*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.