The Texas Abortion Law is an Assault Against Women

**Warning this may be Triggering and please read with caution**

I try to stay away from things that are political on my blog, or that will simply take away from the larger message here, which is information about chronic illness, chronic pain, and mental health. However, I feel like this subject does encompass mental health as well as the emotional health and state of a woman who finds herself dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Everything I write about in my blog is emotional and personal and this subject is no different. I am a woman who found herself facing this difficult choice and without the access I had to this type of healthcare, my life would probably have been very different. But, even if I had not faced this decision myself, I am a woman and I empathize with the women around me who face different circumstances in their lives which may not support having a child. I am also a mother to four women, and one in four women will choose to have an abortion. https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/abortion-common-experience-us-women-despite-dramatic-declines-rates

There are so many reasons that this law is an assault against our gender, but let me start with following: The law bans abortions as soon as cardiac activity can be detected, which is around 6 weeks. Many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks for many different reasons. Let’s untangle this.

Speaking strictly in terms of statistics, about 50% of women will have early signs of pregnancy by the time they are five weeks pregnant. 70% of women will have pregnancy symptoms by six weeks pregnant. 90% of women will have pregnancy symptoms by eight weeks pregnant. https://www.babycenter.com/getting-pregnant/how-to-get-pregnant/pregnancy-symptoms_1146468 Most pregnancies are unplanned. In fact, about 40-49% of pregnancies are unplanned. Even those women who take birth control religiously are only human, and as humans, there are mistakes. This doesn’t even include things like medications that may interfere with the efficacy of birth control like some antibiotics. We are all busy people and sometimes there can be innocent mistakes like forgetting to take the pill. Even so, a woman taking the birth control pill exactly as they should, is looking at a 1-2% failure rate. This means that “1 or 2 out of 100 users relying solely on the pill will get pregnant.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/09/health/pregnancy-at-six-weeks/index.html Many women out there aren’t over-seeing the frequency of their cycle with eagle eyes unless they are trying to get pregnant and/or are having fertility issues. There are women out there who don’t have routine sex, who don’t visit the doctor regularly, and who may have mental health problems that keep them from recognizing or accepting their symptoms of pregnancy.

It may be difficult for some to understand that mental health issues could prevent someone from recognizing symptoms of pregnancy, but it’s not only limited to mental health disorders. Fear or stress can be an overwhelming emotion and for some women, they go into denial. Let us take for example, a teenager, who thinks she may be pregnant but may convince herself otherwise because she is so fearful of how her parents will react or what they may do if she is living in an unsafe environment. A married woman may convince herself she is not pregnant by someone other than her partner. Again, it may not simply be because of the cheating but if she is living with domestic violence, it could place her in danger and by the time she accepts or can no longer hide her state, it might be too late. Some women do not have symptoms like morning sickness, breast tenderness, or fatigue. If a woman is overweight or their size fluctuates, they may not notice the extra baby weight.

There are many women who struggle with irregular periods whether it is because of stress, some medications (like the birth control pill or drugs for epilepsy), or health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uncontrolled diabetes or even an eating disorder. There may be spot bleeding for other women (who have period issues) who may mistake it for her period and alternatively, a woman may not have regular periods, to begin with, so missing a period for a few months isn’t a red flag. A woman who has been diagnosed with PCOS may believe they are infertile. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility (according to the Mayo Clinic), so a person with this diagnosed condition may have been told that it will be incredibly difficult (to impossible) for them to get pregnant, leading them to not suspect a thing.

 The last thing I will point out that may surprise some is lack of education. I’m not talking about finishing high school or needing a higher education degree to know you are pregnant. I’m talking about sex education. The United States has no uniform curriculum for sex education and for many across the United States, it is not required or, parents may choose to exempt their child from sex education. Also, because the curriculum is at the discretion of individual states, some might designate “comprehensive, medically accurate and inclusive of gender and sex identities,” other states may opt for a model focused on abstinence with no legal requirement to go above and beyond that.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/09/health/pregnancy-at-six-weeks/index.html This can leave schools to make the decision of what they will and won’t offer. It can also lead to students having gaps in understanding how the human body works and how you can get pregnant. These are actual questions from teens and answers from Bedsider.org about pregnancy :

Can I get pregnant if I was drunk or high when we had sex?Yes! Being drunk or high when you have sex has nothing to do with the biological chances of getting pregnant. Since being drunk or high probably makes you or your partner less likely to remember to use that condom or take that birth control pill, it may actually increase the chance of a pregnancy. If being drunk or high is part of your regular scene, consider doubling up to be super-safe with condoms and a party-ready birth control method like the implant, the IUD, or the shot.

https://www.bedsider.org/features/265-um-can-i-get-pregnant-if-part-2

Can I get pregnant if we’ve been having sex without birth control and haven’t gotten pregnant yet? Maybe I’m infertile.Up to 1 in 6 young people believe that they may never be able to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant. In reality, less than 1 in 100 young and healthy people are truly infertile. Having sex without birth control and not getting pregnant means you got lucky. You may get lucky multiple times, but this does not mean you are infertile. It means you are pushing your luck: 95% of young couples who have sex once a week are pregnant within a year. Most of us have heard that “it only takes one time.” While that’s true, there are a lot of factors involved, and most couples who are actively trying to get pregnant get there within 6 months.

https://www.bedsider.org/features/265-um-can-i-get-pregnant-if-part-2

Abortion is increasingly concentrated among poor women and women of colour, which makes this law all the more an assault against women. For women who have the means to leave the state (whether it’s flying to a different state/country or driving and then paying for the procedure), this law will not affect them. But the other women? I fear for what may happen to them; where they may go to receive the care that should be accessible to them. I fear for them and the lengths they might go, to terminate a pregnancy with the internet and so many shady sites that might offer toxic or life-threatening concoctions to terminate the pregnancy. Women’s lives are valuable and I shouldn’t have to plead with those that govern my state to allow us dominion over what happens to our bodies. Especially when these same people who claim to be a champion of these unborn babies, don’t also give women the resources to take care of this child they may not be able to care for, or a way to escape an abusive relationship that may eventually shift to the child, or make allowance for women who have done nothing wrong but were survivors of rape/incest and cannot bring a child into the world from that assault. Our lives are every bit as important and women should not be forced to incubate a child in their womb because they cannot access this healthcare.

Guttmacher Institute

I cannot comprehend why Governor Abbott would push for and sign into law this abortion ban that jeopardizes the lives of so many women and then says that there is no need for an exception for rape because they’re going to eliminate all rapists. It’s nonsensical. There is no way to accept that the police, with everything on their plate already, can rid the streets of rapists. Statically, 51.1% of women are assaulted by an intimate partner, in 8-10 cases the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them, and 40.8% of women are assaulted by an acquaintance. But here’s the reason why Gov. Abbott can never rid the streets of rapists and why this law is an assault on women: 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.  [National Sexual Violence Resource Center- Info + Stats for Journalists] Even if more sexual assaults were reported, do we have the capability of incarcerating these criminals for the rest of their lives? Are they going to receive special treatment because they are white, in college, and play sports? Are they going to be set free by a jury because a woman is made out to be less credible because she is a sex worker?

Governor Abbott cannot protect women from all these possibilities and neither can he protect women from rape. What he can do is change this law. The definition of rape as it reads in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it is the:

unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This is law is forcing women, against their will, to continue a pregnancy to term. I don’t see this as being any different than forcing a woman to be an incubator. This law also gives permission to private citizens to enforce the law instead of public officials allowing them to sue clinics that they feel may have “aided and abetted” illegal abortions. In the mind of people who are mentally unstable and who may fervently oppose abortions, this opens a very dangerous door. A door that could lead to clinics being targeted and women and medical staff being hurt. How is this not like rape? It is obvious that I feel passionate about a woman’s right to choose. Like so many women out there, this has touched me personally and my decisions have impacted my life greatly. Some would say that I don’t see the issues clearly because of my past, but I would say that it is because of my past, I see things so clearly. This ban tells young women that not only is their body not their own, but that they are incapable of making decisions for their future and how a baby might impact that future. It tells them that they are so incapable that people they have never met, who don’t know their history or anything they have been through had to create a law to protect something that they will have to nurture in their bodies and grow against their will. It tells women who are poor and those women of color that they are not worth it. Did you know that in states with more abortion restrictions there are higher rates of maternal/infant mortality? “Abortion restrictions—especially gestational bans, which seek to ban abortion at an arbitrary point of gestation during pregnancy—are often proposed by anti-choice lawmakers as a way to protect women’s health. However, research has shown that the more abortion restrictions a state has, the worse women and children’s health outcomes in the state are. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) conducted a study that created a state-level scoring system with the following categories: abortion restrictions; policies that support women and children’s well-being; women and children’s health outcomes; and social determinants of health.” https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2018/06/13/451891/limiting-abortion-access-contributes-poor-maternal-health-outcomes/

There is already a divide that is felt in America- a socio-economic one and a racial one- and this law will only deepen that divide. I will fight for the rights of women, for the rights of my daughters, and for the rights of any person who finds themselves facing this impossible decision because they matter. Their lives matter and their future matters.

What Body Shaming Does

I recently watched Valerie Bertinelli bear her soul on an Instagram post in direct response to a body shamer. [Watch the video below.] The post’s objective is to fight back instead of just pushing down those hurt feelings. Some people will say that it comes with her line of work, or that this is just another case of people being too sensitive. Hell, I imagine there will be people coming to this person’s defense, citing free speech and that she just needs to get over it, but what this is really about is the pain that women and men endure at the hands of body shamers.

Sure, it’s just words and as probably everyone’s mother has told them when they were little, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” isn’t exactly true. Words are powerful. If they weren’t would they be such a persuasive tool? Words are used to convey meaning and sentiment in so many areas of our lives. You have Pulitzer Prize winners in literature and poetry. Words are used by our world leaders and politicians to persuade you to vote for them as well as unite us. Words in stories can be brought to the big screen and they can be powerful or funny. We can use words to convey love and hate and hurt towards another person and it is powerful.  

Today, our words are being exchanged with one another via text, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and hundreds, if not thousands, other, various platforms. This has given bullies that we once only encountered on the playground at school or organized sports or other extra-curricular school activities, another avenue by which they can torment. And the best part of this for them is they never have to engage with the object of their hurtful words. Many times, they do not even know the person they are attacking. It’s just someone on the computer and it is forgotten that they are human and have feelings and a heart.

Body shaming leaves scars. It has a profound effect on those who have endured it. It crushes self-esteem and confidence; it causes major stress which can then have an even deeper effect on the body as a whole; it can even lead to bulimia and/or anorexia or another eating disorder. It’s difficult to find “body shaming effects,” when you plug it into Google, but you’ll get thousands of possible results on “how to lose weight,” “decrease obesity,” or just about anything you can think of that relates to getting thinner.

But I know these things mostly because they have touched me and not even to the excess it has others, and the effects have been profound and long-lasting. I was an athletic kid who participated in cross-country and gymnastics, and who had dabbled in tap dancing and ballet. My earliest memories, however, have always been the uncomfortable way I felt in my own skin. My mother, who had been overweight as a child and into her youth, was constantly dieting. Even now, as she approaches her mid-70’s, she is always looking at new ways to stay trim and/or lose weight. She imposed this way of thinking on myself and my father who has always had that “dad belly.”

I can recall distinctly the way she would check my waistband on clothing to see if it was getting too tight and it had nothing to do with seeing if I needed a new pair because I was growing out of them. It was to remind me that I needed to watch my weight. I didn’t want to get fat. No one liked fat girls. As an adult, I understand my mother was trying to be the best mother she could be and was trying to protect me from the ridicule of children, who can be cruel. But, because of the kind of person I am, already prone to obsessive thinking as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, it was a catalyst for how my pre-teen years and teen years would evolve.

The first time I was body-shamed was in Middle School and it wasn’t your typical kind of body shaming. I wasn’t called “fat,” I was objectified by the boys who snapped my bra and tried to grab my ass or slap my ass because I had hit puberty early. I had breasts and curves and while I never thought of myself as pretty, especially as a pre-teen, it seems I made their hormones explode. I didn’t want to look the way I did. My friends didn’t look like me and the way my body had changed, the only way I could think of to change it was to lose weight and throw myself into athletics. In my pubescent mind, I thought I could undo mother nature.

Camp, would be the second time I was body shamed. My athletic body didn’t evolve the way I thought it would. Instead of being lean and lithe, muscles had given my small frame a bulky appearance that I despised. I had envisioned myself returning to the more, slender frame of my child-self with a boyish figure rather than to this feminine, strong, muscled girl whom I did not appreciate. While at camp, another girl pointed at me (we were all in bathing suits during swim lessons and they were comparing ‘thigh gaps) and commented to another girl (in Mean Girls fashion), “God she has fat thighs!” I was wrecked instantly.

I threw myself into exercising and gymnastics. I began restricting what I ate, counting calories and making myself throw up. It’s painful to look at pictures of myself and see this young, very slender girl and know the pain she was going through internally. There was a constant comparison of myself to other girls who didn’t have the same body type as I did and this endless competition to look like them, just so I would feel better about myself. I never achieved it.

When I got pregnant at 19, I had no idea how much it would change my life. Not only the aspect of motherhood at such a young age, but the profound effect it would have on how I felt about my body. I promised myself that I would never let what I went through affect my child and later on my children (who are all girls.) But what I didn’t realize was that while I had overcome a lot, the effects of body shaming would continue until even now at 47. I don’t wear shorts because I don’t like how I look. I’ve gained a lot of weight because of chronic illness and pain, my highest weight being 190lbs and my lowest and current weight now at 160lbs. I always say I’d like to get back to 145-150 which was my weight after my youngest was born. But it’s been a struggle and it’s like when you watch a dog trying to constantly chase its tail, going in circles and never winning. My girls know my appearance makes me unhappy and it hurts me that I’ve never imparted a more body-positive environment for them. Because life is too short to be constantly fretting about how you look. Life should be about the things that make you happy.

I haven’t endured nearly as much body shaming as others. Much of it has been me being self-critical, but I do empathise with those who have had to endure it. Body shaming is so very destructive with lingering impacts. I hear Valerie Bertinelli and those out there who may have been the object of such cruelty and I support you. We don’t need to live in a world with body shaming. As mothers and fathers, educators, family and friends, we need to teach our youth that our appearance is only a tiny bit of what makes us human. We need to show our youth that it isn’t about being thin or pretty but having a good soul and a kind heart. We can change the world, one word at a time. We can also take back our lives by embracing the body we are in and not allowing someone else to try and diminish that.

Cancel Culture

There’s been a lot of discussions recently on “Cancel Culture,” and for the most part, I’ve kept my opinions to myself. In some instances, I understand why. Dumbo’s murder of singing crows, for instance, is clearly racist and I understand why a company geared toward children would take it down. I think most headlines were inflammatory on the subject because if you read the article, they are only removing it from children’s profiles. You can still access it in the adult Disney programming and if you want you can watch it with your children, along with The Aristocats and Peter Pan, and make it not just a recreational moment but a teachable one and explain to them why the depictions are not okay. 

Today we learned that Pepé Le Pew would be eliminated from the upcoming movie Space Jam 2, but Speedy Gonzales would not. In some aspects, I can see why Monsieur le Pew would be axed from the movie with is misogynistic ways, and merciless hounding of Penelope Pussycat. As a victim of sexual assault, and as a woman who has experienced this type of behaviour first-hand from aggressive men, I can see how his character would be seen as “normalizing rape culture.” However, according to Fatherly[i], “Le Pew’s scene, which was reportedly going to speak on the importance of consent in all romantic encounters, was cut from the movie long before,” these previous cancellations or before an article written on Monsieur le Pew’s bad behaviour was written in the New York Times. This still hasn’t stopped everyone from getting their knickers in a twist about this or voicing their opinion on the subject (like me).

The fact that Monsieur le Pew was axed and Señor Gonzales was not, does bring up some issues for me. I don’t think there is any difference between how Speedy Gonzales is portrayed, in comparison to, let’s say, the Siamese cat in the movie The Aristocats. Both are caricatured versions of ethnicity, which if you look at Speedy’s cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez (aka Tranquilino/Lento), there is a perpetuation of the idea that all Mexicans are slow and drunk and character uses a gun to help him be more effective where Speedy has his quickness. It seems there is abundant enough reason to eliminate him (not that I’m supporting this, only arguing this), as much as there is reason to eliminate Pepé. However- and I think this is important- why are we not making this a teachable moment for children? Why has it become so much easier to vanquish literature, or characters from this existence or hide it up on a shelf somewhere, where children can’t access it until they are adults? It feels like our children would get so much more out of this if adults/parents/grandparents/teachers, could take a time-out and explain why this may have been portrayed in the way it is, and why it is wrong and why we shouldn’t do that in the future? 

I say this with a parents’ experience raising four girls to adulthood. We watched all the movies in question and my husband and I took the time to explain to them why each scenario was harmful and hurtful. I feel that if we raised our children with that “it takes a village,” kind of mentality, that there would be no need for “cancelling” anything. It seems like they are taking the choice from parents in some aspects, but with rampant disrespect of people and culture and women, there is a part of me that understands why. If we can’t unite and agree as a collective that racism is unacceptable, or that misogyny won’t be tolerated, and that no-means-no, then the problem becomes more about who we are, then about what we are cancelling. 


[i] Pepé Le Pew Won’t Be In ‘Space Jam 2.’ Nobody Is Actually Mad, Harper Blake; 3.10.21(https://www.fatherly.com/play/pepe-le-pew-new-york-times-space-jam-2/)