March 28, 2014

Bodily Autonomy- End of the Month Controversy

Having a uterus makes life complicated.

It shouldn't have to. After all, more than half the people on the planet have one. But along with the uterus comes, theoretically, the ability for it to become occupied.

And there is an intense debate raging in this country about who an occupied uterus belongs to.

As a person with a uterus, I think this is pretty clear. I think it's a black and white proposition- the uterus is mine, and I get to do what I want with it. I can donate it to science when I die, I can have it removed if it becomes diseased, I can take medications to regulate how and when it sheds its lining, I can have it surgically altered so that my eggs can't reach it.

This is called "bodily autonomy." It means I have the right to do what I want with my body, uterus included. And we, as a culture, care a lot about bodily autonomy. We care about it so much that we make sure it's protected even after death.

That's why you can't just harvest all the kidneys and livers people on those wait lists need from conveniently dead people. We respect the wishes of the dead, and if before they died a person said, "Please do not cut open my body and give my kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, valves, corneas, or any other parts to other people. I would like to be buried with them, according to my own traditions and customs," we say, "Okay, cool! Keep your organs!" And then we let them take their parts to the ground with them.

I know, this is very morbid. But follow me for a minute here.

There is a small but organized and vocal minority that says all of this bodily autonomy changes the moment a woman decides she wants to control how her uterus works.

See, birth control doesn't just prevent a woman from being pregnant. It's so much more. It allows women to count on a precise 28 day cycle, which begins and ends on the day of her choosing.

I can't tell you how many working women I know who coordinate their birth control with a weekend, so that if their period comes heavy or uncomfortable, or brings with it mood swings or migraines, they know they'll have those symptoms over a weekend- minimizing the impact on their jobs.

I can't tell you how many women I know who neglect the "off week," and simply eliminate their periods from their lives for months and months on end.

Having a period is a tremendous inconvenience, but it is much less so when you know precisely when it's going to happen, or that its associated complaints will be minimized medicinally. I would think, for this reason, that any employer who wanted to get involved in the process or whether or not their female employees had access to birth control would opt for yes.

Who doesn't want to ensure that their employees won't get nauseated or headachey or depressed on a monthly basis?

And considering the notorious "mommy tracking" women experience, being passed over for promotions and opportunities because their employers fear becoming less of a priority to them than their children, the additional protection of ensuring a lack of pregnancy is kind of icing on the cake.

So why on earth would an employer want to deny their employees access to birth control?

It's because of this idea that a woman's bodily autonomy ends where her uterus begins. This small, vocal, organized minority believes that a uterus really only serves one function- to produce more humans.

So if a woman takes a step that might prevent her uterus from producing more humans... they can't have that.

We have a problem in this country, in that this small, vocal, organized minority has a lot of money, and with that a lot of power. And they're using it to promote an agenda that people with uteruses aren't really people, and shouldn't enjoy the same right to bodily autonomy as people without a uterus.

It's because of that vocal minority that women who experience the tragedy of still birth are being charged as murderers.

But it's not just the uterus that's up for legislation and prosecution. More and more, it's any distinguishably female characteristics. A woman in in Arkansas was arrested for drinking a beer while breastfeeding, and charged with child endangerment.

Yes, drinking and breastfeeding is generally bad. But breastfeeding is hard, and many doctors and midwives have advised women for centuries to drink a little beer or wine to ease painful or stressful letdowns. This woman drank two beers over an hour and a half, and as a human being and legal adult, that is her right. But is it child endangerment?

Would somebody have called the police if it was champagne, and she was at a wedding?

More and more, I fear the answer would be yes. Because that small and vocal and organized minority is organized. They are waging a campaign to shame and humiliate women who dare use their uterus, breasts, or ovaries as they please.

Because when you have bodily autonomy, it means you're a person. Like any other person.

And that means you have the right to equal pay. To fair treatment. To privacy between you and your doctor.

Each step this small, vocal, and organized minority takes to remove another organ from a woman's bodily autonomy is another step towards their proof that women aren't human anyway. And once a woman has no right to control her uterus, her breasts, or her ovaries, what's next?

Vaginae? Feet? Brain?

We're not collections of disparate parts, to regulate and control. We're people. With the same rights to control what we do with our parts that corpses enjoy.

And whether or not you agree with abortion, I think we should all be able to agree on that.

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