Welcome!
Billy Dees - Writer, Podcaster, & Media Enthusiast 

I am Billy Dees and I am thrilled that you stopped by my website!

This website is a collection of my editorials and blog posts. The site also features many of my podcasts. The "Billy Dees" Podcast is available on most of the major Internet Radio Networks including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spreaker, and Google Play for Android. 

Social issues, politics, and pop culture are among the topics featured. I am not an ideologue. I try to objectively examine issues and hopefully present a unique perspective to the reader and listener. Thank You.

My most recent podcast, an episode list, and live podcasts will appear here:

Listen to "Billy Dees Podcast Show" on Spreaker.

Tuesday
Aug232016

Interview with a 40 Year U.S. Navy Veteran (Podcast)

This podcast is an interview with Joe Prusacik, a veteran of the United States Navy who served for 40 years. During this interview we cover JFK, Joe's service during the Vietnam era, and how changes in military culture often relect those in society at large.

This podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher under "Billy Dees."

This photograph was taken August 23, 2016 at PerfectMediaProds Recording Studio 

Listen to "Interview with a 40 year U.S. Navy Veteran 8 23 2016" on Spreaker.

Wednesday
Aug032016

"How to Write and Share Humor" by Donna Cavanagh

Donna Cavanagh has just published a new book, “How to Write and Share Humor.”  

Featured in this post is the book trailer for the release.  

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a book trailer is a video about a book that is often stylized as a movie coming attraction. We chose a fairly straightforward approach highlighting the content of the book. Donna has had associates and friends send her pictures of the book from various landmarks around the country as part of her #SummerOfHumor tour. We assembled some of the images into a book trailer that I voiced-over. 

You can follow Donna Cavanagh on Twitter @dtcav and purchase her new book on Amazon

The week of August 1, 2016 I was featured in an interview by Donna on her site HumorOutcasts.com.

You can check out the interview post here. The feedback and support that I have received from staff members and readers has been fantastic and much appreciated. 

Friday
Mar182016

Podcast Competitive Cheerleading as a Sport

#Interview #Commentary #Sports

This podcast is an interview with Marissa, a former avid competitive chearleader and now a coach. In the show she discusses the sport and how competing in the world of cheerleading has affected her life. You can follow or tweet Marissa on Twitter @muhrisah_

Photograph taken March 18, 2016 at PerfectMediaProds Recording Studio

Listen to "Competitive Cheerleading and Its Classification as a Sport" on Spreaker.

Saturday
Feb132016

“You Don’t Know What It Is Like Because It Has Never Happened to You.” - Are You Sure?

Editorial

How many times have people accused you of not being able to understand their situation because you have never experienced the same thing?

“You don’t know what it is like to be divorced because you are in a good marriage!”

It is true that not everyone is going to appreciate your personal trials and tribulations. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss someone who may be trying to relate to your plight in life because he or she has not experienced the same issue. Yes, shared experiences can certainly be helpful to attain a spirit of commonality with another person regarding many things in life. By the same token, I wouldn’t say that a common experience is a prerequisite to a mutual understanding or is even as significant as it may seem.

Presuming the person you are trying to communicate with is a compassionate human being who is genuinely trying to understand your experience, we have to consider two things. The first thing is the capacity of the human mind. Secondly, events happen in a particular time and space. Is there such a thing as a truly identical experience in the first place?

I have never been on the moon but I know it’s damn hard to breathe up there. I do not have to go there to understand that.

On a scale of much superior grandeur, Albert Einstein mentally envisioned a gravitational reality of our universe, which only now is being proven to be true by our best scientific instruments. Stephen Hawking can imagine what it is like in the far reaches of space around the area of a black hole with amazing mathematical accuracy. I would never underrate the power of the human mind to imagine anything.

We must also consider that just because other people have had the “same” type of occurrence happen to them as we have, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they experienced it in the same way. Therefore, there is no guarantee that someone with a supposed common experience as you will have a greater understanding of it than someone who hasn’t. As a matter of fact, they may have less empathy.

“I don’t know what your problem is? I went through the same thing last year and I got through it. Nobody had to help me.”

When people say something like that to you it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a stronger resolve than you. Along a more philosophical measure, what it may mean is that all of our experiences are more or less unique to us.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” – Heraclitus

If this is true then it follows that no two people can step into the same river twice in exactly the same manner either. We all step into the changing river as different and changing people, in a different spot, and at a very specific instant in time.

Who we are at any given time, where we are at any given time, and the given moment in time itself; all converge in a manner that is totally unique. We can’t duplicate it, and no one else can either.

My take away from this is that although we may share some general similarities regarding our experiences, at our singular core all of our profound experiences in life are exclusive to us.

In this sense, no one has been through what we, as individuals, have been through. In the end, if we are going to relate events that have impacted our lives to other people, regardless of their personal familiarities, we have to rely on their ability to understand that special spot in the universe that pertains to our inimitable experience.

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”-Stephen Hawking

I believe that does make us, as human beings, very special. If we can contemplate our changing selves in a forever-fluctuating fabric of space and time, then I wouldn’t underestimate someone’s ability to fathom the circumstances and emotional impact of your divorce.

Be generous when communicating and let someone try to relate to your experiences.

Saturday
Jan302016

Why Space Matters to Our Society and Economy

"In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation." 

"There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all." 

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."       

- John F. Kennedy September 12, 1962 

NASA ImageThe above quotes are from the famous speech that President Kennedy gave which set the goal of putting a man on the Moon during the 1960’s. The space program at that time had the backdrop of an early part of the cold war. Space interests in regard to national security and intelligence continue to be serious issues of today. If you review the entire Kennedy speech, you will find that the message is about investing in science and technology as much as it is about exploring space. Additionally, it speaks to a humanity that we all share. 

The resources allocated for NASA are a fraction of the overall budget for the United States and are often tragically limited because of incredibly wasteful general spending. Yet, so much has been brought forth by the investment in space technology for our society in so many ways. It is the one government program that has paid off. 

Here are just a few of the benefits that have been brought forth by the space program either directly or indirectly:

Semiconductor cubing, structural analysis, air quality monitors, virtual reality, aircraft controls, microcomputers (Hello to my friends on mobile devices with GPS!), design graphics, enriched baby food, water purification systems, scratch-resistant lenses, athletic shoes, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, firefighting equipment, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, microspheres, solar energy, weather forecasting, telemetry systems, laser angioplasty, human tissue stimulators, programmable pacemakers, arteriosclerosis detection, ultrasound scanners, automatic insulin pumps, portable x-ray devices, invisible braces, dental arch wire, palate surgery technology, clean room apparel, implantable heart aids, MRIs, bone analyzers, cataract surgery tools, magnetic liquids, advanced welding torches, gasoline vapor recovery, self-locking fasteners, machine tool software, laser wire strippers, lubricant coating processes, wireless communications, engine coatings, better brakes, weight saving technology, improved aircraft engines, advanced lubricants, energy storage systems, along with an array of other things.

Oh no! How could I have omitted golf ball aerodynamics? 

Advancements in space technology have enhanced our way of life, given birth to new products and industries for our economy, and improved the safety of the society in which we live.

NASA ImageIt is also of no small consideration for me that historically all of this progress has been under the umbrella of American leadership for the entire world. Although I am very glad that the world community has an interest in developing space technology, I do find it disconcerting that lately America seems perfectly content to go along for the ride. It is a common cliché reflecting the simplicity of any particular subject to say that, “It isn’t rocket science.” Well, as America’s math and science scores continue to lag behind large percentages of other populations pertaining to the world's largest economies, it seems as though we prefer things not to be rocket science. 

The United States can barely rouse a modicum of enthusiasm for serious space exploration. The space shuttle program is now gone leaving the U.S. to hitchhike rides aboard Russia’s spacecraft. NASA's ability to achieve new space-exploration milestones may very well be limping along because of the government’s disagreements about the agency's priorities. That is a shame because other countries, including China, seem to be picking up the ball. 

During a classic piece of news footage from the 1960s a reporter walked up to a woman in France and asked her how she felt about men walking on the Moon.  Her answer was, “I knew the Americans could do it.” What, exactly, does the world know about us now? What is synonymous with America?

At least there has been renewed American enthusiasm for a mission to Mars. I hope it continues!

I believe many of the social ills we have in our society and around the world are largely because of a lack of an education and an appreciation for the sciences. None of us are composed of a better set of elements than anyone else. We are all stardust and life is incredibly short. If we are lucky, among the billions that the Earth makes, only 80 or 90 some odd trips around the sun is all we get on our life's journey. 

The fragile biology of our bodies is supported by the same air, water, and nutrients that every living thing, which has ever existed on Earth, has thrived upon. Napoleon, Cleopatra, and even Tyrannosaurus Rex walked under the same sun and sky as we do. There haven’t been any new shipments of natural resources to the Earth. We rely heavily on the environment’s natural processes of decay and renewal, a system that we are rapidly beginning to outpace.

The more we know about our earthly home and how it relates to the incredible oneness that we all share, maybe the more likely it will be that we will make the world a harmonious place for all of us to share.

For my money, the scientific benefits for society as well as the economy, the insight into our existence, and the leadership by America of extending humanity’s reach into space, are entirely worth all of the investment into the space program.

NASA ImageExplorers have shaped and mapped our world. However, our world does not end at the top of our atmosphere. The planet on which we live is a product of a vast universe with endless possibilities. Our exploration into our existence is just beginning. 

 

 

“In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” ― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

 

Sunday
Jan032016

The Ideological Divide in America

Any time that I engage in a conversation with someone who profoundly professes to be a conservative or a liberal, I know the odds of a meaningful discussion happening fall off greatly. I am referring to those who govern their notions and views with a firm and overriding ideology, not by general philosophical points of view. There are merits to an individual having consistent principles, however, being an ideologue is another matter.

As it is associated with social or political movements, an ideology can be described as a body of doctrines and philosophical bases pertaining to a group or individual. Generally speaking, liberals are likened to Democrats and conservatives are likened to Republicans. Philosophical debates have often worked well in American governance as points of view clash, but then get hammered out on specific points in a system of checks and balances provided by reasonable people from both sides.

Different politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neal managed their philosophical gap with a public and sometimes personal affability that exemplified one of the last political eras that actually worked for better or worse. The right and the left are so polarized now that any middle ground of reason has become a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland that no one from either side dares to tread into.  

One may ask if these ideological debates are now moving past the confines of reason in any number of arenas. We hear so much about gridlock and partisanship in Washington but what about in our society? The basic structures of liberalism and conservatism are being contorted into deep-seated belief systems by an increasing number of people across the country.

These entrenched beliefs are becoming evident as the increasing ideological polarization of America is manifesting itself in the form of more groups of people who have radical political agendas. These extreme positions are becoming apparent in everyday conversations as well as in some of the profiles and threads in social media. In fact, this phenomenon is often exacerbated in social media because what should be an age of free-flowing information has become a time where people circle their wagons in cyber groups that have the same style of judgment and block all of those who dare to have a different opinion.

Have you ever checked out the comment section of any major news website? The dialogue there is on many occasions bizarre, ignorant, and often frightening.

I have often stated that I am not a political creature, and one of the reasons as to why that I am not is precisely because of the extreme ideological arguments in modern politics. I do not find any ideological debate intriguing any more than I find squabbling about religion satisfying. Confronting the perceptions of self-righteousness is always particularly frustrating.

I recently had a tweet session with a liberal woman who would not concede, not even hypothetically, that a Republican could ever suggest an idea that was worth deliberation. She had completely removed from the table the possibility that anyone’s position from the outside of her political dogma was worth consideration. There are plenty of these types of closed-minded individuals on both sides of the ideological gamut.

The synchronous orbit that these staunch liberal and hard conservative axioms have around American politics has virtually removed the possibility of a multi-dimensional analysis ever being given to an issue. It is just not a matter of a compromise, often a dirty word in some circles, being lost. There are those magical moments when during an exchange of opposing ideas a new and better concept is achieved. This type of an outcome is rarely attained given today’s political ambiance. Positions on issues are now predetermined via radical ideological templates before the actual constructs of any given matter have even a moment of objective scrutiny.

I am concerned that some of these acute ideological trends are transforming into pseudo religious or even cult like syndromes. Both sides of these ideological debates are thoroughly and equally convinced that they alone behold the absolute truth. Drastic ideological positions are morphing into altered states of desired reality.

It has been said that no country has ever went to war without God on their side. Correspondingly, is this delusion of moral and ethical superiority that so many ideologues undergo setting the stage for severe social strife in our society?  How many more ways can we divide each other?

One could make the argument that our system of government does apparently work in regard to the gridlock, the partisanship, and the lack of progress in Washington. We do have a representative government and it may follow that we, as a society and a country, are getting exactly the type of representation that we deserve.

Saturday
Dec052015

Are Some People Born Evil?

The recent acts of terror both at home and abroad have raised many philosophical questions about what types of individuals would be inspired to commit such horrific deeds. Are they directly influenced by their upbringing and environment to commit evil? Or perhaps is there something at the core of their being that would eventually drive them to commit atrocities against the innocent regardless of what the eventual stimuli may be in their lives?

This leads to one of the oldest debates about human behavior; nature versus nurture. This argument is used in reference to any number of human behavioral tendencies. For the sake of the topic today, are we products of an ancestral lineage that helped create us with a propensity toward evil or are we influenced by other people and other factors in our environment to learn evil traits? Again, to clarify today’s discussion we are not talking about petty crimes or minor moral dilemmas. We are talking about abhorrent evil.

Negative conditioning is most obvious any time a picture of a child surfaces wearing a hooded sheet or a Nazi uniform. This type of negative conditioning is also present on the tough streets of our most violent cities where children are often inured to violent behavior and to idolize criminals. There is no question that these children are not getting off to a good start through no fault of their own. However, despite negative odds many people rise above these types of conditioning and go on to live productive lives. Conversely, many children are raised by loving and caring families along with well-adjusted siblings in diverse communities and somehow still manage to end up choosing a dark path in life.

Specific prejudices are most certainly learned and under the right conditions can be untaught so to speak through education and guidance. However, I’m not sure that the same applies to an actual blood thirst and a desire for mass murder.

Two of the patron saints of evil are Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler. In this regard the histories of both men are worthwhile and interesting topics of discussion.

Osama bin Laden was born into a very wealthy family with strong connections in Saudi Arabia. He arguably had every opportunity to live a carefree lifestyle and was hardly a victim of an unfair start in life. Nonetheless, somewhere along the line the rich quiet child transformed into a religious extremist. As his radical views and actions grew his family reportedly disowned Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian government revoked his passport.

Very young Adolf HitlerHitler’s personal religious beliefs are a subject of much conjecture and debate. It is generally presumed that Hitler was a materialist with little spiritual feeling and most likely evoked religion only to legitimize his own interests. Hitler had an estranged relationship with his father who died when Hitler was a young man. His mother died several years later and by all accounts her death was very difficult for Hitler because he was very close to her. Hitler’s ideological development most certainly began to resolutely take shape some years later after the First World War. Hitler was embittered over the breakdown of the war effort and was shocked by Germany’s complete capitulation to the terms of the surrender.

Both Osama bin Laden and Hitler were skilled communicators, intelligent, and able to amass a large radical following. Unfortunately, their bizarre and malevolent brand of charisma reaches beyond their graves to inspire deep-seated violence and hatred for a present-day generation. It is a plausible assertion that if either man directed his leadership skills toward good deeds the world might be a better place.

So, why do some people such as Osama bin Laden and Hitler actually seem to choose to commit diabolical acts?

As the understanding of the human genome has progressed it seems as though both of the arguments for nature and nurture are partially correct. Nature endows us with certain inborn abilities and traits and then the nurture aspect takes these genetic tendencies and molds them as we mature.

By contrast, The Bible addresses the notion that some people are incorrigibly wicked. “Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord.”

I do not believe that there are positive or negative spirits influencing human behavior. However, I do feel that some people will innately and deliberately turn away from what we might call a natural goodness or morality.

Most pets have been conditioned through generations of selective breeding to genetically be predisposed to co-exist with human beings. Those with the most friendly and human like attributes are encouraged to breed. They are also a product of human nurturing as almost from their birth they are raised by humans who love them and show them affection. However, there are times when a pet, despite the best pedigree and nurturing, is a dangerous threat to human beings and therefore must be destroyed.

Is it possible that some people as well are not intrinsically capable of living in a civilized world with other human beings?

There is ongoing research as to what other possible causes there may be for violent tendencies and psychopathic behavior. Many have suggested that irregularities in the brain and the limbic system could play significant roles in the development of violent behavior. Any combination of physical or mental abuse is also a major consideration. A more controversial theory from the biological and evolutionary point of view is that the transition of man from beast to the purveyor of civilization is not yet complete.

Going back hundreds of millennia, the first evidence of the use of tools by our earliest human ancestors in Africa is followed closely by the use of weaponry. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the same tools and technics that could split rocks could also split heads. We are a violent species that has utilized war as much as anything else to shape our civilizations.

I would agree that humans could very well be influenced by our early animalistic instincts. After all, we are just an advanced species of primates and not the only members of that group to engage in aspects of warfare. However, referring to certain evil humans as animals may be an insult to animals because we have managed to kick thing up a notch in the brutality department. Megalomania and genocide are a few examples of classically unique human endeavors. 

The same power of intellect that we possess as human beings that gave us the ability to dream of traveling to the moon has also enabled some of us to craft new ways of indulging our desire to inflict pain and suffering onto other people and living things. In this regard I wonder if it is this dark side of our brainpower that has allowed us to evolve a barbarity that transcends the natural viciousness of the wild kingdom. Serial killers are prime examples of human beings who not only have an insatiable desire to kill but also mix their homicidal cravings with a lust for violent deviance. Sociopaths, who have no conscience but yet retain the uncanny ability to disguise this disastrous inadequacy, by some accounts represent one to four percent of our population.

I wonder how many of us would take a tour of the most violent and locked down death row wards in various prisons throughout the country? What would scare us the most about that experience? Would it be the fear of violence? Or perhaps, would it be that we don’t want to face the fact that the people incarcerated there are not necessarily monsters but are more normal human beings than what we would care to admit? Maybe they remind us of our own evil dark side that dwells deep within each of us. The only thing that separates us from impenitent killers is that they choose to indulge an aspect of their will that we as civilized human beings recognize as the absolute worst traits that humankind has to offer. In my opinion there has to be something misfiring in the character of what makes them human that makes their brand of evil beyond rehabilitation.

Are some people born evil? To some degree I would argue that we are all born evil. However, we are also born with a great capacity to love and care for each other. Those traits have become a valuable part of our intellectual evolutionary process as well. We comprehend and appreciate that it is much harder to create and nurture the fragility of life than it is to destroy it, and that our immense capacity to destroy life could result in the end of our species and possibly the end of all life as we know it. The common desire that we all share as human beings to be loved and respected should extend to all living things and the world that we live in. It is for these reasons that the vast majority of us win our inner struggles to become better people and work toward a better world for everyone. Our love and appreciation for each other is the heartbeat of our humanity.

In this way we as intelligent and civilized human beings have great powers of reason and a free will. There is hardly anyone of any age who is not able to recognize the act of murder as an offense against humanity and the laws of a civilized society. I would caution against shifting the blame for the evil that some men do onto other influences in society. I understand that it may be easier for some of us to believe that we are all born sweet and innocent rather than to have to struggle with our own still evolving inner demons. That is scary because frankly it is a fight that some of us will not win and eventually we all need to own up to who and what we are as an individual human being.

Ultimately, that is what separates the good people from the evil people. 

Sunday
Sep202015

The Planned Parenthood Controversy

Abortion, a subject that always seems to be inserted into the grandiloquence of presidential politics, has again become a central theme in the upcoming 2016 election. A new debate among legislators and the public at large about the federal funding for Planned Parenthood has arisen. 

The latest incarnation of the abortion issue became center stage when the incongruously named Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, produced what amount to sting video tapes allegedly showing the sale of baby body parts for medical research by Planned Parenthood earlier this summer. There are reportedly approximately 12 hours of footage. The content, accuracy, and to what extent the videos have been edited are a topic of much debate and investigation around the country.

At this time the general consensus about the videos is that they do show officials from Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue in ways that could be construed as coldhearted and appalling. However, there doesn't seem to be any blatant instance on video where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit. There also doesn’t appear to be any strong clear moments on video of the sensationalized and goulash descriptions of squirming babies about to have their brains harvested as some candidates and commentators asserted.

The use of fetal tissue has produced some groundbreaking scientific discoveries due to the tissue’s capacity to rapidly divide, grow, and adapt to new and various conditions. Notably in 1954 researchers managed to grow the polio vaccine in fetal kidney cell cultures. In more recent years and in a changing technological medical landscape the use of stem cells for therapeutic and research purposes has become more of a central focus than fetal tissue.  Nonetheless, it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus and for that tissue to be used for research purposes. This is all part of a wider general dialogue that includes such terms as cell structure and DNA that worries much of the public at large.

Moral and ethical concerns about medical research are nothing new. Often these apprehensions combine with long held beliefs and superstitions to further frighten the public. When has the religious right, for example, ever presented medical research in a positive light? Most often medical research is criticized as “playing God.” An example of this would be the attitude toward human dissection. Through the eighteenth and a good part of the nineteenth century the human form was considered sacrosanct. This kept human dissection for medical research difficult to perform. State and church opposition to dissection and other anatomical experiments kept knowledge of the functional aspects of disease elusive. During this time period fear of dissection was a common phobia and fixation. 

In England the artist and satirist William Hogarth published a series of prints depicting a fictional story entitled “The Four Stages of Cruelty.” The fourth print, “The Reward of Cruelty,” portrays a public dissection. The images reflected the feelings about dissection of the era so well that within a short while after the publication of the series the Murder Act of 1752 stated that the bodies of murderers could be provided to surgeons for dissection as a further deterrent to crime and to address the shortage of cadavers at the time.

As the nineteenth century rolled on in America oddly enough it was another of mankind’s obsessions, one that never seems to be held back because of moral or ethical reservations, that was about to blow the lid off of any trepidations about exploring human anatomy; war. The Civil War helped change modern medicine.

At the time The Civil War was about to begin it had been about seven or eight decades since there had been any significant fighting on the continent. As war was about to begin in 1861, medical science was not prepared for the scale of violence that was about to begin with new and advanced weaponry. In a short time doctors were treating massive and gruesome injuries in large numbers that many of them would not have otherwise treated during the course of an entire normal medical career. In addition, soldiers from small towns came together in large assemblies and became exposed to pathogens that their bodies had no resistance to in an era when there were no antibiotics and antiseptics. During these barbaric conditions of The Civil War doctors learned techniques that forever changed medical care on the battlefield and beyond. For example, it became clear that cleanliness reduced infection and fatalities. There were great strides in understanding neurology, pain management, and other fields. In the years following The Civil War much of the mystery surrounding the form and function of human anatomy was removed and replaced with knowledge as how to better treat disease and injury. Mysticism was slowly replaced with logical scientific methods in the fields of anatomy and medicine.

It is a general given that we fear the unknown. We have a tendency to cling to long held beliefs and standards of which we are comfortable and that we understand. We are now at a new precipice of science and medical research, one that reaches not only into the anatomy of the body but of our cells, our DNA, and the very building blocks of life itself. Just as images of human dissection frightened Europe and America during the early Victorian period, tall tales of human baby parts being collected in some Frankenstein like manner in these Planned Parenthood videos have the imaginations of millions of Americans running wild. The only thing the videos are missing is a wild-haired mad doctor screaming, “Give my creation life!” It is propaganda that is designed to frighten and lather up the public against pro-choice positions.

Autopsies are rarely considered sacrilege today. Hopefully in the near future the paranoia about the research and medical advancement of stem cell research, genetics, and tissue growth will seem as silly. In the meantime we must strive to keep all of this in perspective.

The role of religion, specifically how religion is evoked to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare, cannot be understated. A good example of this is the plethora of hyperbole regarding contraception being a sin. Oddly, a man’s choice to have a vasectomy is never referred to as an abomination against the blessedness of procreation. Nonetheless, as recently as 1965 married couples had the right to birth control but millions of single women in 26 states were denied it. It wasn’t until 1972 that The Supreme Court ruled that birth control was legal for all citizens regardless of marital status.

If it really was the goal of the pro-life movement to unambiguously reduce abortions they could do so immediately without changing any laws or restricting women’s rights.

The first step would be to champion, not hinder, public access to contraception and sexual education and counselling. Recent declines in the number of abortions coincides with a reduction in the number pregnancies. The use of IUDs and other contraceptive implants has risen enormously since 2009 among women with access to publicly funded contraceptive methods and care. It is nothing but pure common sense that the ability of women to actively prevent an unwanted pregnancy rather than to retroactively choose whether to continue with an unwanted one reduces the abortion rate.

I have no idea why contraception is considered a sin by many people and why there is so much resistance to publicly funded contraception devices or including them as part of healthcare.

When the dynamics of suggesting that contraception is a sin are examined the nature of the awkward logic of it really begins to break down. What is the best contraception? Saying "no?" Therefore saying “no” to sex is a sin? Don’t laugh. There are many on the religious right who suggest that a wife cannot deny her husband sex.

A second way of reducing abortions would be to reduce the stigma of single motherhood and to support, not resist, public funding for single mothers needing assistance or wanting to further their educations. Again, it’s pretty much common sense that if women feel like there is support in whatever form they need for them and their child it makes it easier to become a mother. Yes, there has to be controls in place to keep the system from being abused. However, by and large the pro-life community who proclaims the “sanctity of life” for the unborn rarely uses the same term for those who are born and who are living in poverty.

There are many on the religious right who have a societal and economic disconnect with those who live in poverty. It is a world they cannot understand. They don’t know why it is that if the poor need women’s healthcare that they just can’t jump into their Acura and drive to the doctor’s office. According to reports for 2012, almost 80% of individuals receiving services from Planned Parenthood were living near the federal poverty level if not below it. Many women do not have healthcare insurance that covers a trip to a private gynecologist not only for contraception but for pap smears or cancer screenings. Many women do not have parents or other family members that they can rely on for advice or help in difficult situations. In fact, many women living in poverty are often more likely to be trapped in unfortunate circumstances which often include emotionally or physically abusive situations. 

Government funding for Planned Parenthood is an infinitesimal fraction of the overall federal budget at approximately $500 million. The aftermath of the undercover videos is currently driving the defund Planned Parenthood and the renewed abortion debate. However, abortion is only a small part of the services Planned Parenthood provides. The vast lion’s share of services are for sexually transmitted disease, contraception, cancer screenings, and other women’s healthcare services. In the year 2013-2014 approximately 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services went to abortion. Critics of this 3% statistic call attention to the fact that this figure does not necessarily explain how much of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes directly from abortion. However, the notion that some on the religious right as well as other critics have contended that abortion is offered as a free and on demand governmental service is a fallacy. Medicaid in some cases does allow funding for abortion only in very restricted circumstances such as rape, incest, or life of the mother. States wishing to expand any provisions for abortion do so at their own expense. Patients for the most part pay for abortion services themselves or obtain assistance through their own auspices.

The move to defund Planned Parenthood is nothing but political grandstanding. I find it ironic that one of the organizations most responsible for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and consequently lower abortion rates is the one most demonized about abortion. Additionally, the horror drama depicting all of Planned Parenthood as suppliers of body parts to Dr. Frankenstein is a slap in the face to the majority of the staff of Planned Parenthood who are dedicated to the cause of women’s healthcare, especially the healthcare of poor women. The vast majorities of employees of Planned Parenthood often work for less compensation compared with that of private practices and have had nothing to do with this controversy. 

For more on this topic please reference my 2013 article A Perspective On the Abortion Issue