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The Complicated Realities of Reproductive Choice
September 2, 2012 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Knocked Over: On Biology, Magical Thinking and Choice “Spare me the self-help bullshit,” I snarled at my sister while I sat, snot-nosed and gasping, behind a gas station off I-88 on my way home from Iowa. “Life isn’t Eat, Pray, Love. If you try to turn this into a teachable moment I will fucking scream.”
posted by apricot (87 comments total) 140 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brilliant, thanks for posting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:17 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Deeply honest, deeply personal, well thought-out and well-written article. Thanks for posting, apricot.
posted by likeso at 4:19 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was really interesting, thanks.
posted by Forktine at 4:26 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know the old saw is that young people are supposed to be liberal and old people are supposed to be conservative &etc, but for me, the older I get, the more militant I feel about the issue of reproductive rights. Fuck these demagogues in their death matches (to paraphrase Martha Baynes' brilliant line) who want to take me back to the 19th century in terms of how I live my life.

I know this guy, a middle aged guy I work for, who made a snide remark along the lines of humorless feminists who think it's a choice and not a child, etc. It was really really hard to keep quiet.

I just changed the subject.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:34 PM on September 2, 2012 [24 favorites]


Wow, powerful. I wish more voices like this were heard. America has a long way to go.
posted by furtive at 4:34 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:38 PM on September 2, 2012


Thanks as a male I am often ashamed by the sanctimonious behavior of some of my gender. For someone to confuse choice with an easy out has no idea what it means.
posted by pdxpogo at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Great essay, thanks for posting. Nothing is ever as easy as the sound bites and bumper stickers make it out to be.
posted by gaspode at 4:55 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


That was well worth reading.
Getting pregnant is neither punishment nor reward. It is not a magical blessing or a curse — and it most definitely is not a silver bullet you can use to shoot yourself out of a rut. It is a plain biological fact that may or may not result in a healthy baby, that could immeasurably enhance or irreversibly damage your life prospects.
Talk about a crucible. Is there any comparable experience in a man's life? I really think not.

I'm pleased to have been seeing so many excellent, powerful, true-life testimonials covering various aspects of this complicated terrain of late. A morality of simple and absolute rules always seems stark, bleak, and frankly less than suitable for human beings to me. Clearly many find it quite compelling, though, at least in the abstract. But it's hard to believe that, in the face of stories such as this, such simple-mindedness doesn't just wither, disintegrate, and blow away.
posted by perspicio at 5:01 PM on September 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


Great piece.

From the comments: I’m a 76 year old woman who had 9 children before birth control became a viable option. I’ve been politically active on the issue of choice. After years of agonizing thought, I realize that there is no “good” choice, no “right” choice but each woman is entitled to pursue that painful “choice” for herself.
posted by rtha at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2012 [29 favorites]


Another striking comment (long):
MOCKINGBIRDDONT SAYS:
September 2nd, 2012 at 3:47 pm
I stumbled into this post by accident when a friend RT’d your link on Twitter. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, for the RT gave no indication on the subject matter, but once I sank into the first paragraph, I knew I was in for the long haul.

As a woman who at 22 (on her 22nd birthday, no less) saw the terrifying pink plus sign while hiding in her bathroom from her boyfriend of only a few months, I was understandably drawn in to your tale. I devoured each sentence, remembering my terror at that young age and the uncertainty of my future…of our future. But for a moment I almost closed the window. When you said that surprise pregnancies can not lead to happy endings (or that is how I took it), I snarled at my computer screen, my blood boiled, and my fists clenched. “How DARE she speak for ALL women and ALL life experiences??” I was overwhelmed with the arrogance and finality.

But I read on. Because if I was going to be angry with you I wanted to at least have read the whole story. And then I saw the logic. And after I calmed myself I remembered that “happy endings” really aren’t an option for all women faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

When I became pregnant I was dating a guy with a promising career opening up before him. I owned my car, I had good credit, a great full time job, and an apartment. He and I loved each other, but beyond that we were compatible. And that realistic view of our compatibility AND fondness of each other gave us the answer we needed: we would keep this baby and we’d make a go of it.

5 years later I am infertile. I can not conceive again. My precious mistake baby is the only baby I will have. 5 years later I look at her father and I can not believe I married someone so dedicated to his role as a father and his role as my lover and best friend. 5 years later I’m working toward my happy ending.

But I am not the rule. I am the exception. And so I concede that you’re right: sticking out a pregnancy does not necessarily mean a happy ending. For many women, and men, choosing either an abortion or adoption is the very best thing they can do for each other and the child. In every fiber of my being I wish this weren’t so. But it is so. And because it is so, it is imperative that women and men have a choice.

I did not choose abortion. And I am so, so glad I didn’t. But had my circumstances been different, I would have wanted to have a choice.

I am a Christian, from Alabama, who chose life. But, I had a choice. All women should have a choice. And that’s just all there is to it.
posted by likeso at 5:05 PM on September 2, 2012 [103 favorites]


Great article. For me this had special resonance:
But choice is power. It forces you to live in the active present tense, not the editorially lazy passive construction of this-happened-to-me. Make a choice and you can’t abdicate responsibility to the real or perceived will of others or the now of perpetual distraction. Make a choice and you confront the closed mystery of the choice not chosen. If ambivalence is a hallmark of denial, choice is an acceptance of time, mortality, limits.
I've made some 'hard' choices in my life, but I've structured my life conveniently to avoid others, and selfishly abdicated responsibility on a few too...


perspicio: Talk about a crucible. Is there any comparable experience in a man's life? I really think not.

This conversation going in that direction may have been inevitable, but you've chosen to put it in the first 10 comments. I think that's a mistake.
posted by Chuckles at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


for me, the older I get, the more militant I feel about the issue of reproductive rights.

Yes. I have always been pro-choice, but nothing has made me more militant about reproductive rights than bearing and rearing children.
posted by ambrosia at 5:20 PM on September 2, 2012 [43 favorites]


Agreed, ambrosia.
posted by gaspode at 5:20 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chuckles: It's a question that, among others, I asked myself (a man) upon completing and reflecting on the essay, and that was my answer. Maybe others have different answers.

It seems to me that the essay highlights how multiple views, even contradictory and mutually exclusive ones, can coexist within a single individual. Given that context, I hope people won't be so foolish as to completely miss the irony of making a single thought that I expressed dwarf the broader context that it related to.
posted by perspicio at 5:25 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Carriers in states without a mandate may offer coverage in the form of a rider, a package of benefits above and beyond the basics. But in addition to being expensive, and often sorely limited in scope, these riders, it turns out, are not something you can opt into once you become, in fact, pregnant. Because, of course, at that point your pregnancy is a pre-existing condition."

This is exactly why the US system of privare insurers is batshit insane.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:28 PM on September 2, 2012 [59 favorites]


I am amazed how expensive even the first trimester of prenatal care is. And that's with good insurance. Never mind the fact that there is no official daycare facility in my area that takes infants. I don't know how people who can't live on one salary can afford to have babies. If it were a child and not a choice, the people in charge would make it easier to have a baby, not harder to have an abortion.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:42 PM on September 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


That was one of the best pieces I've read in a while.
posted by painquale at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


“‎I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth.”

-Sister Joan Chittister
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [182 favorites]


Getting pregnant is neither punishment nor reward. It is not a magical blessing or a curse — and it most definitely is not a silver bullet you can use to shoot yourself out of a rut. It is a plain biological fact that may or may not result in a healthy baby, that could immeasurably enhance or irreversibly damage your life prospects.

Is there any comparable experience in a man's life?


Choosing to have sex?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:04 PM on September 2, 2012


I know the old saw is that young people are supposed to be liberal and old people are supposed to be conservative

Gloria Steinem has posited that it is men who grow more conservative as they age while women, who find the "system" less favourable to an older woman than a younger one, tend to grow more liberal.
posted by orange swan at 6:05 PM on September 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


I know the old saw is that young people are supposed to be liberal and old people are supposed to be conservative &etc, but for me, the older I get, the more militant I feel about the issue of reproductive rights.

It's like this for me, but with everything. Maybe it's because the wife and I spent a few years real-deal poor, living in an apartment complex in a very bad part of town, making something like $15,000/year, total. She had to go to the ER recently and as I was driving her there, all I could think was "My god, if we were in that situation, this would literally ruin us." As it was, the $2000 we had to pay on top of our insurance for the doctors to give her a bottle of high-grade Tylenol and send her home with a shrug was not an EASY stretch by any means, but we had the savings to cover it. But there was a time when that would've been more than we spent on food for an entire year. And that is just insanity.

I'm in favor of a robust social safety net and government-run healthcare and freedom of choice precisely because I've been so fortunate and I know what oblivion is lurking on the other side of a car accident or sudden trip to the ER or unexpected layoff. We had a pregnancy scare once and that was terrifying. Paying for it would've literally ruined us forever, or at least until the bankruptcy wore off 7 years later.

I dunno, I guess I still retain some perspective. We spent $100 on groceries for the week yesterday and I still remember that was it for the MONTH. A former roommate of ours gobbled down all our food once and we had to sort of cobble together whatever we could to get through the month, which meant we went hungry a lot. And yet, we were still more fortunate than a lot of people in our building at the time.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:08 PM on September 2, 2012 [32 favorites]


When I was dealing with infertility, statistics made my blood boil. I was in the small percentage of women who had problems. Then I had two miscarriages, both chromosomal monosomies, an even rarer occurrence. While going through all of this, I wailed to my therapist about being on the wrong side of the statistics. She pointed out something that while simple, was deeply profound to me: I was an N of 1. The only statistics I needed to be concerned about were my own.

I think every woman and man is an N of 1. They are subject to their own statistics, which means they must also be able to make their own choices to in some way influence those statistics.

We need to hear more stories from all kinds of women about the choices they have made - we need to put these stories out there to counter the tone-deaf paternalistic justifications given for restricting abortion access and contraception.
posted by Leezie at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2012 [24 favorites]


My wife and I both have gone from more conservative childhoods to realizing that loving and respecting fellow human beings isn't compatible with that, to being driven further left by dickhead right-wingers and life experiences in general.
posted by Foosnark at 6:34 PM on September 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


> Choosing to have sex?

I dunno, Brandon. Maybe, in some sense, to some men, somehow...but I can't really see how. After all, women choose to have sex, too, but I don't know how I could equate that to the much more complicated experience that the author wrote about. There's a profound a difference in kind. For one thing, once pregnant, profoundly life-altering realities come into play no matter what one does, even if one does nothing. Choosing whether to have sex or not simply isn't very much like that.

When I was originally considering the question, I was thinking that, in terms of an experience with immediate, profound biological implications associated with one's actions, with potentially dire and even fatal consequences either way, as well as conflict between what one's body and different elements of one's mind are all simultaneously saying, and even adding in the unavoidable element of having direct responsibility for more than one's own life...the only quasi-analogous experience I could come up with that men are at all likely to experience is combat in a theater of war. From the outside (since I have not experienced either one), the experiences seem similar in terms of the the inner wrestling and deep engagement with a situation that generally occurs when many of our systems' competing priorities come into simultaneous play.

But still....quite different.

And while I know what the experience of certain biological imperatives is like, and how intense they can be, I also know that each biological imperative to which I am subject is quite different. So based on that alone, I just can't kid myself that I am in any way qualified to comment on what the experience of pregnancy would be like.
posted by perspicio at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


That was considerably more graphic than I was expecting it to be.
posted by Mezentian at 6:51 PM on September 2, 2012


If you try to turn this into a teachable moment I will fucking scream.

That's kind of an ironic quote, given how much she has learned from her experience. I'm glad she wanted to share it.

Talk about a crucible. Is there any comparable experience in a man's life?

Yes, men have to make tough reproductive choices too.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:53 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The real reason that was perhaps not the best comment to make, perspicio, is that it stands a good chance of turning the thread into a conversation about men. Personally I'm mostly just planning on reading the comments, and I honestly think that's a less great direction for the thread to go. It would be super awesome - for me at least - if people made a conscious decision to let that remark go.
posted by kavasa at 6:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Heartfelt, skillfully written. Sad and scary. It underlines the nuts and bolts of choice, who gets to make it, who doesn't. The story I read was about a woman, a man, and a child. All those theories were background noise, and reality was small grave beside the river.

In too many ways it true: you can pick only from the options available.
posted by mule98J at 7:07 PM on September 2, 2012


Someone I knew years ago chose to have an abortion, but I was clueless at the time. She was in high school and came from a right of center family. She had a steady boyfriend. On to college she went and broke up with her boyfriend, only to hook back up with him a few years later. They married and now have three beautiful kids. They have a strong and close relationship.

Knowing her as I did, she was my little sister-in-law, I know the decision was a painful process. I hope she knows she made the right decision.
posted by Mojojojo at 7:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was well worth reading. Good post; thanks.
posted by theora55 at 7:14 PM on September 2, 2012


Sometimes I think the issues with teachable moments is they seek to take a complicated, complex situation without a right answer (or a wrong answer, from another perspective) and boil it down to a short phrase that people then attempt to apply universally. Real life-changing experiences have bloody edges that alter the fabric of our lives irrevocably; boiled down to a teachable moment, they lose all of their life.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:15 PM on September 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


One of the better pieces I've read on this cluster of issues. Thanks for posting it.
posted by immlass at 7:22 PM on September 2, 2012


As someone who can relate to this a little bit, uncomfortably, too much:

The saddest part, to me, is how much of the difficult and painful rumination in this narrative would have been utterly, 100% unnecessary and irrelevant had it happened in a nation with decent health coverage and family assistance.

How long do we want personal, family decisions dictated by private insurance companies - or our inability to pay for the limited support they offer most of us?

How long does a political faction who presents itself as "pro-life" continue to justify depriving us of the very mechanisms - these simple ones - that would make the choices they prefer easier for us to support? How long does this "pro-family" faction remove the most basic level of supports that ensure that a family, once started, has the chance to live outside poverty ?
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on September 2, 2012 [60 favorites]


I didn't know until recently that some states allow insurance plans to cover maternity care separately on a rider. Or allowed it, rather- Starting in 2014, essential health benefits such as pregnancy and newborn care...will be covered in all new individual, small business and Exchange plans.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 PM on September 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


Why is it that conservatives so often pair anti-choice with "pull yourself by your own bootstraps"? How can you have made "bad decisions" if you end up pregnant, yet you cannot choose to end the pregnancy? Really, I cannot fathom why is life only sacred up to conception for so many conservative-minded people. Isn't "life is sacred" tied back to (Christianity), which also espouses caring for the less fortunate?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:34 PM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


> The real reason that was perhaps not the best comment to make, perspicio, is that it stands a good chance of turning the thread into a conversation about men.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that nobody's doing that. Just...chill.

Look. The author didn't expose elements of her private life to the scrutiny of the world just to tell us about herself. The essay was not an act of exhibitionism. The point was to raise awareness and deepen understanding of realities that are experienced uniquely by women, specifically because the lack of consideration for these realities amongst those who are seeking to enact policies around them harms those very women - and by extension, the society in which they belong.

And she did a damned fine job of it, too. It's far easier to overlook the complexities of any situation when one doesn't deal with it directly. The very point of this kind of storytelling is to bridge that gap, to put people in the situation who wouldn't otherwise be there or have access to the experience.

How can we as a society talk about women's issues as worthy of respectful consideration if we're afraid to acknowledge with the very aspect of them that makes them distinct from other issues?

It's okay to take note what makes them distinct. More than that - it's important to, particularly if we want our representatives to actually, you know, represent all of us when they enact policy.

I'm glad that people want this to be a safe place for discussion. But pussyfooting around the very crux of the issue in order to avoid any appearance or possibility of controversy strikes me as counterproductive and even a little craven.
posted by perspicio at 8:36 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Isn't "life is sacred" tied back to (Christianity), which also espouses caring for the less fortunate?

prosperity gospel, yo. new rules!
posted by twist my arm at 8:44 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kind of a red herring, but are you actually allowed to dispose of human remains like that on a riverbank?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 PM on September 2, 2012


Hahaha. Yeah, the tissue related to a 7-week miscarriage is not yet considered "human remains," though I guess we should wait for the next foray on that issue from the GOP.
posted by Miko at 9:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great article, in that painful, sad but honest-and-needs-to-be-told way.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:11 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Samantha Bee did some real journalism by asking delegates about the issue of choice. There is no doubt about it: the delegates are FOR choice. (For me, in Canada, only the audio plays. It's still worth listening.)
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:15 PM on September 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


Davidpriest.ca, thanks for that. That's not just the usual gotcha TV-comedy journalism played for laughs; that's profound cognitive dissonance.
posted by Miko at 9:19 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hahaha. Yeah, the tissue related to a 7-week miscarriage is not yet considered "human remains," though I guess we should wait for the next foray on that issue from the GOP.

Well it'd be yet another way to get abortion away from the lower class. They'd probably spin it as job creation to boot.
posted by Talez at 9:21 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure. I just got a "Forget Me Not Package" from my vet with the remains of my cat plus some touching literature, for $400 smackeroos. Why not a "Miscarriage Memories" package from my OB/GYN? The human multiplier should be good for $1200+, and that's without the optional honor guard. Definitely job creation.

I'm being flip, but honestly, this is where I think a lot of people operate at a massive information deficit about how potential pregnancies proceed in the real world, outside of romantic and fortunate narratives.. About 25-30% of all women, last time I looked at stats, have a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage - often very early miscarriage, and often those miscarriages are actually indistinguishable from periods. In other words, many women don't know they're miscarrying. And even if they do, if they've had a test already, the progress of the fetus is so early that the tissue expelled is not much different from that discarded by the body in a normal period. In this story, there was a test which showed the pregnancy had started, but for a lot of women, pregnancies fail faster than that, and/or there's no clear precipitating incident such as a broken condom on a one-night stand creating a distinct "uh-oh" moment which leads to a test -- meaning there's never a test that would clue you in - and painful cramps are a monthly reality anyway. It's possible just not to even know you had a nascent pregnancy, and in that case women are just experiencing, to them, a painful, heavy period which might or might not be a little late. It's a little hard to differentiate between a normal period and a zygote being discharged within the first few weeks, not a hell of a lot easier 2-3 weeks later when what your body expel doesn't fit most definitions of "remains."

A lot of women have gone through this; a lot. It's not at all uncommon; if you think it is, it's likely that you just haven't heard about it much. If you start asking around, you may be surprised how very common early miscarriage is. I don't mean to diminish its importance to those of us who have nurtured a pregnancy with high hopes, or at least open curiosity and deep consideration, only to see it end this way. But we should understand that it's not some unheard-of, unusual event, and when it happens this early on, we really have almost no structured rituals for dealing with it, nor is it universally clear that we should, or would want any. It's reality that not all pregnancies "take." One has to assume there are good reasons for their non-viability.

The value of this sort of piece is to help demonstrate that, regardless of the rhetoric, something that seems as though it should be simple - pregnancy, which you famously can't have a "little bit" of - is really not all that simple, that its progress and phases and outcomes are really quite complex and ambiguous. It would behoove us to be a little more sophisticated in our understanding of this, and get beyond the level of explanation about planting and seeds and growing that we give to 5-year-olds; because real life for women and their bodies doesn't always progress in such a neat and linear manner.
posted by Miko at 9:38 PM on September 2, 2012 [34 favorites]


I feel very stupid saying this, as a woman who grew up on Our Bodies, Ourselves and actually had comprehensive sex ed, but I've never known precisely what happened during a miscarriage in terms of the mechanics. I've never been pregnant, and I knew something had to happen, but I never was really sure what. And it's such a socially unacceptable thing to discuss . . .

My husband and I have been talking a bit about The Kid Thing lately and while I hope this never happens to me, well, it is very common and you never know. So I'm glad that this woman wrote so honestly about it (and then I googled, and there were a lot of other women being honest and brave and wonderful) so I can know, so my husband and I could discuss it and what we'd want to do, so I wouldn't have to feel so alone. That alone makes this the best of the web.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:09 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Starting in 2014, essential health benefits such as pregnancy and newborn care...will be covered in all new individual, small business and Exchange plans.

Unless the Republicans come into power this year and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
posted by grouse at 10:14 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


It would behoove us to be a little more sophisticated in our understanding of this, and get beyond the level of explanation about planting and seeds and growing that we give to 5-year-olds

for some reason i holed up this weekend with the other abortion thread and the RNC clint eastwood thread, nursing my impotent liberal rage apparently. this comment which references a naomi klein quote (not related to abortion) in the george tiller assassination thread (in other words, metafilter gets to do this a lot)--

When people fall in love with what seems to be a perfect theory, a set of rules, and they love those rules more than they love people or places. In fact they begin to see the messy reality of life as interfering with the beauty, the imagined beauty, that exists only in their text, only in the sacred texts, whether they’re economic texts, or religious texts, or some dream of racial purity.

i can understand being young and not having a whole lot of perspective, but what happens when you refuse to listen to information that's readily available and being directly presented to you? i don't get the feeling that the pro-lifers in the recent thread (or in the daily show video) would budge. it's apparently a Principle with a clear line of demarcation. this is a republican *woman* being interviewed by samantha bee in that link:

republican: i know the percentage is so small of a person becoming pregnant from a rape that i just don't even know if that's even in the equation because they say that percentage is just like almost impossible, not impossible, but close. and there has been some cases.

samantha bee: yeah, about-- probably about 32,000 a year.

r: is it 32? ok.

sb: --thousand--

r: --yeah, ok--

sb: --32,000.

r: --ok.


davidpriest.ca be glad you can't see the video cuz this guy

sb: my right ends where my uterus begins.

different republican: i guess i'd have to agree with you on that.


wants me to punch his face. he says it with a little grin like, oh well shucks, you got me there reporter person! can't argue with that logic! i understand it's in front of a camera and edited for maximum lulz and people are trying to be the polite straight man to the correspondent's madcap weirdo hilarity, i get it. and maybe the unedited footage would make me a little more generous. but there's a glibness to all their responses on the abortion questions that is daunting when you want to think that other people are understandable and complex rather than condensable to platitudes and stereotypes.

so anyways we're firing up the grill tomorrow.
posted by twist my arm at 10:38 PM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


and i also got side-tracked thinking about an analogy on how an acorn is not an oak tree and wondered how old trees can get. close to 5000 years apparently. that we know of.
posted by twist my arm at 10:45 PM on September 2, 2012


This literally made me tear up - not just for Martha Bayne and the deeply personal story she shared so honesty, but because the system is so deeply, terribly unfair.

I thought I was rather familiar with the ways in which the US health insurance system is screwed up, but I guess my friends either have been really lucky, or just too resigned to complain, because I did not know that "only 12 percent of individual health insurance policies offer coverage for basic maternity care". So that means, with all the preaching about life being sacred, the cost of insuring a baby is even born is about $10.000 that you have to pay for yourself once you end up pregnant...? Essentially forcing women (and their partners) to consider abortion for financial reasons - not just raising a child, but because she might not have the financial means to ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy.

My Swedish mind is absolutely blown by this. I've been raised with sex-ed and have always had cheap and easy access to contraceptives, so I have been lucky enough to never have had to consider the choice Bayne had to make. But if a pregnancy were ever on the table, literally the last thing I would worry about would be the cost of prenatal care. I would be free to spend that time and energy (and money!) on preparing for the child's arrival and looking after myself, and I would worry about how to be a good parent, not how to afford giving birth in a hospital.

I will never understand people who complain about having to pay taxes, when our taxes is what keeps people in Sweden - our colleagues and cousins and sisters - from having to suffer what I just caught the slightest glimpse of in this brave essay. And I will never not be grateful for living in a country where I have the luxury of being surprised and horrified at what is simply the reality of being a woman in the world's biggest democracy.
posted by harujion at 10:53 PM on September 2, 2012 [66 favorites]


quite good, sharply written
posted by RTQP at 12:56 AM on September 3, 2012


I will never understand people who complain about having to pay taxes, when our taxes is what keeps people in Sweden - our colleagues and cousins and sisters - from having to suffer what I just caught the slightest glimpse of in this brave essay.

We have a similar system in the UK - no medical costs for pregnancy/birth, contraceptive methods are free to all, and I too find the idea that people have ot get into debt to give birth astonishing- but in Sweden the system is also better set up for mothers, in that the mother will get 12 months leave on full pay as standard, and fathers also get longer paternity leave (I think it's six weeks here). I think in the US it varies from employer to employer.
posted by mippy at 1:30 AM on September 3, 2012


The old thought that more than one thing can be equally true.... Of course the points about healthcare, reproductive rights are legitimate and serious... and it comes across overwritten voice of the privileged POOR BOHO OBERLIN-GRAD ME!!!!!!!!
posted by ambient2 at 1:40 AM on September 3, 2012


I hated this piece with a passion. So much so, that I think I need to take some time off and examine what it is, precisely, that provokes such hostility.
posted by deo rei at 1:48 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the record: If I’d waited two more years to get accidentally pregnant, such coverage would be mandated as part of an essential benefits package by the Affordable Care Act.

Hey, cool. Speaking as a foreigner who gets socialised medicine and has a wife due our first baby in December, I think y'all should vote for Obama again. For stuff like this.
posted by alasdair at 1:49 AM on September 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Comment deleted; unless there's some reason where the author got her B.A. over 20 years ago is pertinent to this topic, maybe we can skip the Oberlin derail.]
posted by taz at 3:35 AM on September 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


That was wrenching. The decision of whether or not to have a child is fraught enough in a country with a decent social safety net. The fact that Republicans seem hell bent on forcing women to have children, while doing everything in their power to limit support for new families is simply appalling.
posted by peppermind at 5:44 AM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Great article.

On her miscarriage: But I felt cheated. I wanted my mind to have made the choice.

Speaking from personal experience, I'll take my body's choices any day of the week over a moral/ethical/practical decision which I have to make under duress. Not knocking the author or her point of view but, you know, both sides now.

And just in case my body ever makes the wrong choice, I'll get my tubes tied before the Republicans, Catholic bishops, and insurance companies make THAT choice for me. (In my late 40's, BTW.)

Compared with Canada and Europe, this country is so fucked if you are a woman. I'm fortunate to live in one of those blue states of which the author speaks, but even that feels precarious to me in today's climate (lots of angry, Herald-reading Catholics in this here blue state). If I ever get the opportunity and the euro crisis/Goldman Sachs haven't made Europe another USA, off to Europe I go.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:54 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I appreciated her sharing her experience. It took guts.
It also made me even more supportive of a Single Payer System.
This woman would probably have had to have an abortion for simple, cold, financial reasons had she not miscarried. She should have been able to decide this based on whether she wanted a baby or not.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:56 AM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think in the US it varies from employer to employer.

My partner is a programmer with years of experience; he viewed himself as lucky to get two weeks paid paternity leave. My son had to be re-hospitalized after he was born and I think we still owe someone money. We have good insurance but ended up paying more than 1k out of pocket.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:06 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking from personal experience, I'll take my body's choices any day of the week over a moral/ethical/practical decision which I have to make under duress. Not knocking the author or her point of view but, you know, both sides now.

I agree. I've been ardently pro-choice since I was a young teenager, but terminating a pregnancy was the hardest decision I ever made, complete with months--years--of grief and guilt. There was nothing but relief when I had a miscarriage; no hard decisions needed to be made. And Miko's post touches on my experience in that I was unaware of the pregnancy until I went to the doctor because of a concerningly horrid period. The miscarriage was a non-event compared to my other pregnancy, which I am still unpacking years later.

I am glad the author is able to use her experience as a way to create dialogue and inform. However, for me, my concern and interest in insurance coverage and access to abortion is still theoretical and practical. I cannot mix my personal experience and my moral and political stance. Sometimes I wonder if it is because, if I did, I'd end up in the other camp...

Great piece. Thanks for posting it apricot.
posted by peacrow at 6:22 AM on September 3, 2012


Unless the Republicans come into power this year and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
posted by grouse at 10:14 PM on September 2


Democrats would have to run a full-court press and hammer home the idea that Republicans would be taking away popular provisions that even Republicans like.

...so I can see how we'd be screwed in that eventuality. Nobody ever went poor betting on Dems to crumble.
posted by twist my arm at 7:12 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great article, made for compelling reading. It boggles my mind that just having the baby can put you in debt in the US. How is this reflecting pro-family politics?
posted by arcticseal at 7:17 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


> and it comes across overwritten voice of the privileged

Sometimes when I participate in a thoughtful discussion about profound human experiences, it's possible to forget that a lot of people aren't self-aware enough to distinguish between actual observations and the distortive content that their own biases and assumptions add to them. Then someone blurts out this kind of comment and brings me back to reality.

For those who lack the capacity to empathize in a situation, but nevertheless don't sustain an active wish to be a blight upon society in that situation...consider the possibility that a dim awareness of the inability to experience the depth and breadth of emotion that others appear to can impel feelings of hostility and envy toward them. If, upon honest reflection, you find that you are subject to hostile feelings toward those for whom others appear to feel warmth, affinity, sympathy, a sense of connection...I would suggest that you do your best to engage in some honest self-reflection before expressing those hostile feelings, as doing so is often quite tellingly an act of displacement that punishes an inappropriate target, disrupts the social environment, and most importantly, deprives you of the opportunity to understand yourself better.

Upon reflection, what deo rei said, in spades.
posted by perspicio at 7:43 AM on September 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am amazed how expensive even the first trimester of prenatal care is. And that's with good insurance. Never mind the fact that there is no official daycare facility in my area that takes infants. I don't know how people who can't live on one salary can afford to have babies. If it were a child and not a choice, the people in charge would make it easier to have a baby, not harder to have an abortion.
But that's the whole point for neoconservatives – producing new generations of debt-burdened, uneducated underclass that can be easily manipulated through the church or "pro-business" quasi-theology into voting them into office.
posted by deathpanels at 8:24 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


davidpriest.ca: Samantha Bee did some real journalism by asking delegates about the issue of choice. There is no doubt about it: the delegates are FOR choice.

That was a-MAZING.

America's all about personal freedom and choice ... until you get pregnant.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


>>>Is there any comparable experience in a man's life?
Choosing to have sex?


But men don't get pregnant. What are you comparing? I don't mean this as snark. I'm not diminishing profound impact on men of both the risk of pregnancy and the experience and implications of siring a child. But the literal, visceral fact of pregnancy and childbirth is not something that men directly experience with their own bodies. And the father does not bleed and cramp and expel a miscarried or aborted fetus.
posted by desuetude at 9:51 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love this article. It gets at all the messy points of human sexuality and reproduction in America.
posted by roboton666 at 10:38 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even though I was already aware of how much the US is lacking in providing parental leave (and more aware after this thread),

"Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States."

One of four?! Come on.
posted by chela at 10:54 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Related post: "I am lying awake in bed, trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion."

Follow-up: My miscarriage, my abortion
posted by homunculus at 12:19 PM on September 3, 2012


re: chela's comment. Look who'se company we are in !!!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:21 PM on September 3, 2012


“Spare me the self-help bullshit,” I snarled at my sister while I sat, snot-nosed and gasping, behind a gas station off I-88 on my way home from Iowa. “Life isn’t Eat, Pray, Love. If you try to turn this into a teachable moment I will fucking scream.”

I'm going to have this tattooed on my forehead. No wait: did I say my forehead? Tch! I meant the forehead of anyone I ever meet, ever.
posted by Decani at 4:26 PM on September 3, 2012


But then, how would they ever read it?
posted by arcticseal at 5:28 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It'll be tattooed in reverse so everyone can read it in the mirror while they're brushing their teeth.
posted by SakuraK at 7:59 PM on September 3, 2012


Great piece, thanks for posting.
posted by SarahElizaP at 8:59 PM on September 3, 2012


With so many forces legitimately outside our control – forces of biology, history, geography, age — why is every woman in the United States not running blue-faced onto the field to do battle with those who would take what choices she does have away?

Quoted for truth.

The Republicans are coming, and they need to be stopped.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:02 PM on September 3, 2012


"Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States."

One of four?! Come on.


Wait. A. Minute.

Hang on.

You're saying companies in the United States are not mandated to have even maternal leave?!

Wow, just wow, seriously had no idea.
posted by the cydonian at 1:56 AM on September 4, 2012


In the US, federal law mandates unpaid leave only.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. Qualified medical and family reasons include: personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child.[1] The FMLA is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. —wikipedia
posted by jepler at 5:38 AM on September 4, 2012


And the FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees.
posted by rtha at 5:54 AM on September 4, 2012


All of this may or (more likely) may not happen. But whatever the outcome, it’s not thanks to the power of hope and faith. The world turns inexorably, no matter our most tightly held desires, and what change we do manage to effect is the product, most often, of grinding hard work. Fairy tales, in short, don’t come true – and the ability to envision realistic, sustainable fantasies – and execute them — is a hard-won key to adulthood.

It's interesting because I would call "the ability to envision realistic, sustainable fantasies -- and execute them" to be a type of hope and faith. You are hoping for a realistic, but positive, outcome, and you have faith in yourself to make it come true. I always wonder why people denigrate things like The Secret which preaches the power of positive thinking. For people that are depressed and struggling in life, positive thinking is not fantasizing about enormous wealth. It's about being able to get up in the morning and go to work and take care of yourself and your family long term. These are realistic goals, but if you don't believe that they can happen, if you only the believe the negative -- that you will always fail -- then you stay in bed all day.
posted by bluefly at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, thanks for posting -- this is a wonderful essay!
posted by bluefly at 7:34 AM on September 4, 2012


What kinds of real-world policy changes would make it much more possible to believe that it is possible to take good care of yourself and family long-term?

What kinds of real-world conditions serve as evidence that is not possible to take good care of yourself and your family long-term?
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on September 4, 2012


What kinds of real-world policy changes would make it much more possible to believe that it is possible to take good care of yourself and family long-term?

What kinds of real-world conditions serve as evidence that is not possible to take good care of yourself and your family long-term?


Yeah, Miko, I realized after I wrote it that I meant to say "if these are realistic goals, but..." I agree with the thrust of the essay that women's healthcare in this country is scarily bad. I was just commenting on that one point she made.
posted by bluefly at 7:43 AM on September 4, 2012


Sure. I just raise it because there's a very fine line between the kind of rhetoric that supports individual resilience and the kind of rhetoric that is actually used as justification for dismantling policies that support families and working people. Of course it's true that ideally, we'd all wake up with the faith and hope that our hard work will pay off. And all of can overcome obstacles of certain amounts and kinds. But there comes a point where the obstacles are too great or too many, and the hard work can't compensate people sufficiently to meet their basic needs. There are some things you can hope for or envision which remain impossible or highly unlikely, for reasons of chance or physics -- or policy structure. Though we can still hope, we can't always reasonable expect that hope will turn into reality.

So while there's no arguing with some of the basic truth of human psychology - that what gets us out of bed every day is a combination of habit and hope, and that envisioning the things you wish for can help equip you to pursue them - I am very wary of that kind of discussion and the ends it can be put to.
posted by Miko at 7:51 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


From reading the comments here, I was worried this piece was going to be maudlin and had even prepared a comment saying, "Hey, for some of us, the choice to terminate a pregnancy is really, really easy and *obvious*! I couldn't have even imagined responding any differently than I did when I aborted." But the piece was really well-written and not overwraught or maudlin at all. Great, honest narrative.

The discussions of the benefits are important, but that's not what I took away from the discussion of the costs of having kids. There's always a huge, significant cost, both in terms of time and income, even when you have a mat leave, universal health care, and the like. There's the diapers and the food costs, the loss of time to improve oneself (through extra education, physical activity). I see it in the social media posts of my friends and relatives. With a few exceptions, the ones with kids are documenting solely the activities of their children. Their interests are those of their children. They've ceased having independent interests and activities, especially any where they cannot bring children along (regardless of their access to childcare). Whereas, the childless and childfree are just much more interesting to follow (again, with a few exceptions) because they still have the time and income to try stuff and do stuff. They learn new things and volunteer and make stuff. And I'm not saying that one way is necessarily "superior" to another (except in relation to how interesting I find it follow you on social media), but that there is an obvious and very large opportunity cost to having children that is well beyond the health care and the career handicaps. Likely more so for women than for men.
posted by Kurichina at 9:25 AM on September 4, 2012


Kurichina, I get your point, but I'd like to gently suggest that social media might not be a completely accurate reflection of one's interests and activities. I know that when I had a baby my social media time dropped way, way down to the bottom of my list, with the exception of baby pictures for the family & friends who really demand and enjoy that kind of thing. Given a choice between reading a book and writing a status message about reading a book, I'd choose the book every time. Obviously, having a child takes a lot of time and effort, but saying someone has completely ceased having independent interests and activities maybe takes more proof than simply what one can see on social media.

I say this not to nitpick, but because is a pernicious stereotype of parents, and specifically mothers, that when they have children they cease to be intelligent and interesting people, and as someone who spends a lot of time intimately involved with parents I don't find it to be true at all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:31 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend's idiot cousin is about to have a kid, and he was AMAZED that women get a whole three months off work, but that he gets less than a week. Somebody should fix that, he complained. Why, did you know that in France, fathers get almost a year? Why don't we have paternity leave?

I had to restrain myself from shaking him by his shoulders and screaming in his face, "We don't have fucking paternity leave because assholes like you keep voting for Republicans!"

But then I remembered that I was at a funeral, and that it would have been gauche to point out that the consequences he was suffering were the exact same things that he'd voted for, the moron.

This is also when I found out that he's for gay marriage because he thinks that gays are "getting away" with paying less taxes because they can't get married. His position is now that gays "should have to get married," and is vaguely annoyed that there's no governmental agency to force gays into legal commitment.
posted by klangklangston at 3:20 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


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