Anyone who knows me knows I’m a staunch advocate of reproductive rights. Yup, the kind that favor women’s choices, open access to such choices, and private conversations with medical professionals. I know that sometimes qualifies me as a revolutionary, but it makes great sense considering 1) I’m a woman and 2) I don’t like people telling me what to do (with my body, specifically, but in general is also true).
However, I’m quite used to a society that places women’s health, choices, and bodies at the bottom of the ladder. So it came as no surprise to see that Ohio just passed a “heartbeat bill”, which would make it illegal to get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
Mind you, at six weeks of pregnancy, a women has actually only been pregnant about four weeks, since you count the first two weeks after her last period and before she ovulates and can conceive. That means a woman might only have a clue she’s been pregnant since week four (and that’s if the woman’s menstrual cycle is regular and predictable), leaving her all of two weeks to decide what her future life should look like.
I’ve heard all the arguments: women should abstain from sex. Women should use proper contraception. Women shouldn’t sleep around. Blah, blah, blah. And you know what my response is? So should men, but you don’t hear anyone telling them to get their sexual shit together. When it comes to sex, men, it seems, don’t factor into the baby-making equation at the political level. Riddle me that. Why don’t we require men who make babies to undergo a father readiness test? Or perhaps prove that he’s got dough before getting it on? In a “fair” world, all sorts of male reproductive possibilities would be scrutinized and judged.
Most women, including lots of married women, get pregnant unintentionally, and most go on to have the baby.
However, abortion isn’t about women who are awful people deciding to commit murder. It’s about choice. A woman’s choice must come before an embryo’s rights. I believe this for multiple reasons, not the least of which include that whenever political groups try to restrict this critical choice, women die. It’s happening now in Texas, where the closure of several abortion centers has led to a maternal mortality rate of 33/100,000 women – up from 18/100,000 just a few years ago and on par with several countries we like to think we don’t compare to, like Oman or Latvia (what?!). Our national average of 21 maternal deaths /100,000 women is on par with – wait for it – Iran! Yaya!!
And I’m really tired of the argument that abortion is about eugenics. I’m aware that its advocates had a messy start in this country, with history mired in the eugenics movement. But today, in real time, women of color are the ones disproportionately affected by maternal mortality and lack of access to reproductive services. This means that women of color die from lack of options – killing not just them but their future children, too. So don’t tell me that the pro-life movement is trying to protect women of color.
Don’t get me wrong – I love babies. I love to see healthy babies who are wanted, loved, and cared for. Babies are wonderful possibilities and once born, their right to life is important and valid. However, while part of the mother, the mother’s rights must supersede those of her embryo or fetus. If we don’t put her first, we put both mother and baby last – we put them last in line for health services, last in line for assistance, last in line for support. In fact, the only place a pregnant woman who seeks to terminate her pregnancy currently comes first is castigation.
Women must come first because precisely because they carry future generations. If women are not economically stable, healthy, supported, and in a good place to be mothers, how do we suppose their offspring will be? Pardon me if I believe that the miracle comes not from expecting women to magically raise perfect children, but rather in creating a society that allows women to live up to their potential.
So shame on you, Ohio. But other lawmakers are getting it right. Case in point, Mia McLeod of South Carolina has just introduced a bill which would require men who seek treatment for erectile dysfunction to wait 24 hours to fill the prescription, have a sworn statement from their partners of the problem, and undergo a psychological assessment.
Make no mistake, these bills don’t care about whether or not men use Viagra. What they absolutely aim to do is highlight the injustices aimed at women who seek abortions. It’s about time someone cared about women. It’s about damn time.
Maternal mortality numbers from the 2014 CIA factbook: