Power, Authority, & Women’s Bodies

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I’m always a little bit astounded when certain posts of mine end up having a ton of traction on social media. I recently shared the following little thought on the Bauhauswife Facebook page:
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“Pregnant women: when you are told by medical practitioners that you “have” to take a certain test, or that you “have” to meet with an OB, or that you “have” to have that ultrasound, you are being manipulated, coerced, and lied to. You don’t “have” to do anything. Not by law, or by rights. You are an adult, you are the decider, and there is no one on the planet who cares more about your baby than you. Feel free to only associate with people who recognize and respect that.”
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This is, of course, just a variation on my constant theme that women are human beings.  In many ways it is all the more dismaying that this idea is still (and always?) a revolutionary one. This post was shared 70 or 80 times (at last count), and I have a bunch of new “followers” on my page, and that’s nice and affirming and everything, but then came the invariable comments that reveal just how attached so many women are to their own subordination, and to the authority of the medical community, and how uncomfortable the idea is, for so many women, that we actually have an *inalienable* right to our bodily integrity.  For example, the “I agree with almost everything you’ve written…”  or the “yes but sometimes babies really *do* need medication help…” or “but what about the mothers who….”  
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And then, to be quite honest, I get annoyed.  Because never ever ever have I claimed that it isn’t the case that sometimes medical attention is a good idea. Nor have I ever ever claimed that in some cases doctors have information or ideas that mothers might want to consider.  But it’s also the case that in our culture, doctors are revered above all other figures of authority, and this authority and reverence, is, in my view, unwarranted.  Mothers and babies die under the care of the medical institution all the time, and the rationalizations in these cases are always that “the doctors did everything they could”, or some other handy explanation that absolves the medical community of all responsibility—how could they possibly have made a mistake? They have, effectively, “God” (money, corporate power, industry) on their side.  There are also instances where doctors and medications and surgeries save people’s lives. And that’s wonderful.  But it’s totally beside my point, which is that women *always* have the right to authority over our bodies (whether that right is upheld or not).
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It seems to be another foreign concept to so many people that the concepts of “risk” and “evidence” are both highly biased, racist, sexist, and politicized.  The basis for “risk” is decided only by paternalistic authorities of the institution, while we women are “allowed” to lie back and submit to that designation based on often entirely arbitrary or flawed criteria, with no recourse.  The number of women I  know who have “defied” medical authority and the label of “high risk” to go ahead and give birth at home when they were told it simply isn’t possible, is astonishing. 
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Doctors are not magicians, or soothsayers. Doctors cannot see into the future. And doctors do not *ever* know better than mothers when it comes to the care and safety of their babies.
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Again, if I had a dime for every story I have heard about a doctor telling a mother that her baby was going to die if she didn’t [have a hospital birth, have an ultrasound, have a blood test, have a c-section, have an iv, have a vaginal exam, have antibiotics etc etc etc etc] only to see that mother walk away, never go back to the doctor, and give birth at home in her own power and authority, I’d be rolling in cash.
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Who decides what constitutes a “life or death situation”? Birth is always a “life or death” situation. Life is a life or death situation.  If you “mostly agree” with the assertion that women own their bodies, and that reproductive freedom means the freedom to make every single decision when it comes to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, then you actually do NOT agree with me at all. There is nothing wrong with that—people disagree with me all the time, and I don’t mind. But if you believe that women’s choices should be restricted directly or indirectly, by legislation, or decree, or based on the opinions of anyone other than the woman herself, you don’t uphold women’s rights or reproductive freedom. 
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To claim to be invested in reproductive justice and the rights of women, and then to support regulation that denies or thwarts reproductive justice in practice, is inconsistent, contradictory, and disingenuous.  Sadly, I see waffling and dissembling and rationalizations and bullshit coming from so many organizations and individuals who I had thought previously were firmly on the side of women’s sovereignty.  And yes.  There are sides.
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I make lots of mistakes and missteps, but I hope to never waver from standing up for girls and for adult human female people. Like so many women, I’m genuinely frightened by the winnowing of our ability (socially and politically) to name the sources of our oppression, and to speak openly about that oppression, which is so clearly based in our embodiment, and in the way that the common physical realities of womanhood are responded to and interpreted by our society.