I remember the day in 1997 when I listened to my doctor tell me that I had a very large ovarian cyst, also, that I was likely to have a miscarriage. She said it was good that my body seemed to be taking care of things on its own, because the cyst could rupture and hemorrhage and they couldn't operate if I was pregnant because it was a Catholic hospital.
My doctor wasn't mean about it, she just couldn't give me this operation that she'd told me about a minute previous I needed to avert a threat to my life.
I was lucky that I miscarried. As the hormone-induced changes in the cyst caused pain that made it hard to stand upright in a matter of days, it's a good that I didn't have to go through the trouble of finding another hospital covered under my insurance. I went quickly from the terror of waiting to know if I could get that operation to the grim realities of going through it and recovering.
It turned out all right, but I've always remembered since then that I once sat helpless in a doctor's office watching her eyes slide away from mine to the floor as she refused to say anything when I pressed her to tell me what would happen if there wasn't a natural miscarriage. She just skipped ahead to how someone with my blood test results wasn't going to be pregnant much longer.
Opponents of abortion like to center their arguments around the fetus and talk about whether it's a person. Which basically means to me that they don't think women are people with the basic right to determine the conditions of their lives and what will happen to their bodies, who can be forced to suffer or die because it will make someone else feel better.
Because even without the problems I had, this is what pregnancy can do to a woman's body.
|Just hitting the highlights, there's the risk of: scarring, trauma to the pelvic floor, permanent damage to pelvic floor muscles, drain on bone density (which can be significantly worsened by nursing), permanent weight gain, broken bones and dislocated ribs, anemia, urinary incontinence, depression (which can't be treated with medication), headaches, loss of future fertility, forced c-sections, susceptibility to infection, incomplete miscarriage, getting kicked constantly in the gut, circulatory disorders (temporary or permanent), induced diabetes, hemorrhage, curtailment of activities or mandatory bed rest, frequent vomiting, debilitating vomiting, exhaustion, pain.
The serious downside to most of those should be obvious, but don't laugh about the inclusion of permanent weight gain in the list of physical risks, either. Only the dishonest and the clueless won't admit that women's economic success, and potential romantic success with new partners, is far more dependent on conforming to a beauty norm that favors slimness than men's is. The existence of men who find women attractive after childbirth or stay with their partners for life, or women who can bounce back to their original physiques, doesn't negate the point. Having a child in bad circumstances, or with a partner whose affection fades later, is a subtle negative pressure in ways large and small working against successful new beginnings.
And, oh yes, the pain. For which no medication can be taken up until it practically doesn't matter anymore. Speaking of which, if you get sick or have a broken bone during pregnancy, you mostly can't take anything for it if you want to continue a healthy pregnancy.
What on earth gives anyone the right to put another human being through all of that? Nothing.
Most women will go ahead and have a child anyway at some time in their lives, which is fine if that's what they want. There are compensations, though that really isn't the point.
The point is that it's a sacrifice, and a serious one that poses an unknowable risk to every pregnant woman of permanent physical damage or degradation of bodily function. Or death.
Pregnancy and childbirth were once routine causes of death for women in the US, as pregnancy and birth still are for women around the world with poor access to medical care, and as they still occasionally can be among women with excellent medical care. Even beyond directly pregnancy or birth-related maternal mortality, the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the US is murder, as pregnancy can be another proximal excuse for abusers to totally lose their sh*t.
Then there are other potential problems beyond these immediate health threats.
Let's start with the economic. Within careers, pregnancy and motherhood both make women permanent targets for workplace discrimination and assumptions of incompetence. So if a woman wants to support that child, she is at a greater economic disadvantage from the moment she starts to show until retirement, greater, that is, than the economic disadvantage she likely already faced just being a woman. Pregnancy and childbirth are also significant risk factors for homelessness, particularly among teens, in which case they are likely to face higher risks of violent attack.
Speaking of abuse, again, pregnancy itself can be a goal of partner abuse. An abuser may withold or sabotage birth control methods or bully his partner into unprotected sex with the aim of making her more compliant and dependent on him. If she tries to leave later, the abuser can use the children as a weapon against her for years and years and years. In situations like these, restrictions on abortion access directly enable domestic abusers.
Were you aware that domestic abuse is extremely costly, both to women and society, in terms of lost lifetime earnings and productivity? The US DoJ estimated in 1996 that it costs $67 billion every year. Do you think the price tag might have gone up in the last decade? Add that to the cognitive impairment associated with domestic abuse (ooh, that's a real winner in the job market), the economic disadvantage that women usually start with, then the economic disadvantages that come with motherhood, and you may begin to get an idea of the gross injustice that it is to enact policies that can reinforce patterns of abuse against women who can't afford to walk away.
One in three women will be abused in her lifetime, as I was, which is about a sixth of the US population. I daresay there's some overlap there with the one in three of us who will decide that she needs to have an abortion in her lifetime.
There's nothing equivalently risky that men can legally be forced to do, or are even likely to be asked to do, aside from being on the front lines of a war zone.
If a woman's right to decide that she just can't handle this ridiculous level of risk at a given time, or that her body simply can't take anymore, or that she can't outlast the depression it may trigger, is regarded as irrelevant, then no one really has any inalienable rights (via) at all.
If you're a Democrat who doesn't get that all restrictions on abortion are human rights violations, we aren't on the same team.
Update: link added.