Trigger warning: sexual assault
I got mad on my walk. I started to think about how people making decisions about women’s bodies (and people with wombs’ bodies) don’t really know a thing about human sexuality, menstruation, hormones, medication, pregnancy, and how it all works. And they don’t want to know. They are making these choices based on their man in the sky, even though we are supposed to have a separation of church and state.
Hell, even as a person with a womb, I don’t know everything there is to know. I learn thing by thing, year by year, hearing trauma after trauma. Like, sometimes when people are raped it takes a while for their mind to come back online. Shock causes them to forget the event even happened. This is the human brain’s way of protecting us. And the person assaulted might not even realize they’re pregnant until after the six weeks within which they’re allowed (for now) to terminate the unwanted pregnancy that resulted.
There’s a less intense, but still real, thing that I learned over the last decade after having breast cancer. One thing – I’m not allowed to be on hormonal birth control anymore because of the elevated risk of breast cancer. That means Plan B, too. That means if the condoms I use with my husband break (condoms, y’all…I’m forty-six years old), I gotta figure something out. One way to keep this from happening because I am even now more terrified of getting pregnant than I have been my whole recovering-Catholic life, is to deprive myself of this very healthy way of connecting with the person I love.
Not that it’s anybody’s business, but this is where we find ourselves – people with wombs having to self-disclose to beg for a scrap of compassion from the so-called “pro-life.” (What kind of life, I wonder?)
“Don’t have sex,” you might say. Do you really believe you have the right to tell me what I get to do and not do based on your religion? We’re not even talking about babies anymore, we’re talking about “close your legs.” When I think of some of my pro-life in-laws or relatives believing that they have a right to say whether I get to connect with my husband through sex based on their religion (based on ANYTHING) I am disgusted and frankly don’t want to talk to those people. When I think about how they might believe that it’s up to them whether I get to choose to mother I am disgusted. I also feel I am in the dark ages. Because it’s not obvious to them that all of this speaks to the idea that women’s bodies are not our own. That I am not a whole person.
Also, on the breast cancer tip – as if that were not enough of an invasion of my body – I was on a medication called tamoxifen for five years. It’s an awesome med that helps reduce the risk of recurrence by blocking your hormones. One thing, though, that I wouldn’t have known until I knew, is that it causes gnarly birth defects. The doctors recommend you do not get pregnant on tamoxifen and if you do, that pregnancy is terminated. So, for someone who knows in her bones and guts that she does not want to be a mother (and this does not make me evil or broken – just different than some other people), a tamoxifen pregnancy is one I would not want to carry to term. So post-Roe is terribly scary to those of us who’ve already had a terrifying thing with our bodies (cancer!) and then are on this med and must not get pregnant on it and termination is a last-ditch fail safe.
I know, I know, I – my life, me, THIS body that I HAVE – does not count. They keep telling me that. The comments, the Supreme Court, the…family.
It’s so funny, too, because I sit back and respect your right to have your views and believe in your man in sky. I smile and nod, curious about your beliefs. Even the ones that I think are so destructive to trans people, for example… how your religions say that everyone but you sucks, how your political party says that everyone except for rich, white, cis, hetero men who were born here suck. That we all deserve to be demoralized and put in cages and have decisions made for our bodies and to ultimately die (I am not exaggerating). Are you SURE this is what your man in the sky is suggesting? If so, are you SURE He’s the man in the sky for you? You don’t feel like this is just a little bit blasphemous? But then I am often accused of giving people too much leeway, too much compassion, too much understanding. When often it’s just ignorant hypocrisy I’m faced with. Hypocrisy coupled with the very real psychological trick where when people are presented with the truth of how their beliefs are actually flawed, they dig in harder and deeper, like a moralistic slot machine (I wish I could explain this in a way that could break through, make a difference, be understood). How many cheeks do I have to turn until I have none left?
ALSO – you can freeze an embryo, you can’t freeze a baby.
I think, too, I need to keep on the side of not careening into the pit of despair. Because there are other repercussions of all this. What if I were assaulted? Since like many women are. I think most of the women I know have been assaulted. So what then? And so even my movements outside are more calculated. On that walk today I mentioned earlier I was making the very real decision to choose not to be scared. And then I got really mad. Because I refuse to let this make me move through the world in a weakened state. Especially since I think the overarching plan of this thing (revoking Roe) is to keep women (and trans men) in a weakened state. We are powerful and it’s apparent and if we keep getting knocked down a peg, moved back into a state of victim and survival instead of thriving then maybe we’ll stop doing our very good, very progressive work in the world. So NO, I won’t be scared when I go take a walk. But I have to remind myself of this again and again.
And I don’t have to repeat all the memes and George Carlin quotes about foster care statistics to make the point that YES, this isn’t about the babies. It’s just not about the babies. Read your history about when abortion came on the table as a political bargaining chip. But I don’t have the time or energy to get into all that here right now.
But what about all the people with wombs who will die? What about all the people with wombs who don’t have the resources to make sure they’re OK? The ones who are already behind the eight ball, medically. If you look at a shred of the statistics, it’s chilling. But then the people who are making those decisions, as I mentioned, don’t care about the most marginalized of us. Ignorance is not an excuse.
I wrote this and then came back a month later to edit it. Because the demoralization, mental load, anger, and despair are exhausting. And I’m one of the lucky ones with resources. I just hope on the other side of all this that 1) we can get people the medical care they need, and 2) the people so hellbent on “saving babies” get the afterlife they’re so thirsty for, where they feel the full impact of all this “good” they’ve done in the world: the hunger, the poverty, the death.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.