Pregnancy, me, and the GOP

Saturday, 18 February 2012

I haven't really felt compelled to blog about my pregnancy. I did wonder, when I wrote that post at the end of my first trimester, whether it would be something I'd start writing about a lot more. And next week, I enter my third trimester. The home strait. To tell you the truth, I've just been getting on with things. My second trimester bought with it a new job and a good deal more energy. Not, mind you, to the extent that I'd say I felt "full of energy", as some women say. I've had to make sure that I get enough rest. But I have been very well. The past three months have been full of projects, planning, and writing again. And of course, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my impending motherhood situation.

Thinking about it - but not writing about it. Being pregnant has taught me a few things. Firstly, I now know that I truly have no interest in writing about anything that's going to make me an unwilling participant in the "Mommy/Mummy Wars" of sniping about differing parenting choices. Secondly, I know that I'm not going to get stressed, via my blog, over things that have the potential to change completely through no fault of my own and have no bearing on me as a person. My birth plan. My symptoms. Thirdly, it's taught me that I really am so grateful for the circumstances of this pregnancy and the choices I have been able to make about it.

Some time ago I had some commenters on a blog post insinuate to me that my opinions about reproductive rights, feminism and gender equality were somehow naïve and uninformed because I was young and had yet to have children of my own. As if having a child would make me see the error of my ways and suddenly start telling other women that having "only" two children is "selfish" and that I didn't know how they could call themselves Christians yet be pro-choice.

The child is still inside me, but as yet, this change hasn't happened. I was concerned about the issues surrounding motherhood and reproduction before I became pregnant, but creating this baby has only made me feel more strongly about the positions I've always held. Part of that's down to the frankly terrifying situation in the US that began unfolding in 2011, dubbed the year of "The War On Contraception" by Amanda Marcotte. As my pregnancy has progressed, the situation for women in the US has regressed.

Everyone was so excited when the news broke that women were finally going to be able to access birth control without copays through their health insurance. Unfortunately it was all of five minutes before conservatives started kicking up a fuss. Fast forward to this week and today I tweeted that I'm just going to start referring to the US as the "Republic of Gilead" because goodness knows there's a bunch of politicians and people of influence over there who seem to be all geared up to go down that route. On Thursday we sat  dumbfounded as a panel comprised entirely of men decided that the input of a woman in favour of contraception coverage wasn't relevant to their discussion on birth control and health insurance. Democratic women walked out of Rep. Darrell Issa's hearing in protest.

The woman the Republicans had refused to allow to speak had planned to talk about the experiences of women she knew who had been denied birth control coverage, including:

"...a woman who has lost an ovary because she was even denied coverage for pill not even needed for contraceptive, but for medical purposes. As a result of not having the proper medical care, the woman, now 32 years old, lost an ovary and is experiencing an early menopause, threatening her ability to have children."

The panel felt that this woman did not have the "credentials" to speak. A woman. Not having the "credentials" to speak with any authority to men about women's reproductive health. This is the reality of what happens when women are blocked from easily accessing contraception because of ridiculous notions about who should be using it and why - coming, incidentally, from the same people who no qualms about making medication for men who are affected by erectile dysfunction easily accessible as a necessity.

Because of course men aren't the problem here for the GOP. That's abundantly clear. No matter that their desire to see the number of abortions being carried out in the US decrease might actually become reality should they make contraception available to all. No, despite the fact that 99% of all sexually active women have used or are using birth control (and 98% of sexually active Catholic women are doing the same, for those making the fuss about Catholic employers being required to cover contraception), the powers that be would like to make it so that they can't. And just in case you weren't sure exactly why they hold this opinion, billionaire Santorum supporter Foster Friess was happy to give us all a good idea.

“Back in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said on Thursday.

You'd better be keeping your legs closed, gals. Keeping your legs closed or popping out kids. That's what it comes down to.

And you know what? I haven't even mentioned the mess that is the proposed Virginia ultrasound law. You need to read about it, but what you need to know is this: forced transvaginal probing. David Englin, opposing the bill, has apparently recalled a conversation with a GOP lawmaker who:

"...told him that women had already made the decision to be vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant."

But wait - there's more! Yes, there's also the small matter of a bill passed by the Oklahoma State Senate on Wednesday, defining "personhood" as beginning at conception and therefore granting rights to fertilised eggs. Says the Ms. Magazine newswire:

"If the personhood initiative appears on the ballot, emergency contraception, birth control pills, IUDs, and abortions - even in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the woman or girl - would be threatened. The initiative would even go so far as to eliminate medical choices for women, including some cancer treatments, in vitro fertilization, and could allow the state to investigate and even prosecute a woman for a miscarriage."

Put simply, it makes me want to tear my hair out. I don't expect anything approaching a measured position on reproductive rights from the GOP any more and I know that as a woman living in the UK, these decisions don't affect me, do why does it bother me so much? It just makes me so disappointed and angry that the lives of millions of women are being played with like this thanks to the ideological position of a sadly powerful minority, who would prevent women from accessing vital and possibly life-saving medical treatment, rob them of the right to use contraception and when challenged, tell them they just need to keep their legs closed.

Being pregnant has made me so grateful for the way I've been able to exercise choice in the matter, grateful that Luke and I have been able to make decisions about having a child together, aided by easy access to contraception, free healthcare, and the knowledge that the law is not working against me to discount my own life should anything go wrong. If I'd had a miscarriage, I would not have had to worry about the potential of being arrested. If I'd had to have a termination out of medical necessity, I know there would not have been people waiting outside the hospital to shout abuse at me and my husband.

And it makes me so angry for the millions of women who don't have those privileges, in "the land of the free". The "land of opportunity". Where a party that wants "small government" thinks all this is somehow an example of that, not to mention an example of the "separation of church and state". All thanks to the unbelievable crusades of a bunch of politicians who will never, ever become pregnant or know what it is like to have a womb, or ovaries.


Alison, Stephen & Emma said...

Excellent post about a shocking situation which is under-reported here. How can a so-called civilised nation behave like this?

Sarah Fegredo said...

I love the double can't speak about reproduction until you've had a child...but men can speak about contraception and pregnancy...basically, you're a woman: you can't speak!

Keep speaking - when enough of us say enough, loud enough then we'll be heard.

HippyHomemaker said...

As an American, I can't help but be pissed off by all of these GOP shenanigans. When it became a good idea to get a bunch of men together to make decisions about medical coverage that wont affect them. If the tables were turned and they were talking about limiting Viagra, I'm sure they'd feel differently.

Sadly, this is nothing new for politics in this country. It's just a big song and dance to distract everyone from more important issues like jobs.

I secretly pray that someday I have an excuse to move to Canada, or Europe so I can have health care as opposed to sick care.

*sigh* I could go on all day.

beth - levingtmai said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy. Amazing post, I absolutely agree with you. I agree that some things I think about and choose not to write about, it really is no one else's business but your family's, how you decide to raise your children. Live and let live :)


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