Sunday, October 19, 2014

Apple and Facebook are putting their eggs in the wrong freezer

Apple and Facebook are on the cutting edge all right, cutting the "wo" right off the word "woman." In their latest bid for coolness, they will apparently fund up to $20,000 for their female employees to freeze their eggs, so that these employees can choose to delay motherhood while they climb up the corporate ladder.

There are so many things wrong with this policy, how to begin? Let me count the ways that this supposedly generous move actually slaps women on the face.

First of all, here comes yet another pressure to conform and perform. It's kind of like when the Blackberry was first introduced to employees at my law firm. At first it seemed like a great perk - wow, we get to have this cool gadget and take it home to play! But soon that wireless handheld becomes a chain around your neck, as you realize that you are no longer safely out of reach even in the washroom of your own house.

Now if I imagine that my law firm had been offering egg preservation...thank goodness they didn't! The message such a policy sends is this: if you get pregnant when young, then you can't be serious about your career. If you truly want to make partner then have your eggs preserved and keep up your pace like one of the guys. After all, what excuse can a female employee possibly have for not taking advantage of a free option to make herself into a man for a decade or more?

Here's another big problem with this apparently generous perk: it sells a lie. The lie is a false security based on the misconception that egg freezing works. The fact is that the success rate of egg thawing and subsequent pregnancy is not nearly as high as many young women employees might be led to believe. According to the NYU Fertility Centre, the success rate of using frozen eggs from young women (donors) is about 60%.  Egg donors tend to be college-aged women in their early 20s, so that success rate is at the highest end of the spectrum. Eggs retrieved from older women will have lower odds of successful pregnancy:
But what most employers don’t know is that even the "new and improved" flash freezing method–-known as vitrification–-has a 77 percent failure rate among women age 30, and in women age 40 the failure rate is 91 percent.
...The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) estimates that for a woman age 38, the chance of one frozen egg leading to a live birth is only 2-12 percent. 
(Miriam Zoll, MercatorNet)
And then there is this: the female employess will need to use (and pay for) IVF to use their frozen eggs. I don't think Facebook and Apple will be footing that bill for that procedure, but there will be no other way for the women to actually get pregnant with these frozen eggs. And by the time the female employees might want to use their frozen eggs, their increasingly older bodies will require possibly many unsuccessful cycles of IVF, accompanied by a terrible roller-coaster of hope and despair. Check out these dismal statistics on IVF success rates, as published by the British government (the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority). These stats are based on the use of fresh eggs, so using thawed eggs will reduce these rates still further:
In 2010 (the year for which the most recent data is available) women having in vitro fertilisation (IVF) using fresh embryos created with their own fresh eggs, the percentage of cycles started that resulted in a live birth (national averages) was:
32.2% for women aged under 35
27.7% for women aged between 35–37
20.8% for women aged between 38–39
13.6% for women aged between 40–42
5.0% for women aged between 43–44
1.9% for women aged 45 and over
Please note that IVF and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) success are very similar and as such are no longer presented seperately. The above results are for both IVF and ICSI together.
Given the sad numbers above, many of the female employees who were banking on having frozen egg babies late in life might need to hire a younger surrogate to increase their IVF success rate. So how does this equation sound now: Facebook/Apple pays $20,000 for another 10 years of workhorse employee, and 10 years later, the same employee will need to pony up for possibly many rounds of IVF and/or a surrogate, while undergoing the physical and emotional trauma that comes with all of that. And success is definitely NOT guaranteed!

But never fear. In another show of generosity, Facebook (not sure about Apple) apparently also covers the expenses of adopting a child. So if all else fails, these dedicated female employees who relinquished their own fertility for their employer can now at least adopt for free - a nice consolation prize.

Some women have come out to applaud Facebook and Apple for their forward thinking in offering women such a wonderful world of choices. This is a sad development. After all, this policy is like Facebook and Apple saying that they will pay for your abortion in case you get pregnant. Thanks for the "generosity", but how about helping me keep the baby instead?

If Facebook and Apple really mean to help their women employees have children, then how about enabling them to make the far more natural choice of having a family while still able to get pregnant naturally? In other words, how about increasing their rather pathetic maternity and parental leave benefits?

Many women in corporate America have 4 months of maternity leave or less - that includes high-level professionals, and it is true even at high tech companies. Facebook and Marissa Meyer's Yahoo both give women employees 4 months off for having a baby. Google gives 18-22 weeks.

Do these companies think they are being exceptionally generous? Apparently they do, but they are very wrong about that. By Canadian standards they lag far behind. Having had 3 children I shudder every time I think about the cruelty of making brand new mothers abandon their newborn infants, at three or four months barely out of the womb and completely dependent. How can any civilized and prosperous country do that to their young families?

Here in Canada, I have a one-year paid maternity leave by law. Employers have adjusted to this legal requirement and life has gone on! My husband (who works for the federal government) also took a whole 9 months of paid parental leave from his job after the birth of our third child.

Along with increased parental leave, there are so many other far more important priorities for women in the workplace. We need positive options that recognize and respect our womanhood, which includes the fact that we have babies. Men, they are your children too. It is in everyone's best interests that your children remain bonded with and raised by us, not by some childcare "professionals" who can never really replace us.

Enough of the faux improvements, it is time to get on with the real stuff. Develop a new workplace model that is based on the needs of women rather than on the traditional career trajectory and workplace needs and habits of men, and you will truly spark a revolution that needs to happen. Give us off-ramps and on-ramps. Increase our flexible hours and part time options, give us work from home options, give us freedom to arrange our lives to include our children's needs.

And as for your cheap $20,000 buy-out of my fertility, thanks but no thanks.

Photo: treyevan via photopin cc

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where have all the women bloggers gone?

It has been over a month since I last posted on this blog. And as it turns out, I am not the only woman blogger who has vanished from the Internet lately. A friend sent along this article describing the phenomenon of AWOL conservative women bloggers, and sharing three female blogger perspectives on this question: why do we tend to abandon our blogs for longer stretches of time than our male counterparts?

The answers of these female bloggers are all exactly on target and I can relate to all of them.

For myself, now that the school year has started, I find that I have very little time to spare for sitting down at the computer. My children are doing various activities so we spend a lot of time commuting, and on days when we are home, we are following our homeschooling curriculum. And of course, there are many things to do in the evenings as well, everything from preparing lunches for days out to putting away summer clothes and outgrown clothes and replacing them with fall and winter stuff. Not to mention three sick children not sleeping well at night. Blogging just isn't a high priority anymore now that I have so many more urgent matters on my plate.

I truly enjoyed being able to blog and to write over the summer, but I am surprised at how little I miss it right now. Everything has its season, as Ecclesiastes so beautifully said, putting our lives into proper perspective. I accept that, and I am happy with the new season that I am in. When I get a chance to write or to blog, I relish it. However, I also enjoy my main (and consuming) work at the moment, which is the task of growing and shaping the wings of our little ones, so that they can take flight one day.

All this to say, this blog is not dead but dormant. Expect irregular posts, because a mother's world keeps changing with the seasons.

Photo: Dakiny via photopin cc

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Homeschooling strategies for coping with toddlers and babies

One of the most common homeschooling questions is surely this: what to do with the babies and toddlers while trying to teach the older children something school-related?

This is a very real problem, and unfortunately there are no perfect solutions. In the world of outside education, schools with multi-age classrooms separate out children under three, but homeschooling moms have to function under conditions of war.

When I began homeschooling last year, my children were 1.5, 3 and 4 years old. My oldest was absorbing the lessons but the other two were having a field day in my home classroom, pulling materials off shelves, drawing on any surface they could get close to, dumping cheerios underfoot and generally leaving paths of destruction behind them, all within 10 minutes of starting my lesson.

What to do? For me, the start of the solution was to change my mindset. I had to accept that homeschooling was different from the controlled environment of a classroom, and that these issues were part of the package. I relaxed about the messes and got more flexible about how I fitted in lessons for my oldest. For a while I abandoned out home classroom completely, and headed back to the kitchen table where it was easier to manage everyone.

Recently this topic came up again in one of my homeschooling Facebook groups, and a good discussion ensued. So I want to share those collected strategies here, for all moms who might be searching for a solution online. Hopefully some of these tips can work for you:

  • Try to get the younger children to "work" alongside the older children. This is important, although it won't buy you too much free time. It adds your younger children to the home school so that they feel included, and gets them learning. They may also surprise you with their early abilities. Even a 2-year-old can try cutting with scissors, coloring and scribbling, doing easy pouring and transfer activities, first puzzles, learning to open and close buttons, sticking stickers onto paper, matching objects and pictures, playing with play dough, stringing beads onto lace, etc.

  • Try to get the oldest kids to learn as independently as possible. For me, this has been absolutely key. The more independent your older ones get, the more hair stays on your head. My daughter is now 5 and she is able to work on her own for at least a part of many assignments. Also, for greater independence it might help to choose a curriculum with teaching CDs (ex. Math-U-See) or online classes.

  • Use nap times. Many moms use nap times to teach their older children. I do this too (though sometimes I wish I could have a nap myself!).

  • Have older children babysit younger siblings. One mom wrote that once she had five children doing official school, she realized that she couldn't teach more than three at the same time, so the others would have to wait and do something independent. She suggested that an older child could make lunch, bake, colour, or go to the back yard, basement or kitchen for a break with the younger children. "Flexibility is key," she said, and that is homeschooling in a nutshell.

  • Use staggered learning. Break up lessons throughout the day to make it easier for the younger ones to endure the wait. Also, try lessons in the evenings, after the babies and toddlers are in bed.

  • Other ideas:

    • One mom recommended the book A Mother's Rule of Life.
    • Have lots of snacks available.
    • Prepare lots of colouring pages related to the day's lessons.
    • Place Lego beside the older children - perhaps so that they can be kept busy while waiting their turn.
    • Playpens. These work well for some mothers, but not for all. Some children climb out of playpens early, while others (like mine) could never stand being confined in playpens. If it works for you, great!
    • High chairs. If your child can be strapped in a high chair or other seating device and quietly sit there for some time, great.
    • Play centres and other toys for young children. Maybe these will work better if they are only brought out at homeschooling time, so they retain some novelty.

Have other suggestions? Help other moms who might visit, and add you own tips in comments. 

Photo: Opedagogen via photopin cc

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are Baby Gammy's parents really that unusual?

My thoughts on Baby Gammy, over at LifeSite News:
There is an uproar Down Under over an anonymous Australian couple that commissioned twins from a surrogate in Thailand, then reneged and brought home only a daughter after the other twin, a boy named Gammy, was born with Down syndrome. Pattaramon Chanbua, the couple’s surrogate, was left to care for the now six-month-old Gammy, who also has a congenital hole in his heart and will require expensive surgeries.
The Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has rightly called Chanbua “an absolute hero” and “a saint.” When she was seven months pregnant, the commissioning couple apparently asked her to abort Gammy because of his Down syndrome, and she refused because she considered abortion against her Buddhist beliefs. When he was born and rejected again by his parents, she chose to love him and become his mother. Despite her precarious financial situation, she took time off her work to care for him. That is true love, charity and largeness of spirit.
...Read more.
Also, in a shocking development, Gammy's Australian father has turned out to be a convicted pedophile. He is 56 years old, and in the 1990s he was convicted of 22 child sex-abuse charges involving girls as young as 7 years old. He spent time in jail following his convictions.

So now, this pedophile has taken home a little baby girl. In a further twist, this little girl is not the daughter of his wife. She was "made" in the lab with his sperm and the ovum of a poor Thai woman, a so-called egg "donor" (who got paid of course). Has this pedophile just made a new and defenceless victim for himself?

His adult biological son has come out in the media to say that his father is a changed man. But how would he know? His father didn't prey on boys to begin with. This poor little girl will be the guinea pig for that theory.

Personally, I strongly suspect that this 56-year-old man has very intentionally created this little girl as a plaything for himself. Poor, poor child. Again, this is the world that reproductive technologies have created for us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ethics should colour doctor's decisions

My article in the Hamilton Spectator:
In a recent column, Martin Regg Cohn throws spears in all directions as he attacks doctors who refuse to prescribe or refer for birth control pills. Cohn wants the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which is reviewing its human rights guidelines, to clamp down on these doctors and force them to participate in treatments they consider unethical or risk losing their jobs.
First off, Cohn rejects the possibility that there could be sound medical judgment behind the decision not to prescribe birth control pills. He is wrong; birth control is not Tylenol. Popular pain relievers are very safe when used according to directions; their main danger comes from accidental overdose.
...Read more. 
Photo: salimfadhley via photopin cc

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why I support Israel

The fact is, many Jewish people wouldn't even like me. Having worked in New York City alongside many politically liberal Jews, I felt like a total outcast at times with my socially conservative values. The word “Republican” was more like a curse word than a political party among some of these Jewish lawyers. It was entertaining to watch the shock on their faces when my photo appeared on the front page of the New York Times City section one morning, with me holding a rifle at a NYC shooting range. What a scandal.

So I know very well that the affection does not always flow both ways, and it’s not for cuddles and hugs that I support Israel in the present conflict against Hamas. In fact, I don’t like all that much about Israel. Their politics is liberal on many of the moral issues that I care deeply about, and my opinions would not be very welcome there. 

Being attacked gives you the right to fight

If Israel were just targeting innocent civilians unnecessarily, it would be wrong. But Hamas are hiding their rockets and their fighters among civilians, they are using neutral places like schools and places of refuge to hide their rockets and launch attacks. What alternative is there for Israel then? On principle, if someone attacks you, you have a right to defend yourself.

I've seen it suggested that Israel should be more precise in the use of their technology. Well, technology isn't perfect yet, although Israel certainly has the top of the line. As in the case of abortion, the direct and intentional murder of innocents cannot be justified, not even as a "lesser evil for greater good", but where such death is a side-effect of a legitimate self-defence, that is a different story.

The deaths of those innocent Palestinians who have been caught in the crossfire fall on the shoulders of Hamas, not Israel. In its ideological frenzy, Hamas willingly uses its own population as sitting ducks and as human shields for their weaponry. If anything is a violation of the ethical norms of civilized warfare, this is surely it. Hamas forces Israel to fight back through a line of civilian bodies, because it loves the worldwide propaganda this creates against Israel. Hamas is indirectly killing its own people to help it score points in the media. 

It's a brilliant tactic by Hamas, as shown by its incredible effectiveness. The world media is squarely focused on the suffering of the Palestinian people, and many regular people get the impression that Israel is wreaking carnage without justification. If all you look at is the heart-wrenching photos of bloody Palestinian children and civilians, which dominate mainstream media, then the Hamas propaganda machine starts to seem especially smart but evil.

While tactics and photos might sway public opinion, they don't actually move the truth to your side. The principle of legitimate self-defence stays the same, and on that principle Israel deserves support.

Democracy versus dictatorship

Let's not forget that Israel is a modern democracy. Democracies often have a hard time agreeing on anything, and waging war is a big deal for a democracy. There are certain checks and balances present when staunchly opposed opinions have to come together to agree on any major policy like that. So when a modern democracy launches into a war, especially a war of self-defence, I do believe that there should be a certain presumption of reasonableness in its favour, at least until proven otherwise.

On the other side of the conflict, we have a dictatorship run by terrorists. Doesn't that speak for itself? Hamas train teenagers to strap bombs onto their bodies, promise them virgins in heaven, and send them to blow up cafes and buses and other civilian hotspots. They have already launched over 3000 rockets with abandon, and the only reason they haven't been successful at mass murder is that they are technologically incapable of breaking through Israel's Iron Dome defence system. If they could, they surely would - and the body count ratios would change dramatically. Do these terrorists really deserve our sympathy?

Jews, not Arabs, are the world's outcasts

Finally, yet another reason why the Western world, and especially Europe, should be supporting Israel is this:

The Jewish people have suffered so much in the last hundred years that it staggers the mind. The hatred and viciousness that Europe unleashed against them 70 years ago is truly incomprehensible.

And I do mean Europe, not just Germany and not just the Nazis. So many more people were complicit, so many ordinary people, neighbours and colleagues and friends, people who never had any fingers pointed at them after the war ended. Anti-Semitism runs very deep in Europe, and it is still there to this very day. We should all be ashamed.

After what the Jews endured in World War II, much of the world agreed that they deserved their own land, free of harassment and hatred. Let's not forget that Israel was created with support from the United States, Britain and the nascent United Nations after the war, as a place of refuge for the raggedy remains of the nearly annihilated Jewish people.

I believe that it is still our duty, as the descendants of those who caused the Jewish people to suffer so terribly, to help them and support them. I am not aware of any actual anti-Semitism or participation in the Nazi genocide by my own Czech ancestors, but anti-Semitism seems to have been widespread among the Czech people before the Second World War, so we contributed to the climate of discrimination which Hitler used for his evil purpose. There were concentration camps throughout Europe, even in Czechoslovakia.

(Note: Today, the Czech Republic scores fairly low on the anti-Semitism scale, as measured by a recent major survey by the Anti-Defamation League. The CR came in at 13%, and many other European countries measured much higher).

The genocide of World War II happened recently enough that some of the survivors of concentration camps are still alive, and many Jewish families still bear the pain of having lost almost their entire extended families. It is not ancient history. It is way too early to wipe the slate clean and say that what previous generations did does not concern us.

So that sums it up for me, and this is why I support Israel in the present conflict, in the right to defend itself, and in the right to exist.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Christian doctors and the end of tolerance

For decades, tolerance was the golden rule of left-wing ideology. The public school system indoctrinated children about the absolute importance of being non-judgmental, and conservatives were told to love rather than moralise. We were all supposed to be headed towards some nirvana of values-free caring and sharing.

But it’s not turning out that way. Now that tolerance has done its work of confusing the populace and muddling popular common sense about right and wrong, the tune has suddenly changed. The left isn’t singing John Lennon’s Imagine anymore, they have moved on to a new song that could be called “My Way or the Highway.”

It’s time to wake up. The magic flute of tolerance which enraptured our society has been leading us along a pretty, winding path that ends in a new dictatorship.

Driving freedom out of medicine

A case in point is this week’s article by Martin Regg Cohn in The Toronto Star. Cohn wants doctors to leave their “private moral framework” out of the practice of medicine, and he urges the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to enact guidelines that would end the religious freedom of all doctors.

Cohn is undisturbed by the thought that many religious doctors might leave the practice of medicine if they are no longer able to conscientiously object to treatments like birth control pills, which may violate their religious and ethical values. Good riddance, says Cohn:
If a doctor is so antediluvian as to be anti-contraception, he’d best transition from medical to pastoral work. Playing God isn’t in the job description of physicians.
So much for tolerance towards those who disagree with the liberal ‘sexual rights’ agenda. Cohn is now telling faithful Catholics that they need not apply to medical schools. And, in a true dictatorial spirit, Cohn would like the Ontario government to force this policy if the College refuses to change its guidelines:
If the college fails to reassert itself as a self-governing authority, let the provincial government step in to defend patient rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Queen’s Park could do that by de-delegating the college’s authority and re-regulating medicine on our behalf.
This is a dangerously totalitarian way of thinking. What do the words “freedom of conscience and religion” mean to people like Cohn?

To be free means to live out our faith

In the past, our society understood freedom of conscience and religion to refer to every person’s right to live according to their own moral and religious precepts. We believed these rights to be foundational for our democratic society and enshrined them in our Charter as fundamental freedoms. Our Supreme Court has explained them this way:
The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.
These words by our highest Court closely echo Section 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that the “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” includes the freedom “to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Such passages recognize that living out our core values in our daily lives, which include our workplace, is the essence of true freedom. But that is merely a slight inconvenience for the new liberal ideology, which is busy moving the debate into the realm of “patient rights”.

Apparently, Ontario patients now can’t tolerate even a single “no” to any request for birth control, even if they can easily get their prescriptions of referrals elsewhere. As such, Cohn would take away Charter protection from doctors and make them into mere machines, just to save patients from the inconvenience and annoyance of going to the next clinic.

Come on Cohn, is minor inconvenience really too high a price to pay for the fundamental freedom of our doctors, or any citizens?

Is Cohn in the majority?

Apparently, many citizens today would answer that yes, the “patient is always right” approach is more important than religious freedom. At least, this is the impression one would get from reading the secular media.

The ratio of articles that have been published pro and against doctors’ religious freedom is telling. Over the last couple of months, about 20 articles have attacked the freedom of conscience of doctors, in various major secular Canadian newspapers and some mainstream online sites (not counting LifeSite News and other pro-life or Catholic media). In contrast, less than 5 articles defending the freedom of conscience have made it into the same forums.

On the other hand, the online poll on the College website is far more encouraging. Out of 22,597 votes, 67% said “yes” to the question “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?” (When I last wrote about this poll, the results had been exactly opposite, so this is an excellent development).

Common misconceptions

Still, many people are not quite sure where they stand on this issue. While they might support religious freedom in theory, they are also worried about doctors putting patients at risk because of fringe religious ideas. Where should we draw the line?

The answer is, we already have a very good line, and it is working just fine. For instance, Muslim doctors already can’t opt out of treating women. The present College guidelines prohibit doctors from refusing to treat someone “on the basis of the individual’s or patient’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status and/or disability.”

What about a doctor who refuses to treat someone in a life-threatening emergency because he doesn’t want to give blood transfusions? Answer: this is already not allowed. Doctors have a duty to treat patients in life-threatening emergencies, and any patient who needs a blood transfusion can rest assured that he or she will get it.

The only gray area in the current policy is that doctors in remote rural locations have the same freedom of conscience as city doctors. Clearly, if rural doctors refuse to prescribe birth control pills, this could be a major hardship for women who would need to travel to other doctors.

The media keeps bringing up this scenario as support for ending conscience rights, but the fact is, this situation has never arisen in Ontario and it remains speculative. There are very few doctors in this province who refuse on religious grounds to prescribe birth control pills and related treatments, and they already shy away from jobs in the middle of the woods. Without even a single real case to speak of, it would be premature and highly disproportionate to eliminate the religious freedom of all doctors on account of this unconfirmed fear.

Keep the course

The College will wrap up its public consultation on Tuesday, August 5. Until then, we still have a chance to let them know that they would do best to keep the course.

Patients don’t need a draconian policy that ends the religious freedom of Ontario doctors, and such a policy would only be counter-productive. Rather than improving our health care system, it would undermine the foundations of trust that are so important in medicine, and drive principled doctors out of the profession.

As it turns out, the best protection for all patients, as the last stand against bad medicine and unethical laws and regulations, is the freedom of conscience of our doctors.

Click here to participate in the public consultation and to vote in the CPSO's online poll.

Photo: a.drian via photopin cc