Wednesday, May 4, 2005

‘Helping’ girls

“I went to see ‘Vera Drake’ on a cold, dreary November Sunday afternoon…. ‘Vera Drake’ is about abortion; specifically, abortion as practiced in England more than half a century ago, in that gray postwar time before the complete transvaluation of Victorian values. Abortion, under the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861, was a crime.

“But what has that to do with the gentle and dowdy Vera? From her respectable if tacky London flat … Vera bustles forth to do endless good. We see her visiting shut-ins, checking on her mother, making copious pots of tea; being dear and lovable, in short. What else is she up to, however? … Vera does abortions. Not that she calls her interventions by that name. She thinks of her work as outreach to the distressed. …

“No piece of fiery propaganda is ‘Vera Drake,’ despite its attitude toward the destruction of unborn life. An invitation is what you might call it — an invitation to think of ‘helping young girls’ in Vera’s special manner as normal and merciful and, when you get to thinking about it, just what decency compels. What’s a poor girl to do, after all, when she gets in the family way?”

— William Murchison, writing on “The World of Vera Drake,” in the fall 2004 issue of Human Life Review

Steroid statistics

“[T]he Associated Press reported that, according to ‘various government and university studies,’ 5 percent of high-school girls and 7 percent of middle-school girls have tried anabolic steroids. … Are teenage girls really that into steroids?

“It depends on what studies you look at. … A 2003 survey of 15,240 high-school students by the Centers for Disease Control found that 7.1 percent of ninth-grade girls and 6.1 percent of all high-school girls have used steroids without a doctor’s prescription. A 2004 survey of about 50,000 students by the University of Michigan … found lower rates. …

“A study out of Washington State University and the University of Minnesota in 2002 asked about 4,000 kids if they had used steroids in the last year. Among the middle-school girls, 5.7 percent said they had, as opposed to 1.4 percent of their high-school counterparts. Are middle-schoolers really more likely to use steroids than older students? The study’s authors conclude that younger girls may be more concerned about their bodies, but they may also be less likely to understand the term ‘steroids.’”

— Daniel Engber, writing on “Middle-School Girls on the Juice?” Friday in Slate at

Still no apology

“You may have heard that Jane Fonda apologized to Vietnam veterans in her current book. That’s incorrect. She expressed ‘regret’ for one photograph, but remains proud of her Radio Hanoi broadcasts, her efforts to achieve a Communist victory, and her attacks on American servicemen as war criminals. She never uses the word ‘apology.’

“Fonda’s latest foray into her past — with her pseudo-apology for having been photographed while sitting on a Communist North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, along with her continued vigorous defense of all other aspects of her trip to North Vietnam and her support for the North Vietnamese and Cambodian Communist wars — reminds us that apologies can be very tricky things. …

“In her ‘regret,’ limited to the photograph alone, Vietnam veterans see Fonda’s endeavoring to ameliorate the harm to herself with virtually no regard to the harm she caused to others.”

— Dexter Lehtinen, writing on “Jane Fonda in Wonderland,” Monday in National Review Online at

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