Plan B — the morning-after pill — soon available over the counter

By Caitlin Kelly

English: A woman swats away the stork which ha...
English: A woman swats away the stork which has brought her her child. Caption: “And the villain still pursues her”. (a turn-of-the-20th-century postcard). Русский: Женщина отбивается от аиста, который принес ей ее ребенка. Надпись: «Злодей по-прежнему преследует ее». (открытка на рубеже ХХ века). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was debating whether or not to blog this major news, but decided to do so anyway:

The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block
over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after
contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with
political repercussions for President Obama.

The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able
to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a

The essential issue, which never changes for women, is control of our bodies and their reproductive ability.

Our lives, in short.

The most fortunate of women have a few choices, many of them culturally pre-determined:

Never have sex unless or until you want to become pregnant

Never have sex unless or until you are married and have a partner to help you raise a child

Never have sex

Have an abortion

Put your unwanted child(ren) up for adoption

Many of us have, or will have, a sexual life beyond the boundaries of marriage or the explicit, specific desire to become someone’s parent. For some of us, it may result in an unplanned pregnancy — or pregnancy scare.

Ready access to Plan B means any woman who fears she might face an unplanned pregnancy has the option to forestall that terrifyingly, permanently life-changing event.

It is not an abortion. Plan B’s exact method is unclear — except that it does what it promises. It makes sure you will not become pregnant.

Those of us who delay marriage — or may never even choose it — and wish to have a sexual life without the result of children must have access to safe, affordable, accessible choices beyond the Religious Right’s favorite method — snapping our knees safely shut from puberty to menopause.

Managing one’s sexual impulses and desires, let alone those of our male partners/husbands, is sometimes challenge enough. STDs are rampant and add another layer of worry or concern, as they should.

Then there is the matter of one’s fertility, for some a coveted gift, for others a burden. Shit happens. Condoms slide off, or break or, yes, sometimes never get used at all.

And I am speaking only of consensual sex, not the many women suffering rape and its aftermath, emotional and physical.

Plan B is a much simpler choice — on ever level — than abortion for many women.

This is huge step for American women’s reproductive rights, and one that’s only — really — about 40 years later than what Canadian women took for granted when I was in college and needed access to Plan B. There, it was an easy, quick, non-political issue.

I moved to the U.S. when I was 30, still unmarried. I have been nauseated, enraged and wearied ever since by the relentless, ferocious, get-the-the-fuck-away-from-my-uterus political battles in this country over when, where, or even if a woman should have ready, safe, affordable access to birth control information, birth control and/or abortion.

It’s my body.

I do with it — tats, piercings, hair color, shape and size, clothing (or lack of it) — as I wish.

Those who  remain utterly determined to control and manage women’s sexuality, by trying to demonize and/or politicize our most personal and private decisions, are anathema to me.

She Killed Eight Of Her Babies — And The Husband Had No Clue

Sleep Like A Baby
Image by peasap via Flickr

This is the story in France right now, with the BBC reporting there are already 40 journalists in the tiny rural town of Villers-au-Tertre, near the Belgian border.

The woman, a nurse in her 40s who has two daughters and grand-children, confessed to killing eight of her own babies between 1989 and 1996, but only two corpses have been found at their current home. Police suspect she might have brought the other corpses with her when they moved in.

The woman, mordbidly obese, managed to keep every pregnancy secret from her husband.

Not sure if this story is more a cautionary tale against morbid obesity or abortion versus infanticide.

Scared To Death Of Giving Birth? A Tokophobe Tells Her Story

Turns out I am not the only woman who has always found the idea of giving birth pretty terrifying; actress Helen Mirren, who has also never had children, admits to a similar fear.

Jessie Hewitson tells her story in The Guardian:

Jessie HewitsonJessie Hewitson, who has an extreme fear of giving birth, is now pregnant herself.

Photograph: Sarah Lee

I’m lying in hospital, shaking with fear. There are no familiar faces, only doctors and midwives hovering above me, their mouths moving silently. The contractions keep coming, and I’m horribly confused. How can I be in labour when I would never have allowed myself to get pregnant?

Welcome to my subconscious, which regularly reminds me of my terror of childbirth. The nightmares started in my teens, when I decided I could never cope with giving birth; the pain would be intolerable. Since then, the merest glimpse of a heavily pregnant woman has filled me with searing panic – my hands shake, my heart races.

I had grown used to the idea that I would not have children. But when friend after friend started a family, seeing them with their babies led to a brief suspension of terror, and six months ago I got pregnant. At first, it didn’t seem too worrying – after all, I had the best part of a year to go – but the anxiety has grown and grown.

Her story, by yesterday, had drawn — not surprisingly — more than 187 comments and comments were closed off.

I didn’t (which I normally would) even read them, as I’m not sure there would have been much compassion in that pile ‘o opinions.

There are certainly few more divisive issues than women who choose to have children and those of us who do not. For people who want kids, and they remain an overwhelming majority, those of us who don’t, for any reason, can seem like mutants. How can we not?

There is no rational way to explain why being pregnant, and/or giving birth, might seem frightening when for so many women, certainly those who are infertile, it remains their fondest wish.

The truth is that women, even in places like the U.S. and Britain, do occasionally die in childbirth. Every woman I know who has given birth has said it’s never what she expected and certainly a time of total surrender to the forces of your body and the child’s — let alone a medically invasive/managed procedure in lawsuit-averse American hospitals.

Here’s something really scary to think about, a post on a stunning rise in California’s maternal mortality — mothers dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter — from fellow True/Slant writer April Peveteaux.


One usung hero, who remains the patron saint of labor — Ignaz Semmelweiss, a Hungarian physician who, in 1847, discovered the cause of puerperal fever, which killed tremendous numbers of mothers at the time as doctors moved — their hands unwashed — from one surgery to a laboring woman to help her deliver.

Don't Want Your Baby? Utah's New Law Would Criminalize 'Miscarriage'

A pregnant woman holds her ballot before votin...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Because a woman’s body is never hers.

A new Utah bill would make it a crime for a woman to try and terminate her pregnancy through deliberate self-harm.

From The New York Times:

But critics say legislation inspired by an unusual, perhaps even freakish criminal case, could open up a vast frontier around the question of intent and responsibility and give local prosecutors huge new powers to inquire about a woman’s intentions toward her unborn child.

For example, if a pregnant woman gets into a vehicle, goes on a wild ride way over the speed limit without wearing a seatbelt and crashes and the fetus is killed, is she a reckless driver? Or is she a reckless mother-to-be who criminally ignored the safety of her fetus?

Under the bill, a woman guilty of criminal homicide of her fetus could be punished by up to life in prison.

“So many things can happen, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder — that’s what’s very dangerous about this legislation,” said Marina Lowe, the legislative and policy counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, which has urged Mr. Herbert to veto the bill.

Some women’s advocacy groups say the bill simply codifies what many states are already doing, using existing laws about the unborn to prosecute apparently errant mothers.

Just last month in Iowa, for example, a pregnant woman who fell down the stairs at home confided to emergency workers that she was not sure she really wanted to have her child. Though the woman did not immediately miscarry from the fall, she was arrested anyway under a state law that makes it a criminal act to harm a fetus. She was released after two days in jail, and the charges were dropped.

At least 38 states have laws against fetal homicide, generally intended to create additional penalties when a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed. And two states, Delaware and New York, also have laws specifically making self-abortion a crime….

Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit group based in New York, said the focus on the child obscured the bleak story of the teenager, who also deserves, she said, empathy from the world, and the law.

“Almost nobody is speaking for her,” Ms. Paltrow said. “Why would a young woman get to a point of such desperation that she would invite violence against herself? Anybody that desperate is not going to be deterred by this statute.”

Here’s the tricky part.

That “u” in the word uterus? Even in the word fetus?

It’s not the same “u” as in “any of your f——g business.”

Leave our bodies alone.

Fifteen Abortions Later, Her Memoir Is Born

LONDON - MAY 20: A lady bears her stomach with...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Can you imagine terminating, or accepting someone who did, 15 healthy pregnancies? Irene Vilar made that choice beginning as a student at Syracuse University while dating a much older professor, and her decisions are the basis for her new, and highly controversial memoir. She is now the mother of two young children.

The Washington Post writes:

That Irene Vilar embraces the role of motherhood is a grand incongruity, a mind-blower. She has just published a precariously nuanced, intellectually ambitious and unnervingly frank memoir titled “Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict.” In the book, Vilar writes about a “shameful” period in her life — before she became a mother — when she says she underwent 15 abortions in 15 years. What she now sees as her “nightmare” began with a teenage affair with a Syracuse University professor who was 34 years her senior.

The almost unimaginable claim — vetted by her publisher’s attorneys, who say they have been able to confirm all but two procedures done in now-defunct clinics — places Vilar at the outer extreme of the phenomenon of multiple abortions. It has also made her a sudden target of blogospheric vitriol and disapproval.

I haven’t yet read the book and am not sure I will. Not because I disapprove of her choice — it was legally hers to make, and ethically and morally hers to live with — but because the decision to end any pregnancy is deeply personal. There’s no doubt in my mind that Vilar chose to end the lives of 15 potential children. As much as her choice(s) may horrify many, if abortion is legal and a woman has the right to choose — the meaning of pro-choice — it leaves her free to make choices that many of us would abhor.

The First Amendment and the skills and passion of the ACLU are sacred ground for many. If the essential principle is freedom, what are its limits?