I was online last night as the Supreme Court’s shadow docket decision to refuse to block Texas’ abortion ban hit Twitter. My stomach dropped and I started sweating, because the thing we said could happen when we were phone banking for Hillary back in 2016, the talking point we shared with volunteers (“it’s all about the Supreme Court”) to to encourage voting and volunteering, had come true.
To those people who read this Missive and do not own a uterus, it’s sometimes hard to convey just how crucial a right to bodily autonomy is for someone, because for you, a romance or fling or one-night stand or (god forbid) sexual assault doesn’t necessarily bring with it the very real and life changing risk of becoming pregnant. For you, getting tipsy at a happy hour and going home with someone (pre-pandemic, because yeeeeesh COVID) meant you maybe wake up with a hangover and regret, or an STI (practice safe sex, friends). For those of us with a uterus, those mornings might also involve running to a pharmacy for Plan B, or later taking a pregnancy test after a missed period. And under the Texas law, it might already be too late to decide to have an abortion - that’s if you caught it in time and are able to get an appointment.
And what those fighting for “life” seem to forget is the very real life and livelihood they want to lord over: pregnancy isn’t a shirt you put on, it isn’t a mood you have or one bad day you go through. It is 9-10 months of an onslaught of hormones, fundamental changes to your physique, constant worry and dread and sickness, all ending in an final act of childbirth that, back in the 1600s - 1700s, led to a four percent “lifetime risk of dying in childbirth.” Now, I have not had a child, but I have many friends who have, or will have. I was on the phone with someone yesterday who just got through her first trimester, and she said she was grateful the morning sickness had died down, because she’d been violently throwing up at least once a day for nearly three months.
Pregnancy isn’t just pretty maternity session photos on instagram, flower crowns and hands lovingly placed on full bellies, the cult of perfect and magical motherhood. It’s not clean or easy. It’s goddamned war on a body that is fought every day for months, ending in intense physical trauma and often major abdominal surgery.
And then there’s the life you are then responsible for, to love and raise and protect, in a country with no mandatory familial leave, a public school system in shambles, and a healthcare system wherein even an uncomplicated birth (read: no c-section) will set you back $10,000 without insurance.
Reproductive decisions are deeply personal, and inherently physical. I have been on some form of birth control since I was 16 years old. That is 21 years of hormones; pills and patches and rings and shots and IUDs that make you gain weight, become anxious, changes your sense of smell. For pill takers, it’s setting an alarm every damned day and then having a panic attack if you’re sexually active and forget to take it. It’s risking blood clots and increased blood pressure.
These are decisions made to allow us to choose our own liberty, to decide our own fates - they are not decisions taken lightly. Seven years ago, I decided to get an IUD because I tended to forget to take pills (FYI, that was before the ACA and it cost me $750 out of pocket at the time), and do you know what happened the first time I tried to have it installed? It wouldn’t take, my body basically rejected it. I lay there for 20 minutes as the doc tried again and again to get it to stay in, and it wouldn’t. The was poking and prodding, with an eventual “I guess you’ll have to come back again” It hurt, my God it hurt, and I went home that night and cried, assuming something was wrong with me, doubled over in cramps and bleeding. Would I do it again? Yes, yes I did, yes I would, and yes I have: I’ve had it replaced since then and it was much easier procedure.
For so many advocates of bills like the one in Texas, pregnancy seems like a thought exercise, whether or not those advocates have themselves had a pregnancy. And instead of providing alternatives to abortion (universal birthday control! A better social safety net! Accurate and complete sex education in school!), they seek to control women’s bodies, all while many of said advocates also state that being forced to wear a mask is tyranny.
And yet they insist we carry pregnancies to term. They want to force us to give birth.
I’m angry. I’m tired. I’m looking for Texas organizations to donate to. I’m watching for the reactions and action my male liberal friends. But all in all, I just want to sink my head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening.
Be kind to each other.