Take my uterus, please
When I was in high school, my mom took me to Washington, D.C., to march for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and protest President George H.W. Bush’s attempts to encroach on settled pro-choice law. Thirty years later, the steam continues pouring out of my ears, most recently on Saturday after President Donald Trump went online to weigh in on Alabama’s draconian abortion ban, which even the Twit ‘n’ Chief agrees doesn’t go far enough in “protecting the life of the mother.”
I was raised to raise my voice. The community I knew best of all growing up existed within a liberal-leaning seaside village 25 miles north of Manhattan. Then and now its streets are saturated with blossoming dogwood trees, Ivy League-stickered Volvos (then: station wagons, now: SUVs), and the type of passion afforded to those with the money, time or connections that can prove especially useful when attempting to meaningfully effect change. It’s not officially in the town charter, but advocating for women, children, equal rights, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, small dogs and big-game animals, fossil fuels, gun control, free speech or Monsanto was (and still is) an unspoken residency requirement.
Sometime after I left New York in 2003 (but not before Jan. 20, 2017), though, a fundamental shift closely resembling fatigue has me waving the white flag for possibly the first time ever. It has finally become too draining to keep fighting for even the most basic freedoms, never mind a bodily organ. You win, Mike and Mother Pence: Take my uterus, please.
However, to be legitimately invested in the protection of women who bear children, it’s critical to acknowledge that — and how — their lives extend beyond the uterus. Women are many things, but what we’re not is a smorgasbord from which white male legislators can pick and choose the most appetizing parts to push around on their plate. Now that I’ve relinquished decision-making power over my body to the West Wing, here are other ways in which it will require protection:
1. The life of this mother is going to need protection from the Aspen Valley Hospital billing department. The first statement for my March 9 broken-leg surgery clocked in at a cool $65,937.36. I’ve let AVH know to forward all of my financial correspondence to either 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Number One Observatory Circle.
2. To protect me from the children I graciously chose not to abort, I desperately require a good psychotherapist (and, if we’re being honest here, an even better psychopharmacologist). Most of the ones around here don’t take insurance, but I know my D.C. daddies will have me covered.
3. My reflection in the mirror could use an extra coat of armor. More specifically, the silicone breast implants I received following a bilateral mastectomy five years ago aren’t in need of replacement yet, but is President Porn Star really going to tell me I need to wait before upgrading to a newer model?
4. To protect my life (and, you know, my kids) from starvation, I’ve opened a tab at City Market with the bill heading straight to our nation’s first families. We’ll also need the Trumps and Pences to step up and cover our family’s car and health insurance premiums (so much protection, so little money!).
5. While I’m done having children (that is, if it’s OK with Pence), it’s still critical to note that many mothers’ lives often need protection just by virtue of having given birth. Postpartum depression can wreak havoc on new moms and lead to insomnia, loss of energy and appetite, increased irritability, severe anxiety, and even suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Resources can be scarce for those who need them most, but now that the Executive Branch is on the case, surely PPD care for new moms will be adequately addressed.
6. This uterus-positive body of mine that has stayed home for the better part of the past decade to care for my children while also working fulltime is going to need some backpay — and a pension. Because any conversation about protecting the life of the mother needs to include adequate (and paid) maternity leave, affordable and robust child care options, and workplace policies that encourage and enforce flexible schedules.
Maybe you can take a fight out of this woman, but you won’t be able to take the women out of this fight. Keep advocating for zygotes over humans and you just might win something, but I guarantee it won’t be as much as is lost.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.