Yesterday was the third annual Rally for Reproductive Justice and this is the third year that the Arkansas Dem-Gazette’s coverage has been a headline about abortion rights.
It’s so frustrating. While abortion is in the news and there are groups very fired up about trying to revoke the legality of certain procedures in Arkansas, abortion is just one facet of reproductive justice.
Reproductive justice starts with protecting the rights of females of reproductive age (ie. every female just hitting puberty through menopause) to make informed and safe decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives. While this does include having a choice of safe birth control options and the right to decide if she is ready or healthy enough to bring a child into the world, many people forget or just don’t know about the other issues this covers. (More on sex and abortion in a bit.)
Many females suffer from incapacitating cramping, extreme hormonal swings, severe and/or extended bleeding, and other issues because their bodies don’t process their monthly cycle properly. These symptoms should be regarded the same as lactose intolerance or asthma: normal ailments that society doesn’t get bent out of shape about people getting treatment for.
Since about 55% of Arkansans are affiliated with Christian religions, let’s do a quick sidebar on a more-prominent-than-publicly-acknowledged Christian perspective: Women should suffer such unpleasantness in silence because it is our punishment for being descendants of Eve. Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and tempted Adam to do the same. Therefore Eve was punished to endure unpleasant reproductive issues and Adam to toil the earth. However, I do not see these same people fighting to remove OTC drugs that relieve aches and pains from pharmacy shelves; protesting the sale of ergonomic insoles, chairs, and mouse pads (or the coverage of these items through medical insurance); nor are they overturning laws requiring breaks and decent working conditions for those (ahem) toiling.
Personally, I don’t think that Rush Limbaugh is or was the only one unaware that THE ONLY long-term treatment for severe cramping, mood swings, irregular bleeding, and other uterus-related issues fall into the “birth control” category.
But reproductive justice is so much wider than realizing women’s bodies have their own complications that require access to affordable medication.
It’s about all people understanding that all people have the right to make healthy decisions about their sexuality and bodies. Here’s a thought on how the big picture of reproductive justice effects EVERYONE from 11-year-old girls, sexually active males, and taxpayers alike: Currently my state does not require sex ed to be taught in schools, it ranks 3rd in the nation for the highest number of teen pregnancies, and teen childbearing continues to cost all taxpayers lots of money. Of course, the repercussions of lack luster sexual education extends beyond the teen years. Research shows a pretty clear domino effect that those who don’t receive comprehensive sex education tend to have unsafe sex, which leads to unintended and/or unwanted babies. The next choices are often abortion, scorn for carrying a fetus through to adoption, and unprepared parents who require government aid to just get by.
I have a fairly simple theory on how to help fix this issue, though. Here goes.
Before children reach puberty, they should all know how babies are made. Then, when puberty begins, have an actual discussion with them. Explain what’s causing their sexual urges. Share that the effects of “giving in” to these urges can produce babies, diseases, joy, and despair – and the repercussions thereof. Discuss options to channel their excessive hormones through sports, activities, and meditation. Talk candidly about masturbation and other sexual activities. And, after educating them about their choices from abstinence, safe sex, and unsafe sex, discus the pros and cons of each with them.
My unoriginal, but not widely practiced theory comes with the mighty price tag of $0, can be led by relatives, counselors, pastors or educators, and has the possibility of decreasing abortion rates, unsafe sex rates, teen pregnancy rates, STD rates and demand on government assistance. But our society seems to be bent on showing sex everywhere (billboards, commercials, magazines, tv, news) but not being able to have a healthy conversation about it.
For some reason, the only conversation regarding sexuality that American society seems comfortable with is the need to tell those with a uterus when they are or are not ready to explore their sexuality in a healthy way and what they should be allowed to do with any effects sex may have on their bodies. And that is not just.