8 Things to Know About Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice

*DISCLAIMER* This post discusses sensitive issues within reproductive health. If you are sensitive to these issues, you may want to save this read for a different time or space. *DISCLAIMER*

Let me be entirely clear. I am not messing around with this. The inaccessibility of reproductive health care (not to mention health care access in general but not going there right now), and the amount of trauma, injury and death within reproductive health care in the U.S. is atrocious.

Let me be even more clear. I'm not a reproductive health care expert. What I am is a passionate student who researches the heck out of the things that tick me off and/or I care about. Consider this post groundwork for what is involved in this issue. Consider it a jumping off point for you to further research whatever may resonate most with your passion, your "ticked-off"-ness, your care.

1. REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, RIGHTS AND JUSTICE: WHAT'S THE DIFF?

Reproductive health is considered the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, at all stages of life.

Reproductive rights are the freedoms individuals have to make decisions about their own reproductive system and health services.

Reproductive justice refers to the protection of those rights, calling out structures (within and outside of health spaces) that oppress communities causing negative reproductive health outcomes and denying individuals reproductive rights.


2. NOT JUST ABOUT WOMEN. NOT JUST ABOUT BIRTH. NOT JUST ABOUT ABORTION EITHER.

A few years ago I would have pretty narrowly associated this issue with "pregnant women," because my idea of reproductive health was centered around the experiences of women and birth, and the deep-dark-scary-abyss-like controversy of abortion.

The reality is that reproductive health affects all people, so when we think about it as a major issue in our country, we have to include the experiences and concerns of:

women, men, trans individuals, POC, LGBTQ, immigrants, communities in poverty, faith communities, incarcerated people, youth, etc.

Here's my question to those who may feel uncomfortable with one or more of the communities listed above: When has alienating an individual / community EVER led to social, moral, or any other kind of good?

Freedom does not exist in a vacuum. We are all deeply and inextricably tied to each other, whether we want to be or not.

Lastly, I've learned to broaden my understanding of reproductive health as a birth vs. abortion conversation. The experiences of people who get pregnant include more than pregnancy, and that simple reason is enough to demand that we ensure there is access to safe care for all experiences including birth control, pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, adoption and abortion.


3. WHAT'S THE FUSS WITH REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH? WHAT'S THE PROB?

There is not currently access to safe care for all reproductive health outcomes.

Why? Because it's not a priority in the U.S. for those who have the power and ability to make it so (restricting access is in fact a priority for many of those individuals).

Because many of the individuals who are most negatively affected by the lack of access are not valued or widely recognized in our society (except within their own subcultures).

Because instead of practicing constructive empathy, we're busy.

Because even if we want to practice constructive empathy, the systems that perpetuate the status quo are so convoluted and difficult to engage with that it's draining.

Because even when we DO practice constructive empathy and take the time and energy to navigate the difficult systems (individually and collectively), the status quo is so deeply entrenched that success sometimes feels minimal / ever-distant, or flip flops in a one step forward, three steps backward way.


4. WHAT'S RACISM / SEXISM / INCOME / EDUCATION, ETC. GOT TO DO, GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Here are a few resources for you to consider:

Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology
Gynecology was founded by a man who experimented on slave women. The end.

America's Shocking Maternal Deaths
Rates of death during pregnancy and childbirth have dropped in many nations... not including the United States. Oh, and guess what? Black pregnant people die at higher rates than white pregnant people.

The Effect of Girls' Education on Health Outcomes: Fact Sheet
From a world-wide perspective, "Women with at least some formal education are more likely than uneducated women to use contraception, marry later, have fewer children, and be better informed on the nutritional and other needs of children."

What You Should Know About Planned Parenthood & Fact Check: How Does Planned Parenthood Spend That Government Money?
I chose these two because the first offers a really productive and brief overview, while the second takes a more critical look. Still about 75% of what Planned Parenthood does is treat STDs/STIs and provide contraception services. Meanwhile, abortion services are estimated to fall somewhere between 3% to 12%. And how much federal money goes to abortion? Near 0%.

I think it's worth noting that less access to safe abortion care is correlated with increased DIY abortion attempts. What should that mean to those who don't support safe access? I'd like to hear people smarter than me discuss that.

In the pursuit of brevity I'm moving on. But you don't have to. If you want to, now go do ya own research.


5. MORE ABOUT THESE VERY IMPORTANT SERVICES.

Birth Control/Contraception. Methods of preventing pregnancy. Includes education on safe sex and medical support.

Note: "Nearly a third of women who start a new type of birth control stop within a year, according to one recent study, largely because of changes in their insurance coverage." (link)

Learn More: Weighing the Health Benefits of Birth Control // In Texas, Abstinence-Only Programs May Contribute To Teen Pregnancies // It’s Time To End The ‘Birth Control Causes Miscarriage’ Myth
 

Prenatal Care. Regular check-ups with a doctor or midwife to treat and prevent potential health problems throughout pregnancy, and to promote healthy lifestyles for parent and child.

Note: "In 2009-2010, 17.2 percent of recent mothers in a 30-state area reported that they were not able to access prenatal care as early as they had wanted." (link)

Learn More: GOP Congressman Asks Why Men Should Have To Pay For Prenatal Care // America's Pregnancy-Care Paradox: Paying Ever More for the Same Bad Results // Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Access to Prenatal Care // I'm Pregnant. What Would Happen If I Couldn't Afford Health Care?

Care in Childbirth. While home birth and birth center birth do occur in the United States, largely childbirth involves healthcare services performed by OBGYNs in hospital settings. 

Note: "My first maternal death didn’t open my eyes to the fact that we have a problem. It was my fifth." (link)

Learn More: All Women Should Have The Right To Safely Give Birth // Texas Now Has The Highest Maternal Mortality Rate In The Developed World // Map: The best (and worst) countries to be a mother // It’s Time To Take A Stand For Black Women’s Wealth And Wombs // Should Americans Be Concerned About Postpartum Care?

Miscarriage Care. Services involved when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks or pregnancy. Medical treatment may or may not be needed. Care for grief, however, is always needed, in whatever way best fits the individual.

Note: "Without being offered space to discuss the loss, grieving people become more isolated. Receiving cards or being invited into a support group, notes Shafer, can open communication, and the chance to talk can stave off anxiety, PTSD symptoms and strains on grieving partners’ relationships." (link)

Learn More: Finding the Right Words After Infant Death and Pregnancy Loss // For Parents Who Have Lost A Baby, Some Help With Their Grief // The Cost of a Miscarriage

Abortion Care. Services surrounding the termination of pregnancy. Includes medical and emotional/mental health support leading up to, through, and after.

Note: "Thirty percent of American women will have an abortion by age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading sexual and reproductive health research and policy organization." (link)

"Few people try to understand our lives. And we are never asked the most simple but important question: Why did you do it?" (link)

Learn More: Who Should You Listen to on Abortion? People Who’ve Had Them // 50 Years Ago, A Network Of Clergy Helped Women Seeking Abortion // 14 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Abortion

Extra Note: To my family, friends and anyone else who do not support access to safe abortion care based on faith conviction. In love and humility, I have no simple answers for you. All I have are questions. Why don't we support safe sex and birth control education? What does the Bible actually say about the beginning of life? What have we made up on our own? What about after a child is born? Do we fight for them then? Why do we create a ladder of "deserving" vulnerable people? Why do we show up less to defend those impacted by homelessness, oppression of workers, those killed and widowed by police brutality and mass incarceration, those orphaned in the foster care system? Why do we show so much anger and so little compassion regarding abortion? In scripture, what made Jesus show anger? Do we show anger for pride, greed, hypocrisy, and abuse of power too? Want to talk more? I'm happy to respectfully discuss this with anyone who would like to.

Adoption Care. Services surrounding the choice to end one's parental rights so that a child may be brought up by another/other individual(s). Including prenatal care, and any medical, emotional/mental health care lead up to, through, and after.

Note: "81.5 million Americans have considered adoption. If 1 in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family. Every year, about 23,000 children age out of foster care without finding a permanent family." (link)

Learn More: Who Adopts? Characteristics of Women and Men Who Have Adopted Children // The Costs of Adopting: A Factsheet for Families // Discount Babies // Surprising Facts You May Not Know About Adoption // Should Adoption Be a Reproductive Right?


6. WHY THIS IS NOT POLITICAL

Politics is about money and power and lip service. Reproductive health, rights and justice are about humans.


7. WHY THIS IS POLITICAL

We live in a society entrenched in our political system. We are limited in our freedom to work outside of that system. When we work outside of that system there are inherent challenges that undermine the work we desire to do.

So at a certain point, we have to engage politically — and I personally feel that we should. I would really like to live in a society made up of a majority of individuals who also believe in equal reproductive rights and access to safe reproductive health care.


8. NOW IT'S YOUR TURN

Read. (link) Read. (link) Read & Listen. (link; link) Watch (link). Talk to real people.

Know what reproductive healthcare access is like in your state. (link)

Know your representatives and what bills are in the House and Senate. (link

Connect with a local reproductive justice-minded group.

Learn. Grow. Act. Share.

A Brief Tale of Good-Sad Days, Riding Waves and the Raw Side of Life

This is about the good-sad days, a term I'm coining as of right this moment.

I have to say I've been having a lot of really good days lately. I've been busy and productive and enjoying most of everything that I've been doing. "Can't complain!" I've said again and again. I have so much to be excited about, so much to be grateful for.

Then last week, well, I had a really nice Thursday, and then I hit a wave. You know — you've probably experienced this too — when you see something that reminds you of something you feel is missing from your life or when a heavy thought you hadn't thought in so long suddenly pops into your mind like a really mean version of "the game" (as in... "you just lost the game" if you remember that ridiculous fad from a few years back). 

And even if your day is good — even if your day is great! — there's the wave. It's approaching and it's surging in more quickly, maybe, than you'd expected, and now you have to react. So what do you do? 

Well, here's what I did. I told myself, "Nope. Nuh uh. No. Not happening. This was a good day. And I just don't care about this wave, it's not knocking me down, it's not touching my mood. I'm. still. good." Because I'm stubborn that way. (Anybody else out there?)

But, here's the thing. You can't really strong-arm your way out of a wave. So, even though I pushed the thought of its approach out of my mind for a while, all I really did was sort of flip a slow-motion switch.

I worked a lot on Friday. "Nope, I don't see a wave. All good." And then all day Saturday. "I'm good. I'm good. I'm cool." On Sunday and Monday, I really thought I'd passed through it. I got errands done with my roommate, I got really deep into illustrations I was really excited about; I felt... like yeah... I've totally got this. "Water feels great! Doesn't the water feel great?"

And then Tuesday. Lovely Tuesday. Tuesday was a particularly busy day. And a good one! I worked. I yoga-ed. I voluntarily socialized (which

is huge for this introvert). And when I got home that wave was just right there. Right there on the other side of my apartment door like, "Surprise." Except, it wasn't really a surprise at all. 

So I put on John Q because when I'm ready to surrender to my waves it always involves a few good heaving cries, and nothing starts my waterworks quite as quickly and intensely as watching Denzel Washington choke up while the hospital tells him he has to raise $250K or else his son is going to die of heart failure. Allowing myself to really, really cry — it's a part of dealing with my waves, and as much as there's a part of me that just thinks that that sucks — like really sucks — like ugh, can't I just be "stronger" — whatever that means — there is a huge, blooming, beautiful voice in my gut that reminds me that no, it doesn't suck. It's emotion. It's life. It's real. It's what we do to move through. 

Good-sad days are what they are. They are good and they are sad. The goodness doesn't toss away the sadness and the sadness doesn't overthrow the goodness. 

So why share? I just think it's important. I just think it's real. I just think that if I can put on a happy face most hours of the day, so can a lot of other people. And sometimes the best thing we can do with our raw moments is talk about them. And since talking about it can be harder for me than writing about it, I write about it, too.

If you have a wave I wish you well in your journey through it. If it helps you to talk about it, I hope you find someone to talk about it with. If it helps you to cry, I hope you break out your crying movie, or mixtape, or show — and I hope you cry. If it helps you to sing or dance or write or climb or laugh! I hope you do those things.

And if you're hard-headed like me, I hope this can encourage you to un-flip that slow motion switch and sink in that good way that doesn't mean we're drowning, doesn't mean we're weak, it just means we know the wave is coming, and it'll flow a lot smoother — we'll come up a lot quicker — if we let ourselves ride it through.

5 Birth-Positive Articles To Make You Say Hm, Huh, and Awww

I feel like my generation does a pretty good job of promoting mindfulness, self-care and a full sense of humor in the often difficult aspects of life today. Yet, when it comes to birth, I hear a lot of fear and anxiety from those around me. What is it about birth that causes this seemingly knee-jerk reaction? The kinds of stories we hear and read for sure. So here are some birth-positive articles to read and look at. Birth is many things, including hard work, but don't forget to look for the rest!

12 Moms Describe The One Part Of Childbirth They Miss, Because It’s Not All Bad

I love how this article asked the question no one seems to ever ask, "What's good about childbirth — you know, besides just it being over?"

From the article:
"I actually loved labor. Almost all of it. I would go through it again in a heartbeat. (Not pregnancy, though.) The physical pain was nothing compared to the psychic euphoria once the kid is born. It's just so f*cking crazy, pushing a human out."

Too-Real Cartoons Capture The ‘Weird,’ Gross Sides Of Motherhood

Illustration and motherhood combined? You know this speaks to the deep levels of my soul and happiness!

From the article:
"When Corinne de Vries became pregnant with her first child, the Dutch blogger was struck by the way her life changed... the mom teamed up with artist and fellow parent Ingebritt ter Veld to illustrate the strange, surprising and all-too-real aspects of pregnancy and motherhood."

Mindfulness-focused childbirth education leads to less depression, better birth experiences

Okay, so it's one thing to hear someone talk about having had a good birth or how birth isn't that scary, but what can you actually do if you're nervous anyway?

From the article:
“Fear of the unknown affects us all... With mindfulness skills, women in our study reported feeling better able to cope with childbirth and they experienced improved mental well-being critical for healthy mother-infant adjustment in the first year of life.”

The Ultimate Labor Playlist

It will be a fun afternoon, the afternoon when I personally sit down to put together my own labor soundtrack. What songs will I choose to one day embarrass my child with when I tell them, "Ooh, that was on when I pushed you out!"

From the article: 
"One of the first albums that came to mind was Neutral Milk Hotel’s classic, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It was a terrible choice. I somehow forgot that the title track features lyrics like: 'And one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea.' Not exactly great motivation for a woman in labour."

43 Raw Photos Of Moms Helping Their Daughters Give Birth

One of the most important things for many people looking ahead at birth is knowing that you won't be alone — you'll have lots of support. I love these pictures of mothers acting as that very support for the daughters they've always labored for.

Anything above make you "hm," "huh," or "aww"? What kinds of articles have been encouraging for you as you've considered birth and/or motherhood? Tell me about them in the comments below!


Perfectly Knit Together Logo Design

Designing for this wonderful doula was such a pleasure! I enjoyed playing around with the knitting concept to showcase how her work brings parents together and supports them holistically throughout their journey into parenthood (for the first time or another round of it!).

 
 

This Month in Music: May Vibes

I listen to music constantly. Work, eat, workout, play — these are some songs that have been traveling with me through March. What songs have been getting you through your month?

Music Icon-05.png