February 23, 2011

Why does the government hate women so much?

Hi. Did you at one time or do you currently have one of these?
Adorbs, right? Buy it here.

Oh, you don't? 

From left: Rep. Phil Jensen (R-SD), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-GA).
Then please stop trying to govern mine.

If you have lady bits or know someone who does, you should really become familiar with these faces. They're out for your lady bits. No no no, not in that way - in the "restrictive legislation that they really have no business putting forth" kind of way.

I don't care if you're pro-choice, pro-life, pro-family, or pro-whatever: I need to talk about this because it's been eating away at me for almost a week. In fact, I shelved a post I wrote sometime last year when we were knee-deep in our "let's adopt!" phase. It contained a rather inflammatory sentence that basically said, despite my years of being pro-choice/pro-family, every abortion is a missed adoption opportunity. I know - I know - that's why I never posted it here. Too inflammatory even for me and I didn't want to deal with the aftermath in the comments. So... yeah, don't kill me on that one.

Here's the thing: infertility patients need to pay attention to healthcare legislation, particularly anti-abortion legislation. Anti-abortion legislation, in a cruel twist of fate, can pose a serious threat to our access to care. Here we are, trying our damndest to have our own children, and yet (I know how ironic this sounds) we need to be vigilant about others' rights and access to terminate their own pregnancies.

Case in point: Iowa's Personhood Law (HF 153). This lovely little gem seeks to define that life begins at conception thus rendering abortion illegal in the state of Iowa. Why does this matter to infertility patients? Oh, you were able to fertilize all 8 of your eggs for your IVF cycle? Congrats! Oh, some of them weren't so high grade and aren't worth saving? Tough cookies, it's now illegal to dispose of them. I've seen so many of your beautiful blasties out there and it's kind of awesome (in the truest sense of the word) to know that those little blasties are your future children - but calling it murder to get rid of them? Come on. And yet amazingly, HF 153 actually passed an Iowa House subcomittee. What boggles the mind: the bill was authored by Rep. Kim Pearson (R-IA). Kim: you've got lady bits. Use your head, woman! Even the ASRM and SART said enough was enough, and issued a public letter in opposition of the bill to Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

[Do you live in Iowa? Does this piss you off? Please contact your representatives and tell them why this matters to you as their constituents. You can search for your Iowa legislators here online for their full contact info.]

There's a reason to speak up, contact your legislators, and blog about it: because it works. Look at South Dakota (fig 1). Their House Bill 1171, introduced by Rep. Phil Jensen (R) sought to redefine justifiable homicide:
Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is. (Source.)
In a nutshell, it would create legal precedent for someone to kill abortion clinic workers. Let's broaden this a bit: remember those blasties I mentioned a few paragraphs up? Let's say those low-grade blasties are discarded. According to HB 1171, it would be justifiable homicide to take out the offending embryologist who discarded them. Thankfully, the public outcry, both from South Dakotans and the blogosphere, was large enough that the language was changed and ultimately, South Dakota realized that maybe this whole thing didn't need to be brought to the table at all.

But we still have a big fight ahead of us, most notably, the most recent vote by the House to defund Planned Parenthood, spearheaded by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith (fig 2). This is much more than just about abortion rights: now we're just talking about restricting access to basic reproductive care. Planned Parenthood does a lot more than abortions: they provide routine pap smears, access to birth control and emergency contraception, and routine care for STIs. By taking away these services, these women now have an increased risk of infertility because they won't be able to access the reproductive care they need.

And as many of you know, sometimes the decision to terminate a pregnancy is beyond our control. Enter my new hero, California Rep. Jackie Speier, who had the chuzpah to remind the House of this staggering reality late last week:

"The gentleman from New Jersey can kindly kiss my ass."

[Don't know how your Representative voted? You can check here online to see whether or not they voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Then take the time to thank those that who supported PP or speak your mind to those who did vote to defund PP.]

Have you been angered by the craptastic media coverage of infertility, IVF, donor gametes, and celebrity infertiles? You ever notice how the media likes to play the victim blame game? With all of this recent legislation, anyone else getting that vibe that there's this cultural misogyny at work here (like last week's Nir Rosen and Debbie Schlussel's *disgusting* rants blaming CBS correspondent Lara Logan for her own sexual assualt in Egypt)?

What the holy hell is everyone's problem with women just, ya know, living their own lives and having some say in what we choose to do with our bodies?

This is why we, as an infertility community, need to care about anti-abortion legislation, regardless of our own personal views. This is why we need to act, to speak up, to speak out, tell our neighbors, our friends, our families and most importantly: the people who govern, as most of them do not have uteruses (uterii?), but have an awful lot to say about what goes on in them.

Because if we don't, then we might just end up with legislation that seeks to investigate all miscarraiges, cuz yanno, to see if they were induced. Because if they were, it would be a criminal offense.

How I wish I were making this up. (I've been trying to find a less inflammatory post about it, but this one at Daily Kos hits all of the important points). Allow me to introduce you to Georgia Rep. Bobby Franklin (fig. 3) who is pushing for the following legislation:
"...any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated... Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it." (Source.)
This is the last straw. I had to write about it here because, having been invested in the stories of so many of you who have experienced a miscarriage, I just about went apoplectic when I read this on a friend's FB page. Rep. Franklin's proposed legislation would treat you like a criminal just for having miscarried. Seriously? Is this what we have come to as a nation?

We have got to wake up, start paying attention, starting making those calls and writing those letters. We need to be informed and to inform others. We have got to start fighting back as a unified community of women or we are going to get trampled by the cultural norming of misogyny in America.


Nine said...

As always, very powerful and accessible (unlike reproductive care for women).

It astonishes me that people still think of Planned Parenthood just as an abortion clinic. When I was young and had no access to health care, I used Planned Parenthood's services for my annual exams and to receive medication to help me with debilitating menstrual cramps. Because I had no primary physician, they were also kind enough to keep an eye on my heart and lungs for me.

The Georgia law infuriates me for so many reasons but riddle me this Rep. Bobby Franklin, what about all of those conceptions that are shed monthly BEFORE a woman even suspects she might be pregnant? Do you propose mandatory monthly pee stick tests, just to make sure? Stay out of my menstrual cycle!

These issues you describe, Keiko, and so much of the mainstream "invisible" misogyny makes me so angry. Sometimes it is hard to remember that there are educated, caring men in our world too. I'd just like to take a moment to recognize and honor those more enlightened members of our species.

Thank you for a moving post.

Dana said...

WOW! VERY eye opening post!

Julie said...

Keiko, I hope you're okay with me reposting this because it needs to be shared. Thank you for putting so much work into writing this for us.

MrsSpock said...

Because of her bipolar disorder- an illness she has unfailingly taken her meds for for 10 years- my sister has been denied health insurance from her employer's insurer, even though she has worked there for that same decade. She is only able to get her well woman care through Planned Parenthood, as she can pay based on a sliding scale. Her income is low, and she could not afford to pay for full fees. because of them, she was able to get the pap that caught her early cervical cancer, and get into a clinic to treat it based on their referral. Never mind that she has chosen not to have children based on her mental illness, and they give her affordable access to the contraceptives that make sure that plan remains.

Anonymous said...

Keiko, as on point as ever. Thank you for posting this. As someone long familiar with the pro-choice movement but new to the IF community, it gives me comfort to know that there are level headed gals out there dealing with this complex personal issue. After fighting for the right to have an abortion for years and then to suddenly be "robbed" of what has come so easily to so many - well, it is complicated stuff!

And did you know some Planned Parenthood centers also provide Level II infertility treatments? I know this because in the wake of my own IF diagnosis, I found myself missing the compassionate and thoughtful care I received as a PP patient. The center closest to me wasn't able to provide me with the next stage of my care but they referred me to a specialist that hopefully will help.

Jessa said...

Thank you for putting into words the incoherent but incensed thoughts that have been rattling in my brain for some time now. You can bet I will be blasting this on Facebook.

Kristin said...

Well researched and well written! I never made the fertilized egg/life begins at conception connection. I bet none of legislators did either.

Virginia said...

Amen, Kieko. I always make a point of pointing out that Planned Parenthood helped us plan for and medically prepare for conceiving our daughter whenever anyone gets up on their abortion soapbox. I'm an endo sufferer and PP helped me keep my womb and tubes healthy enough to conceive naturally when we were ready for a baby. She really was a miracle - I've been dealing with secondary infertility since her birth almost 17 years ago.

The bottom line is that we MUST value and protect women's access to ALL forms of reproductive health care. There are so many better ways for those who fee so strongly about it to discourage abortion than making it illegal. How about making adoption easier, less expensive and more socially acceptable? How about reducing poverty and increasing educational and career opportunities for women AND men in at risk populations?

I could go on - but you already know what I mean.

Holly said...

I've been ranting about these and a few other anti-woman bills lately and your blog post is spot on. I will be writing a post myself as well, hopefully soon, but for now I am definitely going to be sharing yours with everyone I know. Thank you for writing it

Kir said...

I'm retweeting, I'm going to share it with all my friends, (male and female) and I am going to try to stop the hammering in my chest because I am livid about this.
As NINE said "stay out of my menstrual cycle until you have own"

thank you for posting this, I will link up to you later today.

J'Hab@lavidaveggie said...

On my walk to work each morning, I cross the street to dodge the protesters who stake out in front of Planned Parenthood. This sucks because 1)it means leaving the sun for the colder, shadier side of Comm Ave and 2)it's a manifestation of an ideological assault on women's health.

I'm moved by the stories about the affect Planned Parenthood has had on their lives. I, too, long relied on Planned Parenthood as my sole source of medical care. Keiko, I'm moved by your willingness to reevaluate your stance on abortion in the IF community. And the notion that a miscarriage might be considered a HOMICIDE makes me want to cry, hurl, and punch faces at the same time. Nothing reveals the tragically noble sense of loss like the shrines for miscarried babies dotting the roadsides in rural Japan. It's like, I never *got* it until I saw that. MY government is not one that applies arbitrary laws and statutes to one of humanity's most universal and timeless tragedies.

Thank you for illuminating what this attack on women's health means for the IF community. I honestly never even realized. And thank you for so clearly articulating the sickening misogyny that is poisoning the collective American consciousness.

Hope said...

You had my support from the beginning of the post, but the part about miscarriage really, really got to me. Pregnancy loss is devastating enough. Being investigated and treated like a criminal would compound the pain 1000 fold. I'm going to be speaking up about this--you can count on it!

apluseffort said...

Imagining having my miscarriages investigated is traumatizing in itself! "...and here is my collection of fetal death certificates..."

Elana Kahn said...

Incredible. It redefines stupidity.

Charbabay said...

This makes me supremely depressed about moving back to Georgia. I'll be enlisting the help of the women I know there in rebutting this illogical, tragic, and offensive bill.

Michele said...

I'm sorry... As an infertile woman who is very pro-life, while I can agree that all politicians make dumbass statements, I still long for a country that doesnt have abortion and doesnt have facilities like Planned Parenthood. Argue about the do good things and that is fine and dandy, but they also do horrible things... Just because mafiosos fund hospitals that aid the ill and injured doesnt make their money any less tainted by their crimes.

AnotherDreamer said...

If we didn't have Planned Parenthood, I wouldn't have originally gotten my PCOS treated, I wouldn't have gotten my Paps done- those clinics offer low income women and those without insurance the same chance as everyone else.

The recent laws being passed scare me. Great post.

AL said...

I can't imagine having my miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy investigated as if I were a criminal. It's traumatic enough as it is, launching a criminal investigation into the cause of it is absurd.

Michelle said...

I could not have said it better myself!!!!

Glass Case of Emotion said...

Wow. This is some scary stuff, I will definitely be passing it along.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I was reeling from all the news last week too -- ending with the Planned Parenthood defunding (as well as all the other programs that were defunded) but especially disturbed by the online discussion of Lara Logan's sexual assault. But more than that, that this is ongoing. That we keep having these fights about reproductive rights and that people aren't paying attention to the fact that reproductive rights are reproductive rights. That we can't pick and choose what we want to support like a pu-pu platter because they're all interconnected. Sigh.

Great post, Keiko.

rebecca said...

Wow, great post Keiko! Thank you for sharing and putting it all out there. Will definitely repost and share with others!

foxy said...

Keiko - I've said it before and I'll say it again - YOU FREAKIN RAWK!

Thanks for sounding the alarm! It just went up on my personal facebook page.

xoxo - Foxy

Babysteps said...

Oh this is infuriating!!! I am often grateful that I am American - especially while all the madness is going on in N. Africa and the Mid. East - HOWEVER... taking away our rights, any rights for our choice of how, why and when we reproduce is defiant of the democratic creed that we boast about - clearly only when it's to our advantage in comparison to other countries. I am ashamed of being an American when I see and hear such ignorance. Pleae people - get outta my womb!!!

Sara said...

Rock on, Keiko, rock on.

Kendra Holliday said...

Fabulous post. You had me at the stuffed uterus.

apluseffort said...

Here's a link to my blog about this - the crazy miscarriage part. http://missohkay.blogspot.com/2011/02/open-letter.html

Julie said...

You've been blogged about, mentioned on my FB, and now I'm tweeting on a Twitter I never use. I'm covered! :)

Gil said...

As a Canadian, I don't hear much about these sorts of proposed legislations, however, I'm very glad that you brought it to my attention Keiko! You do indeed rock!

I blogged about it this morning (http://thehardestquest.blogspot.com/2011/02/voices-of-women-time-to-unite.html) and 'shared' on FB yesterday with a link to your blog.

As I mentioned in my own post this morning, going by some of this legislation, I'd have two fetal death certificates for my two chemical pregnancies. And a girlfriend who just learned THIS MORNING about her own chemical pregnancy this month (after more than a year of TTC) would also be given a fetal death certificate. Jesus... this is crazy.

Let's all get the word out; a nation of infertility bloggers can have a lot of pull!

Unknown said...

Dear Keiko, thank you for sharing this important information with us. For the last week I have been emailing friends and coworkers about signing the online petition to help Planned Parenthood. They provide care for women (and men) without health insurance - which I did not have a few years ago. I had very little money and their "pay according to your income" allowed me to get the health care I needed for a very fair price. PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS DOING SOMETHING GOOD AND IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE AND SOCIETY AS A WHOLE. What about the teenager who does not get any kind of support (money or psychological) from home? What about the single mom with 3 kids? What about the freelancer without regular income and/or health care?
Here is the link if anyone wants to sign the petition: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

thegoddessspeaks said...

Thank you Keiko, I am very glad to have a friend like you, a woman in my life to remind me and others of the many atrocities that are being waged against us as women. Thank you for your voice and speaking up for all of us. I am going to repost this.
Lots of love and the strength and courage to keep leading the way.

Dora said...

This is such an important, well researched post. Thank you, Keiko. Thanks for reminding me that it's time for me to get my fingers moving and write my own post about these issues. As Mel said, "reproductive rights are reproductive rights."

Circus Princess said...

You rock! Putting a link to your post on my blog asap!

Whitney Anderson said...


Thanks so much for writing that and for sharing. I have just blogged about it and linked to you.


Reading the part about having to prove a miscarriage almost made me have an aneurysm. WTF?

Sherry said...

Thank God for your words and well-spoken rage against the machine. Fist pumps for this awesome post!

Kristin said...

I blogged about it Keiko. You can find my post here.

AnotherDreamer said...

I blogged about this, my post is here

Jen said...

THANK YOU for posting this! I linked to you from my blog. http://thisismorepersonal.tumblr.com/post/3503411128/i-still-stand-with-women

Jenni said...

It's hard to know what to say. I am in complete agreement with the above. it doesn't matter what my personal beliefs are as much as, why the hell are we cutting finding for healthcare, access to family planning, mammograms, pap smears, essential care for women, especially vulnerable women - the young, and the poor. I wrote my congresswoman a couple of days ago... she's got lady bits.. and she voted for this crap.

Rachel Gurevich said...

I blogged about this, you can see it here:

Why the Fertility Challenged Need to Care About Abortion Legislation

I intend to feature it in my newsletter on Monday, too.

Thank you for writing this, and for ALL you do for the fertility community. YOU ARE AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

When I was 16 my mother took me to PP for the first time. She explained to me what they did and that she had used their services as a teen herself. She told me then how important it was as a woman that I get yearly screening and that if I needed it, they would provide me with birth control (which at the time I didn't need). They did my yearly exams and testing free of charge as my family had no insurance and money was tight. A year later when bc was needed, they provided me with the pill, condoms, and yearly STD/ HIV testing. They provided me with these services for 7 years (until I was 23) although the last year I went there, I insisted on paying them since I was more finacially stable. They provided me with my first information about my body. They taught me how to do self breast exams, answered all my questions and provided me with resources for mire info, etc. It wasn't until I was older and married that I was diagnosed with PCOS when my husband and I had difficulty TTC, a disease I learned later my mother also suffers from. She knew then how important my reproductive health was and made sure that I not only understood that, but had somewhere to turn for the medical care I needed. Today, my husband and I are expecting our first child with the help of IUI. Had I not had the care I did early on, we may have had much different results (and mote complicated and expensive options to look forward to). PP played just as much a role in helping us conceive this child as my current OB/GYN and fertility specialist, and for that I am eternally gratefully. I only hope that one day, when my daughter is in need of these services, they will still be there for her to utilize.

Andrea said...

Excellent post! It is absolutely infuriating to see these, well I'm not sure what to call them, try to get their hands on our uteruses, ovaries and whatnot. I may be an infertile thanks to PCOS but I will always stand up for the rights of all women and to keep the government out of our reproductive business.

My fear is that this ridiculousness will spread north of the 49th. It rears its ugly head from time to time but we always manage to keep it contained until it goes away again. If this happens I'll be one of the first women out there on The Hill.

Oh, and I have huge respect for Rep. Speier for taking this on directly. I'm going to go share that and this blog posting.

Davina Fankhauser said...

Keiko thank you for sharing your talent and bringing attention to this very concerning reality we face.

I would like to reinforce your encouragement to reach out to legislators. www.fertilityhealthadvocatesne.org teaches people how to find their legislator and what information is needed when contacting them. It provides step-by-step instruction on how to communicate most effectively with legislators.

Good luck to us all!

loribeth said...

Bravo, Keiko!! (Rep. Speirs is my new hero too.)

As Andrea said, if those of us north of the 49th think this doesn't apply to us, we should think again. Representatives from our current government have already tried to introduce similar measures -- & don't think they aren't going to try again, especially if more states begin enacting bills like these too.

Garden Variety Mama said...

Thank you for posting this! People need to know the ins and outs of this so they can be outraged!
I'm sharing the link.

Julie said...

posted a link to this on my Facebook Page called Infertility Awareness
at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Infertility-Awareness/124722770906205?ref=ts


Lawrence M Nelson said...

Keiko, I think you will find this article in the New York Academy of Sciences most interesting. It was written by a group of women with POI. It was part of a scientific meeting I pulled together. I wanted to be sure the women with POI had a chance to express their perspective in a scientific journal. Here is their abstract for the paper:

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1135:1-9.
From fire in the belly to a boiling heart: fuel for participatory research.

Hijane K, Heyman C, Bell M, Busby MB.

Rachel's Well, Inc., 9513 Millgate Pl., Burke, VA 22015, USA. Karima@RachelsWell.org

It has been said that governmental bureaucracies lack the animating life force that is normally provided by the human conscience. Research efforts that include patients and their representatives in the planning and regulatory process can add back this animating life force, a force Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche describes "... that your self be in your deed as the mother is in her child-let that be your word concerning virtue." This paper comprises our invited introductory remarks as patient activists at this symposium, entitled "The Menstrual Cycle and Adolescent Health" and held in Potomac, Maryland in mid October 2007. Attendees included patients, patient advocates, and experts from a variety of fields and disciplines. While our stories have their share of pain, that pain developed into a passion to help others in similar circumstances. A consortium of passionate community activists interested in the menstrual cycle could play the role as a "governmental conscience" around this issue. Developing a community consortium initiated via partnerships between patient advocates and investigators could direct more attention and funding toward menstrual cycle research.

PMID: 18574202 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Jenn @ Harmonic Mama said...

As a woman I am a person, not merely a potential vessel for a child that should be stripped of my rights the moment one is conceived.

I hope that this doesn't get signed into law it would be a sad day for women. This surely will cause women to not seek medical care when something goes wrong in pregnancy for fear of being arrested.

Olivia said...

Excellent post. Planned Parenthood caught my friend's early stage cervical cancer and treated her for it. With their services I was diagnosed and treated for minor STDs. I was also able to *gasp* PLAN when I wanted to become a parent. We either have full bodily autonomy for all women or all women will be at risk.

Political Pollyanna said...

I posted a link to this blog on my blog. I really think it's a must-read for everyone who ever had a uterus or came out of one.

areyoukiddingme said...

I posted Rep. Speier's speech on Facebook, and the only comment I got on it was from a friend who had to terminate a pregnancy due to a fatal birth defect. Sigh...I suppose every little bit helps, but it's so discouraging sometime.

Katy said...

this is an awesome post. I am very pro-choice, and admittedly, have never thought about what is being proposed from the infertility side. A lot of what is getting passed just makes my blood boil. Thanks for the perspective.

stopping by from #commenthour-way late!