succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Belated Blogging - NAPW Summit Day Two

Managed to catch the last speaker at the luncheon plenary; unfortunately, did not manage to catch her name. She asked some tough, and, I think, important questions about reproducing: Just because you long for a child, does that make it [your desire to have a child] legitimate and limitless? Is it selfish to desire a biological child, and to spend vast amounts of money on assisted fertility, when so many children need to be adopted? And lastly, an important reminder - We're making revolutionary families everyday; sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. Can we envision new policies that fit the familes we truly have?

Can We Ensure the Health and Humanity of Pregnant Women When Violence Is So Pervasive in Their Lives?
Featuring Peggy Brown, Jodi Hinds, Julie Burkhart, Dr. Sheryl Heron, and Sara Ainsworth. The first speaker made the statement that the legal and medical community exercise a certain amount of power and control over women, with which I agree, but can't the same be said of men? Don't those two communities simply exert a certain amount of power and control over people?

Ainsworth spoke about a troubling issue - Can a rapist have parental rights, if a rape victim becomes pregnant and chooses to carry to term? The answer, though emotionally disturbing, is of course. And especially, but not only, when the rapist is a partner or husband. The FBI and CDC report that one in six women are raped in their lifetimes. One in six. How many women do you know? The CDC estimates that 32,000 women every year are pregnant from rape, but this number is prone to a large amount of error since it is estimated from the number of reported rapes and a 5% chance of intercourse resulting in pregnancy.

Why do rape victims choose to carry to term? Some do in fact choose to, but others are simply stymied in their attempts at abortion - the Hyde Amendment prevents federal funding for abortion, but includes a specific exception for rape and incest. However, some states require proof, which women are either unable or unwilling to produce ("privacy is like oxygen to rape victims"). And more than 30 states have no state-level funding for abortion.

So, a woman either chooses or is forced to carry to term. Ainsworth then went through three scenarios:
1) married to rapist - parental rights are automatically awarded in every state, these rights are very, very difficult to terminate, and many women don't want to terminate them
2) intimate relationship with rapist - there is a paternity process during which the man must prove he is the biological father, these rights are also very difficult to terminate (Ainsworth has personally seen two cases with legal counsel that were able to successfully claim that despite the genetic link, it was in the child's best interest to terminate parental rights, since, you know, the dad is a rapist)
3) adoption - mixed bag - some states allow adoption with no consent or notice (obviously troubling and problematic for the non-rapist fathers out there) and some states require proof of rape (such as a police report) to side step consent or notice.

According to the Teen Parent Project, 66% of women in abusive relationships have experienced 'birth control sabotage', versus 34% of non-abused women. Now, certainly, that 66% is upsetting, but 34% of women in allegedly non-abusive relationships have experienced birth control sabotage?! Call me crazy, but I'd file that sort of behavior under abusive.

Dr. Sheryl Heron had a task for all of us, but primarily for those of us fortunate enough not to be touched by violence in our current relationships, because we are in a comfortable enough position that, hopefully, it isn't scary or dangerous to ask our doctors to ask us about violence in our lives. Each year about 324,000 pregnant women are battered by their intimate partners, making abuse more common than gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. We screen for the latter two, why not the former?

And Sid, sorry, but your state's got some work to do - Alaska is #1 in the nation for incidences of domestic violence, and has six times the national average occurance of child sexual abuse (this from the moderator, Peggy Brown, Executive Director of Alaska Netowrk on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt).

Ignoring Millions of Women, Millions of Children: How the Debate About Abortion and Maternity Care Ignores Issues of Pregnancy Loss and Infant Mortality
I have to confess, I was irked when one of the speakers complained about a lack of research into infant mortality and then failed to mention PRAMS at all. But I was overwhelmed when one of the women (I believe it was Linda Layne) told the stories of her multiple miscarriages (seven or eight, I think). And she's right - we've spent the weekend discussing how to empower women to be more knowledgeable about labor and the choices involved in the birthing process, but no such progress has been made regarding pregnancy loss. Certainly, no pregnant woman wants to consider that possibility. But it is a possibility, and a very real one, if this stat is to be believed (no reference, sorry) - the chance of miscarriage during the first three months of pregnancy is 1 in 5 (?!). And yet no one talks about it. No one offers information on what your body may go through, what options you may have (hospital? emergency room? stay home?). Layne has identified a gap that many, many women fall into, and it's time we started offering them some better resources.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm well aware of Alaska's #1 status. It's also known for being number one in both alcoholism and depression. Are these related? Probably.

(I almost told the 'classic' joke about what do you say to a woman with two black eyes. I hope you appreciate my restraint.)


8:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home