by Eleanor Goldfield
The recent news about the Trump administration’s attack on trans and non-binary rights (aka human rights) astonishingly claims a scientific foundation for their religious fascistic hatred and stupidity. It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so horrifically twisted to condemn more than a million people simply because you can’t imagine a world where someone makes their own choices about their own body, mind and identity. Meanwhile, invoking science to promote this agenda not only rings frighteningly in key with such anti-scientific drivel as eugenics, it boggles the mind that an administration so hostile towards the science of climate change, economics, medicine, education and more is now suddenly interested in using science as an ally. This new and sickening advancement in the hijacking of truth and human rights has terrifying potential. As noted by Amanda Kerri in a recent article , “You have to understand, this isn’t just going to force us into the wrong bathrooms; people will be able to deny us medical care, access to homeless shelters, the right to work and put food in our mouths.” To put it plainly, this denies people’s right to exist.
As a cis person, an ally, as an accomplice, I can not personally feel this anguish. Still, as a woman, I can feel with folks who see this administration cloaking itself in intellectual ideas far beyond its reach in order to justify oppression. Because it’s not the first time.
There was a piano in the lobby. I hadn’t noticed it before and although a nice addition to an otherwise droll and sterile waiting area, it seemed so out of place that I began to feel as though I had crossed over into a Big Lebowski- like dream sequence where at any moment a woman in a cheesy viking helmet might wander past carrying a bolling ball. Instead I was called to go fill out paperwork while the piano man played. As a local musician at the time, I really wanted to ask how he got that gig. But the woman with a clipboard waiting for me didn’t seem inclined to make time for my curiosity. After flipping through and signing what reminded me of pretentiously long and overly bureaucratic record contracts, I was escorted to a small curtained square in a large fluorescent-dyed room of the hospital. When I finally saw my doctor’s full-of-life face, I felt relieved and safe. They asked me to count backwards from 100. I’ve always found this odd since I was out about mid-way through 97. Being somewhat of a go-getter, I felt like I should’ve gotten to at least 90. Regardless, I woke up with absolutely no memory of the past few hours and a friendly nurse hovering over my bed asked me how I was feeling. I felt fine, if not groggy and rather hoping that I could just turn over and sleep some more. But alas, within an hour and a half, I was out the door and looking forward to a giant burger and milkshake from LA Cafe which I proceeded to devour while watching Disney movies. I can’t say whether this is the typical woman’s abortion experience. I think if nothing else, the piano in particular was rather unique. I do however know that the typical outcome is just as safe and successful as mine was.
“ One in three American women will have an abortion by the age of 45.” It is one of the safest and most common medical procedures performed in the United States. In fact, a 2014 study showed that having an abortion is actually safer than having dental surgeries. Furthermore, it’s significantly safer than actually having kids. This year, America’s Health Rankings reports that maternal mortality is now at a rate of 20.7 per 100,000 births. Abortion is at a rate of roughly 1 per 100,000. To further compare, the risk of death from penicillin is at 2 per 100,000 injections. To suggest to women that abortions are life threatening while encouraging them to give birth is like telling someone they may get hit by a bus if they stand at the bus stop, and then encouraging them to stand in the middle of traffic. And yet this is precisely what more and more religious zealotry centers (disguised as clinics) are peddling. Before long, they may even have direct federal funding to not only lie to women about our health but to promote childbirth while blacklisting contraception education and resources.
Title X is a $280 million federally funded program that among many other things, provides birth control for low-income women without health insurance. Title X also funds wellness exams, cervical and breast exams, testing and treatment for STDs and contraception education. Important to note: it does not provide federal funds for abortions. That being said, contraception education and the proliferation of birth control are more than enough to irk the religious right. Because if women have those, their sacred missionary position as brood mares for the state is threatened. Enter the Protect Life Rule : a new set of regulations that would only “support clinics whose sole form of pregnancy prevention are fertility planning methods that rely on women tracking their periods and refraining from sex at certain particularly fertile times of their menstrual cycle.” So clinics that provide abortion services or birth control – from patches to pills to condoms – would be exempt from receiving federal funds under the new and regressive Title X. In terms of real life impact, that would mean that the nearly one million unintended pregnancies a year that Title X currently prevents wouldn’t be prevented. It would mean that these women and others would be dumped into an already growing expanse of reproductive health deserts where zealots in lab coats suggest that women try a combination of abstinence and detailed record keeping – what the religious yahoos like to call “natural family planning.”
Many of you know this by a different name: the rhythm method. It’s the least effective form of birth control by far, if you can even really call it birth control. It’s based on the woman’s ovulation cycles – the idea being that in order to avoid pregnancy, don’t have sex when the woman is most fertile. So first off, say goodbye to that spontaneous afternoon sex! Secondly and more importantly, this method is built on the fembot fallacy that women ovulate at the same time every month like a fucking kitchen egg timer – almost literally. Spoiler alert, most of us don’t. Most women don’t ovulate or have their periods at the exact same time or for the same duration every month. The ones that do, incidentally, are usually on birth control. But remember we’re not doing that – because Jesus. Instead, those who want to use this method are told to leave a buffer, sometimes of up to 10 days, so as to be on the safe side in avoiding pregnancy. My modern libido and I say screw that. Way back in the day when you only had a choice between goat intestine condoms and abstinence, I can see why women would have chosen to abstain from vaginal sex for an extra 10 days – all the while rejoicing that much like condoms, sex toys have a rich and very long history – pun intended. But we don’t live in ancient Greece, or Rome or the 1700s. We live in a time when women can have access to a wide array of birth control that allows them to decide how, when and if they’d like to use their bodies for child-bearing. But again, this modern and scientific paradigm doesn’t work with the theocratic regime platform of women being brood mares for the state. Separation of church and state, you say? Sorry, not familiar.
Meanwhile, as more and more clinics across the country close their doors due to absurd regulations and pointed religious zealotry, businesses like Obria are flourishing. Obria Medical Clinics recently launched a $240 million marketing campaign to bring women into their brainwashing – I mean family planning clinics. In a grotesque form of irony that is clearly lost on the shit wits running the show, Obria maintains that their goal is to give women choice. Right now, the only choice we have is to go a place like Planned Parenthood. You know, it’s that awful place that provides everything from breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment to, as their name suggests, family planning advice. In other words, it’d be like saying that you really don’t like that the only place you can borrow a book is the public library. Why isn’t there another place that only lends out the bible and strongly worded pamphlets on how masturbating will make you go blind? We are truly a society stunted by our lack of choice.
The ire directed towards Planned Parenthood doesn’t just stem from business competition or even religious differences. It’s personal. You may recall the case from a couple of years ago where anti-abortion activists cut together a shitty video which tried to frame Planned Parenthood for making bank off of selling aborted baby parts. The ploy then backfired when the man behind the videos, a David Daleiden, was indicted for “tampering with government documents, a felony, and so ironically, the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor.” Fast forward to today and guess who’s on Obria’s national advisory board ?! Amateur film editor and full-of-shit sexist bigoted ass hat David Daleiden! He’s really moved on and up since the days of being publicly shamed for a laughable attempt at post production. Who else is on this national advisory board soon to be flooded with federal funds for governing women’s lives and bodies? Oh, just a couple of bishops from the Catholic church. And why not? Assaulting and raping children is one way of abstaining from consensual sex with an adult woman that could lead to pregnancy. Truly, the Catholic church, and Christianity in general – of which 7 of the 12 Obria advisory board members list an affiliation to in their bios – has a long history of lying to and oppressing women. Death by stoning, rape, gang rape, selling into slavery, sex trafficking are all sacred practices in that old book of Christian mythology. The modernized version of this might be a little less fire, brimstone and sex slavery, but you can still see the family resemblance. On their website , Obria notes that they do not perform abortion procedures. They say that several times. They also repeatedly note that an abortion is not a risk-free procedure while making sure to list all the risks and side effects that, as we’ve already covered, are less likely to snuff your life light than a shot of penicillin. These zealotry centers – because I refuse to call them clinics – are sending women with little to no understanding of their reproductive health towards motherhood or at the very least full term pregnancy with nothing but well wishes and a handbook on how to be a good and obedient wife. Moreover, as anyone who’s swirled this around in the mental blender more than once knows, it’s hugely illogical that a group so against abortions is also so against birth control and contraceptive education. The one thing that statistically, factually, real-world-and-not-some-god-or-goblin-bullshit produces less abortions than telling horny people to abstain is birth control. Studies show that of those one million unintended pregnancies avoided by Title X funded contraception education and resources, more than 300,000 would have ended in abortion.
Also in the well-stocked caverns of the religious irony department is the issue of money. As most religious right wingers also worship the almighty dollar, there’s the fact that contraception programs save wads of cash that could then be spent on killing other babies thousands of miles away. As Kami Geoffray, CEO of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas noted in a recent interview , “We know that every dollar we spend on Title X saves $7 across other government programs, including Medicaid. We avert Medicaid births very frequently by
[getting contraception for] clients and preventing unplanned pregnancies.” Yet if you ask Obria, birth control is bad because it’s not effective. Oh and also diseases.
According to Obria, using an IUD ( the most effective form of birth control ) could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. This is kind of like saying that if you go for a walk, you could get struck by lightning. It’s not completely false, it’s just so absurdly unlikely, you would never think to mention it to a friend who announces an afternoon stroll. By contrast, according to the CDC , the leading cause of PID is actually untreated STDs. And as science would have it, the best way to avoid STDs is to use protection.
While Obria pedals lies to predominantly poor and marginalized women, actual clinics continue to close. Meanwhile, more and more places like Obria are opening, a trend we could see a lot more of come these Title X changes. Ultimately there are two big problems here. One: education and the free flow of information. The fact that girls and women could get pregnant without ever even understanding how it happened or how it could have been prevented is fucking disgusting. The fact that they’d then be lead into a place that tells them that they’ll likely bleed out if they have an abortion is equally disgusting. Because the very sad truth of the matter is that abortions will never end, and botched abortions with coat hangers will cause hemorrhaging. Women desperately drinking bleach and drain-o will cause serious medical emergencies. Women have and will continue to take charge of our bodies in whatever ways we can – even if that means hurting or even killing ourselves to do so. Similarly, transgender people will continue to exist, even if you do not recognize them. They will continue to be even if you try to strip their rights and banish them to the fringes of your fascist state. If history shows us anything, it is that oppression never results in the eradication of self-determination and self-respect. That being said, it can clearly maim and mangle them.
Our job as community members, regardless of gender, is to first off ensure the spread of scientifically-backed information. By this I mean actual science, not the “alternative science” that denies human rights to people based on religious texts and a total lack of education, empathy and common sense. The spread of information is something we can do immediately. If you see a place like Obria opening up in your town, hand out flyers on the sidewalk outside with clearly noted information about contraception and abortion. Amplify the stories, experiences and asks of transgender people so as to crush the bogeyman bullshit projected onto them. Host meetups where teens and above can come to learn about reproductive health and the birth control options available. Host meetups discussing gender identity and the constrictive and destructive paradigm of our binary system. Teach kids and above that gender is fluid and that we all have the right to identify with and portray whatever gender(s) we want. Protect and support the clinics that provide not only abortions but all reproductive health services; the ones that don’t just preach the rhythm method and getting down on your knees for a misogynist fairy-tale villain. Protect and support trans rights groups. Host a fundraiser. Get creative. There is no shortage of ideas on how to lift each other up, how to protect each other. And whoever you are, however you identify, we all have to do this now. This state-sponsored religious extremist oppression of trans and non-binary people, women and our bodies is something that affects everyone. If we live under a theocratic fascist state, so do you.