I appeared on this week’s To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbé, discussing a sexist attack on The New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, a new film about Saudi women’s rights, and students using social media to fight sexual assault on campus. You can watch it here:
I am a pregnant woman. Never in my adult life have I had fewer rights under the law, more intrusive comments and questions from people in the public space. I don’t need to be objectified any more than I already am. This is not a body for you to glance at, scroll down, expand the window, draw your own conclusions about and “Like.”
That is why I am not posting pregnancy photos to Facebook.
We, as a culture, live in public. I, as a human being, made a strategic decision to live in public several years ago. I believe that a woman telling her story has the power to change society.
That is why I rely strongly on personal narrative, because I want you to know I’m proud to be pregnant and pro-choice, I’m proud to be pregnant and an eating disorder survivor, and I want you to be proud to be whoever you are and tell your stories without shame — whether you relate to my experiences or not.
So why am I drawing the line at pregnancy photos?
Because I want to share my pregnancy in the way I experience it and choose to share it, not in a way for others to see it and choose to interpret it.
Because carrying a wanted pregnancy is an act of immense love and sacrifice that is, at its core, an astonishing and sacred experience of beauty. For me. This time.
Others’ experiences are, I’m sure, different.
I am fortunate to have, to be able to have, a loving spouse with whom to share doubts, fears, glee, joy and stomach troubles during these most private of times.
I am offended to imagine breaking the spell of our intimacy as a couple and family, and my integrity to sense of self as seen fit to share by posing, anticipating others looking at me and calling it “cute.”
A number of friends have begged for photos. I know you mean well. I know you want to share this time with me. I am happy to “Like” your pregnancy photos if you choose to share them with me. I encourage you to be happy that I am sharing this time in my life on my level.
If you are itching to honor me during this time, or do something quick online to lift my spirits because I’m pregnant and my back hurts, I will point you directly to the Meet the Press website where you can, in solidarity, share your alarm that recently they had one token woman against reproductive rights and four men discussing the new six-week abortion ban in North Dakota, the most restrictive abortion law on the books. By presenting reproductive rights as a matter of public morality, mainly as judged by men, rather than the lived and incredibly visceral experiences of individual women, the mainstream media is colluding in the massive infringement of my civil and human rights.
When the silencing of people like me in mainstream media and public policy is so extreme, it is hard for me to get excited about the voyeurism of cutesy pregnancy mania on social media. It is hard for me to believe the pressure to perform for the camera and the pressure to keep my mouth shut about my human rights are not interconnected.
Maybe if we all get together socially and “Like” one other’s pregnancies it will be okay. But it’s not. One of us might find ourselves pregnant and in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then, in the name of someone else’s abstract notions of morality enforced by the state, one of us might die. Or have a forced C-section. Or be incarcerated or detained because we were pregnant.
I refuse to be a smiling snapshot of this awful era for pregnant women. Opting out is my act of difference. Speaking out is my act of defiance.
I recently read L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. Like so many of my dear readers, I follow the life progression of Tom Cruise with interest and enjoy, from time to time, reading a good piece on Scientology. So I thought it would be instructive to go to the source and see how this all got started.
Dianetics is the foundation of what became Scientology. The premise is fairly simple: The mind, according to L. Ron Hubbard, is an organ capable of working without error so long as we have “cleared” it of “engrams,” which are imprints from traumatic experiences in our past. Through a process called “auditing” it is possible to “clear” these “engrams” and rock on with a flawless life. Most of this I more or less knew before reading Dianetics.
What I didn’t know before reading is that L. Ron Hubbard was obsessed with abortion and had such strange attitudes about pregnant women. According to Dianetics everyone but “clears” are weighted down with “engrams” that cause them to act and think irrationally — and I estimate based on my reading that L. Ron Hubbard thinks fully a third or more of these damaging “engrams” we’re all carrying around come from the nefarious activities of pregnant women.
The way he tells it, pregnant women of his era sat around and “attempted abortion” by pounding their abdomens, begging to be beaten by their husbands and cursing the fetus throughout pregnancy. This is not a rarity, but positioned as something that pretty much all pregnant women do. Further a woman being miserable during, for example, morning sickness, will cause her child to be messed up throughout adult life unless those “engrams” are cleared. There are recurring pronouncements about sexual encounters during pregnancy, from masturbation to frustrating frigid games with a husband to illicit sex with a lover, messing up a person’s entire life. During childbirth, it is important not to speak so a baby is not further imprinted and damaged.
This is not one line in the book. It is all over the book. L. Ron Hubbard was obsessed with abortion and pregnant women. As a reproductive justice advocate, I’m shocked I didn’t know until now he thought pregnant women were to blame for so many of the problems in the universe. What is most disturbing is how many others — not just science fiction authors like L. Ron Hubbard — people like politicians, religious authorities and community leaders are respected when they say, repeatedly, equally bizarre things about pregnant women today.
Struggling to speak, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords looked directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “You must act!” she said. Please watch her brief testimony if you have not done so already:
Rather than recapitulate the entire hearing (here’s a Storify of my live tweets throughout the hearing if you’re interested) or make an argument for common-sense gun control measures, which I support, I’d rather like to use this occasion to make three observations about women and today’s gun control hearing:
No. 1: A refusal to take women’s views and violence against women seriously is **the** subtext of gun proliferation.
Disrespect for women is intimately interwoven with a lack of action on gun violence. The obvious overlap between Senators airing opposition to gun control today and Senators who led the charge to allow the Violence Against Women Act to expire for the first time in 18 years is not a coincidence. As C-SPAN first aired the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) blamed Attorney General Eric Holder, Operation Fast and Furious, anything he could for Newtown while the camera cut to two younger women in the audience with their arms crossed in disappointment. Remember when Mitt Romney blamed mass shootings on single mothers?
No. 2: Women and people of color have been left out of the gun debate for too long, and this limits our ability for change.
Of four witnesses who gave testimony and answered questions today, one was a woman. Zero were people of color. Watch the news shows and you’ll see the same dynamic. The result is an overabundance of a racially charged white male “self-defense” perspective, while ignoring the perspectives of communities most impacted by gun proliferation: women with abusive partners and people of color getting shot to death in the inner cities (rarely do these equally outrageous deaths make the news the way a massacre of whites at school, at work, or in a movie theater does). The one woman selected to be a witness was a shill for the gun manufacturers placed by Republicans on the committee. We’ll move to her bizarre comments next, but suffice it to say that Senate Democrats screwed up. While the party is clearly more inclusive of women at a policy level and within its ranks, it’s doing a bad job of representational diversity at the head table (not just in the hearing, in Obama’s cabinet nominations) — any job that isn’t 50% is a bad job. Certainly zero percent allows one reactionary woman — the Republicans tend to pick just one — standing on the other side of a group of progressive men to take and twist feminist rhetoric to her heart’s content.
No. 3: Rampant, unchecked gun proliferation is a terrible and lethal solution for a country wracked with violence against women.
What we heard about women and guns from the “Independent Women’s Forum” witness was bunk and bizarre. Doing nothing about guns, as the gun manufacturers want us to do, will kill more women. Continuing to allow abusers who can’t buy a gun at a dealer to buy a gun from a private seller without the background check that would disqualify them will kill more women. Please take some time to read the facts about women and gun violence from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In backing everything Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association said, witness Gayle Trotter also managed to twist feminist rhetoric into something unrecognizable. Several times she made reference to “a woman’s second amendment freedom of choice” and even used the abortion rights caselaw buzzword “undue burden.” She also asserted that younger women were speaking up everywhere for AR-15s, and in a desperate attempt for justification reached into the sexism grab-bag and said we like them because of their “style.” I honestly can’t decide what I think: Did she invoke “freedom of choice” multiple times to appropriate feminist rhetoric (since she was the only woman speaking and the opportunity was wide open for her to do so) or was she trying to link massacres with abortion? Elsewhere she asserted that conceal/carry laws benefit women who don’t carry, presumably because men packing heat might protect that “freedom of choice.”
As Mark Kelly noted, a good guy with a gun did come running out of a Walgreens after his wife was shot. In the melee, he nearly shot the man who tackled Jared Loughner, the man who shot his wife, Gabby Giffords, to the ground. It’s shameful that her colleagues didn’t get it together after she was nearly killed, but the chance for progress is before us now. It is time for action on gun proliferation and violence against women.
“The only way for a woman, or a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way.” – Betty Friedan
It’s been fifty years since Betty Friedan wrote the The Feminine Mystique. How much has changed. How much remains the same.
Sexism is as foundational to society as it was during the Mad Men era that drove Betty Draper and Betty Friedan mad, if you ask me. The major difference is that people don’t smoke inside, and like colors and hemlines and shag carpets, oh the styles of expression are different.
For-men-only employment ads have jumped over to the lifestyle section of the newspaper, where you see presumed for-women-only feature articles about that ever-elusive “work/life balance.”
(Put no paid parenting leave; no childcare support; and no legal guarantee that you won’t get fired for asking what your coworkers are getting paid on a see-saw: Somehow it always seems to be the women dragged to the ground while men sit on top of Fortune 500 companies, law partnerships, and corporate boards almost totally by themselves. Most “work/life balance” experts say a super pink, super non-structural self-help approach will solve it, no government required! What a sexist joke.)
Only yesterday The New York Times published a column about “pro-life feminism,” in which a man sympathetic to the anti-human rights movement bringing you comparisons of pregnant women to farm animals, bills suggesting that women raped who have abortions be prosecuted for “tampering with evidence” and men-only congressional panels comparing the availability of birth control to choosing a place to go for lunch – a man sympathetic to all of that suggested that feminism be reformed. I beg your pardon.
But of course, the world has changed drastically since The Feminine Mystique, just look! Last week they said women would no longer be barred from combat, and daughters expect equality as do sons. Living up to the expectation of equality, and securing justice for those many experiences outside the realm of wealthy white men, has proved to be the continuing problem for the women’s movement to tackle.
Betty Friedan and her book, to say nothing of the first organization she founded, the National Organization for Women, have had outsize impact on my life as a feminist organizer.
I never knew Friedan personally, saw her across a room at a conference when I was an intern, and, you know, by then the women’s movement was so professionalized interns paid money in the form of tuition to get course credit for working free at the registration table.
When she died on a weekend in February 2006, I was in the National Organization for Women office chairing a meeting of the Young Feminist Task Force. I remember leading a moment of silence and thinking to myself what a profound responsibility I was accepting then, right then, to take the leadership required to help move feminism forward in a new way. I have never lost that feeling.
A few months ago, I decided taking meaningful leadership – contributing the most I have to give – meant leaving a big title in the big organization Friedan started. One of the key factors in my decision was realizing how many people, especially young people, were looking to me as an example of what was possible both in society and for their own lives. Believing in you, as I do, ultimately meant demonstrating I believe in myself and our power to create a better world.
I believe it is within our power to end sexism. I also believe getting there requires taking personal, interpersonal and structural risks. It requires acknowledging uncomfortable truths and working to change them. I believe younger people should define feminism for themselves and help lead the way forward. And while I am profoundly grateful for feminism and feminists of the past, I couldn’t be prouder to set this example. This is not an end. I am only getting started.
What would Friedan say about this? Honestly, I have no idea. As for me, I continue to take considerable inspiration from her legacy and The Feminine Mystique.
Gail Collins, a feminist of a different generation than myself, wrote a beautiful piece on ‘The Feminine Mystique’ at 50. In it, she pointed out more often the book is commented on for what it left out (basically anyone who wasn’t an upper middle class heterosexual white woman), rather than what it was (a piercingly accurate description of the waste of women like Betty).
Strangely enough, the waves of reaction in feminist thought went a bit too far in the other direction, in my opinion, when it became imperative for the incarnation of the women’s movement that followed The Feminine Mystique to speak declaratively “for all women” as if that was somehow possible to do really well. In my experience, people can speak profoundly well for themselves, and do both themselves and others a disservice when they try to speak for everyone else at the same time.
You cannot homogenize diversity, nor is it wise to try. It is the diversity that is the strength. It is the diversity that is the beautiful part. In encouraging diverse people to speak and lead for themselves (and having others listen and add their experience, not to change what the speaker said, but to speak and lead for themselves in the pursuit of an equality to be achievable in common by all) we can move the needle closer to justice. Modern feminism is already doing this all over the Internet. This is my experience and I deserve to be heard. That is your experience and you deserve to be heard. I know we can do better. We can be more than this. Let’s take a risk and organize something totally new and spectacular. It is very exciting, and dare I argue, a very inclusive expression of what Betty Friedan could have helped to kick off had her slice of reality, The Feminine Mystique, been published today.
Just days ago, Planned Parenthood announced it would back away from the “pro-choice” label and move toward a no-labels approach in advocating its support for abortion rights and family planning. The organization will instead focus on how the full range of reproductive health care is critical for the different situations women can find themselves in.
This is a great move. While no one should expect the term “pro-choice” to go away anytime soon, and it will likely serve as useful shorthand for support of abortion rights and family planning for a long time to come, the language has been limiting to the breadth and depth of advocacy for full human rights, particularly in matters of sexuality, particularly for women. Adding more tools and new terminology to the toolbox is something to applaud.
Personally, when talking about abortion, I have always preferred to say I support abortion rights. “Pro-choice” struck me as the sort of casual conversation mechanism, something that implied the decision to continue or not continue a pregnancy was something best done over a latte and a Sunday crossword. It seems that everyone but the most extreme anti-abortion rights folks grants that’s not the case — that the decision to have an abortion or continue with a pregnancy is not some, oh gee, no big deal, that women aren’t totally and breathtakingly shallow and stupid.
When we’re talking about abortion, it’s okay to say abortion and specifically to make clear we’re talking about rights to have an abortion, or not having rights to have an abortion and forcing pregnant women to die if they happen to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is power in using real language.
For that matter, when we’re talking about contraception, it’s okay to say birth control or contraception. There is power in using real language here, too, especially when mainstream media outlets continue to perpetuate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ complete and outright lie that no-copay contraception paid for by private insurance companies somehow includes “abortion-inducing drugs.” (Medical fact break: Contraception, including emergency contraception, works prior to pregnancy. Preventing pregnancy and ending pregnancy are two different things, boys.)
“Pro-choice” has been experienced as an economically limiting term, particularly since wanting an abortion and having a legal right to abortion has been prevented by discrimination in health care coverage (both private and public), forcing clinics to close to comply with million-dollar and medically unnecessary regulations, mandatory waiting periods that hit women far from clinics particularly hard, and other laws that make it impossible for many women to afford or otherwise get abortion. When federal and state governments bar coverage for abortion, “choice” is a term that applies only to those who can afford it: There is a lesser set of constitutional rights experienced by those who need abortions but must sell their cars, or go without groceries, or hope a local abortion fund has enough money to help.
Loretta Ross and others have for years pioneered a “reproductive justice” approach that resonates more with me. It is a more holistic, inclusive approach that deals not just with the right to abortion but also the right to parent, the right to adequate prenatal care, the right to respect raising children you may already have, the right to use affordable contraception, the right to dignified childbirth, and more. As an activist, and like many other millennial activists, reproductive justice is a shorthand umbrella term that resonates strongest with me. It most comprehensively encapsulates what my activism is about.
Also as a pregnant woman, I have come to personally confront restrictions on abortion and reproductive health care in a new way. While I am happily pregnant, I am keenly aware of how being in the wrong place at the wrong time could get me into serious trouble. Restrictions aren’t about whether or not I want an abortion, they are not about my choice, they are not about one moment in time when I realized I was pregnant and contemplated what was next, they are about the fact that if I’m having a miscarriage, or really sick, or something else I can’t foresee happens … I could just die in a hospital because that’s what it means to be “pro-life.” Or because the National Right to Life Committee last year declared their “top legislative priority” to ban abortions at 20 weeks for women living in the District of Columbia, and I happen to be 20 weeks three days pregnant. Both of these are things House Republicans have been trying to pass. Further:
New research out from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women shows how anti-abortion rights, anti-birth control, and so-called “personhood” efforts are being used in practice to arrest and force treatment on pregnant women. Restrictions are not just restricting choice. They are restricting human rights, particularly for pregnant women and women who do not wish to become pregnant.
If you want a shorthand term, “pro-choice” is going to continue to work whether or not Planned Parenthood uses it. Chances are good I will continue to use it from time to time. More options are better and a healthy feminist movement of any kind, including a reproductive justice and human rights movement, is stronger with more approaches in the mix.
So that’s my take. How about yours? Do you prefer the term “pro-choice”? If you support reproductive rights, what language do you use?
In the last two years, nine states have attempted to pass laws banning abortion at 20 weeks. Arizona and Georgia have pending court cases on their constitutionality. Last year the National Right to Life Committee designated a 20 week abortion ban in the District of Columbia as their “top legislative priority.”
This has become incredibly personal to me, as I am now, as of tomorrow, a woman 20 weeks pregnant who lives in the District of Columbia. I’m thrilled to be pregnant. And I’m terrified of what these bans can do.
The overwhelming number of abortions — 98.5 percent — occur before the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Why would someone have a later abortion? Well, every story is going to be different and that’s why these uncompromising bans don’t work.
The joy I found today in looking at my ultrasound is simply not transferrable to every other pregnancy, nor should the law reflect an assumption that is so.
Why would a woman have an abortion after 20 weeks?
Sometimes a woman receiving that 20 week ultrasound is startled to hear: “Something appears to be wrong with the brain,” or “The heart isn’t working,” or another fetal abnormality that is incompatible with a quality of life she believes best to provide for a child of her own. Why should a bureaucrat be given power to second-guess her (or me or you)?
Other times a woman learns that she is struggling with a serious medical condition, such as cancer, and continuing the pregnancy means delaying chemotherapy or other potentially life-extending treatment. In this incredibly personal situation, why should the state provide more guidance to her (or me or you) than her (or my or your) family?
Still other times a woman has already lost or is losing a pregnancy, and abortion will complete the miscarriage. Sometimes this itself will allow that woman to live. This is what could have happened if Savita Hallapanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying in Ireland, had not been denied a life-saving abortion she requested because, as she was told shortly before she died in the hospital, “It’s a Catholic country.” Why should any religion or state express its values in forcing her (or me or you) to give birth or die?
Another reason for seeking a later abortion: How about being flat broke? A grueling patchwork of federal and state abortion restrictions including mandatory waiting periods, regulations designed to close local clinics, sex discrimination in the form of denying private and/or state insurance coverage for reproductive health care, parental notification laws and much more have made it harder for a woman without much power who wishes to terminate her pregnancy to have the same constitutional rights as everyone else. Why should any legislator punish her (or me or you) for finally being able to sell her (or my or your) car to pay for the abortion desired weeks before, only to say, we’re not following the law of the land as laid out by the United States Supreme Court, we’re just going to say its too late for you?
The bottom line is that we simply do not know.
We have no standing to demand an answer.
We have an obligation to ensure that antiquated sexism, with men making the laws and women paying the price, doesn’t force pregnant women to die.
The bottom line is the ethical bankruptcy — and physical danger — of forcing beliefs on women that violate their fundamental right to self determination.
As a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I got this covered. I do not see the National Right to Life Committee or Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced the failed DC 20 Week Abortion Ban last session, or the greater “pro-life” [forced birth] community as a source of support during my pregnancy. In fact I look to them with fear of what they might force upon me, and other women like me, or you.
For what it’s worth, I found out in my ultrasound today that I will have a daughter. Let’s just say that I have never felt more fiercely determined to stop the misguided thinking that leads others to constrain her future (or mine or yours).
This week’s Time cover story on the steady decline of abortion rights since the Roe decision 40 years ago details, painfully, the obvious.
Rather than reconstruct some of the excellent reactions out there, including Amanda Marcotte debunking Susan B. Anthony List’s ridiculous “pro-life feminist” reaction piece (serious delusion, in what universe is forcing a miscarrying Savita Halappanavar to die in the hands of a “pro-life” state a feminist policy framework), Katie Stack reminding us that while we may be losing, we don’t have to give up, and Steph Herold pushing back against the idea that young activists are making the movement weaker by taking their leadership outside the Pro-Choice, Inc., box, I’d like to simply say I agree with all of them and provide some additional food for thought.
Probably the most unique insight I provide is having served in leadership, as a younger woman, inside one of the larger establishment organizations so frequently painted in the media as unable to connect with younger people. There are realistic tweaks that could be made in many of these legacy organizations to help reverse this trend:
1. Put young people on your boards. Then, use them. Most organizations work with appointed boards filled with older women, most of whom pay their own way. Develop an affirmative action policy for younger people of all races, sexual orientations and economic backgrounds. Pay their way to board meetings. I have come to believe in my own experience that the perspective problem is not a numbers problem. There are extremely talented young people in all of these organizations. These young people are largely not being used on a strategic level. When they are used strategically, it is usually in a “junior” capacity, meaning they are specially chosen to be the one younger person to weigh in on this one specific intergenerational thing with a larger group of powerful, older, white, wealthy and heterosexual people who have already decided upon the agenda they are steering. This leads to efforts “about” or “to” young people, rather than “with” them.
2. Find a way to answer the following query: Am I supposed to go away? Legacy organizations are very familiar with the history I am about to describe. Women of color are underrepresented in membership, leadership, outreach, you keep going and you’ll find underrepresentation all over the place. Someone well-meaning, often a woman of color, brings to the group an initiative designed to bring in more women of color. Others get excited. Then, as the idea fleshes out, it requires changes to the rules, or doesn’t quite fit with previous efforts, or heaven forbid, there are a fixed number of seats at the table and it had always felt so comfortable when it was just Sheila, Annie and the remaining 27 of “us.” (The word us and how it can be misused to exclude!) Suddenly the 27 make the conversation all about them. What about me? Am I supposed to go away? Are you saying I’m irrelevant? Wait is this just that you secretly want to grab the power and kick me out of here? These feelings are natural but legacy organizations have been having them for decades without finding a way to address them, and they replace the conversations that sparked them, usually resulting in very few changes within the legacy organization, with the exception of Sheila and Annie leaving, who are then replaced with a few other tokens who try to make change, and the cycle continues. If you are curious whether this same dynamic applies to younger people (including younger people of color) in legacy organizations, the answer is sitting in plain sight. The similarity of these conversations should be used as an opportunity for serious reflection on the part of movement leaders who look like part of “the 27 of us.”
3. Be aggressive! Really, really aggressive. The health care law started with a concession that was never requested from pro-choice allies in Congress. Was this concession accepted? No. It was made worse. The answer is pretty simple: Stop trying to bargain with politicians and theocrats who are opposed to reproductive rights and human rights. Work to defeat them. Expose them. Ridicule them. Picket their events. Demand corporations stop partnering with them. Put public pressure on insurance companies that don’t offer abortion coverage. Invest. This is not an image problem you solve with a marketing consultant, this is an organizing problem you solve with investment in the grassroots! Go hyper-local: Use the city councils and county councils to regulate crisis pregnancy centers and hospitals receiving public dollars. Build budgets that don’t depend on small-dollar fundraising that publicizes every backward move (a conversation does need to be had about the financial incentives for legacy organizations behind threats to the status quo). Don’t be afraid to use the “A” word. Abortion! There is nothing to be ashamed of in this movement.
It’s time for change. The fortunate news is that social media is helping to usher in tons of opportunities for more people, of all backgrounds, to exercise meaningful leadership within the movement. It is also offering opportunities for more people, of all backgrounds, to personalize what is so political. Carefully scripted talking points and political connections have mitigated losses, maybe, but they have not led to gains. Change will be led by those both inside and outside the legacy movement organizations, and for the sake of all involved, that’s a good thing.
Pregnant. Pro-choice! Knocked up. Fired up. Expecting a baby.
Before I was pregnant, before this transformation that makes me want to eat popsicles at all times, I advocated every day for women’s human rights, most notably around reproductive justice – the right to bear children, the right to not bear children, and the right to adequate health care and social support for all families.
What follows is a commentary that is both intensely personal and political.
Let’s start with the gentleman driving down the street with the “CHOOSE LIFE” license plates.
I see your opinions. I see you can afford to drive a Mercedes. I see clear as the obliviousness on your face that you have NO IDEA.
NO IDEA what it is like to be pregnant.
NO IDEA how warm piss can turn a ten dollar piece of plastic into the most expensive thing at Tiffany that you just broke.
NO IDEA how painful your suggestion can be for a woman who couldn’t complete a wanted pregnancy.
It is so offensive to me that you think you have the right to speak to me, your target audience, a pregnant woman not visibly so, about my reproductive health and decision-making whenever you want. You don’t know me. I haven’t even told all my friends and family I’m having a baby.
Messages like yours, that personal pregnancy is properly positioned as public property, make we want to puke. Your message makes me want to let loose my hot tomato-flavored morning sickness all over your flawless black paint job and glistening silver hood ornament. It is harassment of women who walk and drive and breathe in public.
There is no “choosing life” in the movement represented on license plates like yours from 27 states, with proceeds funneled into unregulated crisis pregnancy centers filled with non-medical poseurs willing to lie to me until some teeth fall out: Telling me abortion will make me go to hell. Telling me abortion will make me commit suicide. Telling me abortion will give me breast cancer.
I’ll tell you what the “pro-life” cause to shame and ban abortion does: It kills women. It kills women just like me.
I am fourteen weeks pregnant, my due date is June 2, my start date is August 26 – that’s Women’s Equality Day (the epoch has not yet been reached).
I am three weeks less pregnant than Savita Halappanavar was when she died in Ireland after a dangerous miscarriage could not be completed with an abortion she begged for because – “This is a Catholic country.”
There is a woman who didn’t die the same hospital death in Arizona recently, and the price was paid with the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride. Sister Margaret McBride’s alleged crime was saving that 27-year-old woman’s life. In doing that, Sister Margaret McBride angered the “No Girls Allowed” club up top in Rome.
I couldn’t go to my hometown candlelight vigil for Savita. I couldn’t go because I wasn’t ready to tell others I’m pregnant, and every time I seriously considered that case I would start to cry. I’m crying now.
You can work so hard for people’s inherent equality, you can work so hard for reproductive freedom and reproductive justice, but when it comes down to it, pregnant women are still so vulnerable. Yesterday. Today. And still, tomorrow.
The equation is too simple: If you are pregnant and in the wrong place at the wrong time, you die. Not because you had to. Not because the medicine isn’t available yet. Because people, often laws they create, won’t trust you with your power.
I am thrilled to have a baby but the expectation to have a baby, even a dead baby, at any cost, even a dead woman, even me, fuels the wetness on my cheeks.
Let’s leave the Mercedes driver behind and talk about some other expectations.
If you think I’m going to have “a new focus,” or less passion or ambition about my career and the causes I are about, I ask that you kindly ask yourself if you have the same expectation of my husband. Now why does that sound ridiculous? As the authority on myself, it sounds equally ridiculous for me.
I am so proud to show my little girl or boy what it’s like to have a mother who does not slow down, who provides that example that you can have love and devotion to your family and love and devotion to the broader world.
I am not trying to “have it all” or achieve “work-life balance.” I have never seen that referenced as a recipe for personal success alongside the extraordinarily successful men on the covers of magazines – all 96% of those Fortune 500 CEOs, 83% of those members of Congress, 100% of those presidents in history.
I know you can’t self-help your way out of societal discrimination, for which “having it all” and “work-life balance” are guilt-ridden code words. I know you have to work to change the system. That is my work and I will continue that work to the best of my ability, as I always have.
A wise mentor of mine told me that activism is being willing to live your life as an example of what should be, even when it comes with personal cost. And that is why I’m coming out now. You see, I’m in exactly a position to lose right now: I’ve gone on some interviews for jobs, and I’m pregnant. I know that discrimination against openly pregnant women is real. The New York Times recently ran a piece on this. It was called Why Women Hide Their Pregnancies.
I know why women hide their pregnancies. I know why I’ve kept this information longer than I probably would have if I weren’t in transition. I’m afraid people will discriminate against me, make assumptions about me and my career decisions past, present and future, downgrade me or dismiss me simply because I’m having a baby. I know the law is behind where we need to be as a modern workforce. And I’m telling you openly, as a pregnant woman who is taking her career to the next level whether that’s intuitively acceptable for you or not, that this must change for everyone. I am real, other women like me are real, and we are not going away.
This is the first time I’ve been pregnant. I was quite surprised to find I was pregnant two weeks after resigning from my job, without future paychecks in place. At other points in my life, with those facts and without the current support structure I have, I probably would have had an abortion. I’m thrilled to be pregnant today and I don’t feel at all guilty to know this truth. We are not guilty for having sex, for having children, for having abortions. We are human.
So much more to say. For now I will leave you with my strongest Pregnant Pro-Choice Lady wish to end a world where lesbians, gays, single women, single men, young people and undocumented immigrants are not congratulated, supported and welcomed as future parents in the way my husband and I so warmly have been; where low-wage workers need to express breastmilk in a filthy bathroom stall but their wealthier counterparts get leather couches, privacy and respect; and, without question or hesitation, to end a world where accessible, affordable contraception and abortion care is shrouded in shame and dangerous bans that kill pregnant women in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than celebrated as one of the greatest public health advances in our history.
We should be so proud to stand for reproductive justice.
Progressive feminist values jumped out of a cake, and they are singing our names! All of us, you and me and everyone! The 2012 election returns presented, on the whole, a night coated in awesome. Here are some of my favorite moments:
1. President Obama is re-elected.
We worked together. We knocked on doors, we made telephone calls to people who told us to buzz off, we did not get down, we just kept on going. Re-electing this president, who had been called the most vulnerable incumbent in 20 years, was no small task. When he made missteps (during his first term, as well as that disastrous first debate), feminists and reproductive justice advocates spoke up and held him accountable to being a true champion for women. It paid off this election. And this strategy of demanding accountability to work for women should be continued in his second term.
2. Mitt Romney is defeated.
Increasing inequality and division between the haves and the have-nots is a great moral stain upon our time – and Mitt would have turned that beast into a bigger one. He presented a grave threat to abortion rights, reproductive health and the composition of the Supreme Court. Mitt’s defeat also shows that all the unregulated, undisclosed money in this post-Citizens United world can’t necessarily buy an election. That’s something to celebrate in itself.
3. Marriage rights win on the ballot for the first time EVAR.
Before yesterday, every single time the civil right to marry was placed on the ballot, voters awarded same-sex couples with an inferior set of constitutional rights. Not yesterday! Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Maine, Maryland and Washington state gave same-sex marriages the go. With the president with equal marriage rights, the majority of the population with equal marriage rights, and the overwhelming majority of the youth population with equal marriage rights, last night’s victories are a game-changer. Anti-gay bigotry has disproved itself as a successful get-out-the-vote tool, and we can expect the party that typically profits from these efforts to take notice. If you’re not smiling yet, two Maryland women got engaged at the Obama victory rally in Chicago last night.
4. The Republican party gets a No Rape Mandate to the price of the U.S. Senate.
Lots of jokes about God intending for Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to lose, but their defeats in races that should have been winnable for the GOP are no laughing matter. Look, last night’s victories sent a clear message that it’s actual, not speculative, political suicide to say horrible things about women who have been raped. It is a validation of every person who has been raped, doubted, minimized, trashed, called a slut. We can bemoan that the conversation was there in the first place, but these defeats have the power to change the dynamics of a party that has empowered the most sexist of viewpoints.
5. We get the brink of a movement-building moment for reproductive justice.
In the past two years, more than 1,000 bills restricting reproductive rights and women’s health have been introduced in Congress and the state legislatures. Last night’s election doesn’t call an end to the War on Women (reference the election of leading anti-Planned Parenthood bully Rep. Mike Pence to Governor of Indiana) but it does present an opportunity for abating the attacks, strongly suggested by last night’s results to be a losing strategy for the House of Representatives in growing allies in the Senate and the White House. This is a great time for reproductive justice advocates to get much louder about full funding and availability of full reproductive health care, and yes, I mean calling for federal dollars to abortion care.
6. Check out these women in the Senate – a record number at 20!
Elizabeth Warren wins, presenting a major victory for what the late Senator Paul Wellstone called “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” Tammy Baldwin wins, becoming the first out lesbian Senator in the history of our country. One out of five is not anything close to proportional, and no one should be satisfied here, but the bottom line is that progress is moving in the right direction and we’ve picked up some amazing new women to add to the bunch.
7. Surely there are more things to be added to this list.
So many wonderful things just happened – Tammy Duckworth elected, a voter suppression initiative failed in Minnesota, an anti-abortion rights initiative failed in Florida, there are so many more – add your favorite moments in the comments!