Why Women’s Sexual Health In The News Is Good… And Bad

There is a ton of news coverage of laws pertaining to women’s sexual health right now, and it’s not looking too good for women who want not only access to contraception and basic health rights, but also to accurate information about their bodies. Feministe gives a good run-down of the various states that have passed, or are trying to pass, laws that would make it illegal for women to get abortions after 20 weeks (even if the fetus is dead), or that would list all doctors in the state who perform abortions (despite the fact that such doctors are often targeted by violent protesters and sometimes killed), and so on. Women are compared to livestock that sometimes have to carry non-viable fetuses to term, or they are called sluts for wanting access to birth control.

Politicians in Kansas and Arizona are trying to pass bills that would allow doctors to withhold medical information from pregnant women that might affect their decisions on whether to bring a fetus to term. How a doctor might reconcile this with the Hippocratic Oath boggles my mind, as it certainly harms pregnant women to not know the full extent of what is happening with their bodies. And these problems overlap with other social problems right now such as racism and homophobia; author Catherynne M. Valente gives a righteously angry summary of these issues here.

On the one hand, I am glad that this is all in the news. Thanks to the quick spread of information on the internet, and thanks to feminists and other activists getting the word out, these asinine laws are getting a lot of media attention. Lawmakers who oppose such draconian oversight of women’s health are drawing attention to the hypocrisy therein, and are proposing laws like ones that would regulate Viagra or police spilled semen.

On the other hand, I cannot function while this is all in the news. Every headline is a reminder that my body is not my own. Every new development tells me that to a large number of policy makers (and the people who vote for them), I am less deserving of human rights than men are. And I feel under attack. I feel anxious and jittery and upset. I am not the only woman who feels this way. I don’t know how long it will take for more people in the U.S. to realize that these laws affect real people who have valid experiences and crises and need accurate information about their bodies and access to unbiased health care.

So, while I’m glad about all the news coverage and backlash, I’m too upset about being dehumanized to take part in this fight. It’s hitting me on a really visceral level. I need to step away from the news to recharge for a bit, so I’ll pass on information when I can, but I doubt I can do much more than that. Yet another reminder of how the personal is political.

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.