Okay But Really, This Contraception Thing Is Silly

I mean… wow…

When this whole “war on women/contraception” thing started, my initial reaction was just one of a little bit of anger and frustration and disappointment, but not really outrage or “ARGHY MUST BLOG AND KILL AND STOP THIS ARGHLKJ;k’l;!!!11!!”. The things people were saying like “the best birth control is an aspirin between the knees” and “college girls are going broke buying birth control for all the sex they’re having!” were unimaginably stupid, but it’s not like it was anything particularly new for the religious right and GOP to be sexist, sex-negative, scientifically and medically illiterate, irrational idiots.

Besides, not my problem, right? I’m not cis, I’m not fertile, I’m not interested in partners of the sex with whom I could even hypothetically conceive, and I don’t live in the United States. Also, historically, these kinds of pushbacks against women’s reproductive rights haven’t ended up managing to make it very far. It’s also at least a slightly fair fight… although hetero cis women do not have nearly the amount of wealth and political power in the USA that their hetero cis men do, they aren’t a minority, and they should have enough of a presence in the voting public to put up a decent fight and keep this horrible legislation from moving too far forward.

I figured this was just an electoral strategy designed to distract from other issues, a new appeal to the USA’s “culture war” and division of ideology  that could keep the 99% from noticing the economic biases and corruption of the Republican party and keep them focused on “family values”- and an appeal now sorely needed due to how rapidly the demonization of homosexuality is ceasing to be a viable political strategy. I figured this was something that wasn’t really meant to have any substance, and would be over pretty quickly. A week or two, tops.

So my plan was just to keep on doing what I do, focusing and blogging on other issues, on things that most people don’t talk about, on things where the fight isn’t remotely fair… and then go to the Winchester, have a cold pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

As a general rule, my plans are stupid.

First of all, “not my problem” should not be in my lexicon.

Of course it’s my problem. And not just on the basis of the importance of empathy for others, but on the basis of just how interconnected everything always (irritatingly) is.

This thing has not blown over. And clearly it was not meant as a temporary distraction. This is a genuine push, an actual platform being adopted by the Republicans, with which they intend to help win themselves another Presidency. The legislation, like Virginia’s transvaginal ultrasound bill, is being passed, and apparently the American public are swallowing this, and allowing their cultural concepts of sexual and reproductive rights to be pushed backwards.

That scares the living bejeezus out of me. Because at the point that it’s not just some stupid American electoral race noise, and becomes actual regression in North American cultural values, it is very much my problem. Here’s why:

The issue isn’t really about sex. It isn’t really about babies and whether or not a fetus is alive. It isn’t really about cisgender and heterosexual people’s hassles with unwanted pregnancies and all that thingy-shtuff. It is about the subjugated status of women in society, and about the concept of bodily autonomy. Both of which (surprise) are of direct relevance to trans women.

Sad as it is to say, the truth is that I didn’t always really “get” the issue of being pro-choice in regards to abortion, or understand why it was of so much importance to so many people. I spent a decent portion of my life being a bit of a…um… privileged little twit. For a long time, I’d say and think very stupid things like “well I guess the pro-life people have a point, sort of… if you define fetuses as alive then yeah, it is ethical to want to stop them from being killed”. That was making the mistake of thinking the question hinged on what is and isn’t life. Or I’d think stupid things like “well sure, maybe the men’s rights types do have a point… maybe the father’s opinions should have a degree of legal weight in the decision”. That was making the mistake of thinking the question hinged on parenthood and responsibility. Later on, I started being more definitively pro-choice, but even then my position was based on the argument that life is inherently complex and unpredictable, that human beings aren’t rational, that everyone makes mistakes, that sometimes shit just happens, and therefore having options is extremely important. That wasn’t stupid, really, but it was still missing the point.

When I started finally “getting” it was, incidentally, when I began transition. That’s when I became firmly and uncompromisingly pro-choice, and began feeling the same degree of anger towards the pro-lifers that for a long time I had found incomprehensible in the women around me. Because that’s when it clicked, and I understood what it was really about: being able to make our own decisions about what happens to our bodies. How fundamentally important it is to maintain, at the very minimum in terms of human rights, the sense of autonomy and self-possession in regards to your own physical body. How much an absolute violation and affront, an act of violence even, it is to have someone else, particularly an abstracted state, start telling you that your body is going to have to have this or that happen to it, and you don’t get a say in the matter.

Because that issue mattered to me then. Because I started understanding it myself. I began understanding how much it felt like a violation of my rights to have all these ridiculous hoops set in place that I had to jump through in order to make my own decisions about my hormones, or about my genitals. I began feeling angry during the waiting period to acquire hormones that all the testosterone running through me, and continuing unabated in its slow poisoning and deformation of my body, was being permitted to do so by abstract committees and professional associations and “standards of care”. That I was being subjected to that not by my choice, but because of other people, and their hang-ups and their ideas about gender and definitions of it and their concept of what I should and shouldn’t be allowed to do and when. And beyond that, even, there was the sneaking suspicion that the reason it had taken me so long, that the reason all this masculinization had already happened to my body, was not on account of my own decisions (I’d initially wanted to transition at 14) but on account of my culture, and the messages of shame, ridicule, hate and fear that had denied me a fair chance to make that choice for myself. It hadn’t been my choice to go on living as male for so long, and letting this happen to my body… not in any meaningful sense of the word “choice”, anyway. It was imposed through the culture around me. And now that I’d finally found the ability to fight back and claim my body for myself, I was being faced with institutional obstacles, and abstract coalitions of strangers (ashen-faced and gray-suited in my mental image) that I’d never known and would never know but whose decisions were now determining my life and what’s “best” for me cis people’s comfort levels.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to go from there to understanding the anger women feel about having the State, and committees comprised of men they don’t know and never will know, making decisions about what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies, what’s going to happen to those bodies, and then they the women (not the men making the decisions) having to live with the physical, medical reality and consequences of those decisions. To not be able to control their periods or acne or cramps or other hormonal issues on account of their access to birth control (or its affordability) being restricted. To be indiscriminately slut-shamed for trying to access this medication, or trying to make a decision about their own reproductive or hormonal health, regardless of whether or not the principal reason for wanting it has anything to do with sex at all. To be blamed simply for having a sexuality, and having the threat of an unwanted pregnancy being inflicted upon them dangled over their heads as a deterrent to keep them in line with someone else’s conception of sexual morality, someone who is himself free from that particular physical threat and its consequences. To have to submit to literally invasive physical procedures just so someone else will feel you’ve “thought through” the decision to their satisfaction (the echoes to transgender gatekeeping being pretty eerie and spot-on in this particular situation… “are you sure you want to make this decision about your body?” “are you sure you’re sure?” “are you really really really sure?” “Nope, I don’t believe you. Jump through these humiliating hoops and submit yourself to our whims first, then MAYBE I’ll be convinced you’ve thought this through to my satisfaction”).  And ultimately, most of all, the living nightmare of enduring a pregnancy and childbirth you never asked for and never wanted… the degree to which your autonomy, as a human being, has been so completely stripped that you can’t even feel secure in and in possession of your own physical self. It belongs to the State, to the fetus, to men.

Not okay.

This is what I think men don’t quite grasp about why issues of choice in matters of reproductive health is such an important and emotionally-loaded issue for women… and also why cis people often don’t understand why all the rules and systems and obstacles imposed in the way of pursuing transition are such an important and emotionally-loaded issue for trans people. A man (or at least a cis man) has the luxury to imagine these things in abstract terms, and doesn’t really have any basis on which to imagine his bodily autonomy being taken away. For him, he can just see it as just (literally) disembodied ethics and morals, or imagine a would-be father’s rights to a decision about a pregnancy as comparable to the would-be mother’s. His body is never under threat, nor his ability to make his choices about what happens to it. If laws started to be imposed insisting that a man submit to rectal prostate examinations and fertility screening before being legally permitted to purchase condoms, THEN they would start talking about the right to not have your body be unnecessarily invaded, and the right to make your own decisions about sex, health and family-planning. But currently, they lack any real way of directly understanding the immediate importance of this issue to women.

Likewise, cis people can similarly conceptually divorce themselves from what it’s like to have abstracted committees of “professionals” (who, like the all-male boards making decisions about women’s contraception, are typically all-cis) deciding what you are and are not allowed to do in terms of your gender, your genitals, your hormones. To have them deciding if you’re “really” transsexual or not, what etiology you are, if you deserve treatments x, y and z, what you need to do in order to “prove” the legitimacy of your decision, and condescendingly stating what’s best for you (while, as noted earlier, it’s obviously mostly just about maintaining our society’s general comfort level and “protecting” them from visible gender variance).

When a culture begins leaning towards deciding that the religious morals of men supercede a woman’s rights to her own physiological autonomy, when that kind of fight is won even when who they’re trying to subjugate is nearly 50% of the world’s population, then it would be effortless to assert that the religious morals of these same men supercede the right of a trans person to make hir own decisions in regards to hir physiological autonomy, and having a precedent on which to fight for that autonomy is gone, and the fight itself becomes hopeless. From there it becomes easy to say those religious morals supercede people’s sexual rights, to engage their bodies in whatever form of safe consentual intercourse they choose. And down goes the whole concept of individual rights taking precedence over the moral proclamations of the Church and State.

The point being that this is a universal issue, and is not restricted to women, or to heterosexual women, or to cisgender fertile heterosexual women… it all interconnects, everything has repercussions. The underlying principle is something that needs to be asserted in all situations, regardless of whether we are the party that is immediately being threatened: we have the right to make our own choices about our bodies. The State, and The Church, and other rule-making organizations, have no place whatsoever in those choices.

This is why women’s access to contraception is important for me to defend. And incidentally, why a trans person’s right to access hormones or surgery is important for cis people to defend. Because bodily autonomy is a principle that needs to be universally defended in order to be able to be successfully defended. If we let it be compromised under any circumstance, our ability to fight for it is weakened in all others.



  1. Anders says

    Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?

    The question of abortion involves much more than the termination of a pregnancy: it is a question of the entire life of the parents. As I have said before, parenthood is an enormous responsibility; it is an impossible responsibility for young people who are ambitious and struggling, but poor; particularly if they are intelligent and conscientious enough not to abandon their child on a doorstep nor to surrender it to adoption. For such young people, pregnancy is a death sentence: parenthood would force them to give up their future, and condemn them to a life of hopeless drudgery, of slavery to a child’s physical and financial needs. The situation of an unwed mother, abandoned by her lover, is even worse.

    I cannot quite imagine the state of mind of a person who would wish to condemn a fellow human being to such a horror. I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object. Judging by the degree of those women’s intensity, I would say that it is an issue of self-esteem and that their fear is metaphysical. Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today’s intellectual field, they call themselves “pro-life.”

    By what right does anyone claim the power to dispose of the lives of others and to dictate their personal choices?

    • Stevarious says

      By what right does anyone claim the power to dispose of the lives of others and to dictate their personal choices?

      To the Authoritarian mindset, it ISN’T a right. It’s a responsibility. One they take very seriously indeed.

    • says

      if they are intelligent and conscientious enough not to abandon their child on a doorstep nor to surrender it to adoption

      First, I will categorically state that I am in no way trying to force (or even convince) anyone into maintaining a pregnancy and/or having a child that they do not want. But, I feel compelled to ask what are the “intelligent and conscientious” objections to surrendering a child for adoption?

      • Anders says

        I think she would say that adoption is a lottery and that your child could end up with horrible parents. Which has indeed happened more than once. I don’t think that’s a sufficient reason but I think that would be her answer.

        Anyway, we’ll never know. She’s been dead for 30 years now.

      • TiG says

        what are the “intelligent and conscientious” objections to surrendering a child for adoption?

        This misses the point. Pregnancy is a life-threatening illness that one can only hope to survive in the best of cases. Being forced to survive that only to then face giving that child away to an uncertain fate is terribly cruel.

        • says

          This misses the point. Pregnancy is a life-threatening illness that one can only hope to survive in the best of cases. Being forced to survive that only to then face giving that child away to an uncertain fate is terribly cruel.

          No, I assert that I am not missing the point, since I completely agree that pregnancy is a health risk to the mother, and already explicitly said that I was “in no way trying to force (or even convince) anyone into maintaining a pregnancy and/or having a child that they do not want.”

          However, people are not rational, and an accidentally pregnant woman might at first decide that she wants to keep her baby, even in the face of adversity (which is her right). Then perhaps, after the baby is born, she might come to terms with the reality that she does not have the ability and/or resources to properly care for the child. It seems that supporting her choice to give the child up would be the humane thing to do, rather than telling her that choosing adoption is not an “intelligent or conscientious” decision.

      • says

        Well… adoption can be like Russian Roulette.

        Basically, the older you get, the less likely you are to be adopted.

        Why? Because couples only want the perfect, healthy, preferably white, infants and toddlers. If the kid is disabled, has a health condition, is a minority or mixed race, has been abused and thus “has issues”, or just plain got too old to be considered “cute”, we’re screwed.

        You’re lucky if you find a forever family.

        Me? I’m one of the lucky ones. As are my siblings.

        But others? Others just end up “aging-out” of the foster care system (that is, they turn 18 and are given the boot.)

      • Kaz says

        You’re forgetting (or possibly unaware) of the mental health costs of surrendering a child for adoption. The suicide rate among mothers who have surrendered a child is horrific, and most of them spend their entire lives wondering if their child is ok. After carrying for nine months and giving birth, a lot of women find they bond to that baby whether they want to or not, and even if they’d initially been planning to surrender for adoption find they can’t face it afterwards. It’s a lifetime of torment for them.

        • says

          Let me try this again: I am *not* suggesting that adoption should be promoted as an alternative to abortion. I do understand what it means to carry and give birth to a baby. Though I luckily have never been in a position where I needed to worry about giving a baby up for adoption, I can empathize with the potential mental torment of choosing to do this. However, once a baby is born, I do think that adoption can be a positive alternative to, for example, being raised by a drug-addicted 15 year old (as I have seen happen to kids in my extended family). Is it a crap shoot for the kid to be raised by adoptive parents? Probably, but it’s a crap shoot to be raised by biological parents too.

          Closer to the original topic: I had a hysterectomy at the relatively young age of 34. There were some horrified reactions – “you’re so young”, “what if you want another baby”, and a close friend who said that if she had to have her uterus removed it would have a huge impact on her perception of her womanhood. Fine for her to keep *her* uterus in *her* body, but for me, I was quite happy to be rid of the bloody thing.

  2. Sebor says

    The rapist named Virginia has completely exhausted my capacity for outrage and I still haven not managed to regenerate.

    The pro-life scum has really accomplished an impressive feat of propaganda in casting the abortion discussion in terms of killing babies.
    While I knew the idea that women can own their own bodies is incomprehensible to the pro-life vermin I was horrified to see how far they could take this.

    Even if you don’t buy into the state mandated rape angle, it is still unnecessary medical procedure performed on an unwilling subject.
    Which in my mind conjures up pictures taken from the book of Mengele and his associates. I’m not even exaggerating here, from transvaginal ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion to the forced sterilization of Jews is not a huge step in my mind.
    That’s also the reason why I chose the exterminationist language above.
    It’s the only way I can convey how their views feel to me.
    If you think that it is inappropriate I apologize but I could not think of another way to put this.

    The idea that every human being has a right of ownership of their body could not be simpler, why do so many people believe it is their right to interfere?
    Really, their belief in responsibility to some sort of “Volksgemeinschaft” (again sorry, I’m aware that this is an instant Godwin, but it is the first term that comes to mind) is so disgusting and everyone should be able to see the potential harm in that from a mile away.

    I’m literally weeping with rage as I’m writing this, and I think I should be. I don’t know what else to do.

  3. HumanisticJones says

    Once again Natalie, you have cut through several layers of bullshit on an issue and successfully re-incited me to active fury just in time for lunch at my office where my uber-conservative coworkers will be getting ready to bash all liberals and their liberal agendas (with some homophobic or sexist comments on the side depending on the topic).

    I feel Prof. Farnsworth sums this up for me…

  4. sumdum says

    The other day I was watching TV and a commercial came on for some program that was going to be on later that night, a discussion with people who are fighting for a right to terminate their life at a time of their own choosing, even those who are not terminally ill. It showed a clip of an old man who explained he’s just done with living. He’s not terminally ill or depressed to the core of his being, but he just doesn’t want to continue anymore. But since he’s not ill or suffering, he doesn’t get the right to euthanasia.
    I was reminded of that by your text here:

    How much an absolute violation and affront, an act of violence even, it is to have someone else, particularly an abstracted state, start telling you that your body is going to have to have this or that happen to it, and you don’t get a say in the matter.

    I think that’s spot on.

  5. pyrobryan says

    “college girls are going broke buying birth control for all the sex they’re having!”

    But you see, a man has to buy a new condom every time he has protected sex. So it’s only logical that a woman has to buy a new birth control pill every time she has sex. It makes so much sense that it just can’t be wrong!

  6. Branwen says

    I’ve been telling people about the creeping theocracy south of the 49th for years now. That is, in fact, one of the reasons (along with free vaginas, poutine and Roots) that I came up here (not that Harper isn’t making me rethink this…). Really, Non-Xian theocratic, Americans, it’s not like this hasn’t been creeping up for years. The fact that Americans are tragically undereducated (twenty percent think that the Sun goes ’round the Earth LOL PHYSICS WUT?) and –as Steinbeck said — think of themselves as embarrassed milliopnaires instead of, you know, exploited wage slaves (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/19/millionaires-in-us_n_969787.html) makes for the perfect storm of a corporate theocracy — Saddleback Church must see (or else) TV brought to you by Pepsi. Frankly I hate being on the same continent as the US. If you think these bastards aren’t going to see Beaverland as lebensraum you obviously haven’t heard to their Jesus Nazi rhetoric. Seriously. Read about the Quiverfulls (Libby Anne does a good job of describng their evil wiles). These people want complete world domination in the name of the cross and the greenback and will stop at nothing to get it.
    I’m buying land on Baffin Island. The USians won’t go there because it has no oil.

    • sunnybook3 says

      Branwen– There are still USians who think that the creeping theocracy and the neocons are utter bullshit. We’ll be willing to jump through whatever hoops you devise if you’ll let us join you on Baffin Island…. Hopefully, our resistance will be successful and (the awesomely Canadian) Margaret Atwood won’t actually be prophetic about dystopian futures. Take heart: we’re not ALL proud to be living Idiocracy and there are quite a few of us left who are outspoken flaming liberals. I’m hoping the religious right jumped the shark with the contraception thing. After all, Rush Limbaugh managed to not only lose a ton of advertisers on HIS OWN show, he lost them for a bunch of OTHER right-wing blowhards, too. It may not be much, but it’s a decent little bit of progress. Perhaps liberals are finally scared enough to become more vocal, more organized, and to be able to pick up some converts…. I know a few conservatives, even, who are seriously pissed off at the way the GOP is heading. (As for me, I’ve been arguing that a TWO-party system is completely moronic for ages. The Us vs. Them politics just does NOT allow for any sort of choice as to how the country is run. You cannot run a government on the promise of being “NOT THEM.”)

      Anyway, if things don’t get better, please offer us few USians with functioning brains political sanctuary! PLEEEEEAAAAASSSSE? 😉

      • papango says

        It’s okay. We know you reasonable Americans are in there, even if we often can’t hear you over all the crazy shouting.

  7. ischemgeek says

    You have managed to express why I’m pro-choice far more eloquently than I could. The closest I’ve ever managed to it is, “It’s wrong to restrict abortion for the same reason it’s wrong to subject everyone to organ matching tests for all their tissue types and make make living organ donation (with all the risks and health complications, pain and recovery time inherent in it) compulsory if you match someone on the list – and then make the person being forced to donate pay for the privilege of having all these tests and medications and non-covered procedures done, and also pay a portion of the costs, living expenses and recovery for the person you’ve been required to donate to for the next sixteen years – after all, you’ve given them life and now you have some responsibility to make sure they’re fed and taken care of.”

    If you want to save someone’s life through living donation, great! I mean it. Good for you. But if someone else does not want to subject themselves to months of medical tests, procedures, life-threatening physically traumatic event and months of recovery thereafter, and the potential for long-term complications (rare though they may be) that’s their perogative – even without throwing in the financial stuff I added to make it more of an analogy to pregnancy. To be honest, I don’t know which I’d choose if the issue came up (in most cases I’d be disqualified due to my medical history anyway, so it probably never will come up for me, but it’s something I’ve mulled over on occasion).

    Likewise, you wanna have a kid? Great! I don’t. Not now, and maybe not ever. Would you tell me that my personhood, my right to make decisions pertaining to my health and future, and my right to decide what is best for me are all subordinate to what someone else decides I should want? Fuck that patronizing, dehumanizing, degrading bullshit.

    In other words: My body. My life. My finances. My health. My. Freaking. Choice. Not because I’m a slut. Not because I like killing non-existant babies. Not because I want a plan B in place if my birth control fails. Because I’m an adult person with the right to decide for myself what my future will be and what happens to my body.

  8. Timid Atheist says

    I had not thought of how similar transitioning is to the pro-choice argument and the need for birth control. Thank you for making me aware of this. I will definitely be more conscious of this in the future and I am even more firmly a trans rights believer than I was before I read this. If only we could make more people see what it’s like to be treated this way, perhaps we’d have more allies.

  9. Pen says

    they aren’t a minority, and they should have enough of a presence in the voting public to put up a decent fight and keep this horrible legislation from moving too far forward

    I think it’s important not to be too optimistic about the non-minority status of women. Much of history, and actually the present day, consists of the control and oppression of large groups by powerful minorities. With women, it’s incredibly easy – removing our control over fertility will destroy such power as we have.

    • sunnybook3 says

      I agree. I think it’s important to note that, due to the way women are socialized, we can be complicit in our own subjugation. Many of us actually believe that we are not as capable as men or that we are more emotional and less rational.

    • donnamccrimmon says

      Plus you have to keep in mind that not everyone who belongs to a group (particularly ones like race or gender) don’t always think the same way on every issue. Yes, the arguments are persuasive that abortion is a woman’s rights issue, but many women belong to branches of Christianity (or other religions) that have dim views of sexuality at “best” and are outright misogynistic at worst. The cartoonist who did these cartoons is a woman, but that doesn’t mean she agrees that abortion is ethically right, birth control should be legal, or even that any of it matters to ‘decent’ women.

      And yeah, the issue of abortion or birth control or whatnot has always been about keeping women in their place, either through denying them control of their own bodies or the more pervasive (often subliminal, sometimes outright) slut-shaming intended to reinforce the idea that moral, good women don’t have sex outside of marriage and certainly never discuss it.

      That’s really what any discussion about women’s rights boils down to, and how it should be presented as when reported: Some people think women shouldn’t have libidos and it is the role of the State/the Church/Whatever to punish women who do.

      The issues of empathy for others and of allowing people the freedom to be true to themselves are both important, no question, but I get the feeling that unless society can accept the basic proposition that half the population is not meant to be passive and submissive in matters concerning even their own body, we’re not going to see traction in any other struggle.

      And pardon my French, but I am fucking amazed we are having this conversation in the second decade of the 21st century. We can put a man on the moon, but a woman can’t get birth control without be labeled a whore.

      • says

        We can put a man on the moon, but a woman can’t get birth control without be labeled a whore.

        That’s because the rightful purpose of men is to do cool stuff like going to the moon, and the rightful purpose of women is to have babies (~half of whom will turn in to men who can do cool stuff, and thereby justify the worth of the woman who bore them).

  10. Anders says

    I’ll call them pro-life when they stop excusing people who murder abortion doctors. Until they do, they’re anti-abortion.

    And yes, birth control is a pivotal issue – without it women can be kept more or less constantly pregnant and too busy managing their 18 kids. It’s a vagina m’am, not a clown car.

  11. Fox says

    But of course, if a woman wants to get a DDD breast augmentation, or 40 different facial surgeries, or (shudder) hymenoplasty, that’s just between her and her surgeon. Or if she wants to keep having children well into her forties despite the much higher risk of birth defects, no one would dream of suggesting that that isn’t her right. But the second you suggest something contrary to the “traditional family” model – a single woman wants in vitro, a gay couple wants to adopt, a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant in the first place – suddenly it’s an issue that needs to be legislated and we can’t trust these people to make their own decisions or let them do something Society takes issue with.

    My favourite part is how the people who want women having babies all the time tend to also be the same people who bitch about “welfare queens” and “anchor babies” and single moms being the root of all evil. Because they’re not actually pro-life or pro-baby or pro-family, they’re pro- white families that fit into their traditional (patriarchal) mold. 

    I know this is not on the same scale as the trans and abortion issues, but it comes back to the same point: I have an appointment next week with my OB/GYN and I am dreading it because I want to talk to her about sterilization and Novasure (a fairly simple procedure that is supposed to eliminate menstruation). I expect this to be difficult because I’m 27 and have never had kids, and I have read about other women’s struggles in this situation and have already had my first “but you’ll change your mind in a few years!” speech from one of the only 3 people I’ve mentioned it to. But I have known my entire life I 100% never ever want to go through pregnancy/birth and I think it’s crap that I should have to spend another couple of decades paying for the pill every month and dealing with the crappy side effects of equipment I am never going to use. But of course I am just being silly, because all ladies want babies! It’s not possible that I have thought a LOT about this already and have firmly decided.. No, no, my irrational lady brain can not be trusted to make such decisions. (Of course, no one tells me when they would accept that I’m really really sure that I don’t want kids. Post-menopause? On my death bed?) I’m expecting to have to jump through hoops to even be taken seriously, and I expect that my insurance will refuse to cover a dime. So, yeah, not to the level of what trans individuals have to deal with (and I feel kind of like a privileged ass bitching about having a uterus in this context), but still an unpleasant slice of “we can’t trust you to make decisions regarding your own body.”

    • Stevarious says

      But I have known my entire life I 100% never ever want to go through pregnancy/birth and I think it’s crap that I should have to spend another couple of decades paying for the pill every month and dealing with the crappy side effects of equipment I am never going to use.

      The thing with that is just that, most 20-somethings who ‘never want kids’ actually do change their minds later. In this case I really don’t think it’s a control issue – they are genuinely trying to help you avoid a situation that you are (statistically) likely to regret.

      Not much consolation, I know, in your personal situation. I personally think it’s stupid. Let people do what they want with their bodies. If they change their minds later, they can have the operation reversed or adopt or whatever.

      • Fox says

        A study on 20-somethings who actually get sterilized and then later regret it would be more convincing than “people who say they don’t want kids.” Otherwise it’s like saying “Well, a lot of women who say they don’t want a baby right now end up changing their minds when they accidentally get pregnant, so I’m not going to sell you this birth control.” Not remotely convincing, paternalizing, and kind of creepy.

        I am going to make the wild assumption that you are a guy from your username, and ask very seriously: do you know what giving birth actually entails? Did you know that the vaginal opening regularly gets torn in the process, requiring stitches, and it’s even possible to tear all the way through to the anus, causing a really horrible infection or much worse? Have you ever considered growing an eight or ten pound bowling ball and then passing it through an opening the size of a pea? Have you SEEN a placenta? Sorry, all my respect in the world for all the many many moms who have gone through that for us to be here, but it is Not. For. Me.

        And as someone else pointed out, if I “change my mind” on having kids (which is never going to happen re: actual pregnancy and birth), I can adopt. I have no attachment to my own genetic material and with a family history of numerous health problems, I can safely say I will not feel bad about not foisting my offspring on the world, or a litany of health problems on the offspring.

        But really it all comes down to “I’m an adult and I’m allowed to do things that you think I may regret.”

      • Fox says

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so combative towards you. It just drives me nuts that I would even have to justify why I DON’T want to go through a horrible, permanently-body-altering, painful and dangerous nine-month-long ordeal. Though as I said, at the moment it’s more “periods are stupid and I am fed up with them,” since I’m not, ah, in any position where pregnancy would conceivably (ha) be a possible occurrence. ;P

        • says

          Eh, if you just wanna ditch the bleeding times, you can go with Depo. The bonus is, you only have to go in every 13 weeks for a quick jab in the arm, and you’re good!

        • Stevarious says

          I’m not offended, I happen to agree with you. The argument isn’t convincing, and people should be allowed to do things that they may later regret – they usually are, seeing as how tequila is legal.

      • crowepps says

        Would really appreciate your posting a link to the statistics you reference in which studies prove people who decide at 20-something not to have children regret it later.

        It would be interesting to compare those stats to the requests of surveys in which 70% of parents asked anonymously stated they were disappointed by parenthood and regretted having had children.


        • says

          I’d also like to know why a decision not to have kids seems to be considered to be in an entirely different category from the many other irreversibly life-altering decisions people routinely are called upon to make. It’s not like humans are an endangered species.

          (In response to a question from his grandmother about his future reproductive inclinations, my 20-something son once said, “Babies are gross”. My mother disagreed, but I countered that babies are indeed gross, not to mention a lot of effort – potentially worth the trouble, but definitely not for everyone.)

        • Stevarious says

          Hmm, I’m actually quite glad you asked – the rates are apparently somewhat lower than I was led to believe.

          According to the CREST study published in 1999, it was a little over 20% for women sterilized under the age of 30.

          This study has it at 40% for women sterilized under the age of 25.

          So while the numbers are not as high as I was led to believe, there certainly is a considerable difference between under 30’s and under 25’s, so I can definitely see where the argument is coming from. I don’t think that (or even the hypothetical much larger difference I was under the impression existed) justifies refusing women to choose what to do to their own bodies, though.

    • anat says

      Of course, no one tells me when they would accept that I’m really really sure that I don’t want kids.

      After you have at least one and live to regret it? Nah, it’s just you and your kid going through a ‘difficult stage’. It is impossible for a woman to truly not want children. It’s the rules.

      • Stevarious says

        After you have at least one and live to regret it? Nah, it’s just you and your kid going through a ‘difficult stage’. It is impossible for a woman to truly not want children. It’s the rules.

        After all, all men have an endless, driving desire to do everything involved on THEIR end for baby-making. How could it possibly be different for women?

  12. Louis says

    It’s an issue of personhood, but not in the way the anti-abortion crowd use that word. Telling someone else what they can and can’t do with their own body entails making a de facto claim to ownership of that person. It reduces them to the status of an object; a subject controlled by someone else, rather than an agent who makes decisions. And the thing is, sooner or later the proponents of this mindset will demote anyone to “object” status just because they disagree with what that person is doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re female, male, cis, trans, straight or gay. As soon as you embark on a course of action these wankers don’t like, they believe they have the god-given authority to take away your status as an agent who can make decisions. That’s something every thinking person should oppose.

  13. prochoice says

    Thank you, Natalie.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts,
    thank you for the description of changing from fuzzy-religious-normalcy to a firsthand experience of body politics;
    AND thousand thanks for your ability and willingness to write!

    This should become a classical textbook text, just like J.J. Thompson´s Violinist Example.

  14. says

    Catching up after exhaustive days of menstruating and working but I have to say this was great. I don’t just mean great, really fucking great.


  1. […] The following weekend, from the 18th to the 20th, I’ll be at the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC, along with other FTBers like PZ Myers, Maryam Namazie and Ian Cromwell, plus lots and lots of awesome skeptic and atheist folks, such as Desiree Schell, Matt Dillahunty and Lawrence Krauss. On Sunday morning I’ll be participating in a panel on abortion and reproductive rights, hosted by Joyce Arthur. I promise that despite my lack of a uterus, I actually do have some things to say on the subject. […]

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