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Day 269: Mere Ovens?

As Lousiana steels itself for the possible flip of Roe v. Wade, the topic of the following post increases in relevance. Do you notice that, through all of this, not a one cares about the emotional and physical welfare of the child in question?

CBSNews.com reports that the feminist blogosphere is aghast over new government guidelines that all American women between puberty and menopause should be treated as “pre-pregnant.” If you have the requisite plumbing and it’s in perfect running condition, you are requested to take folic acid with your vitamins, quit smoking, exercise and generally abstain from poor health. [Note that in 2004, the British Health Minister decided that the nation’s flour be fortified with folic acid, ostensibly “due to outstanding concerns about vitamin B12 deficiency,” especially in seniors. Hmmmm …]

As a proponent of choice, I’m all for responsibility – a woman’s responsibility to herself, her partner and society never to bring an unplanned child into this world. (And that of would-be rapists who ought to be ashamed of even thinking of taking what isn’t given to them.) It is an abject lack of sex education and feelings of responsibility that lead women into unplanned pregnancies and motherhood. As the CDC reports, “In the United States, approximately half of all pregnancies are unintended,” and a recent study (which I can’t find the URL for right now) indicates that birth control use is on the decrease in the poor and uneducated.

If these women are ignorant of birth control measures and will do nothing to prevent these pregnancies, do you think they are any more enlightened about the musts for a healthy pregnancy and baby? The same article states that “unintended pregnancies are associated with poor maternal-child health outcomes.” Not only do you have an oops baby, but also raise the kid in poor health. Great.

Arguably, the mandate aspect of the guidelines sounds insulting to those of us who maintain good health as an end in itself and not merely to bear babies. A large part of me wonders why the government doesn’t support this for all women. Period. No pre, no pregnant, no nothing. As John says, the wording sounds like something out of a certain Margaret Atwood book. Did you know that laptop heat can impair male fertility?  For heaven’s sake, there are no federal guidelines on smoking.

Then, I wonder: if this country is indeed going to hell in a handbasket, must we take scores of malnourished, malformed and generally health-disadvantaged kids with us? Ones that commited no crime other than being born into an ethos of irresponsibility on all fronts?

What makes me shake my head at the hooplah is this somewhat-competing statement from the National Institutes of Health and the Dept. of Health and Human Services that Americans are taking too many dietary supplements. An A+ to the government’s left hand for refusing to talk to the right.

A note to Louisianan women who love their rBGH-rich milk: a new study shows that ‘women who consume animal products, specifically dairy, are five times more likely to have twins than those who do not.” Make sure you carry that can of Mace around with you at all times.

Something for all of us: a new device that measures the amount of caffeine in your coffee, so you know the next time your barrista tries to keep you from exploding all over the place.

Dr. Van Pelt out.

6 comments… add one
  • TravelingMermaid May 24, 2006, 9:39 PM

    Ha! Reading this, I thought of that Margaret Atwood book too. Truth is getting as strange as fiction!

  • Mark May 25, 2006, 6:32 AM

    You may recall the dispute in which a battery processing plant refused to hrie women for production jobs because exposure to all of the lead and other toxic goodies would be extremely bad for the “pre-pregnant.”

    I’m sure there’s all sorts of other work which the pre-pregant should be restricted from.

    What scary is hell is the world view thats simmering just below the surface in conservative politics. They seem to have enough sense to keep some of their views to themselves, lest the middle run screaming away from them. But the intent is there.

  • Julie May 25, 2006, 12:14 PM

    It almost pains me to admit it, but it is a difficult line to draw: if a woman intends on becoming pregnant, there are certain things she really should avoid doing. This is the biological onus women bear with regards to reproduction; it’s a matter of biology, and should not be coopted as a matter of social or political control.

    What angers me more than jobs such as those Mark mentioned, which won’t hire women of child-bearing age, are those that are forced into hiring said women and then successfully sued later on when lo and behold! the kids are born with birth defects. Who KNEW!

    But what can you do? The key to me is what I said in the first paragraph: there are the things that woman SHOULD avoid doing. The choice to avoid certain activities or to make lifestyle changes should be in the hands of the woman, just as the choice to be pregnant in the first place should also be in her hands. Make sure women know the risks. Make sure that if they insist on flouting them, they are not able to sue for their inability to make difficult choices.

    I’d like to think that somehow personal responsibility can make a comeback.

    This is obviously not the ideal solution from the point of view of the potential children, but in the end, I think it’ll benefit far more already existing women – those that are already responsible, those that are much more than simply and incubator for the next generation – than it’ll disadvantage potential children.

    If you’re not doing so already, you should be keeping an eye on Dan Savage’s column. This week’s comments on the war against “Straight Rights” are priceless.

  • Maitri May 25, 2006, 2:21 PM

    Julie, you’re absolutely right. It’s a biological matter with the educated choice lying ultimately in the hands of the parents, mostly the mother. Also, this move will aid women who are more than an incubator, as you put it, but the socio-political motivations attached to the “guidelines” are what bother me. Specifically, it’s this paragraph from Savage, whom I have been following, incidentally:

    “Color me paranoid, but ordering American women to regard themselves as “pre-pregnant” because they may harm a fetus they don’t know they’re carrying opens the door to prosecuting women who harm their fetuses by failing to regard themselves as “pre-pregnant.” How long until “women should… refrain from smoking [and] maintain a healthy body weight” becomes “women must…” Does that sound paranoid? Well, so did a war on contraception once.

    The government doesn’t give a flying fishizzle about the mother. In that case, why would most states ban abortion even in the case of rape? Pro-life, but not the quality thereof. Like I keep saying, I want one of these lawmakers to spend a weekend in a ghetto apartment or a trailer, caring for these babies in their squalid conditions. And what are they living on? Government money, that’s right. Nice math.

  • dangerblond May 26, 2006, 11:40 PM

    I just want to put my 2-cents in for having children as young as you can afford to do it, mentally and financially. There is less time for all the toxins that are all around you to affect your reproduction and your eggs if you have a child before you are 35, but I say 30. It’s also easier on your body the younger you are. If you are a young woman who wants a child and has not found a man you can live with, then have a baby any way if you can afford it.

  • Ann June 1, 2006, 11:52 PM

    That is the creepiest thing I’ve read, even in this surreal environment of Rove’s America. I’m supposed to avoid all these things that /might/ cause harm to a fetus I may, or may NOT be carrying, regardless of MY desires or wishes?

    That’s insane – why isn’t the government issuing “guidelines” to my husband, an environmental toxicologist, to avoid dangerous environmental contaminants on the off-chance the exposure will affect the chromosatic integrity of his sperm? Becasue he’s a man, that’s why.

    This country has lost it’s freakin’ mind. I’m seriously considering getting “fixed” just so I won’t be arrested for drinking a beer and compromising my “pre-pregnancy” state.

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