by Jacqueline S. Homan, copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Why is it that it takes TWO to have sex, but only women are seen as undeserving whores who need to be punished with forced birth if an unwanted pregnancy results? Making men step up to the plate with miserly child support payments doesn’t begin to compensate for all of the negative permanent changes that pregnancy and birth does to women’s bodies, and that is IF she survives the ordeal.
Although pregnancy and birth are natural, they are medical conditions that do not occur without risk or without drastic permanent changes to women’s bodies and lives. Pregnancy and birth pose serious risks to women’s health and lives. Even with modern medical science and technology, women still suffer permanent maiming and disabling conditions as a result of pregnancy and birth. Women still die from complications in pregnancy and birth. So even if the co-conceiver actually pays his child support obligation every month for 18 years, it is not a lifelong consequence with a litany of physical problems to which he is sentenced to suffer for the rest of his life as punishment for having sex.
While some pregnancies are riskier than others, all of them have the chance of life-threatening complications. I don’t know how people can support forcing someone else to endure something that threatens their health and will alter their body permanently.
Here is a list of all the permanent and often irreversible changes to a woman’s body and life caused by pregnancy and birth which really makes the shot-gun wedding or the 18 years of monthly child support checks, and inadequate and meager temporary welfare benefits look like a cheap kiss-off:
Possible effect of pregnancy include:
Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:
exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)
altered appetite and senses of taste and smell
nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)
heartburn and indigestion
dizziness and light-headedness
bloating, swelling, fluid retention
congested, bloody nose
acne and mild skin disorders
skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)
mild to severe backache and strain
difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping
increased urination and incontinence
breast pain and discharge
swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy
inability to take regular medications
shortness of breath
higher blood pressure
tendency to anemia
curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities
infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease
(pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and
are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)
extreme pain on delivery
hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression
continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)
Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:
stretch marks (worse in younger women)
permanent weight gain or redistribution
abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness
pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life)
changes to breasts
scarring from episiotomy or c-section
other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)
increased proclivity for hemorrhoids
loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)
Occasional complications and side effects:
temporary and permanent injury to back
severe scarring requiring later surgery (especially after additional pregnancies)
dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele)
pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies)
eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)
anemia (which can be life-threatening)
embolism (blood clots)
medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby)
diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles
mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication)
serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)
ectopic pregnancy (risk of death)
broken bones (ribcage, “tail bone”)
numerous other complications of delivery
refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease
aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)
severe post-partum depression and psychosis suppressed immune system
**research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors
research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy
research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease**
Less common (but serious) complications:
increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction
molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease (like a pregnancy-induced cancer)
*obstetric fistula (causing fecal or urine or both to pass through the woman’s vagina due to tissue damage to the area separating the rectum and the bladder from the uterus and vagina. *Fistulas are not always able to be corrected with surgery.)
More permanent side effects:
[Medical Data courtesy of research conducted by Becky Garcia, provided by ACOG, JAMA, BMJ, The Lancet, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Bureau of Vital Records]
There is no way anyone who claims to be “moral” and value human life can justify forcing women to suffer any of these permanent consequences of pregnancy and birth against their will. None.
You cannot realistically be “pro-life” if you hold a higher regard for a fetus than the woman whose life you want to jeopardize, and whose body and health you want to condemn with a life sentence of lifelong physically miserable results — and that is provided she even survives the pregnancy and birth process. And these are just the physical risks and results. That does not include the extreme emotional trauma that accompanies those physical results when those conditions were FORCED upon the woman against her will. [Does the case of Andrea Yates ring a bell?]
The more “moderate” anti-woman/pro-punishment crowd who are willing to make allowances for abortion in the case of rape are of the mindset that the rape victim should be allowed to get emergency contraceptives (Plan B) or even an abortion because the rape victim didn’t deserve to be punished with pregnancy. Yet they carry water for the politicians they’ve elected who pass “conscience clause” laws and “fetal personhood” laws that result in rape victims being denied emergency contraception, or abortion if need be.
Maternity should never be compulsory, and children should NEVER be used as a tool for punishment.
However conservative Christians, such as the Roman Catholic Church, are of the mindset that even the rape victim deserves this punishment of forced birth for somehow causing the rape, for being too free and careless with her body. Rape is the ONLY crime where the victim is put on trial and made into the criminal; expected to take responsibility for the perpetrator’s actions.
But women who get pregnant as a result of contraceptive failure, or from lack of access to available birth control (plus an over-abundance of male selfishness) are expected to suffer the sentence of extreme pain and permanent changes to her life and body caused by pregnancy and birth because if she’s not forced to suffer these consequences against her will, she’s somehow getting away with something. And that ‘something’ is embracing her sexuality and having sex for the same reasons men do: a natural human need and desire for pleasure.
And where did this idea of men being more deserving than women when it comes to sex originate from? It comes from the Bible — a misogynist and racist hate rag that is really a menagerie of Bronze Age myths flavored with Roman imperialist paternalism.
“The reason pregnancy and childbirth is glorified, in part, is because women die from it.” ~ Andrea Dworkin
The Bible and the theory of Intelligent Design are full of more holes than Swiss cheese. It hasn’t been proven to be an absolute truth anymore than mermaids, fairies, Santa Clause, or unicorns. It is the greatest bullshit story ever told that has been used to justify abuse, cruelty and oppression of women; an excuse for genocide, as license to invade and pillage other nations, and as license for men to brutally impose their will on women’s bodies and lives as punishment just for being women. It is social control with legitimized torture and cruelty cloaked in the questionable respectability of “divine providence.”
For all the rhetoric about valuing babies and life, “pro-lifers” have demonstrated time after time that they don’t give a damn about life. They certainly don’t care about the woman’s life. Their real agenda is about punishing women for having sex and maintaining a male-dominated family and a male-dominated society. They’re not even pro-life for the fetus if its host is a poor woman in need of financial support, good food, and good prenatal care. And if that fetus dies in utero but fails to expel, thus threatening the life if its host, the pregnant woman, these misogynist zealots claim that the doctor removing that dead fetus is performing a “partial birth abortion” or a “late term abortion.” They only pretend to be pro-life.
“More women have died in childbirth or killed themselves rather than submit to paternalistic ownership and rape IN THIS COUNTRY than the total number of African American males lynched by racist cops or KKK mobs.” ~ Larry Henry Carter Center
A 2007 WHO report proves what feminists and pro-choice advocates have been saying all along: criminalizing abortion will not end it. It only makes it far more dangerous and costs far more lives. The nations with the highest abortion rates are those with the most restrictive legal and medical access to abortion, and even to contraceptives. 13% of pregnancy and childbirth related deaths globally are caused by unsafe illegal abortions. Since illegal abortion makes women criminals, women are terrified to go to the hospital after a botched abortion attempt for fear of legal reprisal.
Doctors face even higher penalties for performing abortions than the women getting them in places where abortion is outlawed and regularly refuse to treat a woman who is hemorrhaging for any reason because they don’t want to be face criminal charges of performing an illegal abortion. As a result, women are dying from treatable conditions — women like Maria de Jesus Gonzalez of Nicaragua, a Catholic nation where abortion is not legal under ANY circumstances at all whatsoever.
Maria de Jesus Gonzalez was a 28 yr old poor single mother who was denied a medical abortion which she needed to save her life. She had an ectopic pregnancy where the zygote was lodged inside of her fallopian tube. Not getting an abortion and leaving the fetus to grow and rupture her fallopian tube would cause her and the fetus to die. But being forced to go seek clandestine help from a back alley abortionist instead caused both Maria and the fetus to die. Either way, no one’s life was saved. Maria’s first child is now an orphan.
Mainstream “pro-life” groups are opposed to contraceptives as well as abortion. They’re just quieter about contraception (except for Plan B) because they know it outs them as hypocrites and liars who place ideology over human life. They promote “abstinence only” sex education. They paint a false, rosy picture of pregnancy and birth, ignoring the very real risks and long-term health complications of pregnancy and birth.
Most “moderate” pro-lifers understand that full sex education and better access to affordable, reliable and effective contraceptives are the most effective ways to limit or prevent abortion. But those self-identified pro-lifers need to recognize what their leaders in pro-life organizations promote and what their movement stands for. The leaders of pro-life groups have been unresponsive to the dead bodies in their wake, while they work tirelessly to spread laws and policies affecting women’s health and lives (like in Nicaragua) far and wide.
They have been chipping away at abortion to get it outlawed here in the US, under any circumstances; while their well-heeled lobby is putting legislators in office who have de-funded access to effective contraceptives, and stonewalled the opening of women’s healthcare clinics such as Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois.
These same “pro-lifers” are the base of the Republican Party which has eliminated welfare support for poor women and children with the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. They consistently oppose subsidized healthcare for poor uninsured women and children. Their real agenda has never been about protecting the “sanctity of human life” because their actions are contrary. And actions speak louder than words. Their message is clear:
Women are just collateral damage in their ideological Culture War, and our right to life is negotiable.
The “pro-life” agenda has nothing to do with babies. It has everything to do with getting women back under control and in their place where they belong. Pro-lifers don’t give a crap about women’s health; we can die in a back alley so long as we’re punished for any transgression dreamed up by the conservative “pro-life” Religious Wrong. And that transgression is “getting away with” having sex.
Their inflammatory propaganda about “partial birth” abortions and “late term” abortions are lies used to whip up a frenzy against the “murder” of viable fetuses. In reality, these fetuses either have already died or are not able to survive birth anyway. The fetuses that have died inside the uterus that were not expelled threatened the mother’s life since this decomposing fetal tissue causes fatal, toxic sepsis unless it is promptly removed. But “pro-lifers” don’t care if mothers die. All these Christian control freaks are out for is to control everyone else with an iron fist and to deliberately hurt women to punish them just for being women.
In the 1800’s when chloroform was introduced to the US to help ease the excruciating pain of childbirth for women, it was woman-hating Christian zealots who fought against its permitted use on the grounds that easing women’s childbirth pain was contrary to God’s will. They cited the book of Genesis where God punishes women with the curse of pain in childbirth for bringing “sin” into the world, and stating that women’s only salvation is in childbirth.
Anyone who argued that it was inhumane and barbaric to deny women pain relief in childbirth was prosecuted for being an atheist and jailed because atheism was a criminally punishable offense back then.
Without modern high-tech medicine, pregnancy and childbirth kills 1 in 5 women. And even with it, pregnant women and women giving birth STILL die anyway. And many women who survive pregnancy and birth are permanently maimed from it.
Ever wonder why all those chirpy ads for Depends adult diapers target women?
It’s because childbirth-related pelvic trauma leaves 35% – 50% of all US moms permanently incontinent.
Forcing women to risk permanent damage to their bodies, diminished ability to enjoy sex, early death or permanent disability due to childbirth benefits playboys and pedophiles by guaranteeing the merry widowers a fresh supply of trophy wives and pedophiles plenty of abandoned or orphaned children. Pro-lifers leave no “pious” playboys or pedophiles behind.
These same pro-lifers who attempt to rationalize their desire to inflict cruelty and punishment on women for having sex are the same folks that place no restrictions on Viagra. Pro-lifers who use fetuses instead of fists to maim or kill women deserve the Scott Peterson Award for misogyny.