Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My personal response to the political

I am finally sterile! It seems a weird thing to celebrate, especially as many of my friends my age are starting or expanding families. For me, however, it feels like a victory. I am no longer held hostage to the threat of reproduction.

For all my po-mo-ness and general constructivism, I firmly believe that control over the means of reproduction has been the biggest game changer in the global situation of women. The pill, abortion, sterilization, these technologies make it easier for women to make the lives they want for themselves. Like any technology, they are distributed unevenly and deployed politically.

The costs of reproduction fall disproportionately upon the heads of women, in terms of mortality, mobility, restrictions in life opportunities. I do not denigrate the joys of motherhood, which many of my friends have found. But most of them were able to control, to some extent, their fertility.

I left behind a neighborhood of teenage mothers only by the grace of some higher power and the soul-wrenching fear of pregnancy implanted by my mother. As soon as I was old enough to go to Planned Parenthood, I got on the pill. Even without insurance or even a steady income, I made as sure as possible that I was not going to get pregnant.

My husband has a vasectomy. It puzzled my doctor why I would want to be sterilized on top of that, especially when the in-office procedure didn't work out due to complications and I would have to go the surgery route. But shit happens. It is my body and I don't want to rely on anyone else to make sure I don't end up pregnant. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate him getting a vasectomy so I could come off of hormonal birth control and have time to get everything lined up.

I've been trying to have the procedure for over a year now, but luckily I found out literally days before I was scheduled for the first time that the Affordable Health Care Act would require insurance companies to cover sterilization at 100% starting last January. Then I changed jobs and switched insurances. Fingers crossed, they say they are covering everything fully.

I've thought a lot about the slogan "the personal is political" on and off, for years. Living in Texas for four years, I became very aware of the fact that if I needed an abortion, things were going to be complicated (not that making that decision is a walk in the park in the first place). I tried an IUD for five months and learned exactly what a transvaginal ultrasound is. It is one of the requirements in Texas to have an abortion, along with mandatory waiting periods, a script doctors must read to patients about the development of the fetus, and a forced viewing of said ultrasound.

My mother was able to consider having an abortion for medical reasons in the late eighties and was able to decide to take the risks of carrying the baby to term, not because she was intimidated into it by draconian laws but because it was the right thing for her. I realized I might not have the same options.

Then we moved to Ohio, which *had* to be better than Texas in terms of women's reproductive health. I learned how wrong I was in short order as the governor signed a budget that included de-funding Planned Parenthood, funding "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" (which do not provide abortions, information about abortions, and often offer medically inaccurate information to women who ask about abortions), requiring a trans-abdominal ultrasound, and again the description of all the anatomical features of a fetus, on top of a mandatory waiting period.

Fortunately, there is a kickass organization in my area, Preterm, that is an incredible abortion provider which helps women who may not otherwise be able to afford an abortion, since all public moneys are forbidden from touching any type of abortion services.

But for me, it is not enough of an assurance. I don't trust that there will be safe, effective, reliable abortions or even birth control for the rest of my reproductive career. My answer was to have my tubes removed. I am privileged in so many ways that I was able to make that decision. I also feel lucky that the decision was not emotionally complicated for me. Excepting one month at the end of my undergraduate career, I have never wanted to be a mother. Now I don't have to calculate failure rates of various birth control methods, especially living in a "belts-and-suspenders" household . It is a relief.

My choice is simply that, my choice. I do not look down on people who have made choices other than mine, but I will still be there marching to make sure there *are* choices. Sterility isn't for everyone (and forced sterility is a topic for an entirely different post) but I am glad it was an option (both economically and politically) for me.