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May 19 2006

U R Yr Uterus

Federal guidelines.

Consider, for a moment, the terrible implications of that concept. Ask yourself whether the federal government is an entity to which anybody (except people you dislike intensely) should apply for guidance about anything. When was the last time you spent a sleepless night mulling over some difficulty, such as, say, how to search and seize a computer without a warrant, when suddenly it came to you. Of course! Federal guidelines to the rescue! Or perhaps your ruminations meandered down other paths:

“Hey, Federal Guidelines, do you recommend acceptable levels of at least 90 industrial contaminants for my drinking water?” (you betcha!)
“Hey, Federal Guidelines, is it a pretty good idea for my brain to absorb 1.6 watts per kg of radio frequency electromagnetic fields from my cell phone?” (it sure is!)
“Hey Federal Guidelines, I live alone and make $9,900 a year. Do I live in poverty?” (of course not!)

OK, now consider the terrible implications of the following sentence from a recent WaPo article: “New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves — and to be treated by the health care system — as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.”

Pre-pregnant?

I always knew this day would come. I was just expecting it in 1952.

I reveal no secrets when I say that federal governments the world over are endlessly fascinated by the idea of human wombs bubbling over with fresh fetus-flesh; it’s not like there’s anything shockingly nouveau about the idea that pre-menopausal women should be universally regarded as warm chunks of incubating muscle. It’s just that when this kind of regressive crackpot misogynist bullshit is implemented as social policy, the viscera quiver involuntarily, for the icy shadow of patriarchy passeth overhead.

Because, the guidelines aver, half of all pregnancies are “unplanned,” they enjoin all women who are not hairy-chinned old crones to be prepared for pregnancy at a moment’s notice. It is incumbent on women to maintain themselves as well-oiled meat generators from the minute they hit puberty until time squeezes the last little drop of fertility from their state-owned loins. This is especially important for South Dakota girls, who never know when they might be raped and thereupon forced by the state to bring the result to term. Healthy rape-spawn at any cost, that’s the motto!

The guidelines for perpetual pre-pregnant rosy pinkness include such insanities as never drinking, never smoking, and never having a cat. Not being pre-pregnant is apparently not an option. There is no mention of birth control. There is no mention of abortion. There is no mention of the HPV vaccine, exercise, diet, or any other health-thing that doesn’t have to do with reproduction. And lawd knows there’s no mention of men’s role in all these unplanned pregnancies. The guidelines love a uterus!

The spinster aunt is all for the uterus, and all for women’s health. All for it. What she objects to is the framing of women’s health within the context of a patriarchal view of women as broodmares. If we didn’t titillate the federal government with our wanton fecundity, nobody would give a fig if women wallowed all day long in cat shit with a bottle of gin in one hand and crack pipe in the other.

But I hate to see the feds so et-up about unplanned pregnancies, so I have the solution. I propose that all males, upon the onset of puberty, freeze a quantity of sperm and undergo federally-guidelined vasectomies. Thereafter all pregnancies would require a sperm bank withdrawal and would necessarily be of the planned variety. Then women could return to their regularly scheduled, fully-realized, pleasantly unguidelined personhood.

48 comments

2 pings

  1. teffie-phd

    I second your proposal. Except for the part where the state can then decide who gets the sperm and who doesn’t. Always a glitch when the state gets involved–damned patriarchy.

    And I’m glad you didn’t turn this into a health issue, because for me this isn’t what it’s all about (I say more on my blog). If they really wanted to improve women’s health, they wouldn’t create this new risk category that includes all fertile women who now need to monitor themselves “just in case”.

  2. dogged.

    Folic acid for all 11-year-olds! Except, wait–they shouldn’t need it, right? Because they’re all off at those daddy/daughter chastity dances, turning those tiny keys in those tiny locks.

  3. ryan

    egad, it’s a brave old world.

  4. W.Shore

    Dr. B and Amanda have determined that the WaPo bears most of the responsibility for framing this as a Handmaid’s Tale scenario, and that the CDC, while hardly unpatriarchal in all of its assumptions, is one of the better-meaning arms of the guideline-issuing federal government.

    Catfight! (I kid, I kid.)

  5. st3ph

    The WaPo actually grossly misrepresented the CDC’s actual recommendations, making the “pre-pregnant” thing something that only the WaPo is pushing. Pandagon has more info here.

  6. femhist

    Hey everyone,
    Amanda at Pandagon links to the original report at the CDC and points out that it’s not actually the CDC making these leaps, it’s the Washington Post author that does it. I can’t say it as well as she can, so go read:

    1. http://pandagon.net/2006/05/16/you-poke-it-you-own-it-vs-cleaning-your-own-damn-catbox/
    2.
    http://pandagon.net/2006/05/17/the-wapo-has-an-agenda-and-its-different-from-the-cdcs/#more-2909

  7. thebewilderness

    Given the extrordinary high rates of infant mortality in the US, and the pressing need for ever more cannon fodder, well oiled meat generators are essential to maintain our position as the worlds only hyperpower. Faugh.

  8. teffie-phd

    I disagree that WaPo got it wrong–I read the report and I think they got it exactly right. Recommendations that women should always be ready to be pregnant “just in case” sounds like women as walking wombs to me.

    And sure from a biological/health perspective they are fine recommendations, but since it’s my body and I will do with it what I like including smoking a few cigarettes, enjoying some fatty foods and, if I need to, taking a drug that makes me feel better even if it does cause birth defects.

    Guess why? Because I’m not having any more babies. Ever.

  9. julybirthday

    My friend who is also, coincidentally, a spinster aunt, has a solution to even things out, what with all the uterus-watching and egg-in-basket counting: the Peter Meter! Every male would just strap one of these babies on, so we could all keep better track of how carefully THOSE contributions are minded. Every sperm is sacred!

  10. Hattie

    Couldn’t little girls be hurried along to their reproductive duties with hormone treatments? And couldn’t post-menopausal women be revved up, too, so that they could keep on cranking out babies until they dropped dead? With current technology, it’s a waste of female reproductive organs to limit their usage to only the so-called fertile years.

  11. slade

    As a spinster daughter, I am to beginning to worry about those of us who are post-menopausal….is soylent green right around the corner? After all, if we can’t breed…..?

    And the cat poop thing????? WTF is that all about? Are these patriarchial crazy assholes gonna start feeding the poor our pet cats? Cats have always scared the patriachial boys….they’re independent and won’t ‘sit.’

    Blame Blame Blame. Hiss.

  12. CGG

    I’ve known this day was coming. A few years back I saw ads in the NYC subway with a super model telling me that she doesn’t plan to become pregnant, but that she’s taking folic acid anyway and I should too. Just in case.

    We’re not supposed to have sex while at the same time be ready for an unexpected pregnancy at any time. Perhaps god told Pat Robertson that a wave of virgin births were on the horizon.

  13. dogged.

    teffie-phd has it right: the WaPo may have ramped up the inherent problematics of the report (and they seem to have coined the “pre=pregnant” lingo), but they sure didn’t “grossly misrepresent” it. While the CDC report does call for useful things like improved health insurance for all women, it is operating from the basic assumption that “the target population for preconception health promotion is women, from menarche to menopause, who are capable of having children, even if they do not intend to conceive ” (emphasis mine).

    Women who don’t intend to conceive need to keep their bodies in readiness for conception anyway? Sure–in a culture where women are normed by their desire to reproduce, and, in South Dakota, are in fact pretty much forbidden not to, as Twisty points out. Welcome to Gilead.

  14. 100littledolls

    Just de-lurking myself to say that I’ve been suspicious about being treated as just a womb a many times. Especially when I’ve had to visit doctors and nurses for feet problems and am inexplicably asked each time when was the last time I’ve had my period, whether or not I’m sexually active and whether or not I practice safe sex.

  15. kathy a

    redneck mother links to feminist law professors, who link to: http://shadesong.livejournal.com/2871261.html

    the author of the link discusses how she cannot get the best medication to treat her epilepsy, because that medication might harm a hypothetical fetus that she never intends to conceive or carry. the side-effects of the medication she gets instead are threatening her own health. she does not believe she should have to get her tubes tied in order to get appropriate medical treatment for a condition she has.

  16. e fulton

    If feminists are going to push back this misogynistic bullshit agenda, we need the Girls Gone Wild vote. The women who call themselves girls and are more than happy to flash their titties for beads or a camera lens are the ones who need to (a) see this pre-pregnant crap, (b) see that the controlling, paternalistic message is to be rejected, not internalized and (c) stop flashing or giving any sexual satisfaction to any male without getting a written pledge from such male that they will actively politically oppose this kind of womb control. We need Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan as our spokeswomen. They may not be feminists, and they may take on the mantle of their own sexual exploitation with a disturbing gusto, but we have to find common ground and use the power of our numbers to stop the train coming at us somehow. It’s us against the Borg, dudes, and the line must be drawn HE-AH!

  17. jo

    I admire, as always, your ability to write about such serious issues in such an entertaining way!

  18. katico

    *bows down before Twisty*

  19. Keeshond

    Look for follow-up WaPo articles advising fetal containers, oops, I mean “women”, to begin wearing only maternity clothes from the onset of menses just in case a pregnancy happens and an op-ed piece written from the male perspective (irony unintentional) advising women on the importance of staying “hot” and appealingly fuckable during and immediately after pregnancy in order to preserve their confidence and self-esteem, or some such other patriarchy-serving bullcrap.

  20. TheGlimmering

    I may be wrong, but I thought several studies linked folic acid supplements to breast cancer, particularly when associated with pregnancy. If that’s the case, the CDC is telling me to risk cancer for the sake of the fetus??

  21. cjkoho

    the viscera quiver involuntarily, for the icy shadow of patriarchy passeth overhead

    Sweet jeebus Twisty, I think I love you.

  22. Luckynkl

    The leading cause of death in pregnant women is homocide. I’m not sure about this but isn’t killing a pregnant woman rather harmful to the fetus?

    Oh wait. Men’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must never be infringed upon. And if it makes him happy to set fire to the bearer of his sacred gift, well, it’s his right to dispose of his property as he sees fit without interference from the state. Why, that’s downright fascist!

    In the meanwhile, lesbians are also being subjected to this “plan” and pregnancy tests are already being routinely performed on them. Well you know how easily it could slip a lesbian’s mind that she was raped last week. And mistaking men’s penises for women’s pinkies happens all the time. And one can never know what could be hiding out in those vibrators, strap-ons, dildos and fists. Let alone guess when a wild stampede of runaway sperm could come roaring through town and jump into people.

  23. No Blood for Hubris

    Hey. What’s so wrong about a girl becoming a government bun-oven?

  24. hedonistic

    I google-searched for uncopywritten imagery to use on my own anti-breeder blogrant and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw THIS:

    http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/sensual/ecstasy.html

    I though y’all might be amused.

  25. mel

    Keeshond said: “…advising women on the importance of staying “hot” and appealingly fuckable during and immediately after pregnancy in order to preserve their confidence and self-esteem, or some such other patriarchy-serving bullcrap.” (That was a LEGITIMATE use of an ellipsis!)

    That very LAST thing in the world I was when I was pregnant was “hot and fuckable” because I felt awful. Although I did constantly get that message from every doctor and every magazine I read. “Pregnancy makes you feel wonderful!” “Pregnancy is a high!” “Pregnancy really gets those sexual juices flowing!” Hell, my doctor even told me that if I wanted to bring contractions on quickly at the end of my ninth month, I should have sex as often as possible. That couldn’t have been for my husband’s benefit, could it? I had sex ONCE at the end of my ninth month, and that convinced me that having sex at a time like that was INSANE. It hurt and was terribly uncomfortable. I am only 5’2″, and I was carrying an 8.5 pound bowling ball. IBTP!

    As for keeping young women in a prepregancy alert state, that sickens me. We get closer and closer to The Handmaid’s Tale.

  26. Borderline

    First time poster, long-time Twisty addict:

    While I agree with the sentiment towards the WaPo article (seroiusly, the cat pee comment was sophmoric), I still feel the CDC has some good recommendations (perhaps because I am a healthcare student). A significant number of live births were unplanned. A woman does not know she’s pregnant until a few weeks after fertilization. If you look at the situation from an embryologic view, you realize major groundwork is laid during the first month. It’s been awhile since I studied embryology but I remember an important trend: the sooner an error happens, the more severe the congenital complications (It’s amazing how simply taking folic acid can prevent spina bifida. though as a side note I thought a lot of processed foods were fortified with folic acid thus negating the need for a woman to ‘take a supplement just in case I get pregnant’). Add these up and it makes sense to encourage women of reproductive age to try and limit their exposure to harmful stimuli.

    That being said, I think the agruement doesn’t hold up for several reasons:
    1) assuming the goal is a healthy child, why are only women expected to be concerend? Spermatogenesis can be impeded by exposure to things like cocaine. There is also concern that men are becoming feminized (i.e. decreasing concentrations of healthy viable sperm) via chemical man-made toxins. Where’s the concern?
    2) assuming all pregnancies are healthy if a woman takes folic acid/abstains from drinking, smoking, etc. Prenatal care is imperative, yet many women are unable to receive care due to lack of insurance, inability to take time off of work… Where’s the concern? Why not lobby the government to extend CHIP programs (or the equivalent) to pregnant women? Afterall isn’t the current climate elevating the fetus to the statushood of a person? (I would propose universal healthcare coverage, but whoa nelly!)
    3) confusing unplanned pregnancies with unwanted. See South Dakota.

    The only time the CDC’s guidelines make sense is when the ideas can be applied to virtually anyone. We should all exercise, limit alcohol, not smoke, take multivitamins etc for our OWN health. Bypassing my health for the potential fetus I may or may not carry to term is offensive and belittling to women because it subverts the intrinsic value for an alive being for a non-existant one.

    Just my $.02. I’ll go back to lurking.:)

  27. mel

    Hedonistic, that was truly awful. I’ve always been sickened by women who say, “Pregancy was the best thing for me! I felt wonderful! I wish I could always be pregnant!” And all that other crap.

    The truth is you throw up a lot. Not just a little throw up–but a TON. It’s like Linda Blair in the Exorcist throw up. You get bizarre cravings, which you are told don’t exist. And here’s something you don’t hear about: You get aversions too. Which don’t exist. Some things can sicken you just to think about them or smell them, and the aversions last for YEARS after the pregnancy. You get big and your back hurts. Your skin stretches and gets full of lines, and it gets raw and itches and hurts. Your balance is off and you fall a lot. Your gums bleed. You get sprains a lot because your bones all loosen up. Your skin pallor changes. You can get urinary tract infections easily. You get the worse heartburn of your life–the kind that feels like real flames just under the skin. You can’t lay on your stomach, for obvious reasons. You can’t lay on your back by the last trimester because the baby is too heavy and cuts off blood flow in certain veins. You can only lay on your sides, and doctors insist you lay on your left side because it is better for the baby. Then your hips bones begin ache. Your feet hurt because you’re suddenly carrying a lot of extra weight. You get edema–that is, your body swells up. You can’t wear your shoes anymore and your rings often have to be cut off your hands. You’re exhausted. When the baby gets larger, the kicking actually HURTS. You can’t sleep at night because that’s when the baby wakes up–s/he sleeps all day because of the rhythm of your daily movement.

    I could go on and on. But you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong: My daughter is the most precious thing in my life. I love her more than anything in the world and always will. But pregnancy? It has to be the single most disgusting thing that can happen to a woman.

  28. compcat

    Folic acid supplements reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken immediately before pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy. How effective they are is, as usual, dependent on the interaction of environment and genetics.

    The study that you refer to TheGlimmering, looked at the use of high dose folic acid supplements in late pregnancy. It included a little fewer than 3,000 women. A quote from the researcher admits that this could be an artifact (small sample size, believe me, in these types of human studies 3,000 is small.)

    “Researcher Dr Andy Ness said: “Our paper presents preliminary findings which are intended to point the way towards further research and it is published on that basis.
    It is entirely possible that this is a chance finding – so further scientific studies are required to examine the association, if there is one, before we reach any conclusions.”" (Quote from BBC, take with whatever condiment you prefer.)

    So while folic acid may cause an increase in cancer risk when taken in the third trimester (when, I assume, because I am to lazy to look it up, breast development is kicking into high gear in the mother), we don’t really know anything about it yet. It could be that the study got a skewed population. It could be that folic acid recommendations need to be altered for the second or third trimester. Stay tuned for more studies, and then scientists arguing about the studies. Yea! Go science go!

    This is an improvement from the days when doctors and scientists treated pregnancy as a black box for which men got all the credit (high five, you knocked someone up!), and women got all the blame (boo you let someone knock you up, or your surly disposition gave the child flippers).

    Since half to most pregnancies in the US are not planned, the CDC figures that the most effective route to improve neonatal health is for all women to be counseled by their doctors about preparing for pregnancy, especially if they are sexually active heterosexual women and are not using birth control routinely. Under utilization of or lack of ability to access birth control is a problem in the US.

    The patriarchy would never allow the CDC to publish a study about how to empower women to plan their pregnancies and lack of pregnancies, to make birth control more available, increase studies in both male and female birth control methods, and encouraging male vasectomies.

  29. Mandy

    From cjkoho:
    the viscera quiver involuntarily, for the icy shadow of patriarchy passeth overhead
    Sweet jeebus Twisty, I think I love you

    Mother of Jeebus, I know I do.

  30. dr_igloo

    Hedonistic: why couldn’t you believe your eyes? While it’s certainly unrealistic to suggest that most or even many women will experience childbirth in those terms, there are certainly a few that do, and lucky them. Are you somehow suggesting that the women who describe their own birth experiences that way are wrong, or deluded? In my own case, labour and delivery was the hardest, most painful, and most amazing and satisfying experience of my life (thus far). Is that ‘amusing’ too?

  31. hedonistic

    Dr. Igloo, I couldn’t believe my eyes because the naked woman posing like a nudie-dancer for our visual consumption is most emphatically NOT PREGNANT.

    Sorry my ironic tone didn’t translate well when I typed the word “amuse.”

  32. BetaCandy

    So the FDA refused to approve Plan B for fear it might convince some teenage girl somewhere to have sex she wouldn’t have had otherwise. And now this? If you’re 11 and your government thinks of you as pre-pregnant, it’s hard not to conclude your government feels you’re ready for sex. Maybe these guys need to confer with each other about exactly what the US’s agenda is here. I’m confused.

    And I realize this next bit involves reading a lot into the directive, but is there something ominous about the failure to exclude celibates and long-term virgins from the list of “pre-pregnant women”? It’s almost like they want to make sure we’re all on folic acid just in case a conscientious objector to sex has to be drafted in for rape duty… just to make sure the rapist’s offspring will be healthy.

  33. norbizness

    Yes, but think of the swank new uniforms.

  34. mel

    Hey, I posted two responses so far, and neither one of them are here? Whazzup?

  35. AoT

    You guys may find this interesting.

    An article about a teenage lesbian’s mom freaking out and calling the cops that manages to never actually say that there are lesbians involved.

  36. Catie

    I think the CDC guidelines are a little patriarchal and a lot common sensical. Doctors everywhere are terrified of malpractice, especially when a potential baby is involved. Research is the last 30 years has exploded when it comes to quantifying in utero drug exposure and possible developmental effects especially since the thalidomide disaster. This guidelines seem more like a symptom of our take-no-personal-responsibility society. By telling us these potential risks in these terms, they get to say “Don’t blame me, I told you so” later.

  37. scratchy888

    and am inexplicably asked each time when was the last time I’ve had my period

    I’m always asked this, too. It seems to betray a lack of knowledge or an interest in the wrong sort of knowledge in my opinion. But my Chinese doctor is generally inoffensive in all other matters, so I simply answer his question and he writes something down.

    The point is, that if I take the pill almost continuously and my husband is not in the fertile way, then the date he writes down is not really that meaningful in any sense.

  38. scratchy888

    I admire, as always, your ability to write about such serious issues in such an entertaining way!

    Yes, the writing is excellent because it deals with serious topics with a light touch.

  39. hedonistic

    He/she asks it because you might be pregnant. It’s tops on the list of things doctors have been taught to look for . . . again, liability might be at issue.

  40. Ani

    Hey, Bitch Ph.D. dealt with this the other day. She dug further and discovered that although WaPo claims this is a new federal guideline, they’re basically retooling an otherwise mostly innocuous CDC report to suit their own devises. It’s WaPo that sucks ass. [click me]

  41. sois_disant

    gotta love how this all comes exactly as the cervical cancer vaccine issue is once again being debated. God forbid that there should be one less sexually-tangential terror to keep women in line behind the patriarchs. Do they want us to risk cancer for the sake of potential fetus-carrying? You betcha.

  42. 100littledolls

    I guess what I was trying to say is what liability is the doctor worrying about in regards to my reproductive system when all she’s looking at are my feet?

  43. hedonistic

    I recall a story where a general practitioner went to jail because every time a woman came to see him for any problem, he had her take off her shirt and put on a paper top so he could do a breast exam. I suppose that’s why it never bothers me when a doctor asks about my period!!!!

  44. saltyC

    This is just clearing the way for putting more women in jail if something goes wrong with the fetus.

    It’s the state taking over women’s bodies to “defend” the fetus, when in reality the best thing you can do to promote healthy children is to HELP women. There is no opposition btw mothers and fetuses. If she’s not able to be healthy enough to have a baby, congratulate her on choosing not to!

  45. CoolAunt

    This is scary. :o

  46. Lara

    100littledolls wrote: “I guess what I was trying to say is what liability is the doctor worrying about in regards to my reproductive system when all she’s looking at are my feet?”

    At least within the US and Australian medicolegal systems (the only two about which my knowledge is non-zero), a doctor would be indefensibly liable in the event of presumed or actual fetal damage from X-rays or prescription medication, if she hadn’t made a documented effort to assess the likelihood of uteral occupation at the time.

    Regarding whether this liability should fall upon the uterus-owner or the medico, and why the question “Could you be pregnant?” isn’t considered sufficient enquiry – there would need to be a whole lot more reproductive and health education for all girls and women before such a thing would be remotely feasible. Why don’t we have that? I blame the patriarchy.

  47. weeza

    I like ‘uteral occupation’. Maybe we will all be issued with signs to hang round our necks: ‘Occupied’ or ‘Vacant’, or perhaps ‘No Vacancies’. When can I have my ‘Condemned’ one?

  48. Lara

    “Back entraces occluded.” “100 million sperm enter; no thing leaves.”

    I’m kinda surprised no crufty old OBs have been dinged yet for diathermying “Bitter and Barren” into a few choice endometria at tubal ligation.

  1. competitor diovan

    competitor diovan…

    Title of competitor diovan…

  2. Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » Affirm my lifestyle, Ricky boy!

    [...] Twisty weighs in on the CDC guidelines, and Amanda has another update. [...]

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