA Burnout: Is Parent Volunteering A Waste Of Time?

December 7, 2010

I was walking down the street the other day when I saw an attractive-looking poster advertising a Christmas fair. As I stopped to read the fine print, I did a double take. The fair was the one held annually at my daughter’s school. And for the first time in four years, I realized that I had no earthly idea how many raffle tickets we’d sold. Nor had I been the one to obtain the local business sponsor for the fair.

And then I remembered: Oh, yeah, right. I’m not on the PTA anymore.

As I wrote about several months ago on this blog, there’s a natural life cycle to being a member of the PTA. You come in — usually when your kids are new to the school. You do your thing — raise some money, run some bake sales, or in my case, achieve an alter-ego, rock star-like status in your community as “Raffle Lady,” which you’ll never quite manage to shake.

And then some combination of increased work demands, changing family priorities and one too many times jamming the PTA laminator sets in. And you hand off to the next gang, who come to that very first organizational meeting in September brimming with exactly the same irrepressible enthusiasm you once evinced, but now can barely manage to fake.

Read the rest of this post at http://www.PoliticsDaily.com…

*****

I’ve been on the Julian Assange beat this week. Here’s a longer post previewing his arrest at Politics Daily, and here’s a short update now that he’s been arrested. Stay tuned, folks!

Image: Fondant Roses and Colorflow Butterflies by angegreen via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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When Your Child Comes In Second Place

November 18, 2010

In that competitive, fast-paced, land of over-parenting that we all now inhabit, encouraging your child to come in first place is a no-brainer. But what about when your kid comes in second? How do children – and parents – deal with that?

I had reason to confront this question myself recently when my son told me that he was a finalist in an annual reading competition at his school. Every autumn, three children are selected from each year group to stand up before a roomful of parents and teachers and read a passage from their favorite books. My son won the competition last year with a selection from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Return of the King,” so he was already the defending champion. But what if he didn’t win this time?

It doesn’t help that my son goes to a school where — because they’re all boys and because they’re 9 — the kids rank each other on everything they do: who’s the best soccer player; who can recite his times tables fastest; who can play two instruments and at what level. One of his friends even phoned me up one day to announce that my son was his “third best friend, so could he please stay for dinner?” (Gosh! I wondered. What do the first and second best friends get? Dessert? A movie?)

My son chose a particularly challenging passage to read. It was a scene from Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” one that required him to produce both a credible American Southern accent as well as some 19th-century slang. (We live in London, so neither of these things is exactly familiar territory.)

As the date approached, we rehearsed the passage several times a week. As a veteran of many high-school theatrical productions (and the daughter of an actress), I coached him on pacing, intonation and accent. We re-read the passage over and over, homing in on the really tough bits of dialogue until he got them right. The night before the finals, I felt that he finally nailed it.

Read the rest of this post at the New York Times Motherlode blog

Image: What’s this I hear about over-parenting? by Kevin L. Moore via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To See The Kids Are All Right

November 10, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

OK, folks, I’ve got another movie recommendation for you.

It’s a small-ish, Indie film by Director Lisa Cholodenko called The Kids Are All Right which has been out in the States for a while now, but only recently opened over here in the land of the free and the brave. (Whoops! That’s the U.S.! I meant, the land that spawned the land of the free and the brave…must get my history straight.)

As always, when I recommend movies or books on this site, it’s because I think that they have something profound to say about adulthood.

So, too, with this film. Here are five reasons you should rush out to see it if you haven’t done so already:

1. It’s about marriage. The film centers around two women – played with just the right mix of pluck and vulnerability by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore – who’ve been married to each other for 18 plus years. And though it’s sort of a film about gay marriage (see #4), I wouldn’t say that’s the central theme. Rather, this film is about what I’ve referred to before as middle marriage – that particular stage of life when you’ve been married for a while and the kids are no longer babies and maybe you’ve had a career change or a move or two, and you’re trying to figure out what it’s all about. And Cholodenko (who also co-wrote the script) gets that stage of life perfectly: the yearnings, the frustrations, the mis-communications, the boredom, the anxiety and, most importantly, the weary and imperfect love that underlies it. I guarantee that if you’ve been married or in a long-term committed relationship for more than five years you will watch this movie and find yourself nodding in recognition.

2. It’s about infidelity. I give nothing away by revealing that the movie’s central drama concerns what happens when the man who donated sperm to this couple many years earlier so that they could have kids re-appears and completely upends their family life. Lots of movies have treated the topic of marital infidelity, which is – as I’ve noted before – not only wide-spread, but in some ways, entirely predictable. (I always feel like I need to justify that claim, so here’s some scientific evidence about why monogamy isn’t natural.) What I liked about this film was the way that the topic was broached. The cheating didn’t stem primarily from feelings of boredom or revenge or even idle sexual attraction. It stemmed from the desire to be recognized and appreciated. Which struck me as so…honest.

3. It’s about parenting teens. Again, there are loads of movies about parenting. What sets this one apart is that it focuses very specifically on parenting teenagers which – in light of our cultural obsession with babies (thank you, Erika Jong!) – can sometimes go missing. The movie not only addresses the classic theme of “letting go” ( the couples’ eldest child is about to go off to college), but also how difficult it can be when you don’t approve of the company your kids are keeping. And Lord knows I could relate to that.

4. It’s about gay marriage. OK, I realize that I just said that this movie wasn’t primarily about gay marriage. And it isn’t. But I very much liked that rather than seeing another film exploring some aspect of a long-term heterosexual relationship, this one brought us inside a homosexual one. In a country where we are still – improbably – trying to figure out if everyone should have the right to marry whoever the heck they want, having a mainstream picture focus in on a lesbian couple with kids who look (gasp) just like every other couple with kids is culturally important.

5. It also stars Mark Ruffalo. ‘Nuff said.

*****

I was over on Politics Daily yesterday talking about the latest chapter in the harrowing Elizabeth Smart story.

Image: Minhas mães e meu pai by Universo Produção via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Teen Sex: Lessons From Europe (Again)

November 4, 2010

Well, here’s something to pop your eyes open in case you can’t quite shake that post-election torpor. A county in the U.K. has just authorized pharmacies to distribute birth control pills to girls as young as 13, without parental consent.

It’s a pilot project in the Isle of Wight, best known as a British tourist destination for its ye olde worlde charm. Under the project, teenagers who approach a pharmacist for the morning-after pill will also be able to get a month’s supply of the contraceptive pill without seeing a doctor or informing their parents. After that month is up, girls must make an appointment with their general practitioner or sexual health nurse in order to get any additional supplies.

The campaign is aimed at reducing unwanted pregnancies, which have crept up on the island in recent years. According to Jennifer Smith of the local branch of the National Health Service, which approved the project: “I would suggest that what we’re doing is being entirely responsible by providing [contraception to] these most vulnerable women, for whom, for the most part, pregnancy is not a good outcome. We are linking them with people most able to support them in further decision-making and appropriate behavior in the future.”

Read the rest of this post at www.PoliticsDaily.com

 

Image: one pill gone by jodigreen via flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Stepping Down From The PTA

September 16, 2010

I hit a milestone of sorts yesterday morning. I attended my last-ever PTA meeting at my daughter’s school.

I hesitate to say “last ever” because who knows what the future will bring? I did, after all,  *just* volunteer to sell cakes at my son’s school yesterday morning. And as all those who’ve ever been involved in a PTA well know, once you start selling cakes, it’s a slippery slope from there. (I once walked into a meeting intending to volunteer to bake some brownies and somehow walked out running the school’s largest fund-raiser for the next three years.)

But for this year at least, and quite possibly the next several, I’m done with the PTA.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’ve made a ton of friends through the PTA. It was the first way that I plugged into British society when I moved here from the States four years ago.

Raising money for the school has also made me feel like a responsible, engaged, committed parent. And it’s been a great use of that lonely, frustrated, administrative “project manager” who lives inside my writer body, crying out to anyone who will listen to set her free to just…run something.

And, hey, let’s face it, it’s the PTA that’s really given me the platform with which to run for Mayor of Hampstead.

On the other hand, it’s time to step down. I just got an incredibly detailed point-by-point email in my inbox from a fellow parent who’d like to see other parents coordinate more with teachers on how to bring additional resources to the school in these cash-strapped times. It’s a perfectly good idea and one that we may well need to implement. But whereas my inner Manager would have once gobbled up this email and skipped off to try to implement it, today I just hit “delete.” And happily so.

And that decision is not dictated by anything personal or even professional. It’s just that I no longer have the energy to put into the PTA. Or, better stated, I have that energy but it’s not energy that I wish to devote to the PTA anymore.

Because like jobs and careers and houses and seasons (cue The Byrds performing Turn, Turn, Turn), everything has a life cycle. Even your extra-curricular activities. And you need to acknowledge when you’ve lost your mojo and it’s time to move on.

So, farewell, class teas and school raffles and the laminator-for-making-posters-that-never-really-laminated-but-that-was-half-of-the-fun and all those local business owners who greet me by name and still offer me freebies in their shops just out of habit. It was a great ride.

And to the incoming crew, I say Godspeed.

*****

Today I’m over on Politics Daily talking about the Pope’s Visit to the U.K.

Image: Charity Bake Sale by Shereen via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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