The Body is Political: Part 3
My mother needed a bank account. Her husband, my stepfather, frequently spent their income before the end of the month, leaving us with little food and no money for the mortgage. So she set aside a few dollars out of every shopping trip for lean times. In the 1990s, though, many banks wouldn’t give an account to a married woman without her husband’s signature. They certainly wouldn’t give an account to a married woman who didn’t have a job. As a workaround, I, her 19-year-old daughter, opened a new savings account and added her as an authorized user.
I saw her embarrassment when she asked me to help. I saw her fear that her husband would find this account, too, and access the few hundred dollars she had squirreled away. My mom’s case wasn’t unusual. The bank denied Nancy a credit card or bank account without her husband’s signature on both. Things are different now. But they aren’t that different.
As a married person with a uterus, some doctors will deny me a tubal ligation without consent from my husband. If I were single, I may not be able to get one at all if the doctor thinks that someday, some man will want to have children with me. Ask my husband how easy it was for him to get a vasectomy. I doubt the doctor even knew or cared that someone might want his sperm some day. It was never part of the equation.
Sandra was denied a hysterectomy by 10 different doctors because each of them were concerned her husband might want her to give birth to children some day. When she finally moved, her new gynecologist was enraged that the doctors had risked her life for so many years. And Sandra is not unusual. Toby, in a different part of the country, has been denied a hysterectomy. Is still being denied one, in fact.
When Jenny married, her gynecologist refused to insert a hormone-based IUD just in case her husband wanted to have children right away. Jenny was 18 and had just placed a child for adoption.
Lori asked for a sealing cancellation but was denied by the first presidency. When her ex-husband sought one, it was immediately granted.
When I was in the MTC, I had a vicious flareup of endometriosis. Having experienced several in the past, I knew taking a hormonal birth control pill without pausing for menstruation would ease the symptoms enough that I could function. It was the only thing apart from surgery that helped. The MTC doctor refused my request. When I asked why, he said that a sister missionary asking for birth control pills was suspect. To get the care I needed, I wrote a letter to my mom and asked her to call my pre-mission doctor. When I left the country, I carried in my suitcase 18 months’ worth of birth control pills, filled by my pre-mission doctor.
These are a few examples of the way society gives different rights to people based solely on their genitalia. Sure, some women don’t want to think about money. Some women don’t want to use birth control. Some women don’t need to cancel their sealing. But some women’s personal choices should not drive the choices available to the rest of us.
One last example, and this comes with a content warning. This paragraph is about miscarriage, so if that’s a difficult topic, please skip to the next paragraph. After my marriage, I had several miscarriages. One, at 16 weeks gestation, was particularly brutal. I tried to tough it out at home, but after 12 hours, my husband called the ambulance. I arrived at the hospital hemorrhaging and devastated. Even with all the blood loss, I hadn’t passed any fetal tissue. The fetus was non-viable, but it was still inside me. The only way to get it out was through a uterine evacuation: an abortion. In fact, the treatments for miscarriage are generally the same as for abortion. The current law in Texas makes all those procedures, regardless of whether they’re for miscarriage treatment or abortion, suspicious. They give any neighbor, any community member, any ward member, the right to sue my husband, the doctor, and the attending medical personnel for providing life-saving care for me. While some doctors will take that risk, others will not, reducing the already low number of trained professionals who can provide medical care. And talk about traumatizing. Can you imagine facing a lawsuit because you saved your wife’s life?
I’m pro bodily autonomy. I’m pro safe and effective healthcare for everyone. And I believe in trusting people to make the right choices for their own bodies.
Read Part 1
Read Part 2