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It takes a quarter million dollars to raise one child.

On Pulling Weeds and Fighting Back: How (and Why) to Protect Abortion Rights

I’ve been gardening a lot in the month of May. And pulling weeds.

So. Many. Weeds. And none of them the fun kind.

I was struck by how suddenly they appeared. In the space of a few days, my empty flower bed was suddenly full of wild violets, dandelion, creeping charlie, and worse things. Prickly things. Toxic things. Deeply rooted things. Weeds that can grow so powerfully they rip apart concrete.

… also whatever that one plant is that smells like old cum. Ugh. Weeds.

The thing is, they didn’t really appear out of nowhere.

I knew they were coming.

They left their seeds and their taproots behind last autumn. Their seeds stayed quiet and waited for conditions to be right. When the planet tilted in their favor, and the sun shone warmly down on them, and the snowmelt watered them, they began to unfurl, out of sight, under the crust of the earth.

I’ve felt the warm air and stomped through the puddles left by the rain. Even though I can’t see them, I have always known that they were there. I’ve watched my flower beds like one watches a door they know is about to open.

When they finally make their move and show themselves, I am ready.

The recent changes to the state laws of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah regarding abortion and reproductive rights shocked a lot of people. Suddenly, everything was happening everywhere, all at once.

But these new laws didn’t appear out of nowhere.

I knew they were coming. And so did a lot of other people.

A long time coming

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 hit a lot of people as a gut-rending feeling of despair. And there were a smorgasbord of reasons for that, but today we’re going to focus on just one of them: a lot of people with uteruses (uteri?) got really scared about the future of their autonomy.

Demand for IUDs (a long-term birth control) rose by 22% in the weeks following the 2016 presidential election. It’s probably spiking again right now.

Those people know that we are standing on soil that is richly sown with countless evil weeds. Scientific illiteracy—that superstition and misinformation be allowed equal seats at the table with logic and reason. Paternalism—that limiting another person’s choices is benevolent. A strange form of ageism—that idealized hypothetical children deserve priority over living, complicated adults. Moral imperialism—that some feel entitled to impose their personal opinions on others. Erotophobia—that sex merits punishment.

And of course misogyny, that old chestnut.

Choices

Criminalizing abortions today requires a conservative Supreme Court. It’s the sunlight and the water that will make these weeds rise and bear fruit:

  • People dying from botched abortions
  • People dying from pregnancy complications
  • Rape victims incubating their trauma
  • Children with bellies swollen with responsibilities they aren’t prepared for
  • People who’ve miscarried met with criminal suspicion rather than compassion
  • Babies dying from medical conditions incompatible with life
  • Families bankrupting themselves on ill-timed children
  • Children who aren’t given the resources they need and deserve
  • Human beings used like livestock for breeding

The worst part is that none of this suffering even accomplishes the stated goal. Legal or not, the abortion rate stays flat regardless.

Wealthy women will be able to dodge this by traveling or choosing to relocate to a friendlier state. Poor women will not. And it will lead to wider wealth gaps, higher crime rates, greater reliance on social safety nets, and the continued degradation ofwages and workers’ rights.

The average American child costs a quarter million dollars before age eighteen. The idea that any person or family should be forced to make such a financial commitment—or several such commitments—for something they don’t passionately want is fundamentally repugnant to us.

We mostly write about money and careers on Bitches Get Riches. It’s not because we love them so much we wanna kiss ‘em on the mouth. It’s because in the society that we have today, money and careers are the best tools we have to attain complete independence and autonomy.

We believe that each individual is an expert in their own happiness. And given a modest level of financial stability, people will have the freedom to make the choices that make their lives feel deliciously worth living.

Limiting abortion access—much less criminalizing it—stands in direct opposition to these values.

So what do we do? How do we stop this endless cycle? We propose two things.

The short term

We’re proceeding with the understanding that limiting reproductive rights—particularly access to safe and legal abortion—is not only bad for individual people, but bad for public health and gender equality. These things are not up for debate. (Literally, we will not debate you. Because you are wrong. See McFall v. Shimp and Planned Parenthood v. Casey if you’re curious as to why.)

What’s left to discuss is how best to protect reproductive rights and their access for all Americans.

In the short term, we must weed. Anyone who values the dignity of human life, of happiness, of personal sovereignty needs to get down on their hands and knees and rip this shit up root and stem. Here’s how.

  • Stop framing this fight a women’s issue. It reinforces the idea that women are solely responsible for sex, pregnancy, and childrearing. Twice as many sterilizations are performed on women as vasectomies are on men, even though the vasectomy is less invasive, dangerous, and costly. Issues exclusive to women are easy for men to tune out—and this conversation most definitely includes them and needs them.
  • Don’t leave people out. Abortion access touches race, class, and gender. Avoid reinforcing a gender binary that excludes trans and nonbinary folks. (Although I’ll still use the terms women and men sometimes, just “people” is better.) Remember that poverty and systemic racism make abortion access more difficult for some people than others, and give space for those voices. You may be “safe” for now based on your circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you get to sit on the sidelines.
  • Don’t replicate efforts. Abortion is still legal in all fifty states, and that is solely due to the efforts of persistent people with serious expertise, dedication, and resources. Don’t go out and try to start your own thing—be humble and join up.
  • Don’t spread hysteria or misinformation. Science always matters, but in issues related to the intersection of anatomy and ethics, it’s especially important to be accurate. Hold yourself to a high standard. Don’t waste time honoring bad faith arguments. Don’t share shit that’s not accurate and helpful.
  • Donate time and money to established organizations that are already doing good work. These are the ones I’ve heard good things about (please add more in the comments):
  • Fucking vote. Presidential elections are important—but if it’s the only one you vote in, you’re part of the problem.

This list was greatly informed by several excellent reproductive justice advocates on social media. The comments section is wide open for more thoughts, suggestions, and resources.

The long term

Allow me to return to my tortured seed metaphor. The long game is to get those seeds out of the ground, ya? Crises like this come from hatred, disrespect, misunderstanding, and ignorance. Systemic inequality supports those evils and lengthens their lifespan in our culture.

So many issues touch reproductive freedom. If you’re passionate or knowledgeable about some interrelated issue, keep at it. You are working to positively change the culture, and that is the ultimate long-term goal.

Henry VIII chopped off six wife heads to get the male heir he wanted in the fifteenth century. (I know he didn’t behead them all, don’t @ me.) It’s only as of 2013 that Britain changed their laws to do away with this preference for male heirs. It wasn’t the arbitrary, altruistic epiphany of one powerful person. The change was made necessary when the culture around the law had transformed to the point of demanding it. Scientists and artists and educators and economists changed the culture, piece by piece, until the shitty idea just didn’t fit anywhere anymore.

(Just don’t ask me why they’ve still got a monarchy at all. As far as I can tell, it’s to give tabloids something to do. But my president was elected by the Electoral College, so who am I to throw stones at the glass houses of the good people of Britain? Love your clotted cream, it definitely goes on top, Cornish ’til I die.)

Issues like healthcare, housing, childcare, schools, pay gaps, workers’ rights, and representation all touch issues related to reproductive justice. Make progress in any one of them, and you erode the space left for sexist, racist, classist ideas to grow.

That’s why we run this blog! We want to share the wisdom that makes lives better. The choice of what to do with that life is yours and yours alone.

Friendly reminder

We really haven’t written much about the intersection of money and reproductive health (well, there is our classic Blood Money: Surviving Your Period While Poor). We’re gonna fix that! So please expect more in the future.

We would love to hear some future topic requests. And if you have additional resources that might be helpful to our readers, especially those in affected states, please leave them in the comments below! We’re always blown away by the collective knowledge of the Bitch Nation.

If you’re a hater, move the fuck along.

This is our website, not a public fucking square. We do not have a quota of man on the street interviews to fill. We moderate comments with shameless despotic glee. So if you came here to sprinkle some “different perspective” fairy dust, save your eBreath. We will trundle your comment into a mine cart and send it flying into the darkest chasm of Khazad-dûm.

This blog is a resource for people who need more stability, confidence, freedom, and choices in their lives. To that end, safe, local, legal, affordable abortions and contraception are a non-negotiable cornerstone.

Liked it? Support us on Patreon!

25 thoughts to “On Pulling Weeds and Fighting Back: How (and Why) to Protect Abortion Rights”

  1. I have long admired you both, and now I heart you desperately. I’m signing up to support your patreon and one of those organizations you listed. Thank you for all of this!

    1. I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING, YA CRYBABY. Thank you so much. Queen Bethh, first of her name, long may she reign.

  2. Also want to mention that the conservative war against funding for birth control is a major problem for everyone who was prescribed “birth control” hormones as treatment for uterus-specific medical problems like endometriosis and PMDD. I can’t tell if conservatives are too narrow minded to comprehend that you can be celibate and use “birth control” to treat a medical problem, or if they’re deliberately trying to control women by denying any acknowledgement of medical conditions that aren’t relevant to men.

    If all the republican senators woke up tomorrow with endo growths in their digestive tract, it would be classed as a disability by the end of the day and funding would be pushed through on research for a treatment that doesn’t cause weight gain, depression, and loss of bone density by the end of the month.

    1. If I still got down on my knees and prayed before bed, I’d end every one with “…and thanks again for not giving me endometriosis.” I’ve always had verrrrry severe period pain–bad enough to vomit and faint. Plus one ruptured ovarian cyst, which hurt so much I couldn’t move and thought my appendix had ruptured. That gives me two reference point for how terrible endo might feel, and I do not require a third reference point. Thanks, I hate it.

      I just got off my birth control pill because I had an irregular heartbeat. My doctor (guess the gender!) said it had no source, and suggested no treatment options. I went off the pill and, yep, heartbeat went back to normal after two weeks! It was the gee dee Yaz! It feels like scientists got to a pill that prevented pregnancy and made titties a lil’ bigger and they high-fived each other and said “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!” What we don’t know about how non-cis-male bodies scares the shit out of me.

      Consider “off-label uses of birth control” added to the list!

  3. Hey Bitches! I love you ladies… as you know! I have commented most favourably on a number of occasions.
    Let me say this as a person who is a melange of “things”- woman, mother, scientist, doctor. Under dire circumstances, I agree, that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy (rape being the obvious one).
    On the other pole however, are ladies/gents who use abortion as a form of birth control and to this I say, “nay, nay”. Not OK. In so many ways, this is just outrightly irresponsible, and humans of sex-enjoying age need to act much more responsibly.
    Why?
    1. Because there are many excellent options to avoid an unwanted pregnancy and
    2. because you have started the miracle of a life, one which you should think very carefully about before snuffing it out like it were a spider crawling across your floor. Life is life. While medical science may grant you the option to eliminate it, you also have the obligation to avoid having to make that decision.

    1. Hi Leslie! We love you too. I thank you enriching the dialogue with your perspective, and for putting it very respectfully. I want to encourage you to think about a few of the things you said in a different way.

      1. “Abortion as a form of birth control.” As a scientist and a doctor, I’m sure you appreciate the value of real statistical data. So here’s a section from NAF’s research on this subject: “[It is a myth that] women are using abortion as a method of birth control. If abortion were used as a primary method of birth control, a typical woman would have at least two or three pregnancies per year — 30 or more during her lifetime. But most women who have abortions have had no previous abortions (52%) or only one previous abortion (26%). Considering that most women are fertile for over 30 years, and that birth control is not perfect, the likelihood of having one or two unintended pregnancies is very high.”

      I grant that it’s possible there are women out there who are regularly sexually active, never use any other form of contraception, and get 30 abortions over the course of her lifetime. But that person is vanishingly rare, and mostly acts as a straw man to suggest that women get abortions because they are stupid and lazy. Similar to Linda Taylor, the infamous “welfare queen” of the 1970s, using an imaginary or exceedingly rare person to demonize a public good is a strategy that works. And even if these women existed, our perspective is that 30 abortions would still be her right.

      2. “There are many excellent options to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.” Again, as a doctor and a scientist, it’s my hope that you’re aware of the fact that ALL forms of birth control have failure rates. Those failure rates can be surprisingly high. Take oral contraceptive, for instance. For every 100 couples that rely on the pill, 9 will get pregnant in a given year. (That’s according to PP.) I personally know someone who had an IUD installed after two children, only to somehow end up with baby #3 a year later. I’ve heard stories of men impregnating their partners after a vasectomy. There are lots of great methods of birth control, yes, but none of them work 100% of the time. People shouldn’t have to go through a horrific trauma (like rape) to justify its use. Its use is justified by its statistical necessity.

      3. “You have started the miracle of life.” So, the language you use in this last bit is verrrrrry charged and dramatic. I get it, it’s a weighty issue. But you’re again implying that some (many?) women who get abortions do so casually, thoughtlessly, maybe even cruelly. *I would encourage you to think deeply about where that idea comes from.* Do you personally know anyone who’s had an abortion, and then texted you afterwards to say “PHEW glad I remembered my appointment, almost forgot that today’s the day I SNUFF that zygote out!” I mean, I definitely don’t.

      35% of all women of reproductive age are estimated to have had abortions. If you personally know 100 women, I bet 35 of them haven’t confided their abortion story to you (or possibly anyone else). Our culture has a long, deep history of teaching us to assume judgmental stances, and mistaking them for principled ones. But we’ve made extraordinary strides to change that. We’ve substantially shifted conversations around addiction (from deadbeats to people struggling with a disease) and rape (from “what were you wearing” to “time’s up”). I hope I live to see a day where women can talk about their abortions without being burdened with the listener’s preconceived notion that they are don’t value human life.

      Those are the three points I would encourage you to think deeply about! Honestly, it’s okay to not love the idea of abortions. It’s okay not to want to get one yourself. It’s enough to acknowledge that they are necessary and should be safe, affordable, local, and legal. But I think if you challenge yourself to reset your thinking, and change that assumption that women get abortions for no reason/bad reasons/frivolous reasons/selfish reasons, you’ll find that super rewarding. Reading some first-hand accounts from people who’ve had abortions might be a good place to start, especially if they talk about how it feels to know that society is judging them. This one always comes to my mind: https://jezebel.com/interview-with-a-woman-who-recently-had-an-abortion-at-1781972395

      Thanks for reading and bravely sharing your perspective!

      1. Nope. This miracle of life stuff is silly and a way to pretend that busybodies have a stake in other people’s business. Being alive is great, most of the time, but it isn’t a miracle – it is the entirely predictable outcome of biological processes.

        Pregnancies end all the time – for those who believe in God, just remember that he is the most prolific abortionist of all time – and the only thing on the table with safe and legal abortion is *who gets to make the decision*. Even if you decide that abortion is the best birth control for you in your body and situation, that is an ok choice. Pregnancy is not a punishment for sex. Having one or twenty-one abortions in your life is something you need to decide yourself.

        Americans have forgotten how to mind their own danged business (I blame reality tv), and the “miracle of life” language is a cover for that intrusion.

      2. Hey Leslie, I appreciate you engaging in good faith – and that’s the point I want to address in this comment.

        You may or may not know that when you say ‘you have started the miracle of life’ referring to a zygote, embryo, OR fetus, you’re endorsing a Christian conception (pun not intended) of the universe. As a Jew, my religious law is very clear that a fetus does not become a full person until it is born (specifically, when a majority of it has emerged from the mother, or when the head has emerged, depending on your source). According to Jewish law and practice going back thousands of years, an abortion /is/ like snuffing out a spider, and is even required when it would save the life of the mother (on the basis of pikuach nefesh, the primacy of saving human life over all other laws or principles).

        This is of course not to say that Jews don’t value children – we absolutely do, and huge portions of our holidays and daily rituals are built around the continuation of the tribe and including children in the Jewish experience. We just have different beliefs than Christians about when their life begins, or to use more religious language, when their soul arrives in the world.

        I don’t say this to convince you of anything – as a Christian or cultural Christian you are of course free to believe that life begins at conception and personally uphold the sanctity of that life. However, due to the anti-establishment clause of the first amendment, which prohibits Congress from establishing a state religion and therefore guarantees free religious expression, a Christian principle cannot be constitutionally used as the basis of a law in America, so abortion bans of almost any variety actually impinge on the religious freedom of American Jews, in addition to all the problems Kitty laid out in the post.

        Thanks for reading!

        1. You. You make my heart sing. Thank you for pointing out the issue with “life begins at conception” stemming from and butting against religious interest in politics!

      3. This is absolutely spot on. It’s essential to recognize the demonized version of abortion for either fiction or anomaly. It’s so easy for people to pull focus away from the fact that this is a human rights issue, not a fight against evil women frivolously killing their potential offspring. Thank you for not only publishing a counterargument but taking the time to provide a personal, well-researched and supported, and still welcoming rebuttal.

  4. Also: call your (your meaning any American citizen here) state reps– if RvW gets repealed, what happens in your state is law. 5calls.org has a general script for a series of states ready to go right now, but it’s also great to find out what is going on locally in your state and call your local elected officials about specific bills. Paying attention is hard (emotionally if nothing else), but there are organizations on the ground in your state (democrats, indivisible, state branches of NARAL and PP etc.) that keep track of these things and organize and provide information.

    1. GREAT point! And thank you for reminding me about NARAL, which deserves a spot on the list. They’re great with social media and often post good state-level calls to action. Well worth a follow!

  5. I’m very sad and upset to see the developments on reproductive rights in the US, and not only for the hardship they cause to the American people.

    I live in Serbia, a small Eastern European nation where, thankfully to a former communist rule, abortion is legal since 1953. Up to 10 weeks, no questions asked, afterwards, in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or if life of the mother is endagered. Yeah, in many ways, communism, was way better for women than the current system we have.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that developments in the US often have global consequences. Not only by the Administration putting economic, financial and political pressure on international aid organizations and international agencies, like the UN and the WHO. There’s also the influence by example and a view that, if the US does it, so can we. After the election of Donald Trump, authoritarian rulers and reactonary forces are emboldend and ready to enforce their misogynystic views into law.

    And those who would suffer the direst consequences are, of course, the poorest women and girls.

    I know it’s hard for Americans to think of the rest of the world, but there are people out there who watch in horror the developments in the so-called Leader of the Free World.

    Best regards from Belgrade, 44N21E

  6. *nodsnodsnods through article*

    *Makes note of different ways to go and weed garden and actively support reproductive rights of others*

    *nodnodnod*

    *reaches the part about the cream on top* NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! It slides off the jam if you squelch your scones into a scone sandwich and makes a deeply unpleasant experience!

    1. But I love you and understand that the way you eat your scones may differ to mine and I respect your right to choose Cornish over Devon even if it’s not what I would choose for myself.

      Also, my potential avatar as my comment awaits moderation is Dido Elizabeth Belle and that’s also cheering me up.

      1. LOOOOOOOL this post is tagged #CONTROVERSY! for a reason. And that reason isn’t abortion rights, it’s the hot take on scones. (Scones are fresh in my mind as the culinary theme of our viewing party of the last episode of Game of Thrones was obviously Game of Scones.)

        I also love you, and I respect your right misassemble your scones, no matter how much easier it is to spread jam on bread than on cream. And you get an extra brownie point for recognizing the painting, which is one of my faves!

  7. Re: the monarchy and male heirs – I think in Scotland there never was this preference for male heirs, which is why my mum always guffawed and scoffed at the storyline in Downton Abbey of needing to find a cousin to marry Lady Mary off too. Anyway, me shoehorning a Scottish comment in aside, I just couldn’t believe all this abortion law nonsense coming out of these states. But you articulate perfectly well why we shouldn’t be surprised. Beautifully written, researched and articulated. Feeling lucky once again to live in Europe, not the US. Thanks bitches.

    1. I know, I know, it’s kind of baffling. It just feels like a fifty year old issue that’s been revived, at exactly the time that women here are already in full We’re Not Gonna Take It mode. My most optimistic take is that this is the last gasp of a dying era. While we’re moving backwards, other countries (like Ireland) are moving forward. It’s a war, we’ll lose battles, but I have to believe that eventually we will triumph.

  8. Hi Kitty,

    Let me preface this by saying that I like your writing and need to NOT be eating or drinking as I read so as not to expectorate all over my laptop. Let me also say that my wife basically laid on me what you stated back in 1994 when we (ok maybe mostly me) decided not to populate the planet any longer.

    *** “Twice as many sterilizations are performed on women as vasectomies are on men, even though the vasectomy is less invasive, dangerous, and costly” ***

    So, I then took upon myself to make a small dent in that statistic. My wife was instantly very happy with my decision.

    Until she got ovarian cancer at 46 and died at 51. Especially when the doctors told her that had she had certain things removed after she was done having children, she may have avoided the whole damn mess. That was fucking awful to hear. Now I thought I wasn’t … didn’t do the right thing. The week before she died she did not say much but I remember her saying, “I did this to myself…”. Damn it.

    There are risks in everything. Nothing is simple or easy. I still agree with your statement that it should not all be on women and it is not a women only issue. I just wish I knew everything about our specific situation to make the right decision, but then I would be clairvoyant. Also, a younger colleague reminds after I say “I wish”… wish in one hand, crap in the other see which fills up first.

    Regards,

    Phil

  9. Recently started reading your blog and absolutely love it. As a Canadian I am scared shitless about what is going on in the states. Too often we parallel what is happening in the states. We are already seeing more pro-life rallies happening. My province just had an election (I am not surprised it was a conservative win) and their new minister of education is a vocal pro-life. What is going to happen in the current education system under this new rule. The previous government (one term) was doing alot of good both for education and women’s/lgbtq rights… new one who knows.

    I have already told friends/family/general FB that if you support what is happening in the southern states to remove womens rights and body autonomy to consider yourself someone I used to know. NO ONE should have the right to tell someone else what to do with their body. And unless they are going to fully fund free education, free daycares, free healthcare, and ensure that every high school will have free daycare to ensure that any teen who is pregnant can continue their education, then no you do not get to decide if I should have this baby that as you mentioned can have such huge economic costs (let alone emotional, physical, mental costs).

  10. I stood up and cheered while reading this! I’m a 40+ feminist, who was born right before RvW became law. My entire life I felt comforted knowing that I could have some autonomy if birth control failed. When I was finally ready to have children, my spouse and I welcomed them into a loving, stable, financially ready home (well, as financially ready as anyone can be for daycare costs!). Had we been forced to start a family when we were younger, things would not have turned out as well.

    Fast forward to today, and I am sorrowed and ashamed of what we have become. I live in a very conservative area of PA, and the anti-choice folks have done a great job of chipping away at our rights. Churches in this area basically preach that abortion is always wrong, and a woman’s place is as support for her husband (I do not attend church here for these very reasons). I was working the election polls last November, and a woman supporting a certain party (you know the one) handed her literature to everyone saying “vote for the babies”. This woman also watched me be harangued by an aggressive male for 15 minutes who tried to “outsmart” me (“well, what do you think about postpartum abortions?” Like he thought I didn’t have the vocabulary to know that is a bullshit thing), and he finally got so frustrated that he couldn’t outsmart me that he said “Oh, you’re a mother? Well, you should have had an abortion.” So pro-life of him. But I digress…

    These anti-choice folks have a lot of kids, and they are now getting to the point where the kids can vote too. They’ve been raising up a whole generation for whom this is a guiding principle. I have apologized on numerous occasions to my 2 teenage daughters, but I’m not done fighting (and neither are they). Thankfully PA currently has a governor who vetoes any anti-choice bill that passes the House and Senate, but were it not for him, we would be making the news just like those other states with 6-week bills.

    We cannot stay silent, and I love your points that this is not just a women’s issue! We need all genders to advocate for this choice, and free, reliable birth control and more support for families. Ah, to live in that utopia…

  11. New reader here. It’s interesting to see you started your post with gardening. I learned the history of the word fetus from its Latin and Greek roots just earlier this week:

    fetus -us (noun) — [i]the bringing fourth of hatching of young[/i]; of the soil: [i]bearing, producing[/i]. Trans. [i]that which is brought fourth; offspring, brood[/i]; of plants: [i]fruit, produce, shoot[/i]

    Fetus is a purely scientific term. In fact, it originally applied to plants, then was extended to animals and humans.

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