The problem with Pro-Choice v Pro-Life

A guest blog

Recent events, starting with the SCOTUS decision to overturn the “accepted law” of Roe v. Wade, have again brought to the fore not just access to abortion (mostly for lower income and BIPOC women), but also a debate on what life actually is and what life isn’t – and how that is determined.

From the Pro-Life side, the argument is that a soul is created at the moment of conception. The problem with that viewpoint is that it can only be attributed to a religious belief in, not only a soul, but when a soul is recognized as coming into being. For many Christians, as previously mentioned, this is the moment of conception, and that’s fine for them to believe, and for them to define the ways they live their lives based on that belief. That is their right under the Constitution of the United States, according to the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law on establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”)

Many Jews, however, believe that a soul is recognized in a body only after the first breath, and there are numerous Jewish scriptures which specifically state the welfare of the mother (including mental wellbeing), in all cases, takes precedence over the welfare, and even the life, of the fetus inside her. That is fine for them to believe, and for them to define the ways they live their lives based on that belief. That belief, too, is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Atheists and agnostics may believe that there is no soul granted, or that a soul is unproven. That non-belief is also protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The argument that an embryo — defined as the beginning stages of a fetus, which is where many Pro-Life supporters start protecting the “child” — is a fully fledged human being is difficult to rationalize scientifically. Take, for instance, the freezing of embryos, which can be done within five-six days of conception. The embryo would still be viable, potentially decades from now. An actual infant, by contrast — whether the child was actually delivered as a live birth, or at any stage after what medical science considers viability(approximately 24 weeks) — would die if frozen.

What it really comes down to, and what a Jewish congregation in Boynton Beach, Florida is currently suing the State over, is that there is no scientific basis for determining that the health, life or welfare of a fetus should take precedence over that of the mother caring it.

The ONLY basis for prioritizing the fetus over the mother — or prioritizing the mother over the fetus, I am not saying otherwise — is RELIGIOUS IN NATURE.

Therefore, any argument which prioritizes the fetus over the mother, if set into law, must therefore either create a de facto establishment of religion, or will prohibit the free exercise of a religion by another with different beliefs.

And, to be clear, the same is NOT true for the opposite argument, that the mother is prioritized over the fetus, because, if someone disagrees with that, and feels the fetus actually is more important, they have an easy, legal option: Don’t Have an Abortion. By contrast, saying that, because one religious group feels abortion is wrong, and it is therefore illegal to obtain an abortion, those with the opposite — and equally valid, in the eyes of the Constitution — view will have no legal recourse.

Roe v. Wade was originally decided as a Right to Privacy issue. But it was always — and still is, today more than ever — a Freedom of Religion issue, also.

The Possible Fate of Putin

Putin’s War has sparked speculation about his eventual demise. Theories abound concerning how the Big Shot in the Kremlin could be toppled from his throne. Since the Russians have invaded Ukraine in February, heavy Russian losses on the battlefield have made the war increasingly unpalatable for the Man in the Kremlin. His original plan for his War isn’t working out the way he intended — or expected. The Ukrainian people have proven to be tougher, stronger, braver than he ever gave them credit for being.

I am sure Putin assured his inner circle and the Russian people that this was going to be a quick and simple takeover of the Ukraine, easily toppling their government and being welcomed by their citizens.

What Putin is actually facing now is growing decent within his inner circle over his leadership. This has promoted claims that he could face a coup or even an assassination by those who are closest to him. Those in his government, his friends and possibly those in his family, are all contenders for said coup or assassination. One such attempt may, according to the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, be a plot to poison Putin and replace him with the FSB Director.

The CIA’s Moscow Station Chief has been quoted by the Daily Beast as saying the assassination may be a simple as a hammer to the head.

According to one expert, Putin could meet an even more gruesome end by “suffering the same fate” as his fellow dictators Colonel Gaddaffi and Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi President Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging, and was taunted by his executioners as he was sent to the gallows. This came after he was convicted of crimes against humanity.

Gaddaffi was the de facto leader of Libya after a military coup. Rebels shot him dead and paraded his body through the streets.

Last year, the Russian who has invaded Ukraine signed off on legislation that would allow him to remain in power until 2036. This gives him two additional six-year terms of power; his current term is set to end in 2024.

We must get him out of power before he has more time to murder more Ukrainian men, women and children; before he has more time to destroy Ukraine.



Next in line: Putin warned could go Gaddafi's way

Next in line: Putin warned could go Gaddafi’s way (Image: GETTY)

Putin facing grisly end as 'could suffer same fate as Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein’

Putin facing grisly end as ‘could suffer same fate as Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein’ (Image: GETTY

Ukrainian Farmers Strike Back

(excerpted from Daily Beast article by Allison Quinn)

Russian authorities have gone all out to tighten their grip on cities taken over by Putin’s troops in east Ukraine.

Ordinary Ukranians are fighting back with arson attacks and poison fruit. That’s not a typo. Actual Poisoned Fruit. (No word on Snow White’s involvement at this time.)

The latest surprise for Russian troops came in Melitopol, where Mayor Ivan Fyodorov said local farmers had caused “mass illness” among Russians by poisoning cherries.

“Our farmers prepared another gift for the Russians: recently treated sweet cherries which caused mass illness among those who stole them from the farmer. It’s the latest kind of partisan resistance on the territory of Melitopol,” Fyodorov told reporters on Thursday.

He said pro-Ukrainian sentiment remains strong in the city, despite Russian authorities portraying themselves as saviors who “rescued” citizens from Ukraine. There is a very big difference between rescued and being forcibly torn away from your country and your lives. It’s like saying that the Jews in World War II concentration camps were “rescued” by the Nazis.

“Melitopol residence fully ignored the celebration of Russian Day. The whole country of Ukraine saw only 15 people of the 70,000 residents who stayed in the temporarily occupied city stood in line for Russian passports,” he said.

Even Russian troops in the Kherson region appeared to be keenly aware of the Ukrainian resistance, according to audio released Thursday by Ukraine’s Security Service. In a nearly two-minute recording as what Ukrainian Intelligence describes as an intercepted call between Putin’s troops, a man identified as a soldier, tells his friends “the guys on the front line there are going crazy. “

“Where they are located…no one is sure about the locals: who they are, what they are doing. Maybe they are f****** with us at night, while they are peaceful people in the day. No one can be trusted. An old woman walking around with pies, might be a f****** Colonel acting as an artillery spotter at night”

Russian authorities have begun opening up passport processing centers in the occupied territories, and in Kherson, residents were informed this week that any babies born after February 21, would be given Russian passports, Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency reported.

But Ukrainian residents are not letting the Russians get off easy for the forced “Russification”. A new report by the Institute for the Study of War this week listed a series of recent guerilla style attacks by Ukrainian partisans in cities including Berdyansk and Mariupol.


“Russian authorities are continuing to face difficulties implementing their occupation agendas due to pro-Ukrainian pressure in occupied areas,” the report noted, describing teachers refusing to teach under Russian curricula in Berdyansk, and unidentified Ukrainian partisans targeting staffers of Russian’s emergency ministry in Mariupol.

Petro Andriushchenko, an aid to the Mariupol mayor described the latter incident in a post on Telegram on Wednesday. He said two tractors and three large truck trailers parked outside the Russian’s Emergency Ministry headquarters “suddenly” went up in flames on June 9, due to an arson attack. Two days later, he said, on the even of the city’s “Day of Russia” celebration, a staffer for the same ministry was stabbed in the back while standing in a crowd.

“The injury turned out to be fatal,” he said. “We’re talking to you, scum. Start looking behind you. Retribution is already near.”



Aging in 21st Century America

What people are looking for in aging is different than what it has traditionally been. American society needs to change several areas to make life more inclusive of older Americans. Many traditional beliefs about aging are no longer true. Many seniors don’t see aging in a negative manner; they are actually optimistic about aging. People in their 70s and 80s consider a longer life to be a positive thing. They enjoy having more time with friends and family, and many report being happy about the changes they see in life.

The medical establishment needs to evolve its definition of “good health”. It isn’t just that your kidneys and your liver and your heart are working well. To older Americans being in good health means being independent, mobile and of strong mind. You can have heart disease, cancer, diabetes and still consider yourself healthy, by these norms. The more the doctors acknowledge and support these goals, the better they can support their patients.

One of the hardest choices we ever face for ourselves or our ailing parents or other loved ones is whether or not they should undergo the next medical procedure or surgery. This is very important, and can impact their future quality of life. Quality of Life is more important to most older people than the length of their life.

The housing section should embrace people aging at home. Posh retirement communities in sunny areas of the country provide very elite homes. Studies shown that most Americans do not want to live in those locations, but would rather stay in their own homes as they age. (I, personally, want to live in a sunny climate — but then, that’s why I moved to North Carolina years ago.)

Unfortunately, few homes in the past were designed with older Americans in mind. They did not build multi-generational homes; homes that were equally accessible for the older and younger members of the family.

We need to be building what they are now calling “forever homes”. We can serve each generation in the family from the first nail.

In today’s economy and the future economy, we need to do a better job educating young adults about retirement finances. The typical life pattern has us working for some 40 years, then living for another 20 years — or more. It’s clear that we each need ample savings, yet too many young people are not saving enough for their retirement years.

We all want our retirements to be comfortable, but increasingly the younger generations – Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z alike – are unable to plan for any of the milestones that the Baby Boomers took for granted — college, buying a home, and finally, a pleasant retirement. As the economy worsens, and college and home costs continue to rise, it becomes more difficult for the next generations to see or plan beyond today. One medical emergency would be devastating for many people, wiping out what little savings they have.

Americans must help the next generations do better, while at the same time helping our aging population to thrive.

Banned Books in America

Last year in 2021, the number of attempts in the U.S. to ban books in schools and libraries surged.

The recent report Banned in the U.S.A. by PEN America tracked more than 1586 instances of individual books being banned in 2021, and that book bans have occurred in 86 school districts in 26 states.

A fire-proof copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, was auctioned by Sotheby’s to help fight book bans. Proceeds will go to support PEN America’s work to oppose book bans.

In a promotional video for the auction, the 82-year-old Atwood tries, unsuccessfully, to burn The Handmaid’s Tale with a flamethrower.

Sotheby’s is auctioning a special, fireproof copy of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Proceeds will go to support PEN America’s work opposing book bans.

The Handmaid’s Tale seems to be a favorite target among those who are afraid of the written word. The dystopian novel about misogyny and other dangers of oppression became a best-selling novel, and Emmy-winning TV show, and a regular on banned books lists.

“I never thought I’d be trying to burn one of my own books, and failing,” said Margaret Atwood in a statement.

The Handmaid’s Tale, originally published in 1985, has been banned many times, sometimes by whole countries, such as Portugal and Spain; sometimes by school boards; sometimes by libraries.

Sotheby’s estimated the unburnable book would fetch $100,000 at auction. A spokesperson said “it feels like a regular book even though it’s made of fire-proof material.” According to the book’s designers the special edition is printed on heat resistant aluminum material, bound with nickel wire and stainless steel used in aerospace manufacturing, and printed with ink that won’t be destroyed or degraded even when exposed to temperatures of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Let’s hope we don’t reach the stage of wholesale book burnings as in Fahrenheit 451″, says Atwood. “But if we do, let’s hope some books will prove unburnable; that they will travel underground as prohibited books did in the Soviet Union.”

Meanwhile, the American Library Association has released their list of 100 most challenged books of the past decade.

#1. The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi

#2. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

#3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

#4. Looking for Alaska by John Green

#5. George by Alex Gino

#6. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

#7. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

#8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

#9. Internet Girls series by Lauren Myracle

#10. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The list, overall, is a mixture of old standards such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and more recent works such as Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Suzanne Collins’ multi-million selling The Hunger Games.

As the number of banned books continue to rise, Atwood’s fears of actual book burnings may or may not come to pass, but it seems her hope for underground access has already been exceeded, as libraries around the country are stocking extra copies of books banned by local school boards and prominently displaying them for all to read, sometimes even including them on Summer Reading Lists. Many librarians, at least, still hold the written word, it’s unpopular opinions and it’s uncomfortable historical truths in high regard.




This is what I heard frequently now that the immediate danger is over in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. I hear people blaming other people, no one ready to stand up and say “we messed this up”. After police officers arrived at the school, they stayed outside the classroom for almost an hour while children were being murdered.

Everyone says that the responders to a school have been trained, and know exactly what to do. But what happened? Where was the training? As parents began to arrive at the school, and pleaded with the police to break-in and stop this horror, the police refused.

Inside, children were calling emergency services at 911, and begged for people to save them. Children whispering, hiding themselves in dark bathrooms, in other classrooms and other small places where groups of them hid. All the while pleading for the police to come. Essentially, pleading for their lives; 10-year-olds pleading for their lives, while police stood outside the classroom while the killing continued, doing nothing. The police were armed, allegedly trained for this very event, and they did NOTHING.

Some of the children have begun to speak out about their ordeal. The one that touched my heart the most, was the young girl who smeared her dead friend’s blood all over herself so the gunman would think she was also dead and not shoot her. There is no way that does not leave her psychologically damaged. This 11-year-old should be thinking about roller skating, riding her bike, being happy, not about her dead friend’s blood on her body. We know what that young girl said, because it was relayed by a female reporter on CNN. She talked to the woman reporter because the young girl is now too afraid to talk to men. She is too scared to appear on camera, because she is now afraid that if her picture is shown on the television, another gunman will come and find her and kill her, too.

As parents gathered outside the school, they began urging the police to go inside and stop the shooter. As the number of parents outside the school grew, and were trying to get the police to go inside and stop the shooter, the police began to threaten the parents with tasers, to keep them away and to “calm them down.”

The saddest part of the hour that the gunman was in the school with the children alone is that some of their lives could possibly had been saved if the police had gone in and shot him. Some of them could have been saved from bleeding out; pressure and dressings could have been applied to the wounds until the ambulances arrived and paramedics could have taken over treatment.

The one teacher who was murdered had a husband and four children. Her husband has since died of a heart attack. I think that perhaps he could not handle losing his wife. I think prayers should go out for him, as well as his wife, and for their orphaned children, and I hope that there is other family who can take them in, because this is a terrible, awful tragedy for them, also.



People visit memorials Thursday for victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The friends of family of Miranda Mathis grieve her loss in front of a cross bearing her name in Uvalde, Tx., U.S., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Ninteen children and two teachers were killed when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire in a classroom at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday in Uvalde, Tx. Photographer: Matthew Busch/CNN
Police officers walk past a makeshift memorial for the shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.(from

And it goes on

Sadly…there has been another mass shooting. There was a young man who, last week, celebrated his 18th birthday by going out and purchasing two automatic rifles, and 375 rounds of ammunition. Everything he did was legal in the state of Texas where he lived. Yesterday, Tuesday, he got up and apparently had an argument with his grandma, with whom he lived. The argument concerned his phone; a typical teenager-in-the-house kind of argument. He was messaging with a 15-year-old girl in Germany, and a 16-year-old girl also in Germany. He messaged the 15-year-old girl saying he was going to kill his grandmother. We have learned that he did, in fact, shoot his grandmother in the face. Miraculously, she was able to dial 911 and asked for help, and also told 911 that he was headed to a nearby elementary school to shoot people there. One can only assume that the attack on his grandmother had to do with the argument about the phone; however, as the grandmother has not regained consciousness since she was taken to the hospital and may not survive, we may never know for sure. Apparently, the grandfather was not home at the time the grandmother was shot.

The boy took the grandmother’s SUV and, without a license, drove towards the elementary school, crashing the car before he arrived. He had both assault rifles with him in the SUV, but only took one — and a bag of ammunition — with him as he walked to the school. When he got to the elementary school he encountered the school “Resource Officer” (a kind of school police officer; sometimes an actual member of the local police department, working either on or off official duty, sometimes a private security guard). They looked at each other. The 18-year-old young man standing there with the automatic rifle and a bag of ammunition, and the armed officer. The officer did not draw his gun, give a warning shot or attempt to apprehend the young man. The young man turned and ran into the school, down two hallways and into a class room on the left side of the hallway.

When he got inside the classroom filled with 10 year-old 4th graders and 2 teachers, he began to shoot. And shoot. And Shoot. 19 of the 10-year-olds were murdered, along with 2 teachers, one of whom through herself in front of some of the children trying to protect them. She died a hero.

40 to 60 minutes later, law enforcement shot the shooter and ended the horrific ordeal.

This is not the end of the story.

This story is much bigger than the horrendous crime committed by the 18-year-old. 19 10-year-olds will not go on vacation with their families this summer, or ever again. They will put no more teeth under their pillows for the Tooth Fairy. They won’t go to that long-awaited baseball game with their dad or mom. They won’t be helping mom make a birthday cake for dad next week. They will never go to Prom. They will never ever graduate from High School. They won’t be taking college entrance exams, and be jumping up and down because they got into the college they wanted. They won’t ever get married, no tux or white satin wedding dress. No next generation. And no growing old together.

Their parents, their families, are never going to completely heal from this horror. To lose a child is hard enough when they are a victim of leukemia or cancer, but to be a victim of an angry kid who dropped out of high school — how do you recover?

How do you walk into your child’s bedroom? How do you touch the bed they will never sleep in again? How do you pick up the clothes they just dropped on the floor? How do you look at their new puppy who sleeps in their room? And tomorrow morning, when their alarm goes off for school, and the sound wakes you — for the first few seconds you don’t know why, but then you remember. How do you cope?

You’re used to yelling upstairs — don’t forget to make your bed. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. Don’t forget to comb your hair. From now on, those familiar little reminders will always remind you that something is missing. Your baby is missing.

The other children in that school room who were not murdered or injured were still touched by this crime. They were looking forward to sitting with their best friend at lunch; hoping their teacher wouldn’t read their assignment too closely. They were going to go to camp next week and that was going to be really fun. They were hoping there wouldn’t be homework that night, just a few days from the end of the school year.

But everything changed. Everything was fine, and sunny and bright and beautiful, and then this strange teenager walked in and he had a gun, and he began to shoot. Everybody was screaming and yelling, and trying to remember the training from the active shooter drills. But mostly, everyone was afraid. More afraid then they’d ever been before in their lives.

All of a sudden, there was blood everywhere, and I saw my friend fall down, and there was blood around her. And I was so scared I threw up. Then other kids were falling down and the gun was so loud, and he shot and shot, and finally he ran out of the room and the police came into the room, and some chased him and I don’t know what happened beyond that. And I’m still scared.



Two state troopers light a candle Wednesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

I have returned

I’m sorry that I haven’t been blogging lately, I’ve been ill and in the hospital, but I am BACK.

While we have some serious things going on in the United States, I definitely want to encourage everyone to keep Ukraine in their thoughts and prayers, and to continue doing whatever you are able to do for the Ukrainian people.



Happy Earth Day

Every year we celebrate Earth Day, because we have been given this wonderful, beautiful planet and it is truly a joy to behold.

It is important that we remember that it is a gift to us, and that WE are responsible for its care, from the simple act of not littering, to the most important global impacts of not polluting the waters, reducing the impacts of climate change, and general good husbandry of this magnificent ball we call ours.

For quite some time, there has been political debate on whether there is climate change or not. People ignoring or denying that climate change is true will not change the fact that the planet is in danger, or that we are mostly the cause. People can say that the sky is neon green, but that doesn’t make it so.

Scientists have said that the next major group of animals to go extinct will be human beings. The problem is that we can destroy the planet with us, and the people who ignore the scientists’ and environmentalists’ warnings are only walking down the path of destruction.


In honor of Earth Day and in recognition of all the beauty that still surrounds us, I share here a beautiful man-made and natural scene, the Biltmore House and its gardens here in Asheville, NC.



Biltmore House Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Garden after Garden Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Color upon Color Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
So much color Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
The Garden Wall Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Beauty never ending Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Beauty never seems to end Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Pastels in Bloom Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Photo and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2019

Set the Ukrainians Free

On day 57 of the illegal and unconscionable Russian invasion of the sovereign country of Ukraine, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister is working to help citizens flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

It had been planned that the remaining approximately 120,000 still in the port city would be evacuated as quickly and safely as possible. The goal for today was to have been the rescue of 6,000 citizens, but when Russia began shelling close to the site where buses would be loaded for evacuation, only four buses — approximately 80 people — were able to make it out of the beleaguered city.

All of this comes days after Russia rejected a request from both the largely Catholic Ukraine, and the United Nations, for an Easter Cease Fire. Russia dismissed the cease fire request as being insincere, stating that it was a trick to allow Ukrainian forces more time to train.

Rational people, of course, will recognize that the cease fire request was both legitimate and reasonable, and would have allowed soldiers and citizens on both sides to be able, however briefly, to feed their souls as they work towards Peace, which is (as always) the only worthwhile objective.

To put the refusal of a cease fire in perspective, one only has to look back to World War I and the Christmas Eve Cease Fire between the Germans and the British forces. Nothing was formally declared on that night in 1914, but soldiers from both sides just stopped fighting, sometimes meeting in the area between the fortified front lines of each side, in the so-called No Man’s Land, to exchange food (and injured men) and sing carols together.

Similar instances happened during World War II, as witnessed by my best friend’s older cousin, Jack Williams, at a church outside of Paris one Christmas Eve. Jack has told me of sketching the church (the print is shown below) while troops of both sides sang Silent Night.

That Putin refused to allow even a single day of peace on a day that is considered by many around the world to be most holy is both sadly indefensible and a true indication of the lack of human kindness, understanding and basic morality that Putin possesses.

The world should remember this when the day that Russian troops are finally expelled from Ukraine arrives, and it should be yet another of the instances of inhumanity that Putin and the upper ranks of his Army should answer for when they are, inevitably, charged with the War Crimes they have committed.

Paris Church, Christmas Eve, World War II – Copyright Jack Williams