Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which, yay, choice! Everybody clap for reproductive rights -- and the urgent need to defend them.
In light of the fact that the United States has been facing an unprecedented attack on reproductive rights and the ability of women to make decisions for their own bodies, lives, and families, Kim Wyatt and Sari Botton put together an anthology, "Get Out of My Crotch," out today.
It features some truly fantastic writers discussing the state of women's rights and reproductive health in the US. There are a wide array of essays and other works on the subject, tackling it from a number of different perspectives, and I'm quite excited about it.
And not just because I'm in the table of contents. You don't need to pick up a copy for Yours Truly, although you certainly can; there are essays in here by Katha Pollitt, Sarah Mirk, Martha Bayne, and many, many more. There are 21 of us, to be exact, which means you'll probably find at least one essay you absolutely hate -- and one you totally love. Hopefully you'll find a lot to think about, talk about, and act upon within these pages.
By special arrangement with Cherry Bomb Books (and the good grace of our fearless leader, Ms. Jane Herself), we're excerpting a part of my essay, "Justice For All," here to give you a little taste of what lies between these delicious covers. Hopefully you'll be so captivated that you'll race directly from your pro-Roe rally to your local bookstore as soon as the last speech is over.
Excerpt from "Justice For All"
Reproductive Rights Are Not Just About Abortion
Reproductive rights are about the opportunity to choose the timing and spacing of your children, if you want to have children at all. This is about the right to choose not to have children. This is about the right to choose to change your mind. This is about the right of people who affirm at age twenty-five that they do not want children to change their minds at thirty-five as much as it is about the right to maintain, for your entire life, that, no, you do not want to have children and you do not plan on having any. This is about the right of people to decide that they want to have children and careers, and to ask their community for support to do so.
One of the key components of the reproductive rights movement is, after all, freedom to choose, and choice is about more than opting for an abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. People must navigate a series of choices as they interact with their own fertility and take charge of their bodies, and this is often ignored in rhetoric about reproductive rights.
These choices are important steps in our lives, and they too are under attack in the United States. Birth control itself, not just abortion, is a hot-button issue, as illustrated by numerous attempts to restrict or deny access to birth control, and to defund organizations that provide it. The viciousness of the bile reserved for Planned Parenthood, for example, reveals not just misogynistic hatred but also the genuine belief in some parts of the United States that birth control is abortion, and because abortion is wrong, people should not have access to any kind of family-planning services. For that hypothetical teen, these attacks have real-world consequences; it’s that much harder to find a clinic that offers counseling to teens, that much more difficult to access an affordable prescription.
Access to preventative and routine care is also a choice, and a critical one that must be protected. The linkage of pap smears, pelvic exams, cancer screenings, and other routine care with access to birth control means that when birth control services are attacked, so are these services. This was brought home by attacks on Planned Parenthood in 2011, when the organization pointed out that much of the work it does actually involves cervical cancer screening and treatment. For low-income patients, Planned Parenthood is the only resource for early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. That means the larger discussion about access to reproductive-health services must include reproductive health as a holistic subject; abortion and birth control alone are not enough.
When you’re discussing attacks on people seeking to prevent pregnancy, you also need to evaluate the flip side of the equation: people who want to get pregnant and stay that way. Organizations like Planned Parenthood provide valuable health screenings that can help preserve fertility and identify problems early. The same physicians who provide compassionate abortion services, including very rare therapeutic abortions for patients in advanced stages of pregnancy, are also monitoring pregnancies and focusing on the delivery of healthy babies.
Protecting reproductive rights must also include comprehensive prenatal care for pregnant patients, along with support through labor and delivery. The United States experiences a fetal mortality rate of 6.22 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an April 2009 data brief, and that number is even higher in minority populations; black women experience fetal death at a rate of 11.3 percent, for example. This illustrates a fundamental failure to provide care, a failure that the CDC itself admits, pointing out that the nation has failed to meet the Healthy People 2010 goal. The country is also lagging significantly behind other Western nations when it comes to infant survival rates.
This is a reproductive rights issue. The fact that neonatal death is this high in the United States is a serious problem, and one that the reproductive rights movement should be in a good position to address. By the very action of fighting to protect access to safe, affordable reproductive health care, the movement can also protect pregnant patients who want nothing more in the world than to carry their pregnancies successfully to term.
With a framework in place for providing comprehensive and appropriate postpartum services, those babies will have a better chance at survival, and so will their parents. Issues like postpartum anxiety and depression need to be integrated into the reproductive rights movement as well, because they’re critical issues for patients who deal with them. In an environment where the right to parent is supported as much as the right to not parent, patients will feel more comfortable reaching out for help, and working with members of the reproductive rights movement to achieve positive change in their communities. Securing full access to reproductive rights for everyone perforce includes abortion protections. Focusing on abortion does not guarantee full access to reproductive rights.
"Get Out of My Crotch" can be ordered directly through the publisher, an independent bookseller of your choice, or a purveyor of books and sundries like Amazon. It's available in paperback (ISBN: 978-1-936511-09-9) and electronic (ISBN: 978-1-936511-06-8) formats for all your reading needs!