Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

Saving Lives the Hard Way

May 24, 2010

Today I’m thinking about Catholic hospitals.

Eve was born in one such hospital. For the most part, it was a very positive experience. All of the staff were friendly and the granola from the cafeteria was amazing (except for the raisins, which I picked out). My birth plan was respected without question and the only time that anyone mentioned pain meds during my labor was when I first arrived and they verified with me that they would not offer me any meds. (After she was born was a different story, but it was no big deal at that point.)

In fact, my worst complaint had nothing to do with the birthing ward but with pediatrics, where Eve was transferred at 3 days old for her jaundice; they had a policy of only allowing one parent to stay overnight with their children – even newborns – which meant that Marcus had to go home and I was left to care for the baby by myself at 3 days postpartum and with no energy, food, or rest. It was hell, especially since I still was learning how to deal with latching correctly and soothing my newly engorged breasts. But I couldn’t blame the staff for that.

After Eve was born, I decided that my new form of birth control would be Paragard, a hormone-free IUD. I knew that I could get one placed by my midwives at 3 months postpartum. Unfortunately, by the time I made the call for my appointment, I was told that the hospital that Eve was born in had decided that my midwives’ office – which operates outside of the hospital but is partnered with them – could no longer purchase and offer IUDs per Catholic doctrine. So they were no longer buying the devices. Fortunately for me, they had one more in stock that they had already paid for, which they were willing to give to me.

That worked out for me now, but what about after the next child? I’m going to have to go to Planned Parenthood to get any future IUDs placed. It’s not that I dislike PP – to the contrary, they’ve always been very good to me and I am more than happy to give them the support – but one of the reasons I continue to see my midwife practice after the birth rather than seeing a gynecologist is because I like to receive all of my reproductive health care in one place, by the same people. I want the women who know what my body does while it’s gestating to be the same women who give me my yearly PAP, who help me manage my birth control, who examine my breasts, who advise me on managing my chronic anemia. I hate that I’m going to have to partition my care between two practices and two groups of people.

It was at that point that I realized – or remembered – that even though I am not a Catholic or a Christian or even a theist, I am subject to the whim of Catholic doctrine whenever I seek care from a Catholic establishment. My care can and will be determined partially by the Catholic belief system. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through the end of high school, so I am pretty familiar with the sect, and I am definitely not one of its biggest fans.

Eve’s birth went wonderfully – but what if what happened to this patient had happened to me? And what if I had no compassionate and realistic woman like Margaret McBride in a place of power to save my life? Would the hospital that I chose for Eve’s birth intervene as I lay dying if it meant violating church doctrine? As this article asks, are Catholic hospitals safe for pregnant women?

I just can’t imagine being 11 weeks pregnant and dying, and being told that I cannot be moved to another hospital or I will die, and that I cannot carry this pregnancy or I will die. And then being told that they will force me to carry this pregnancy and let me die.

Abortion saves lives. Not all of the time, not most of the time, but sometimes. A hospital with a policy that does not recognize that women’s lives are worth saving is not one that I can risk giving birth in. I’ll be calling the hospital soon to talk to them about their policies and what they would do if I needed an abortion to live while in their care, after which I’ll have to do some thinking on whether or not I want to continue birthing my babies there.

Advertisements

My Lorde!

May 6, 2010

[The image shows a book cover with the title Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde and additional subtext New Foreword by Cheryl Clarke. The design is of a pair of stylized faces with recognizably African features such as full lips and cornrowed hair over an olive-colored background.]

Last night I picked up a copy of Sister Outsider, a collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, a poet and black activist with whom I am only just starting to acquaint myself. It’s only recently that I realized that if I’m going to convince Eve of just how amazing women of color can be (and if she’s like I was as a child, bombarded  by the anti-woman and anti-black messages that permeate this society, she WILL need to be convinced), I need to familiarize myself with amazing women of color. I know more about white celebrities, white history, white politics, white entertainment, white cultural norms, and white pop culture more than I do about people of color (or also, for that matter, about people with disabilities, or gay people, or trans women and trans men). This has to change. Amazing things have been said and done by people who are not white, cis, temporarily able-bodied, wealthy or middle class, or straight, and their histories deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. (And in fact, Audre Lorde was a lesbian of color and also legally blind – hooray for intersecting identities!)

Anyway, about Audre Lorde. So far I’ve only read two chapters out of the book: her essay “Poetry Is Not A Luxury” and her open letter to Mary Daly (aptly titled “An Open Letter To Mary Daly”), the radfem white lesbian whose recent death sparked a bit of controversy when many feminist bloggers mourned her death uncritically*, failing to acknowledge her racism and abhorrent and unfettered hatred for trans women (to the point that she actively called for their Nazi-style extermination… yeeeaah), and in fact those bloggers became defensive and let their racism and transmisogyny really fly when called out on it.

I liked “Poetry” well enough, but the letter spoke to me in a big way. In it, Lorde expressed her exasperation, her anger, and her exhaustion as a result of dealing with white feminists, who, for all their talk about equality, had no problems using the same oppressive and silencing tactics against women of color that men use against women. (My summary of it does it no justice and I really would recommend that you read it for yourself – you can find the full text archived here.) I identified strongly with Lorde’s experiences with and disappointment in white feminists, and she does it with such eloquence that I pretty much want to get every beautiful scathing word tattooed on my forehead just so that I can read it again as I brush my teeth every morning.

There is a reason that I identify as a womanist and not a feminist. I started calling myself a feminist about a decade ago, and over time, as I became more aware of the fact that white feminists, by and large, are only interested in securing respect and equality for a very specific kind of woman (a definition that, more frequently than not, excludes me and mine), I started to distance myself from the label.

A situation that sticks out in my mind is of a pages-long debate in a pro-choice group, in which a pro-life man who apparently did not like the direction that our debate was going suddenly said to me, “Let’s not fight, let me tell you a joke. Why is there cotton in pill bottles?”** Suddenly, all of the women who were so quick to call out posters for their use of sexist slurs, slut-shaming, or victim-blaming were silent. Not one member of the group called him out on his very explicitly racist attack, save for a moderator who intervened at my request (and even then, her admonishment was pretty lukewarm, along the lines of “I’m disappointed that you would think slave jokes are funny”). The man, who had been banned before for his sexism but never for his racism, was free to engage openly in as much as racism as he wanted, and no one ever said anything but me (that incident was only one of many with him). The very same women who had been right beside me when defending a woman’s right to abort would suddenly distance themselves and become silent when my race was used as a weapon against me (and some of them cheerfully joined in on the attacks). Eventually I quit participating, as it just became too much for me to deal with.

Too many white women who will freely discuss what it means to navigate this society without male privilege will shit themselves in violent denial whenever white privilege is mentioned. Attempts to discuss race are either discarded as irrelevant, unimportant, or worse, actively antagonistic. The mere mention of the fact that women of color frequently experience sexism in a racialized context is decried as either playing the “race card”*** or muddling up the discourse by taking time and energy away from the “real” (read: white) issues.

Suffice to say, I am excited to have discovered Audre Lorde’s writing and am looking forward to reading more of her works. It’s cathartic to discover that someone has managed to put words to my experience as a woman of color with such nuance and power. I’ll leave you with this quote, which I found to be a simple but powerful reminder of why I am making myself speak out against racism and oppression, and I probably really WILL have it tattooed on me someday (although not on my forehead, I promise).

“Your silence will not protect you.”

Likewise, my silence will not protect her.

—-

*This particular blog post by Sady Doyle entitled “Acts of Contrition: Feminism, Privilege, and the Legacy of Mary Daly” is, unlike most of the posts regarding her death by cis white women, a terrific read and I highly recommend it.

**The punchline to this grotesque little joke is “To remind black people that before they were drug dealers, they were cotton pickers.”

***For an insightful look at just how ridiculous the notion of a race card is, read Tim Wise’s “What Kind of Card is Race? The Absurdity (and Consistency) of White Denial”

YES, Oklahoma Legislature Fucked Up, BUT That Is No Excuse For Ableism

April 30, 2010

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the two laws that were passed in Oklahoma by overturning the governor’s vetoes. The first requires that before having an abortion, a woman be required to view and listen to a description of the fetus’ organs and limbs, even for survivors of rape or incest. From what I understand, that means for very early pregnancies which cannot be viewed with an external ultrasound, those women will have to submit to the vaginal penetration required for internal ultrasound; while terrible for all women, that could be especially traumatizing for rape survivors.  The intended result is to guilt women by making them realize “Oh hey, I didn’t know a fetus has limbs and if it has limbs that makes it MURDER” as if women didn’t understand what pregnancy is or what ending a pregnancy means. The law is paternalistic, invasive, and yet another ridiculous barrier to women’s agency in pregnancy.

The second law is much, much worse. It protects doctors from being sued by their patients if they decide to lie or mislead (either outright or by omission) pregnant women about the health of their fetuses if they think that this information may cause the woman to choose to abort. In essence, doctors are now allowed to lie to women about their pregnancies, keeping them from being able to make an informed decision regarding those pregnancies. Not only will these women [those with dishonest doctors] no longer have the option to abort, they will also no longer have the option and ability to prepare financially, emotionally, and mentally for the outcome of their pregnancies, whether that be for caring for a child with disabilities or for the birth of a child whose life may be exceptionally painful or short. This benefits neither woman nor child.

Now, this IS enraging. This IS terrible. What this is NOT is an excuse to exercise all of your able-bodied privilege to devalue the lives and worth of people with disabilities, lives which are devalued every day (many times for “laughs”) in our society. Some of the comments that I’ve been reading in reaction to this law pretty much boil down to “This law is disgusting because more ‘defective’ people will be born and we don’t want that!”

That is unacceptable. That is wrong. When you devalue the lives of people with disabilities, you are also devaluing the lives of women with disabilities – and if you do this as a supposed pro-choicer and supporter of women, well…I don’t know what else to say except that you’re fucking up.

Keep in mind that many of the people fighting to protect the right to abortion are themselves disabled. We are all in this together, so check your privilege. Defending the right to choose means defending ALL women – not just the temporarily abled.