Some people believe that people like me use the term “reproductive rights” to gloss over my support of abortion. Every time there’s big news in the field of reproductive rights, I’m reminded of this when people hyper-focus on the abortion aspects of the issue. But here’s the thing, I think it’s the Pro-Life people who need to really understand why we use the term “reproductive rights” because their camp really likes to focus on the “unwanted pregnancy” side of the issue when there are dozens of other sides that fall more in line with the category of reproductive rights.
For starters, most people who do IVF for pregnancy end up with many embryos and have to decide how many they want to try to transfer into the uterus. After that, you have to decide what to do with the remaining embryos. Some people keep them frozen for future attempts but many times the doctor can rate viability and IVF is so expensive, you don’t want to transfer an embryo with a low viability score. And sometimes your first cycle is successful so you don’t need the others. The cheapest and most common decision is simply to allow the the clinic to dispose of them. If we define life at fertilization and criminalize any destruction of an embryo, we have now created criminals out of IVF parents all over the country.
For people who really believe a fertilized egg signifies personhood, there are also complications with some types of birth control that work by preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg on the wall of the uterus. For some women, these options are preferred (and the reasons why are NONE OF MY BUSINESS), but those options are limited the second someone wants to start classifying them as forms of abortion. Or even more complicated, some Pro-Life groups say that hormonal birth control or even IUDs will prevent implantation if an egg just so happens to get fertilized and so even though their method is not to prevent implantation, it will happen if they fail to prevent fertilization. In essence? Personhood definitions and legislation complicate a lot of issues around birth control.
But then there’s also the complicated classifications of medicines and procedures around abortion that overlap with those around miscarriage. I thought I was having a miscarriage once with some excessive bleeding but the OB on call found a heartbeat and sent me home, dismissing my concerns. I later ended up miscarrying in the middle of the night. There was no doubt it was a miscarriage because I was there witnessing it and I was far enough along that it was not just blood. It was terrible and traumatic and I’m still scarred from it. For this reason, I never opted for medicinal treatment after future miscarriages and always preferred to get a D&C.
HOWEVER, some women – when told a their fetus has died – prefer to be given medicine to stimulate the miscarriage at home and avoid surgery. Some of this medicine is restricted because it’s also used for abortions and therefore women in some states are stuck with laws that won’t let them use it or Pharmacists who refuse to fill it.
Let’s turn to late-term abortions. If you’ve ever turned to the infertility community for support like I did for several years – you’ll meet women at every point of their pregnancy journeys. Some pregnant for the 10th time after 9 miscarriages. Some pregnant for the first time after 5 failed IVF attempts. All of them worry every second of their pregnancy because a) getting there was so hard and b) many causes of infertility can also cause pregnancy loss. This was very true for me because I struggled with endometriosis and fibroids which also can complicated successful pregnancies by creating uterine hematomas.
Because of these friendships built at this time, I also know a lot of women who had to terminate late-term pregnancies. If you’ve never suffered through this with a friend, or yourself, it’s not something you can describe. To want something SO BAD only to have to give it up is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. Nearly 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks, so those that occur after are rare and most often the result of some sort of tragic diagnosis of mother or child. There are many woman who have written publicly about their stories, I prefer you to read them than to tell you about anyone I know personally. Here’s a good article if you can handle this type of topic.
All of this is why I prefer to say I fight for reproductive rights, not to gloss over the abortion issue, but to remind everyone on both sides that this is about WAY MORE than abortion.
Now, all of this isn’t to say that I only support women who make these type of decisions after miscarriage or IVF or fatal diagnosis, or any other reproductive complication. I support women who choose to abort in an abusive marriage, or because they can’t afford the family they already have, or because of rape or incest. I support all women to make the decisions that are right for THEM. I regret NONE of the decisions I’ve ever made about my body and my reproductive cycle and my pregnancies and I celebrate I always had choice.
But I think it’s important to understand what’s at stake. It’s not just women who don’t want to be pregnant. It’s women who want nothing more but who have their decisions and their efforts to do it healthily thwarted because of restrictive reproduction laws. This is why I call it all: Reproductive Rights.
Now, I want to be careful and not act I’m classifying good and bad reasons to terminate a pregnancy, even outside of fertility. If we start trying to say, “It’s okay if you’ve been raped,” then who is to say whether or not a woman has been raped? And are we then forcing women to come forward about a rape when it may put their lives at risk? Then we’re taking away their right to choose to talk about their assault AND their right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Have you seen how women who try to come forward about assault get treated? Isn’t it the victim’s decision to come forward? Should she have to PROVE she’s been raped in this society that puts victims on trial?
I support any woman’s decision to have any abortion. Full stop. I don’t want to flower up my language to avoid the hard issues. I am not in her shoes. I do not know her story and it is not my place to judge her life or her decision making. But a lot of people waiver and try to make exceptions without really trying to imagine what it looks like in a world where abortion is okay for rape and incest. Who decides whether she has been raped? We can’t start a criminal trial for every woman who says she’s been raped, can we? And if we did, do we refuse to give her an abortion until the trial is over?
I prefer to allow any woman and her doctor to proceed however they have decided as a team to see fit and I don’t want the government or the court system or the church to have any say in any of that. I stand by any woman who just chooses not to continue with a pregnancy no matter what her reasoning. It is not my business, it is only my job to hold her hand and offer her support and make sure she gets the best medical treatment available.
If I want to protect the rights of a couple doing IVF, I have to protect the rights of all women. If I want to protect the rights of a women who has miscarried to choose the best medical path forward, I have to protect the rights of all women. If I want to protect the rights of a late-term pregnant woman to make the best decision for herself and her family after getting a tragic diagnosis, I have to protect the rights of all women. If I want to protect the rights of raped women, I have to protect the rights of all women. If I want to protect the rights of a woman in an abusive marriage, I have to protect the rights of all women.