Not a Privilege but a Right

A version of this post should have been up before Christmas, but technology decided to take a holiday a bit before the rest of us.

…and then there was the time the WordPress wasn’t actually publishing posts, and things got behind, and then it all just seemed like such a big mountain to crawl out from under. Also known as “what I like to call the last two weeks.”

First and foremost – and with apologies, since I did really drop the ball on notifying people – I did receive word that my biopsy results were negative and I am, thankfully, cancer-free. My doctor was also able to rush the results, so I found out prior to the holidays, which was also a relief.

It was a very strange experience, though, in that it forced me, for a week, to once again contemplate mortality and the specific desires I have for life. Also, as a friend of mine noted, it was one of the instances where, all things wrong with the American health system that there are, the fact that I was being treated here and not in the Canadian health system was a blessing, because it was a fast process.

And actually, still is a fast process. There are obviously still “body is not functioning right” issues going on, and this afternoon will hopefully resolve a lot of that. So I’ve gone from concerned issue to ultrasound to biopsy to results to treatment inside a month – that’s a time frame that really is enviable…and it’s a time frame made possible by virtue of having startlingly good health insurance and living in a place where, while I do have to pay for that health insurance, one of the benefits is access.

That access is an important thing, because just a few years ago, I didn’t have that access. I didn’t have health insurance for a few years, and prior to those years, what I did had didn’t even cover a wellness health visit outside a very overcrowded campus health center that wasn’t equipped for anything but colds, flus, and sexually transmitted diseases. I shudder to think of the process then – deciding whether or not to seek out care, or if this is just a discomfort I could live with. What if the biopsy result had been positive? In my current position, it would have sucked, but I have family nearby and loved ones willing to come take care of me, and access to top-of-the-line hospitals and people who will make sure that I receive excellent care (or else).

A few years ago, none of that was necessarily the case – especially the access to care.

I am privileged. I didn’t have to live with the stress and concern and fear that happens when you get a bad test result back and fall into that wasteland of waiting. I knew that, should the result be a bad one, I would have excellent and aggressive health care waiting for me, and that I would ultimately be in charge of the decisions made, and that what happened to me wouldn’t be based on limited services or access or my ability to pay (or not). These are the sorts of privileges a lot of women don’t have – especially low income women living in states where legislature is actively working to shut down what is often the only existing source of women’s healthcare: Planned Parenthood.

I was able to usher in the start of the year with toasts of “fuck cancer” – and it is the memory of that relief and that privilege that, in part, continues to motivate my political activism, support of the Affordable Care Act, and donations to various women’s health and activism organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

Because no woman should have to wonder “cancer” without knowing that, if it is, there is easy access to care and support. “My body is broken and needs fixing” should not be a privilege but a right.

Yet Another Rape Apologist in a Position of Power

It’s been a banner year for rape in the media, and apparently December just felt left out. Joining the likes of:

  • Todd “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down” Akin (outgoing Rep, R-Missouri);1
  • Paul “forcible rape” Ryan (2012 GOP VP candidate);2
  • Chuck “I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by rape” Winder (Senator, R-Idado);3
  • Whoopi “I know it wasn’t rape-rape” Golberg;4
  • Richard “I think that even with life begins in the horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” Mourdock (Senate candidate, R-Indiana);5
  • Tom, I’ll just clarify to reporters that having a baby out of wedlock is a situation similar to becoming pregnant from rape, Smith (Senate candidate, R-PA);6
  • Steve, the 11-year-old gang rape victim was “like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying ‘come in to my parolor, said the spider to the fly,” Taylor, arguing the girl was “the reason that 20 teenagers and adult men raped a child on videotape;7
  • Rogar “some girls rape so easy” Rivard (Rep, R-Wisconsin);8

is Orange County Superior Court judge Derek Johnson, who said that the following litany of amazing things when refusing a heavier sentence for a man convicted of rape by a jury of his peers:

I spent my last year and a half in the D.A.’s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault. I’ve seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes rape.9

Of course, in some ways it’s unfair to lump Johnson in with the above quotes, because his ruling actually happened in 2008. That’s okay, though – there’s an awful lot of horrible that’s been spouted off in the past, too, and he’s just clearly gravitating towards his own:

  • Stephen “rape causes women to ‘secrete a certain secretion’” Freind (1988 Rep, R-PA);10
  • Henry “the facts show that people who are raped–who are truly raped–the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree this is a rarity, if ever” Aldridge (1995 Rep, R-NC);11
  • Clayton “if ‘[rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” Williams (1990 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee);12
  • James Leon “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami” Holms (Federal Judge, 1997);13
  • John C. Willke, a physician who was once president of the National Right to Life Committee, whose statement is astonishing and bears repeating in full:

    Finally, factor in what is is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more.14

People being horrible about rape, since forever.

With thanks to Katie J.M. Baker for her Jezebel post Fuck You, Rape Culture, which served as a comprehensive list of spoken justifications for rape that made the news this year.

  1. It’s Not Shocking That Republican Senate Nominee Thinks Women Can’t Get Pregnant From ‘Legitimate Rape’ []
  2. The Truth About “Redefining” Rape []
  3. Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse For Abortions []
  4. Whoopi On Roman Polanski: It Wasn’t ‘Rape-Rape’ []
  5. Richard Mourdock: Rape, pregnancy and God’s plan []
  6. Having a Baby Out of Wedlock is Kind of Like Getting Pregnant from Rape, Says Senate Candidate []
  7. Lawyer likens gang-rape victim to a spider luring men to web []
  8. Rep. Roger Rivard criticized for ‘some girls rape easy’ remark []
  9. State of California, Commission on Judicial Performance []
  10. Freind’s Rape-pregnancy Theory Refuted []
  11. Lawmaker Says Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy []
  12. Texas Candidate’s Comment About Rape Causes a Furor []
  13. In Judicial Twist, Republicans Seen Stalling Bush Pick []
  14. Rape Pregnancies Are Rare []