9- Taking our bodies back

By H. Sabet

Squiggling notes in my 2019 Slingshot Organizer, I notice that this Tuesday, January 22nd is the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade’s decision to legalize abortion in the US. Ironically enough, it is also a day that I dread its overturn. After Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last fall, the Supreme Court had the fifth vote it needed to push the anti-abortion movement forward, allowing states to restrict abortions further, and essentially dismantling Roe v. Wade. Just weeks after Kavanaugh was sworn in, states had already started passing state constitutional amendments banning abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Many states, especially in the south, have already wiped out abortion clinics and services to near extinction. Currently, there are six states with only 1 clinic and ten to twelve states with only 2 or 3 clinics. Many people seeking abortions are forced to travel out of state and wait several days to complete the procedure—a costly and arduous undertaking.

Though 1 in 4 women in the US will have an abortion by the age of 45, abortion services in the US are shrinking for those who need it most. Regardless of one’s procreative preferences or lack thereof, access to abortion, care, and contraceptives is more than just a matter of reproductive freedom. As Robin Marty so perfectly elucidates in her new book Handbook for a Post-Roe America1, we need a reproductive justice framework that “goes far beyond just reproductive health and rights to highlight the intersections of race, class, gender, socioeconomic status, immigration status, religion, and the other intersections of women and people’s lives.” At this critical moment, we must work to create a framework that not only pre-emptively protects our rights, but also expands rights for every single person in this cuntry.

New York legislators have set an example by passing the Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday—the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The bill essentially ensures the full protections guaranteed under Roe, decriminalizes abortions in the state, and closes loopholes for abortions needed later in pregnancy. Though all options for prevention and termination of pregnancy should be available to all women and people regardless of identity, the reality of the moment is that even if you’re lucky enough to access abortion care, abortions can still suck. They can be expensive, emotionally draining, painful, and often disrupt our work and personal lives.

Taking our bodies into our own brains

Given that a majority of abortions in the US in past years involved women who were not using birth control, contraception can be a key predictor of whether a woman will have an abortion. Many of these women who had abortions had concerns with contraceptive methods, or did not think they would get pregnant (Guttmacher Institute)2. The pressure for women to choose, afford, attain, and sustain contraception can be a massive and sometimes insurmountable barrier to reproductive freedom. This responsibility can and should be shared by both/all partners, and selection of contraception should be mutually feasible and beneficial. Though the relatively recent advent of birth control has empowered reproductive freedom, people’s reliance on it has potentially distanced us from our bodies natural cycles.

Because of this distance and our society’s penchant to avoid or vilify women’s cycles/moon time, rather than revel and support women’s health and comfort, many people remain fuzzy on the specifics around menstruation, ovulation, and fertility. Yes, even women, young girls, and maybe even you—it’s ok, no judgment—could use a refresher. Let’s take our bodies back through knowledge.

Here’s a breakdown ya’ll:

*An egg is usually released ONCE in each cycle. The egg lives 12-24 hours. This is ovulation.
*Depending on your regularity (the number of days between each cycle), ovulation usually occurs about 14 days before the start of your moon time/menstruation. Tracking basal temperature every morning, discharge, and other symptoms can help determine the day of ovulation. There are also home ovulation tests that you can get at many pharmacies.

*Sperm can live up to 5-6 days in the uterus, and can fertilize an egg during this time

What does this mean?

A woman is fertile for as long as six days before ovulation, and two or three days after ovulation, a total of seven to eight days of fertility each month. (optionsforsexualhealth.org)

[Insert visual/chart]

What can we do?

*The Slingshot Organizer has a dope af Mynstrual Calendar that helps you track your moon time/mynstrual cycle by recording the first day of each cycle. It gives an awesome visual that clearly shows the number of days between each cycle, your regularities and irregularities.

*Even though we all want to hate phones forever, there are many apps that help track your cycle, predict ovulation, moon time, symptoms, mood, and some that allow your partner to track symptoms and events as well.

*Even though we all want to hate Amazon forever, Amazon sells Plan B/emergency contraception—starting at $8/pill.

*Donate money or miles to women seeking abortion services.

*Provide alternatives

Alternatives to Contraceptives

Though hormonal contraceptives are widely used, they are not the only option. If you don’t want to take on the pretty huge responsibility, health risks, financial strain, and mental burden of birth control in the form of hormonal patches, pills, injections, alien probes inserted into your vagina, there are other options. There is the copper IUD, a nonhormonal alien probe-looking thing that can provide contraception for up to ten years. There’s also withdrawal and condoms, though not always dependable. Supplementing withdrawal or condoms with the use of FAM, or Fertility Awareness Method, can increase dependability. The Fertility Awareness Method is free and safe. It can also connect you with your own body in a way that may enhance your life in unexpected ways. It can deepen communication, cooperation, and responsibility between partners. FAM’s effectiveness relies heavily on regularity of moon times, willingness and ability to track symptoms accurately, and the use of consistent supplementary birth control as needed. This is where withdrawal, condoms, and emergency contraception can be imperative. The book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is an awesome resource for learning more about FAM!

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: None of the birth control methods mentioned (except for condoms) protect you from STIs. This is a very real thing, so if you would like to avoid STIs, it is crucial that you talk with partners about their last partner(s), their last STI test, and maybe even get tested together! Romantical date at the STI clinic—shown to help build trust and empower individuals and partners.

Why does any of this matter to me?

Even if you feel that this information does not directly matter to you, exploring these ideas, advocating state legislature, and researching more can be a way to support the people around you, to embolden your fellow comrades and community. Access to abortion, care and contraceptives is a class and race issue, and beyond. People with privilege will always be able to find help when they need it. What can you do to help?


 Seven Stories Pres, January 15, 2019


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