This is not the change I voted for. Nor how I thought the year would end for women’s rights in the USA. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius recently overruled scientists at the Federal Drug Administration and blocked a move to allow for Plan B emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill, to be sold over-the-counter without age restriction. Her rationale was to protect 11-year-old girls from taking something that might harm them. President Obama backed her up, asked us to use “common sense” and pulled the daddy card.
Well, I’m pulling the mommy card.
This year my daughter turned eight. Coupled with the fact that I received my first bra at age nine, it was time for us to start on “the birds and bees.” Over our summer trip, we read Ready, Set, Grow! together and discussed the upcoming changes that await her in puberty. It was a talk I never had with my own mother and it went better than I could have ever imagined.
But as I discussed breast buds and menstruation to my daughter, we also discussed pregnancy. I take an allergy pill and my birth control pill every morning and she knows what each are for. Despite her occasional request for a baby sister, I do not hide the fact I take a pill each morning to ensure I do not get pregnant.
In 2011, almost 200 new provisions restricting women’s choices have been introduced across the country: bills calling for waiting periods before abortions, ultrasounds before abortions, slashing of funds for contraception and many other area that entail telling women what they can or cannot do with their wombs. These bills could impact my life and soon my daughter’s life. And this mom tells her daughter exactly that common sense.
Common sense compels me to raise her to not only know her body, but know about those in public office who wish to make choices about what she can do with her body. I tell my daughter that her body is hers. Her ears are not even pierced because I feel that it should be her decision if she had two holes in her body, not mine. But those 200 anti-women provisions send a different message. One that tells her that elected and appointed officials do not believe she is capable of making certain choices about her body and life, whether at the age of 11, 21 or 41.
Half of the provisions address abortion itself, while the other half restrict women’s ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies by cutting out funding to Planned Parenthood and other clinics that actually reduce the need for pregnancy terminations. I would hope my daughter will come to me when it is time for her to have sex and use birth control, but I know she may also decide to visit a family planning clinic on her own. This goes for Plan B as well.
That is why I also oppose parental notification provisions. If she cannot trust me enough to talk to me about an unplanned pregnancy or the many reasons a woman needs Plan B (e.g. unprotected sex, condom breakage, taking antibiotics while on the pill), I have a larger problem that no state government can address. If this means she needs to go to one of the amazing aunties and uncles in her life instead of me, I know I will be hurt. But I would rather have my feelings hurt than her getting pregnant or attempting to self-abort by throwing herself down a flight of stairs.
As I move forward discussing bras and tampons — and several years down the line, the pill and abortion — with her, I feel our country is moving backward. We’re moving back to the days when women were forced to whisper the secrets of not getting pregnant after the sixth pregnancy and second miscarriage. Who knew that in 2011 our president would justify going against science by pulling the daddy card? Who knew that today’s edition of “The Talk” would include a chapter about voting and lobbying your public official? It’s not in the book, but it needs to be.
Veronica Arreola is a writer, mother and blogger for Viva La Feminista.