You know, Dallas ain’t bad. It’s not butt-fuck-nowhere Denver. The air is good, there’s leaves on the trees, everybody’s real nice, and – best of all – it’s a perfect 70 degrees.
Once you get over the whole “President George Bush Turnpike” thing, and if you find the freeway signs advertising “Men’s Only Clubs” funny because there aren’t any advertising “Women’s Only Clubs,” you’ll do fine.
I’m stuck, actually, about two-thirds of the way between Dallas and the airport, at one of those huge corporate complexes that are little cities unto themselves, complete with hotels and restaurants and 10-12 storey buildings built like palaces.
Our Dallas office is damn nice, with mirrored elevators, a faux-marble entryway with fountain, and we’re on the highest floor, so there are good views. In fact, we take up the entire floor of this building. The bathroom is huge, and has one of those really nice lighted vanities, and the whole place smells like potpourri. The receptionist is a sweetheart of an older woman, who clucked her tongue at me and asked where I was staying. When I told her, she nodded curtly, said, “Good, but next time, stay at XXX hotel, they’re even better than YYY with their comfortable beds, and XXX is just across the street.”
There’s not much to do here today until the people who are supposed to be training me show up – I’m only here for a day, but overall, Dallas isn’t bad. And there’s a pharmacy across the street, where I was seriously starting to think about going to get a pregnancy test.
Oh, yes, it’s that time of the month – the time when you figure out whether or not your birth control pills are working.
Oh, pooh-pooh, people say of “us feminists” and how we perpetually talk about our uteruses and our rights over what’s done with them. People who pooh-pooh are the fuckers who’ve never had to be concerned about their “pesky” uteruses.
Let me reiterate just how fucking important this whole “uterus” issue is to the rest of my life, and the functioning of my day-to-day life, and why shit like “emergency contraception” and “great women’s health care” are so vitally fucking important. Here’s my take on the “Pharmacists’ Have the Right to Deny You Legal Healthcare in Order to Save Their Own Souls” bullshit. Here’s my take on what “Right to Life” really means: the right to my own life. Control over my own body. And my own power. These are real women’s lives, and these are the battles we fight every day. They’re battles of life and death, and by virtue of our biology, we’re the ones who get to make them.
Here’s how we live, what we do, and why that goddamn uterus and what these fuckers what to do with it is so goddamn important: cause they’re putting their hands on us. On real women. Real people. Us.
A couple of weeks ago, I came down with symptoms indicating that my yearly sinus infection was on the make, and I went to my usual walk-in medical center in order to get some antibiotics. I told the doctor’s assistant and the doctor – three times – that I was on birth control pills, and would the antibiotics they prescribed affect the pills in any way?
I was assured – three times – that it would be no problem, that I shouldn’t be concerned about it, and I was given a prescription for a 10-day regimen of antibiotics, which I picked up… (::drumroll::) across the street from the very same Chicago OSCO pharmacy in the Loop that protestors were pissed off at for not issuing birth control pills.
Well, you can guess where this is going.
I spent four days taking antibiotics before I got smart and thought, “Hey, what’s this paper on the other side of the prescription receipt?”
Why, it was the list of medications that that the antibiotics may interact with.
Last on the list?
“May decrease efficiency of birth control pills.”
I love that phrasing “Decrease efficiency.”
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Why not fucking spell it out, “You’ve got an increased chance of getting pregnant against your will if you take these with your birth control pills and engage in hetero sex.”
Add this to the fact that this is the first time I’ve used a low-dose pill instead of the higher-dose one I had when I was 16 that worked without a hitch (well, except for the weight gain and weird mood swings that often ended with me in hysterical tears), and you may as well have stuck an icy knife in my gut. I immediately stopped taking the antibiotics.
That would mean a $300-$400 abortion (after pushing through a line of protestors; that is, if I can get an appointment), and at least a half-day of missed work time (at $18.86 an hour – there aren’t a lot of clinics that do Saturday abortions, and if they do, they’re likely booked up). If I was one of those women who was really conflicted about whether or not a handful of cells dividing in my uterus and sucking on my body and breath for survival was an actual “life-complete-with-soul,” I’d have to deal with the moral freak-outs associated with that, too (luckily, I have no moral qualms whatsoever about having an abortion. I don’t believe it’s a living thing until it can live without… well, without ME. Part of ME is my uterus, and the part that people keep trying to put their hands on IS my UTERUS as well, which is part of ME, which is why I get so fucking pissed off when people tell me the personal isn’t political. It’s really fucking political when the laws people are passing have to do with ME and MY BODY and WHAT I DO WITH MY BODY).
Or, if for some fucked-up reason I didn’t want to or couldn’t have an abortion (because, say, my abortion doctor didn’t believe in giving abortions… the fuck s/he become an abortion doctor for then, anyhow? Yea. That’s how fucking ridiculous these pharmacist “protection” laws are), then I’d get to spend nine months nurturing a fertilized egg into a living person (using, of course, MY breath, MY blood, MY uterus, and MY money to buy all the food, all of which requires MY labor, and which, therefore, should be a CHOICE that I make, but I’m digressing… or am I?), then a day or three of blood and pain while delivering that person into the world, then a year of recovery while your body bends back into some semblance of shape (though never the same shape it was before of course), and either you give the kid away to somebody who can care for it better than you can, or you spend the rest of your life caring for that person…
All because your idiot doctor handed you some shitty antibiotics without mentioning that maybe you should use a back-up method of birth control during the four days your boyfriend was in town… Or, in my case, being an idiot and not checking the goddamn pharmacy receipt and double-checking what medications interfered with the pill.
What a great reason to have a kid. I bet the kid would be real appreciative, too.
I have spent the last four days anxiously awaiting the arrival of my period, jumping to the bathroom at every stomach twinge, hoping against hope that I had menstrual cramps.
And after looking out at the CVS pharmacy across the road this morning and resolving to get a pregnancy test when I hit the last of my green pills, I went to the bathroom here in the office, and viola! Behold! Wonder of fucking wonders!
Oh, thank God.
It appears that my body and the pill are still very, very compatible. It’s always worked for me.
But, shit… Wow. Blood. How great. What a wonderful thing. And oh yes, these are definitely menstrual cramps. I don’t even mind that I forgot to bring in some aspirin. I really don’t care about that.
Because all of the sudden, I don’t have to worry about coming up with $400, missing work time, pushing through protestors, dealing with the cramping and blood after the abortion, deciding about whether or not to blog about an abortion, deciding how to break said news to said boyfriend or even if I should say anything to anybody at all and therefore continue the circle of silence about abortions (probably one of the few legal medical procedures many women feel ashamed to talk about). With another period, another month, I don’t have to worry about giving up nine months of my life for the creation of another person, and another year… or, actually, the rest of my life in a body altered by a pregnancy I didn’t want. I don’t have to worry about pushing somebody out into the world, through my own pesky uterus, who I really don’t want in my uterus.
It’s my choice, what I do with this body, who I choose to bring into the world, when and if I choose to do it.
The thing about pregnancy, about women’s fertility, is it’s something that every woman’s concerned about. Even if you’re not hetero or currently engaging in penetrative hetero sex, there’s the threat that a guy could come along one day and coerce or overpower you into having sex you don’t want, getting you pregnant and trying to get you to carry to term a pregnancy you don’t want.
Back in the old days, when 20% of women died in childbirth, having sex with a guy could kill you. And even now, more women die in childbirth than die having legal abortions.
And we’re living in a country that’s moving toward a stance that would rather see women dead than allow them control over their own bodies.
This is the message I get when I see protestors outside of women’s health clinics, when I see pharmacists refusing to give out legal medical prescriptions, when I see state governments pushing through parental consent laws, when I see women’s health clinics shut down because they’ve been bombed or threatened.
That’s homegrown terrorism. That’s terrorism against women and power.
A man can have sex with a woman and walk away… and retain the ultimate life-or-death power over her. Because unless we have access to these legal procedures, to safe abortions, to emergency contraception, to Planned Parenthood where we can pick up our pills, then we’re left with what the men have left us, and for many women, what was ultimately left to us was death.
If I choose to risk death in childbirth – however slight my chances are in a first-world hospital – that’s my choice. There’s not a women’s birthing draft. This is an all-volunteer army of women bearing children.
As it should be.
Don’t take away my body. Don’t fuck around with my uterus. Don’t put your guilty hands on my body.
You’re right, I talk about my uterus a lot, and what people want me to do with it, the restrictions they want to put on it…
And I do that because having a womb can be damn fucking cool and damn fucking scary. It’s the only way – as yet – to create human life from a couple strands of DNA and some protein.
Me. My body. My body does that. It’s amazing.
This the power of life and death, and women deal with it every day. We decide how we want to use our bodies, and the methods we’ll use to control our bodies, because those are our rights.
Not a pharmacist’s. Not a doctor’s.
My womb, this one, is mine.
That pharmacist had no trouble handing over those antibiotics, though by taking them with the pill and engaging in hetero sex, I’d increased my risk of pregnancy. And pregnancy is a risky behavior, don’t forget that. However small the possibility, women still die bringing pregnancies to term.
Women still die, every day, birthing babies.
If I’m going to risk death, that’s my choice. Not a pharmacist’s. Not a doctor’s. Mine.
Next time, I get pushy with my health care professional – and I recommend you all get pushy with yours; whether it’s about insistence on proper medication or the doling out of proper medication. It’s our bodies being fucked with. Not theirs.
I’m not going to die for my pharmacist’s soul.
I’m not birthing a baby with this body, of this body, for anybody but me.
My body, my life, my choice.
Every damn day.