Whose Uterus is it Anyways?

I know it is not Mitt Romney’s. I posted over a year (A YEAR!!) ago about the attacks on Planned Parenthood on my old blog in February of 2011. And yet, women’s battle for reproductive freedoms continues to rage on today. Republicans are still fighting to advance even more severe legislation surrounding women’s health.

First there are the conscience clauses that allow health-care providers and pharmacists to refuse to administer services related to contraception, like birth control or plan B. Granted, living in NYC where Duane Reades and Walgreens are on every corner, this might not seem like a big deal. But in rural, isolated counties where one pharmacy is the only game in town? It’s essentially cutting off women’s access to medications they were previously entitled to have, and protected by law.

Then there are these pesky personhood amendments that are fighting to mark pregnancy as the moment of implantation of a fertilized egg, and give those fertilized eggs the rights of a human being. Think about that—implantation is weeks before an over the counter pregnancy test could even let a lady know she’s knocked up, and up to 50% of fertilized eggs don’t even result in pregnancy. And yet, giving these zygotes human rights criminalizes all abortion and plan B. That’s only a shade away from directly putting women’s lives in danger in cases of ectopic pregnancy, or extreme pulmonary hypertension when sadly the choice comes down to saving a mother’s live or the fetus’s.

One of the things that I value most about being a woman in a free and democratic nation is the ability to do what I please with my own body. It sounds cheesy, I know. And my friends and I always joke around about that line they teach you in Health class, “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want.” Maybe we changed it around a little in retrospect, but the message is the same. I have control over my body, and I can decide if I want to have sex, have a baby, prevent having a baby. Then after that, I have the resources to obtain health care for whatever choice I make. Simply put, being able to control what we do with our own bodies, to have autonomy over our uterus’s is a fundamental prerequisite to having control over our own lives as women.

Fact. Even a woman who wants to get married, lead a traditional married life, and have two kids will be avoiding pregnancy for approximately thirty years. While pro-life activist say that avoiding pregnancy is simple—abstinence—what about women’s inherent right to choose to have sex if she wants without the risk of pregnancy? Is anyone else a little surprised that the men aren’t fighting a little more vocally in this battle? These attacks are still linking women’s sexuality to loose morals, promiscuity, and all sorts of other evil, when the reality is that married women in monogamous relationships with their husbands are going to be affected. Limiting women’s access to contraception or abortion is essentially saying that a woman cannot plan her pregnancies around having a good job, and a stable marriage. She cannot choose to advance her career and then have kids. She cannot decide that children are well, just something she never wanted without constantly dodging pregnancy for three decades of her life.

Not only that, many women take the pill to avoid other negative health outcomes like ovarian cysts, to relieve pain associated with endometriosis, and to clear up acne. An abundance of research shows that the introduction of the birth-control pill is associated with better life out comes for women. More women completed higher education, and the pay gap narrowed. The ability to obtain birth control is linked to higher hourly wages (read: success) for women. The attacks on contraception are undermining not just women’s reproductive rights, but advances that women have made in equality, the workplace, and independence by even deigning to say that anyone (especially the mostly male politicians making these decisions) should have control over her own bodily affairs.

It seems simple, but the reality is that women around the world don’t have these freedoms. In the United States, if someone attacks a woman and forces her to commit sexual acts, that person can be prosecuted. If a woman is raped, and decides she doesn’t want to carry her attacker’s baby, she has legal access to abortion. Here, if a woman finds herself being abused by her partner, she can leave the marriage and seek help at a medical facility or crisis center. If she contracts a sexually transmitted disease, there are places to seek treatment. These things set us apart from much of the world. Let’s keep it that way, and not take HUGE step backward in the wrong direction.

Vote on November 6th. Do your research and find out where all the candidates in your area stand on women’s reproductive rights using plannedparenthoodaction.org. Contact your legislators. Support planned parenthood and the national women’s health network with donations and/or volunteer support.

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