Anti-Women’s Health

I was sitting around with the Missus this afternoon (not my Missus, obviously, but the woman with the nickname “The Missus”) and she was saying that, in the wake of all the HHS stuff and just the general nonsense we face, that she’s not going to worry about framing people’s stances as anti-abortion or pro-choice or whatever, because we’ve moved beyond that at this point, into whether you’re pro-women’s health or anti-women’s health.

I was thinking about that on my way home, going over in my head my own situation.  Here I am, thirty-four years old and when I went into Walgreen’s to get my birth control prescription filled, I was momentarily concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get it.  That was a strange moment for me, to think that I, a grown woman, who has been responsible for all my own health care choices, might get that far and find I had to justify what I was doing to my own body to a total stranger.

Especially because I’m now on the Pill because of all this PCOS shit and the birth control is just a nice side effect.  It’s not just to bring my hormones into line, but it’s also because my endometrium is on the verge of being too thick, which puts me at a risk for cancer.  Apparently the Pill will help with that.

But as my doctor and I were discussing that, she said, “Yeah, much thicker and I’d be carting you downstairs for an emergency D&C.”

Yep, that’s right.  I was a millimeter or two away from having a D&C.

I think you see where I’m going with this, but let’s walk through it.  A D&C is method of medical abortion, but it’s also a necessary medical procedure for women in my position.  And as more and more medical students decline to learn abortion methods, you’ve got to wonder, where does that leave women like me, who might need a procedure that can also be used as an abortion procedure?

When anyone at all who works in healthcare and who comes in contact with me can refuse to work with me on the basis of their discomfort with my medical care, it of course impacts my medical care.

This, my friends, is like bizarro world here.  I, an actual person, am at risk of having medications and procedures I need denied to me because other women use them in ways that people find objectionable and, apparently, I might hypothetically use them for objectionable purposes.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for women to have control over our own bodies, to plan if and when and how often we get pregnant and if and when and how often we give birth.  Without that basic ability–to have just that basic level of autonomy–we aren’t equal to men.  Period.

Heh, period.

14 thoughts on “Anti-Women’s Health

  1. At Liberty, one of my professors told the following story as testimony to how committed he is to being anti-abortion: About 6 or 7 months into his wife’s pregnancy, doctors determined that the fetus was dead. They wanted to take the remains out of the wife for obvious reasons, but the only methods available to do that were abortion-related techniques. So this professor refused to allow the procedure and his wife carried the dead fetus until the doctors were able to induce delivery.

    I suppose it’s unclear whether the story is totally true or whether he dressed it up a bit to make a point, but regardless, this guy taught half of all liberty freshman in a required course (called of all things “General Education”), and this was the way he illustrated the ramifications of being pro-life.

  2. Oh my god. Yes, because nothing says “I love life” like risking your wife’s life and health while she carried a dead body around in her uterus so that she doesn’t even have something like an abortion. I mean, it’s not a fucking freezer; if a body isn’t alive in there, it’s going to start breaking down. What a monster!

  3. Yes.

    Nothing else to add. You did what I’ve been trying to do: express how the conscience clause will affect women in ways that have nothing to do with unborn babies, while at the same time re-emphasizing that it’s still unacceptable to make choices for women on the behalf of present or potential unborn babies in their bodies.

    I try to be optimistic. People are commenting on that clause. One of my students this summer decided to do her research paper on this policy, without any prompting from me. Sane people are responding sanely.

  4. This is something that’s slowly been rising to the surface of my awareness ever since the ban on “partial-birth abortion” was enacted. Before that, I tried really hard to accept that anti-choice folks were motivated by concern for the life of the fetus, even if I thought they were confused and off-target about it. But then they outlawed an incredibly-rarely-used procedure, which is never used as backup birth control but only to protect a woman’s well-being (and ability to carry a future pregnancy to term) when something has gone tragically wrong late in a wanted pregnancy. So, clearly, the fetus wasn’t their concern. I’m not sure exactly what the concern is. Controlling women? Privileging certain Christian religious teachings over others (there are religions in which the procedure is seen as admirable, since it saves women’s lives)? I don’t think I’ve quite figured it out yet, but I know now that whatever it is, it doesn’t involve women’s physical, mental, or moral good.

    OTOH, some comments from physicians over at Women’s Health News truly reassure me and inspire me about care for women as patients.

  5. Similarly to Georgia’s professor, I’ve seen several people state that inducing delivery early (so the fetus will die) is OK and somehow not an abortion. But doing a D&E – that’s a horrid abortion method to be avoided at all costs.

    I have not been able to wrap my brain around this confusion between procedures (which may be used for different purposes) and outcomes (a dead fetus). But it was a major factor in the passage of the PBA ban – both the public and the legislators voting on the method seemed to be under the impression they were preventing late-term abortions rather than just limiting the available techniques.

    nm – late abortions are done for non-health-related reasons. From Laura’s story (didn’t find out she was pregnant until 22 weeks) or Lynn’s story (couldn’t get to the clinic until 24 weeks), for example. Another common reason is loss of a partner’s support: Angela’s story is of aborting an initially wanted pregnancy at 18 weeks because her boyfriend broke up with her.

    There’s a lot of major brain and sensory development that finishes around the 20th week of pregnancy. I think it’s legitimate to debate whether fetuses at that stage of development can be killed for reasons unrelated to the physical health of the woman or her fetus. Claiming that late abortions are only done to protect a woman’s well-being is a red herring to avoid having that debate.

  6. Yes, but here’s what I don’t get. This seems to me to be a perfect example of a situation in which divorcing morality from legality could actually lead to a somewhat acceptable compromise. I want women to be able to legally do whatever they like with their bodies, including ceasing to be pregnant if they don’t want to be pregnant any longer.

    I think that the risks to the lives, health, and human rights of women are too great to justify making abortion illegal just because we don’t agree with the circumstances under which many women have abortions.

    But why, then, should this stop people from arguing against abortion? My opposition to anti-abortion folks is their drive to make abortions illegal, not their heartfelt belief that it’s wrong. I disagree that it’s wrong, but I respect how people believe that.

    I just resent the whole “I don’t like what you might do, therefore I’m going to put all women at risk to keep you from doing it.” thread of the arguement.

  7. Maybe I missed something, Lyrl, but I’m guessing there is a possible distinction between a ‘late-term abortion’ and a ‘partial-birth abortion.’ The latter is a very rare and specific example of the former. So there is not necessarily a red herring being laid down by NM, unless she were to have specifically referred to the more general category of ‘late-term abortions.’

    Furthermore, I looked at the “I’m Not Sorry” page. I think you may want to reconsider using that as timely evidence; the explanation at the bottom of the home page clearly states:

    These are the stories of women who obtained abortions prior to the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973.

    The stories to which you link are from the pre-Roe era; women were more than likely working with narrower and fewer options than today’s women, even accounting for the recent gains made by anti-choice fundamentalists.

    If today’s women can have access to greater reproductive freedom and education– including access to contraception and abortion– and if they can have greater access to and control over their own health services, then we won’t have to argue about whether fundamentalists are trying to limit women’s health and reproductive choices through such Trojan-horse legislation as the PBA ban. Women who are more educated about their own reproductive health and who have such resources and autonomy will more than likely need far fewer abortions. (This, I believe, is a statement akin to something Hillary Clinton said in recent years; it was one of her better political moments, IMHO.)

  8. late abortions are done for non-health-related reasons

    Very true. Yet they are legal, except for those carried out by the so-called “partial-birth” method. “Partial-birth abortions,” however, are not and would never have been performed at 18 or 24 weeks. They are performed in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy, at which time it’s safe to infer that the pregnancy is very much a decided thing. But sometimes, even with very much wanted pregnancies, a health emergency develops. So this technique was devised to protect women in these extreme conditions. It was used under extreme circumstances. Only. Yet it has been made illegal. As a member of a religion that gives very explicit instructions to save a woman’s life and future health in such circumstances, I kind of dislike having other people’s religion given primacy over mine, and over science as well.

  9. Church Secretary – only the first story I linked was from pre-Roe. The other two stories are much more recent. I would believe that late-term abortions are rarer now that abortion is legal: in 2004, only 1.1% of abortions occurred at 21 weeks or later (from the Guttmacher Institute). But just because something is rare (e.g. the few thousand later abortions than happen each year) doesn’t mean the government can’t address it. Does that help explain where I’m coming from?

    From page 2 of this Salon article: “Intact dilation and extraction is only an option for abortions done after 16 weeks.” Yes, IDX (“PBA”) procedures were performed at 18 or 24 weeks.

    IDX was rare before the ban, but everything I’ve read indicates it was gaining in popularity. The doctor interviewed in the Salon article talks about how much he prefers IDX because of, among other things, the significantly lower risk of uterine rupture. Compared to a D&E (the most common late-term procedure), it is a safer method for the woman: in all cases of later abortion, not just in “extreme circumstances”.

    The PBA ban is absurd: it adversely affects women’s health without affecting the number of late-term abortions. But I believe arguments about the pros and cons of trying to restrict late-term abortion (as Aunt B has done in her comment here) are much stronger than arguments than arguments where we try to delude ourselves that these things aren’t done electively.

  10. IDX comprises a range of procedures, only one of which is “PBA.” Most IDX procedures were not affected by the “PBA” ban. They aren’t identical.

  11. Georgia wrote: ” So this professor refused to allow the procedure and his wife carried the dead fetus until the doctors were able to induce delivery.

    I suppose it’s unclear whether the story is totally true or whether he dressed it up a bit to make a point”


    Georgia, I expect this story is probably mostly or all true (or at the very least it was probably SOMEBODY’S story).

    A little bit different circumstances (but then again, not so much) – a couple who were friends of my parents went through the same in the 1960s, and I suspect they were not the only Catholic man and wife in the 1950s and 1960s to do the same.

  12. I want to think he sort of made it up, because it’s horrible to think of a woman carrying a dead baby and then having to deliver it knowing the outcome, but I do think it probably was true. He was sort of young too — this would have happened in the late nineties at the earliest, which makes it more shocking in a way than the supposed “old days” of the 50s and 60s.

    This guy also was super anti-birth control, which should come as no surprise, but he used his platform as teacher to half the Liberty freshman class to make his points. Actually, he might have been on the vanguard of the evangelical anti-BC movement since I had never heard anyone make his claims before (and I would call myself pretty saturated in the most rightwing iterations of evangelical-conservative).

  13. From personal experience–

    the standard of care for a woman past 20 weeks with a stillborn baby is induction–NOT D & C, even when there is clearly no heartbeat.

    I don’t think that particular example has anything to do with politics so much as the least injurious method for the mother’s body.

  14. nm – I had thought that IDX was a variation of D&E; that while the normal D&E procedures remained legal, the PBA ban criminalized the IDX variation. My current understanding of the differences between PBA and IDX are in the second paragraph here; basically, that the only time IDX is not PBA is if the fetus is dead before the procedure begins.

    It’s a topic that interests me, and if I’m wrong I’d like to fix the Wikipedia article. Any other information you had on current legal variants of IDX would be appreciated.

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