Who decides?

Next week is the Anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision which upheld a woman’s right to an abortion. In preparation I’m going to blog about some more reproductive rights centered topics leading up to next week.

First off is a shout-out for the just released NARAL Pro-Choice America report Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States. The report gives a state-by-state breakdown of the laws affecting women’s ability to choose abortion, access emergency contraception, get insurance coverage for reproductive health services, among other things. They give each state a grade that corresponds to these issues.

For example, my lovely home state of North Carolina receives a D+ from NARAL for a variety of reasons including that 83% of counties in NC have no abortion provider (which is consistent across the country, by the way). You can see what grade your state gets here.   

They also have some awesome maps that give an overview of certain restrictions across the country, like this scary one about states with almost total abortion bans (even though they are unconstitutional) on the books.

What would be really awesome is if next year, NARAL could add some information about birth–which states allow midwives to practice and which allow home birth. I know a lot of you would agree that how you birth is a fundamental reproductive right as well.


News Round Up

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but I’m taking advantage of a day off to catch up on the news. Enjoy!

Lower back tattoos interfere with epidurals? Doctors say no.

Story of a water birth in West Texas, and another article about water birth.

Midwife assisted births on the rise.

The Today Show online investigates alternative pain mediation techniques.

80% of people in the UK oppose a bill which would remove the legal requirement that a doctor consider the child’s need for a father when performing IVF procedures.

More love for midwives in Wisconsin.

Opinion piece about the financial waste caused by intervention and over-hospitalization of birthing women.

43% of women in California breastfeed exclusively.

One hospital in Houston considers outlawing VBACs (vaginal births after cesarean sections) completely.

Study says that curvy women live longer and have smarter children.

NYTimes article discusses the declining enrollments in childbirth classes.

Article about lesbian motherhood and HIV/AIDs

This is a really touching and well-written piece about one woman’s journey to motherhood during the HIV/AIDs epidemic. HIV really changed the landscape of gay and lesbian family creation forever, since it made casual donor relationships almost impossible because of the fear of passing on the HIV infection.

Resources for lesbians who want to become parents

I recently spoke at the NYU LGBT Center, as part of a Queer Lunch series they have (called Quench). I was talking about the connections between reproductive rights and LGBT liberation. It’s a topic I enjoy discussing (you can check out an article I wrote about it). But after the talk, one woman came up to me and asked about resources for lesbians who want to start families. I realized that I had little to tell her, except to point her toward the parenting section of the LGBT library the center had created. So I went home and did a little more internet research, and here is some of what I came up with. Please, if you have more resources, post them in the comments.

Continue reading

Sterilization: Abuse vs. Access

This recent post on the very popular feminist blog Feministing.com generated a lot of discussion among their readers, and got me pretty angry at the same time. It dealt with the story of one 20-something woman and her search for a doctor who would sterilize her, because she knew she never wanted to have children. Pretty much everyone refused to perform the procedure, for varying reasons, most of which revolved around not trusting her to make the irreversable decision at such a young age.

This is not a new dilemma. Mostly white, middle class women have dealt with these challenges since the procedure was developed–doctors not wanting to sterilize them based on age, number of children, even permission from husbands. Women have even had problems getting doctors to give them long-term birth control, like IUDs, for similar reasons.

But there is a flip side to this debate, which I attempted to add to the discussion that arose from the Feministing post, but had little impact overall. The flip side is sterilization abuse: women who are forcibly or unknowingly sterilized against their will. Here is what I commented on the feministing post:

I think that you will find that for women of color, low income women, or immigrant women, this issue is completely different. Rather than having trouble getting sterilization surgeries, they are being FORCIBLY sterilized.

There is a long history of this in the United States. In the 1970s, it was discovered that hundreds of Mexican-origin women were being unknowingly sterilized at an LA hospital. They were being told the operation was reversible and given forms they couldn’t read (because they were in english) to sign.

These abuses promoted a campaign by a group called CESA (Committee to End Sterilization Abuse), spearheaded by Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias that was able to pass federal guidelines regarding sterilization–requiring forms in the person’s native language, and a waiting period to give consent. Many times these women were being asked if they wanted the procedure while in labor.

This created an outrage among white feminists, for exactly the reasons Ann mentions above–they felt it was an infringement on a woman’s right to choose sterilization and was a barrier to her access.

It’s a great example of when the feminist movement gets divided along racial lines–white women and women of color are experiencing this issue in opposite ways.

There are a number of more “legal” ways that women of color and low-income women continue to be subjected to coercive reproductive control policies. Undocumented women in PA were allowed access to tubal ligations (without cost) but no help for other shorter term birth control methods.

Generally I love the debates and discussions on Feministing, I think they provide a wide range of perspectives and foster great dialogue. I was really disappointed by this post however, and even more disappointed to see that in the more than 100 comments posted (mine was 20-something) only one other person even acknowledged the flip-side of this issue for women of color, low income women, and immigrants.

There are seriously racist and eugenist philosophies at work here, for both cases. Doctors don’t want to sterilize young smart white women, partially because these are the people everyone wants reproducing. Just take a look at egg donation advertising for further proof of this. And the government wants to sterilize young undocumented and poor women of color because they are all of the things I just mentioned: of color, undocumented and poor. Plus they are reproducing at a higher rate than white people, who are barely replacing themselves. So let’s call this what it is–racism at work on our access to reproductive health technologies.

When Three Parents are Better Than Two

There was an Op-Ed last week in the NYTimes in reaction to a court case in PA recently, where a state Superior Court ruled that three parents were obligated to provide child support for two children. The children were conceived by two lesbian parents with the sperm of a friend. The couple is no longer together, and all three parents were given visitation rights and child support obligations by the court.

In her Op-Ed, Marquardt argues that these types of rulings (and there have been similar ones made in foreign courts in the past) are bad for children. She argues that it leads to instability for children, who can get shuffled between multiple homes (maybe now even five!). She cites a study she completed that found that even children in good divorces, where both parents stay in their lives, “grow up too soon.”

Then she attacks polygamy–based on the idea that these triple parents might want to live together, and that turns into the possibility for group marriage protections. Her piece ends with a plea for the defense of the two person legal parenthood.

The Op-Ed definitely made me think. Should more than two people be given legal rights over a child? Courts have already expanded the definition of parenthood–it no longer is based solely on biological relationships. If two people are married, and one gives birth to a child, the husband is automatically placed on the birth certificate (without proof of paternity). Step-parents adopting their step-children is becoming common place, and more and more children are being raised by just one parent. So why should we fight people who want to find new ways to parent?

It’s the legal protection that always becomes the issue–when should the courts mandate or protect someone’s right as a parent. These debates are inevitably going to be played out as LGBT family creation and marriage equality continue to press the issue and courts are forced to make decisions. If people are parenting in alternative situations, picking and choosing which two people get to be legal parents isn’t going to make the situation any easier for kids.

While I understand Marquardt’s arguments that these situations can create instability (I myself am a product of what she classifies as a “good” divorce situation), what’s the alternative? Two stable households are definitely preferable to one unstable (and unhappy one), and while I did have to adjust to two different value situations, I was also able to benefit from two different support systems and parenting styles. And kids growing up to fast? Look around us Elizabeth, at television, video games, the internet. I don’t think the courts can reign that in, no matter how hard they try.