The governor of Missouri has organized a task force to examine “how abortions affect women” — and unsurprisingly, he’s stacked it full of anti-choice activists. There’s not a single pro-choice person on the team.
While Gov. Blunt’s team is looking at abortion, perhaps they should examine pregnancy, too and report on how that impacts women. I mean, should we really be encouraging this?:
Our typical patient becomes aware that he has contracted the disease when he experiences extreme fatigue, accompanied by nausea and vomiting. These symptoms diminish after a few months, as his abdomen begins to distend. Pressure on his bladder requires that he urinate frequently. He feels hot and sweaty, and has headaches and dizziness. As his digestive tract slows, he becomes constipated and suffers heartburn and hemorrhoidal symptoms. His weight increases by twenty per cent, with most of the gain centered in his abdomen, altering his balance and causing strain and discomfort in his lower back. His breasts, ankles, and feet swell, and his legs cramp. His mobility, his sleep, and even his breathing are impaired as his abdomen expands to twice its normal circumference. Stretch marks appear on his thighs, chest and abdomen. The ligaments in his hips and pelvis soften, and he develops sciatica, causing tingling and numbness.
After nine months, he feels the onset of intense, intermittent pain, accompanied by diarrhea and nausea. His pain increases and accelerates over approximately 15 hours as his genital opening, usually the size of a pencil lead, is stretched to a diameter of 10 centimeters. Surgical incisions are used to facilitate the opening of his genitals. His pain may require general anesthesia, but usually can be managed through other methods, such as injections in the fluid surrounding his spinal cord. He is encouraged to reject pain medication entirely so he can remain alert to assist in the treatment of his disease. The incisions and tears in his genitalia are closed with internal and external sutures. His breasts continue to swell, and his nipples become sore. Healing of his genitals takes about six weeks, during which time his pain may be relieved by sitz baths, heat lamps, ice packs, and anesthetic sprays. Finally, he has a heavy bloody discharge from his genitals, lasting several weeks.
Results may vary. Our typical patient is fortunate that he does not develop diabetes (a risk of about 3 per cent); dangerously high blood pressure (a risk of about 7%); clinical depression (a risk of about 15%); or require open abdominal surgery (a risk of about 25%). Even with abdominal surgery, he runs only a minor risk of death (.02%).
The “should we be encouraging this” question is sarcastic, obviously. The point isn’t that pregnancy is terrible and we should all avoid it; rather, it’s to illustrate that reproductive choices are not all walks in the park, and pregnancy in particular is painful, physically trying, and potentially health-threatening. Pregnancy can be great, but it should be entered into voluntarily. And all the hand-wringing over the effects of abortion is a smokescreen for wanting to control women’s bodies and force them to give birth against their will. If we actually want to take a look at how reproductive choices effect women, I’m all for it — but let’s not pretend that abortion is the end-all be-all of reproductive choice, and that pregnancy is a simple, easy process that is always less physically and emotionally scarring than termination.
As Jill Morrison, senior council for the National Women’s Law Center writes:
Although the “findings” of the abortion task force are preordained (abortion=bad), wouldn’t it be more accurate and honest to give the women of Missouri a full picture of the relative risks and benefits of abortion and its alternative? If the task force isn’t willing to do this, claiming that its goal is the betterment of women’s health just doesn’t pass the laugh test.
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