Video: June 2014 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared as a panelist on a recent episode of To The Contrary, and discussed home births, Pope Francis offering advice to have more children, and the World Bank and advancing progress for women worldwide. You can watch a video of the show here or here:

Also, I recently appeared on the awesome podcast Fortnight on the Internets, run by my hilarious and incisive friends Alison the Business Casual and Alpine McGregor. We discussed online misogyny and #YesAllWomen. You can listen to that here.

 

The Push To “Lose The Baby Weight” Is Bunk

The social and psychological push to “lose the baby weight” is among the crappier things we do to new moms. There is, even during pregnancy, a fixation on “getting your body back” that leads to pregnancy fat-talk, or the push to share how much weight you have gained. I have written before about why I chose not to participate in that talk, as well as my story navigating pregnancy after an eating disorder, and on having a new sense of body image after having a baby.

By now, I’m fairly good at resisting negative body image-type things. In fact, I can often completely shut down internal and external messages that conflate my worth with taking up less space. If I hadn’t — painfully — learned how to do this through the course of various medical interventions, I do believe anorexia would have prevailed and I would be dead. This does not mean I don’t hear the pressure to lose the baby weight. I hear it loud and clear. And I find it irritating.

Yes, losing the baby weight is most definitely something other people do and do care about, and my eating disorder culture police siren isn’t chasing after them. It is not feminist to judge others in a different lane in life. I can appreciate the drive to want to fit into more of your old clothes, and to “feel like yourself again.” But I would, again, like to push back against a broader frame that asserts that a pregnant body and a body after giving birth belongs to anyone but the person in it.

There is strong overlap between eating disorder culture, voyeur culture, and an anti-modern fundamentalist culture that denies the existence of reproductive rights. I have written about this before in the context of why I chose not to post pregnancy photos to Facebook. To boil it down more essentially, modern pregnancy is a spectator sport, socially, and an increasingly church- and state-controlled sport, physically, and these two phenomena support each other. At the core is a belief that having a baby is an other-worldly condition, something that doesn’t belong to a woman herself, which is rather funny as the process of giving birth is, once initiated, an unavoidable, unstoppable total body experience for women.

In this context, body hatred and shame, within the frames of losing the baby weight and getting your body back, operate to support the idea that your body does not belong to you right now. Before birth, during birth, and even after birth. It is as if, with regards to pregnancy, a woman’s body is not allowed to change, and if it does, that woman’s true body is seen as a state in the past, captured in photographs or pant sizes gone by, while the state of present is simply a misshapen shell to be rejected.

Body hatred as a general state operates to keep women in a second-class status by making us prisoners of our appearance; by obliterating our self-worth; by robbing us of time, energy, and in many cases nutrients; by pitting us in competition with what appears to be other women but what is actually an unattainable state for all; by caging us from within. All of this continues with the fixation on the pregnant and post-pregnant body. But there is an additional punch: The social and psychological rejection of a pregnant body as “that woman’s body” from a hot-or-not standpoint operates to support the increasing violation of pregnant women’s civil and human rights. If that body isn’t yours now, then it’s easier to suggest that a statute written by a pen passed between politicians and clergy should trump you in moments of life, death, and great weight. This is one way that the psychological rejection of the pregnant and post-pregnant body is so serious.

But it’s most of all serious in the immediate experience of women who find themselves under pressure to not accept their bodies as they are now, before, and after giving birth. Having a new baby means you are usually tired all the time; if the pressure to lose weight is followed to its logical end of dieting and restriction, new moms may feel starving as well as tired. Giving birth is a moment of profound strength. It’s simply disgusting that a woman who has given birth should, as a matter of cultural expectation, then look at her body and reject it. This year I intentionally chose not to make a New Year’s resolution to lose my remaining “baby weight,” which I am reminded, when I look at my adorable daughter rolling on the floor, is actually “my weight.” She deserves better goals from me, and I, like any woman, deserve to accept myself as I am today.

P.S. – I feel it is nearly inevitable that this post will receive a comment about “health.” We are trained to equate less weight with “health,” and I not only reject that, but also identify it as a critical Jenga piece in eating disorder culture. Concern-trolling about health as a means to push weight loss upon post-pregnant people (or anyone else, for that matter), is not legitimate in a cultural context. Your doctor can credibly claim you need to lose weight for health reasons but the peanut gallery is not qualified to do so.

A Body (Image) Changed: On Pregnancy, Breastfeeding And Eating Disorders

From a self-image standpoint, taking my maternity clothes out of my chest of drawers and putting my old clothes back in has been the hardest part of my pregnancy, childbirth and new mothering journey. This might have been the same if I hadn’t had anorexia, but I don’t know.

My body has changed. My old clothes don’t fit the way they used to. I am larger, rounder and my softer spots gather in different places. Do I have a pouf above a flat spot because I had a cesarean section, or is that the way my body processes any manner of birth? I don’t know.

To put away the maternity clothes ends the imprimatur of “a wild time” when my body was doing something rather than simply being something (me). I was mostly okay before. In response to overwhelming pressures pregnant women and mothers get to engage in body image negativity, I could clutch an ancillary detail and say: Fuck you, I’m pregnant. Or: Fuck you, I’m having a girl. Or: Fuck you, I had a baby. Or: Fuck you, I’m feeding a baby. But now it’s simply time to survive as a mother, a woman, a human being. In this paradigm my best choice is to look at that belly fat, those lines around my eyes, this body I’ve never had, not in this way, and say: Fuck yeah.

It’s fun.

Putting away the maternity clothes forced me to face the facts. My body doesn’t look different today because I’m pregnant, or because I just had a baby. My body looks different today because it is different. Accepting this, the difference of a new day with a body, versus a comparison to an ideal of what a person thinks her body once was or someday should be, is both difficult and joyous. For me, having this baby forced this issue.

What I wouldn’t have predicted is this: Breastfeeding is the second-best thing that has happened to my body image, just behind recovering from my eating disorders years ago. Yes, breastfeeding. Not getting through pregnancy. Not getting through childbirth. Breastfeeding.

To watch my daughter cry when she’s hungry and eat only until she is full. To think about how I treat my body directly impacting how well she will be able to feed. To, unlike pregnancy, see the results every day.

She is growing. She is healthy. She is happy. She is thriving. She is strong.

And, fuck yeah, so am I.

I Had A Baby

He is seven paces in front of me when I realize he is too far away. The pain and fear take over my body, move toward each other, join into one awful spot in my back. I stand still, hoping nobody will notice. We have been through this routine so many times, moving wordlessly through the grocery store, dividing and conquering. For the previous three nights we have also been in labor all night long, not sleeping, squeezing hands when a new contraction starts, breathing together, he timing, me moaning if it gets that bad, occasionally crying or screaming or swearing, having the dog lean against my leg and breathe meaningfully as if to coach me along, and unfortunately, not really dilating. It is hell.

The contraction passes. I catch up to him. “Don’t walk away from me,” I say, allowing the panic to show on my face, hoping only he can see it. Being overly pregnant in public has its issues. People make jokes (are they jokes?) that they don’t want to be on an elevator with you, “just in case.”

He asks if we need to go home. “Nothing is going to happen,” I say, frustration creeping into my voice. “We know that nothing is going to happen. Just stay close to me.” We stand close together for several contractions throughout the store, choosing cereal, juice and pasta. In the space between the deli and the cheese I realize this is getting serious again. This isn’t the daytime labor I’d been hiding through conference calls that week, the kind where you can close your eyes, press your back against the chair and push your palms flat into the table. This is evening labor coming back, the almost-real deal, with contractions strong, long and close together. They play by the rules of when you are supposed to go to the hospital. And then I get nothing.

Standing in front of a display with ready-made dip I realize this isn’t going to work, although it — playing it cool, getting the groceries, having a baby — has to work. I am terrified. The pain is strong. When will this end? He stands with me, we try to make it look natural, I murmur that we are going to need to pick up some deli food for dinner to keep it simple, okay, I am indecisive and having contractions that stop us so it takes awhile but we do that, and then we leave.

In the car, I begin to cry. I have never loved my husband as much as this terrible moment. I was alone in public, but I could trust him, and so then we were alone in a bustling fucking grocery store, standing there, two statues waiting for the wind to blow.

Having been through three nights of it, the evening is, predictably, a nightmare. Some screaming, some crying, mostly resignation, a “k” coming out of my mouth or a squeeze from my hand when it is time to start the timer. By this point I am not ready to trust my body to direct us to the hospital unless there is a tiny hand sticking out of the cuff on my pants. I believe there is no way this baby is going to come fast, by the side of the road, although I wish.

By 3:45 a.m. we are downstairs with the lights on, “watching” a TV show to the extent that is possible. Finally I break down. We call the doctor again. He explains that he knows I have not been dilating, but less than five minutes apart and over a minute long is a big deal. (Believe me, it felt that way the last three nights.) The only way we can know is to go to the hospital. We draw out leaving as long as we can, and at 5 a.m. my husband suggests we just try lying down to see what happens. We haven’t slept since Sunday night. Exhausted, we lie there holding hands, squeezing them through contractions, breathing together, and then sleeping for the three or four minutes in between them. It is sweet, sad and intimate. The sleep is too precious, and we call the hospital and let them know we’re not intending to come over just yet.

Around 9 a.m. we call one of the OB-GYNs we have been seeing. I try to talk, and then burst into tears, unable to speak. He takes the phone for me and communicates our questions. It is time to go to the hospital for the third time in five days. Here goes nothing, I think.

Every time I see someone in the maternity ward I feel like we’re crashing a car into someone’s bedroom. There is a memory that continues to haunt me from 4:30 in the morning two nights before, a couple by the elevator.  Her husband trying to help. The sounds she made. The movement of her leg. The invasiveness of our presence, our pillows, our being sent home next to an illuminated elevator button not changing quickly enough. The day before, when we had been sent over for fetal monitoring after the doctor was concerned at a routine appointment and told us to be prepared for an induction on the spot, another woman had been standing by the entry desk. Uncomfortable and trying to play it cool like me. And with all three visits, exhausted and intense men darting out for supplies to bring back into labor and delivery rooms.

In the hospital, juice is served in a humiliating fashion, these tiny little cups that can never satiate you when you’re dehydrated. You need a straw and from the bed, attached to the monitors, the juice drips on your gown. Finally, this third day in the hospital, nurses sympathize with my totally terrible fucking “prodromal labor,” as I learn it is called. (Later, I will learn the total adventure was also back labor.) By this point I am swearing constantly, which I am assured is just fine to do. “Try to surprise us,” the nurses say. “We’ve seen it all.”

I have grown most familiar with the labor and delivery room beds. There is a digital LED clock moving needlessly slow in the upper right corner, drawing out the days. Fortunately upon arrival I am dilated 2.5 centimeters. I nearly cry with joy. We agree to induce labor around what would have been lunchtime if I hadn’t failed to eat the vegetarian sushi picked up at the grocery store the night before, and observe every other meal or snack interval following that. By 4:30 p.m. I am receiving pitocin, which will induce additional contractions on top of the ones my husband and I have been breathing through all day.

To speed things up, the doctor comes in and breaks my water after the pitocin begins to drip. It is a hot gush that keeps coming out with subsequent contractions. It is difficult to be bothered by the soaking and bloody pads I’m sitting on, because these contractions hurt like hell. For four hours my focus is so painfully narrow, on breathing and the pain. I start to get too frustrated and my husband knocks me back into shape. “Don’t get frustrated,” he says firmly. His eyes never stray, and when mine do he speaks up.

I need an epidural. In advance, I had planned to use pain medication only if I needed it. I need it. I tell a nurse that I need it at 7:30 p.m. and it doesn’t arrive until 9:36 p.m. Within five minutes my field of vision expands from the kaleidoscope that was the LED clock, my husband’s eyes and the pain. My nurse has light blue nail polish on. I compliment her. The epidural works. I can’t feel any contractions anymore, as strong as they are. We watch an episode of LOST on the iPad and then nap through the contractions until 2:36 a.m., when I wake up with a nurse standing beside me.

“Uh-oh,” she says. My husband is sleeping in the corner, calm on his face. Suddenly everything moves fast. The print out of my contractions shows dramatic lines strong and close together, whereas the fetal monitoring line has reacted in a way that makes the nurse nervous. She tells me so. I ask if she is going to slow down the pitocin. She says she has already cut it off. A doctor is in the room. I need to have the baby now. We are going to do an emergency cesarean section. My body is shaking uncontrollably. My throat begins to close. My husband wakes up and walks over. I cannot calm down. I am terrified. 40 weeks and six days pregnant. What if we lose her?

The shaking will not go away. The nurse says bodies do that sometimes when they are ready to go into labor. But beyond that, I cannot calm down. My husband tries to calm me down. He is trying so hard. We are both trying so hard. It doesn’t work. I stammer, “I need a logic puzzle, something else to think about. Help me.” We realize that going through the presidents of the United States, backwards, is what I can handle. When we exhaust those, we go through the states from north to south, west to east. He is holding my hand and helping me remember them as I am wheeled into the operating room, tears running down my face, no longer whispering, “I am so afraid.”

I am nauseous and alone in the operating room, behind a vertical blue sheet. Top 40 music is playing on the radio. My husband is gone for a few minutes that seem longer than my collective 34 hours staring at the labor and delivery room clocks, returning in scrubs and a face mask. I continue shaking. The C-section is not painful, but there is heavy pressure and pulling on my abdomen. It ends.

They tell us we can pull away the sheet to the right of my head. She is crying and flailing her arms. “I am going to throw up,” I whisper. There is a kidney-bean shaped yellow pan to the left side of my head. I turn, dry heaving several times as she screams. Finally I vomit, and I’m able to turn right again, lift the sheet once more and watch my little girl.

Her story begins here, in a plastic tray surrounded by doctors as her parents watched from a short distance beneath a red clock that said 3:32 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2013. I suspect her story is and will remain much more interesting than mine, but that’s for her to sort out. Remarkably for me, I had a baby.

How Much Weight Have You Gained? On Pregnancy And Fat Talk

“How much weight have you gained?” If I gained a pound for every time someone has asked me that question during the course of my pregnancy, I would beat everyone at see-saw for the rest of my life. Instead, I generally answer with, “I’m not going to answer that question,” because I believe in granting anyone listening permission to rethink the appropriateness of this common routine. It’s okay to refuse to answer a personal question you didn’t invite. It’s okay to not ask women to recount statistics about their bodies in lieu of asking how to support their experiences within them. It’s okay to opt-out of fat talk, including pregnancy-specific strains of fat talk. Fat talk is a profane part of the lives of women and girls.

Defined simply, fat talk is a negative “my body sucks” conversation that takes place between women. It is a game of one-downwomanship that often goes like this:

- “I can’t believe I ate that.”
– “No, look at me, I had [this bad food] and [that bad food] last night.”
– “No, no, no, I’m so bad, I haven’t been to the gym in [a certain length of time].”
– “Yeah, well look at my ass in these jeans. I am so fat. No wonder I’m single.”
– And on, and on, and on, women saying horrible things about themselves that most would not say openly to their worst enemy’s face.

As someone who is pregnant and has a history of an eating disorder that nearly killed me, and someone who is thinking very deliberately about the kind of behavior I want to model for my future daughter and her friends, I experience pregnancy fat-talk as a one-two ladle full of bullshit punch:

In a social context, how much weight I have gained is irrelevant to my experience of pregnancy. If it were truly relevant, a doctor would have pointed it out to me, and if I wanted help from others in gaining weight at either a slower or faster clip, believe me, I would ask. Just like I would ask for your help if I thought you were the right person to help me avoid a urinary tract infection, a yeast infection or any other issue related to my reproductive health.

In a statistical context, how much weight I have gained is neither an accomplishment nor a tragedy. I am having a baby. My body is, amazingly, doing what it needs to do to pull off this particular pregnancy. My pre-pregnancy weight, my post-pregnancy weight and the so-called time it takes to “get my body back” — one of the most offensive of all fat talk frames placed around pregnant women, for I’m certain this is my body now and will remain mine in any and all shapes it takes — these are like toxic body culture baseball card statistics for women. Except unlike baseball cards, the statistics don’t revolve around our accomplishments as pregnant women (not throwing up during the meeting! continuing to experience physical strength! dodging bigoted lawmakers who want to regulate our every move!), but disembodied numbers that encourage judgement from others and worse, ourselves.

Like lots of women on the brink of having a daughter, there is so much I want to give her a chance to experience. Near the top of that list is comfort in her own skin, in spite of what I have experienced painfully and personally as a toxic body culture that is especially awful for young women. In a study recently covered by The New York Times, 93 percent of college women said they engage in fat talk.  I hope that all little girls will grow up not feeling the pressure to trash themselves on the basis of food behaviors and body measurements that say nothing meaningful about their experiences and worth as human beings. I hope that instead all little girls will grow up proud to share their accomplishments and experiences with one another, seeing this practice as a source for joy and collective strength, rather than bragging or an attack on the status of others. We have so much power that can not be pinned to a number, or a shape, or whatever the latest ridiculous comments are about Kim Kardashian’s appearance as a pregnant woman.

It is for the little girl who will soon be mine that I am refusing to participate in pregnancy fat talk. It is for the friends she will someday have. Also, proudly, it is for me.

Babies Exposed Online! Privacy And The New Mom

Tearing through the finish line is something you’re supposed to do with triumphant arms in the air, running as fast as you can, but this is me nearing the end of my pregnancy so I’ll take this this brief respite from waddling to the bathroom to blog about the pressure to post photographs of one’s baby online.

Previously, I made a wildly unpopular decision to not post pregnancy photos to Facebook, and to opt out of baby bump and pregnancy mania digital voyeurism in general. Now I anticipate virtually everyone who knows me and wants to see BABY PICTURES SO MANY BABY PICTURES OF A BABY IN A HAT AS SOON AS I GIVE BIRTH AND THEN ALL THE TIME FOREVER is going to look at the screen and scream once more, because I have some pretty negative feelings about the pressure to post baby photographs online.

Here are the issues, as I see them:

Encouraging and respecting individuality, individual expression and free will are some of my highest values, and this extends to my initial thoughts about parenting. As I see it, my baby is going to be her own person and it’s one of my jobs to create as much space as I can to encourage her to be herself. This is especially poignant to me as a feminist expecting a daughter in a world that objectifies women and girls. My contention is not her participation in digital culture itself: I understand that as she gets older she may pose for and post photographs online. However, I tend to feel that in a digital space those are choices for her to make on her own, not choices for me to make for her.

Social networking photographs are forever. It seems we are in an unprecedented time for digital representations of childhood. When I was growing up, there was no permanent search engine trail of photographs in the tub waiting to someday be discovered by a recruiter looking you up before a job interview, or someone trying to hurt you. This doesn’t mean people should hide from having their photos put online, but as a future parent I am concerned about making permanent digital mistakes on behalf of a child I want to be her own person. On a separate, but related note, political hero Krystal Ball famously said the following when racy photographs from Facebook were leaked online during her 2010 run for Congress:

But I realized that photos like the ones of me, and ones much racier, would end up coming into the public sphere when women of my generation run for office. And I knew that there could be no other answer to the question than this: Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.

Granted, baby photos are not sexual, and I don’t plan on trying to restrict my daughter from using social networking sites when she is of age to do so. In fact I agree with Krystal: People have to face up to our pictures and our social lives online, especially women of my age and lower, and a societal inability to do so will lead to negative political consequences. But I draw a strong distinction between someone posting photographs of herself and having a digital trail created for you by someone else without your consent.

And how many people who look at your digital presence online would you invite into your home? During the early days of life, beyond the Internet, new babies are seen by the people closest to you. People you invite in your home. People you make an effort to go see. Social networking has changed this equation, and I’m not sure for the better, especially for someone like me who maintains an Internet presence for political purposes.

This is not an attack on people who post baby photos online, which includes most of my friends with kids. I don’t judge you. Further, this is not an attack on mothers in the style of anti-feminist troll Katie Roiphe, who suggested that moms who put their children’s photos on their Facebook pages are struggling with a toxic loss of identity.

This is concern that intrusions upon my privacy, which I have experienced by the barge load during the process of pregnancy, will soon extend to a baby I want to protect. I know this thinking is very unpopular, and it is probably impossible to have a completely non-digital baby, especially when good people I care about are already begging. In any case others will probably take and tag their own pictures whether I like it or not. And for all I know, perhaps the process of having a baby and parenting will make me want to share photographs online all the time. If there’s one thing I know right now it’s that I don’t know how I am about to experience parenting. I believe preferences and viewpoints can change and that ability is a sign of strength, not weakness. But at this moment as I waddle to the finish line, I can say:

It makes me sad that so much of pregnancy and caring for a newborn — incredibly private moments — seems to have turned into visual digital performance for other people, one that can easily be objectified and made permanent without consent.

Why I Am Not Posting Pregnancy Photos To Facebook

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.

Podcast On Pregnancy, Eating Disorders, Body Image And Feminism

I did a new podcast with Fully Engaged Feminism on pregnancy, eating disorders, body image and feminism.

I first spoke out about my experience with Pregnancy After An Eating Disorder on this blog late last year, and in response the lovely feminist writer Amy Choi interviewed me for Feministing and added her insights.

I’m not done speaking out. I’m not going to shut up. When I first started researching resources for pregnant women who have struggled with eating disorders or body image issues, I found very little. There is a bit of medical management information for those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and actively have an eating disorder today. But little about pregnancy after an eating disorder, or even negative self-image struggles.

I’m not shutting up because I know there are tons of women out there like me — women who are in recovery, who don’t need medical support to manage the pregnancy, who don’t see much out there on the Internets acknowledging our existence. Some of us want to know how to stop the old Body Image Beelzebubs from coming back. Some of us want to know how to tell them to be quiet. Some of us don’t need a “how-to,” necessarily, but simply want an acknowledgement that body shame is a) real and b) sure becomes a focal point during pregnancy.

Given the lack of information out there, I intend to keep speaking up and sharing my experiences, and encourage others who feel comfortable to do the same. Sometimes we need to create the thing we wish already existed.

Anyway, check out the new podcast. We had a terrific time and I’m so grateful to Laura for having me on. She also made a sick good pan of vegan brownies and taught me how to make a podcast. Gratitude.

Nobody Told Me L. Ron Hubbard Was Obsessed With Abortion!

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.

20 Week Abortion Bans Don’t Work (From A 20 Weeks Happily Pregnant Woman)

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).

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