Echo chambers of white privilege? | Responding to memes

I recently encountered the following on social media:

Protestor with sign expressing a false accusation, unless the word “you” is singular and addressed to a specific person who believes that only white, healthy, non-impoverished babies have a right to life.

In an attempt to be charitable to the protestor, I will assume he or she truly believes what the sign says. That can only be possible for someone who lives in a bubble of white privilege, an echo chamber in which one does not actually encounter many (if any) people with divergent views, or people of other races, with disabilities, etc.

There is thinly viewed racism in what the protestor may have meant to be an accusation of racism against white pro-life advocates. The racist assumption is that no blacks and no Mexicans are pro-life. This could not be further from the truth.

I live in an area where I am increasingly at a disadvantage because I don’t speak Spanish. According to the 2020 census figures, the nearby city is 77% Hispanic, and the majority are from Mexico. At least one of the local pro-life groups is headed up by a Hispanic woman. At one of the local parishes, Mexican women gather often to pray for an end to abortion — for all babies. Obviously the white protestor holding the sign doesn’t live in a community like mine, or he/she would know of the strong pro-life and pro-family ethos among many Mexican women.

It is through conversations with Black women that I learned of Planned Parenthood’s racist origins (as far as I know, the organization has never repudiated their racist founder, Margaret Sanger) and what some view as a racist ethos that continues to this day.

To ignore the pro-life voices coming from the Mexican and Black communities is, at best, ignorance born from the privilege of living in a bubble populated only by people of similar beliefs and ethnicity. I would suggest that the protestor needs to venture out of his/her safe zone and actually engage with people before making assumptions about them.

Equally offensive, if not more so, is the accusation that people who hold the pro-life position only believe that some babies have a right to life. Those who truly believe in the sanctity of life do not believe that it only applies to their particular demographic, and only if the baby is healthy. As for the latter assumption, some of the most passionately outspoken pro-life advocates I’ve ever met or heard speak are people who were born with disabilities (the very disabilities or conditions that are often targeted for abortion).

I know many people who have worked tirelessly for the pro-life cause for decades. I have never encountered any who would suggest that a poor woman of another race, pregnant with a disabled child, consider an abortion. Instead, I know people who provide a myriad of services to support women with unplanned pregnancies, and who continue supporting them in many practical ways after the child is born. I know people who have adopted ill, disabled, and abandoned infants. I could go on and on.

The absurdity of this sign is even more apparent because the protestor felt a need to include “gay” and “transgender”, as if future sexual preferences and future gender dysphoria could somehow be diagnosed in babies. One would think the author of this sign viewed supposed pro-lifers as all being white racists who believe that only certain privileged babies have a right to life. If the protestor was pro-life, he or she would know that nothing is further than the truth. But it seems that the protestor believes that either no babies have a right to life — or only babies privileged enough not to be selected for abortion. Otherwise the sign would read, “All babies have a right to life, even if the baby is poor…” etc.

Pro-lifers believe that every baby, including the most inconvenient, unwanted, unloved baby — the very life too many in our society would deem as unworthy and disposable — is a human being created in the image of God, and thus is a life worthy of protection.

The protestor’s own privilege is showing.

Why I believe in informed consent and medical choice

Doesn’t everyone? Not really, it seems. Some people seem to think that there are any number of valid reasons that should override an individual’s right to consent or decline medical treatments. I’m neither a legal scholar nor an expert in ethics (to understate things to the extreme!) but I would like to explain why this issue is important to me personally. Here are my main reasons:

  1. I was raised by a survivor of Nazi Germany. In addition, one of our dear family friends was a concentration camp survivor. I grew up hearing about the horrors of the medical experiments carried out by Nazi doctors. Unless you or one of your parents suffered under totalitarianism, you probably have no idea how that shaped my thinking about freedom, the role of government, the rights of citizens, etc.
  2. When I was in high school, the horrifying Tuskogee medical experiments were in the news. I was both frightened and ashamed of my country.
  3. In the 1980’s, I became active in an organization that was seeking to stop the alarming high rate of medically unnecessary cesarean sections. What was troubling was how poorly mothers and babies in the U.S. fared compared to other countries with lower c-section rates and different obstetric practices. I became appalled at what I learned of the history of obstetric care in this country, the misinformation being given to mothers, and how mothers of not just my generation but pervious ones had to fight for better care and better hospital practices. We had science on our side, but it seemed like we were fighting a losing battle. We were no match for the medical industry.
  4. During that time, I also discovered that most doctors learned almost nothing about breastfeeding or nutrition, and were often the source of misinformation that many of my peers began jokingly referring to as “old doctors’ tales”. Again, we had science on our side… but that wasn’t enough. We couldn’t reach every mother, and we couldn’t fight the medical system. (Although, years later, I was excited about the strides made in changing many hospital policies that undermined breastfeeding.)
  5. I also learned, through bitter experience, that our medical system often withholds information from patients. It may not always be deliberate — medical professionals cannot inform us of something they themselves do not know — but our system does not always welcome questions, provide information regarding other treatment options, or disclose all of the potential side effects of treatments and medications. (Think of all the things we’ve been assured were “safe and effective” that turned out to be neither for far too many people.)

In short, I simply don’t like the idea of allowing either my government or medical professionals to make medical decisions for me. Ultimately, it’s not just a matter of wanting the freedom to make my own decisions; it’s also a matter of being the one who has to live with the consequences of those decisions.

Back when I thought the vaccine issue couldn’t get any more heated…

I recently stumbled upon a blog post I wrote about vaccines way back in 2015. From today’s perspective, those former debates seem downright docile and friendly.

That was pre-COVID, of course. For those who have forgotten, that was before people announced their vaccination status on Facebook, before people began their Christmas letters telling you that they were double-vaccinated and boosted (as if that was the most important event of 2021) before I saw a fully vaccinated and boosted medical doctor fly into a panic because she came within six feet of a healthy double-masked unvaccinated person, before I heard people advocating loudly against informed consent, parental rights, medical freedom, and medical privacy.

Fear is powerful. Now this nostalgic read makes me chuckle and long for the good old days. Things seemed so much simpler back then.

“I weigh in about vaccines”
— Read on

Not all “advancements” in commercialized medicine are improvements

A discussion on Facebook reminded me of how easy it is to smugly view previous generations as “ignorant” or even “stupid”, without realizing how little of their practical knowledge and skills we possess. We are often far more reliant on others to do for us what previous generations did for themselves.

The field of medicine has made enormous strides. But it has also become commercialized, and too many people have become overly reliant on pharmaceutical remedies.

I grew up before medical insurance in a family that had to consider every expenditure carefully. I was blessed with a Daddy who had been a medic in the Korean war, and I was thankful he was able to “fix” my broken nose, help me avoid stitches several times (except for one dramatic injury) and, along with my mother, nurse me through various illnesses and injuries. He also knew his limits and knew when a call to the doctor or an ER visit was necessary.

At age 18, I was diagnosed with a mild case of a serious, usually progressive, neuromuscular disease. (God later healed me during pregnancy, but that’s a story for another time.) While at UCLA, I read everything in the BioMed library related to my disease and watched/listened to every lecture, symposium, and presentation available in the library. I was so up on the latest research that, moments before I had my wisdom teeth extracted at the dental school, one of the professors asked me to explain my condition and its implications to a group of dental students.

It never dawned on me to consider investigating “alternative” treatments.

Then an interesting thing began happening. I’d get sick with something and go to a clinic or doctor — including the top specialists at UCLA — and we would end up having conversation after conversation along these lines:

Doctor: Normally I would prescribe x or y, but those are contra-indicated for you, and there is no safe or effective alternative.

Me: [alarmed, frightened face]

Doctor: Don’t worry. [recommends some home remedy or describes how this sickness was treated before current pharmaceuticals were developed]

Me: Seriously? Just go home and do that? Does it even work??!!

Doctor: The old remedies and treatments don’t lose their effectiveness simply because we have discovered new ones.

Me: Oh.

One doctor, offended at my youthful arrogance: Doctors knew what they were doing long before you were even born, and what I’m recommending has worked for centuries.


“Yeah, but we know better now!” people protest. They act as if everyone used to die of every childhood disease pre-vaccine. They can’t imagine a world before pharmacies in supermarkets and on multiple street corners, before medical insurance, before medical imaging and lab tests…

I’m thankful for many of the advancements in medicine. I have benefited greatly. But I’m not thankful for big corporate medicine, or for how many of us have been turned into helpless consumers of medical services. I’m not thankful for the opioid epidemic, the over-reliance on pharmaceuticals, the obesity epidemic, etc., etc.

Oh, and the “home remedies” those doctors suggested to me back in the day? They worked wonderfully… and without side effects.

[Previously posted on Facebook]