• About

    The Boston Brahmina is
    a copy editor, writer, and
    avid baker who blogs about media, politics, feminism,
    and dessert.

    She can be reached at:
    BostonBrahmina [at] gmail [dot] com

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The hidden costs of redefining pregnancy

I’m sure everyone has heard about installment #356,274,615,304,229 in the Pro-Lifers Don’t Really Care About Babies, Just Want to Oppress Women series: the Bush administration’s attempt to define pregnancy as beginning at fertilization. This would semantically turn every sexually active woman in America a serial abortionist and all hormonal contraceptives into abortifacients. Of course, that would make the preferred methods birth control for 40% of Americans exponentially harder to get and, as a result, cause a huge jump in the number of actual abortions. But that’s A-OK by pro-lifers, as long as it makes women rethink their uppity ideas about choosing their own partners, making plans for their lives, and not being at the mercy of their husbands.

But there’s another aspect to this. The proposal would protect medical professionals who refuse to refuse to perform any action that they personally believe constitutes abortion, whether scientific evidence backs them up or not. So I wonder, would some doctors, nurses, and pharmacists also refuse to give any woman of child-bearing age drugs known to increase the risk of miscarriage? After all, there’s no way to know if a woman is currently harboring a fertilized egg, or if she might do so at some point during the course of her prescription. Would general practitioners deny women antibiotics because some of them may cause miscarriage? Would dermatologists deny women Accutane or Retin-A even if they took all the required precautions? Would psychiatrists deny women antidepressants, since they can cause birth defects and high blood pressure, increasing the risk of fetal death or dangerously premature labor?

This last particularly bothers me. Women are already twice as likely as men to suffer a depressive episode at some point in their lives, and making it more difficult for them to get access to antidepressants would have wide-ranging but difficult-to-measure effects. Depressed women may feel unmotivated at work, leading to their not fighting for promotions and raises or even dropping out of the workforce, increasing both the wage gap and the number of women and children living in poverty. Because women are still usually the primary caregivers for dependents, their depression would also negatively affect the lives of children and the elderly, probably also causing higher rates of depression among those groups. Depressed people are less likely to take care of their health, and depression can make preexisting conditions worse, which is especially dangerous for women, who are already significantly less likely than men to be covered by an employer’s health insurance, a gap that would only increase as women who could no longer successfully control their own fertility left the workforce to bear and raise children. Furthermore, most employees of the service sector, which makes up about 80% of our economy, are women, so as mental and physical illness, and unexpected pregnancy and parenthood reduce their presence in the workforce, our economy would deteriorate even further. And a worsening American economy means less foreign aid to countries that rely on it, which, like all poverty issues, would disproportionately impact women and children. Extremely poor women or depressed women, both here and abroad, may be forced to engage in or be more easily coerced into risky sexual practices, which help spread HIV/AIDS.

I could probably go on forever. My point, obviously, is that women’s issues—even those involving uteruses—are never “just” about women. Everyone pays the hidden costs of women’s oppression.


3 Responses

  1. I found your site through Shakesville — and I’m so impressed with this post. You’ve done a really lovely job of highlighting how oppressions are intertwined. Thanks for this thoughtful moment in my day.

  2. Thanks so much for the kind words.

  3. […] – bookmarked by 6 members originally found by ClearStyle on 2008-08-20 The hidden costs of redefining pregnancy https://bostonbrahmina.wordpress.com/?p=99 – bookmarked by 5 members originally found by […]

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