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Diane Mufson: Changes will no doubt come on hot issues

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 10:55 PM

It is comforting to feel that the world we live in is how it has always been and will always be. It's why most of us savor traditional foods, songs and activities.

But the world doesn't permit a steady diet of living in the past or even the present. New understanding or technology can render what was once acceptable as inappropriate or obsolete.

Some changes, not universally desired, are foreseeable. In this 21st century, we will eventually see better understanding and acceptance of gay marriage, gender identity issues and needed abortions.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two cases regarding same-sex marriage. Twenty years ago this would not have occurred. With nine states and Washington, D.C., sanctioning same-sex marriage, the reality is that millions of Americans now accept that adults deserve the right to legally live with whom they choose and receive social and fiscal benefits regardless of sexual orientation.

Long-term gay and lesbian relationships have existed for ages. Some have been open; others quiet for fear of repercussions. Even more regrettable have been heterosexual marriages used to cover or "change" homosexual desires.

Today, we also have difficulty understanding gender identity issues when they do not fall strictly into a lifelong male or female category. A recent example of this is an Arizona bill directed at transgendered people that would require Arizona residents to use the restroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate.

An Arizona TV station has called this the "Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty" bill. After all, don't most Americans, whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered, regularly carry their birth certificates with them?

Abortion remains a divisive topic 40 years after Rowe vs. Wade. Some individuals and groups are determined to reverse that decision. Their thinking is detrimental to women. An excellent indication of that comes from a recent Associated Press report from Brazilian doctors urging their "Lawmakers to change their country's restrictive abortion law to allow abortions during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy."

Brazil, a country with an immense Catholic population, has a group of about 400,000 physicians urging more latitude regarding abortions. Currently, abortions are only permitted in "cases of rape or risk to a mother's life or if a fetus is brainless."

The Brazilian doctors are concerned because of, "The high number of botched illegal abortions and their sometimes tragic consequences." Although most abortions are not permitted in Brazil, estimates are that one million abortions are performed yearly resulting in 200,000 deaths; it is the fifth leading cause of death for Brazilian women.

As the president of the doctor's group noted, "Rich women are getting them in safe conditions and the poor, ...with complications, losing their uteruses, losing parts of their intestines, dying."

If Americans become more restrictive in our abortion practices, it won't significantly affect well-to-do or highly educated women, as the Brazilian doctors have observed. The groups that will suffer include the poor, powerless and those involved in unstable relationships. They will be unable to find a place for a safe pregnancy termination. Brazil's doctors, not viewed as a liberal group themselves, are telling us that rational thinking requires the option for medically safe first trimester abortions.

Not this year, nor even in five years, but sometime in the 21st century, the majority of Americans will have a better understanding and acceptance of gay marriage, gender identity issues and needed abortions.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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