my daily drive

Every day, while driving to and from work and to and from the gym, I pass a women’s clinic. This clinic provides numerous affordable health care services to women in the community — one of which is abortions. And each time I go by, I see parents sitting in front of the clinic with their young children, who are holding signs about God, and judgment, and hell.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for being able to publicly express both religious and personal beliefs. I also try hard not to focus on others’ parenting choices, but every time I witness this scene, I get a knot in my stomach. I don’t know which aspect of seeing kids unknowingly, or maybe knowingly, damning women they’ve never met to hell disturbs me the most. But the sight of it gets dozens of thoughts and questions running through my head.

I wonder why their parents have them out in the middle of the day, when they should be in school. I think, “Okay, maybe they are home-schooled.” Right? But what kind of home-school curriculum includes publicly shaming women? Or do I even want to know the answer to this question? Even as a non-practicing Christian, I would have more — or any — respect for these parents if they were reading to their kids from the Bible eight hours a day instead of sitting them in front of a clinic and having them hold up signs that many of them can’t even quite grasp the meaning behind just yet.

Then, I ask myself, “Why do they assume everyone entering the clinic is having an abortion? Maybe the patient who just pulled into the parking lot isn’t there for an abortion. Maybe she’s just getting an annual check-up. Maybe she’s in need of medication or a referral to another doctor. Maybe she found a lump in her breast or is experiencing pain. Maybe she’s truly very sick, and this is the only place she can go to get medical assistance.”

I’ve received medical services from women’s clinics multiple times in my life. I have also accompanied a number of friends on visits to these clinics. None of these visits involved abortions. Every single one of them occurred because seeing a doctor at a women’s clinic was significantly cheaper or faster than booking an appointment with a private office. Health care in this country is expensive, and services through a private office can be slow. If you are a low- to middle-class woman, even basic services like breast exams and pap smears can break the bank. For many females, local clinics are the only choice — aside from not receiving medical attention at all.

Then, my stomach turns when I think of the women entering the clinic who are terminating a pregnancy, but not by choice. How horrifying might that be? You’re having a miscarriage, and you pull up to the clinic only to be immediately judged without even exiting your vehicle. It must feel awesome, to have THAT as your last image before you go inside and prepare to say good-bye to your unborn child. I can’t even imagine the anger and the pain that must cause for these mothers, on top of what they are already enduring.

Mostly, though, I think about how these parents are teaching their children, so young and impressionable, to judge others.

I was raised Catholic. I know all about heaven and hell and “thou shall not kill.” But I also know, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). (Didn’t think this crazy, liberal, lapsed Christian could quote the Bible, did you?!) I wonder, “Why does it matter whether the woman walking into the clinic is there for a pap smear, a breast exam, or an abortion? Does she deserve to be judged? Does she deserve to be treated with such blatant hatred and disrespect?”

To me, the answers are obvious. No, it doesn’t matter. No, she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. But I guess it’s not so clear-cut for others, and that makes me angry. What makes us worthy of playing God? Why do we feel entitled enough to act as though we are Judge and Jury? What happened to accepting each other, regardless of choices? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to kindness toward our fellow (wo)man?

As I drive past this scene every day, my heart aches for these women. I don’t know their stories, and I don’t care. I don’t need to know their stories to know that the signs they face as they walk in and out of those clinic doors are hurtful to read — because they are hurtful for ME. And as the sight of this daily protest fades in my rear-view mirror, I fear for our children’s future . . . because I fear we are teaching them that it’s easier to criticize and pass judgment on others who aren’t “like us” than it is to provide love and support.


fox-fur headphones and my “fake” family

Everyone is talking about Dolce and Gabbana. And not because of their newest accessory: fox-fur headphones that cost a measly $8,000 (we’ll get back to these later). No, instead people are talking about their comments to Italy’s Panorama magazine regarding “non-traditional” families. Some of the quotes include:

“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.”

“No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.”

Having children should be an “act of love.”

“You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be.”

“I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue.”

“I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents.”

“A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.”

There’s outrage, understandably, from every side of the equation here. But I have to admit that I wasn’t angry when I read the comments. Perhaps I’ve grown immune to the stupidity that escapes people’s mouths when referring to alternative family building options. After all, I’ve heard enough remarks directed at my own family composition that make some of what these two are saying look tame in comparison. I wasn’t necessarily shocked, either. “Amazed” is the word I’ve been using to describe my reaction. Amazed and . . . confused.

For starters, I can’t understand why, at this point, we are still trying to tie “DNA” to “good parenting.” Have we learned nothing as a society? DNA equating to good parenting makes about as much sense as me being able to make excellent pasta because I come from an Italian family. (My pasta-making skills are horrendous. FYI.) This mentality demonstrates to me two things: 1) a lack of understanding about what it takes to actually BE a parent, and 2) a lack of understanding regarding alternative family-building options, such as adoption and surrogacy. (Side note: When it comes to adoption, I’m a firm advocate for keeping families together — WHEN the situation makes sense. But I think all of us who’ve been touched by adoption in some way will agree that it DOESN’T make sense in all situations. Nothing with adoption is a one-size-fits-all mold.)

I also can’t wrap my head around why anyone still thinks that you need a mom (woman) and a dad (male) to raise a child. Has this world not seen enough incredibly well-adjusted, intelligent, creative, inspiring individuals raised by single parents? Raised by a grandparent? Raised by same-sex couples? I mean, D&G said it themselves: having children should be an act of love. So, maybe that doesn’t exactly mean the act of the sperm meeting the egg. Maybe it means a grandmother caring for her newborn grandson because she loves him and she’s capable of nurturing him. Maybe it means a same-sex couple adopting because they want to share the overwhelming love in their hearts with a child. Maybe it means a single mom or dad raising their kids without many means but with an amazing sense of care and compassion. Plenty of kids grow up “outside the box” and turn out perfectly fine.

Ultimately, though, should we care about what Dolce and Gabbana think? I don’t. Maybe this is why it never made me truly angry to read those things. What do these two know about me? What do they know about what it takes to become a parent when you can’t the “non-synthetic” way? About the amount of money it takes to go through multiple rounds of IVF when you’re just an average, middle class citizen? About the ethical considerations that take place when you’re deciding between adoption agencies? About what it takes to try to become a parent when your marriage is barely recognized by your nation’s government? About how to raise a child who doesn’t look like you? About how to raise a child with special needs? What do they know about the amount of LOVE and patience it takes to care for another human being?

Okay, so they DO know about making expensive clothes. I’ll give them that. Obscenely expensive. They know about placing those expensive clothes on extremely skinny, attractive, white individuals and parading them on runways and on magazine covers to make people believe that this is how they should look in order to appear pretty. They have the ability to discern what goes together and what doesn’t. They know what’s “in” and what’s “out.” They apparently know that there is some kind of market for $8,000 fox-fur headphones. Where this market exists, I’m not sure — says the person who has spent that much money on only life’s necessities: a child, an education, a home, a car. I admit that I don’t know the first thing about fashion or important accessories.

But I do know this: one day we are going to wake the fuck up and realize that between these two choices — 1) convincing people they have to spend $8,000 on a pair of fox-fur headphones to be cool vs. 2) building a family in a non-traditional way — only one of them is legitimately detrimental to our society. And I’m telling you right now: it’s not me and my “synthetic” family.