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"Forever Pregnant" ?!?!

It's difficult to begin expressing my outrage that our Federal government has issued a new set of guidelines that basically assumes that a woman is nothing more than a walking uterus for more than half of her life.

I took the trouble of reading through not just the WaPo article, but also the actual guidelines. They're infuriating on a lot of levels. For example, take this nice lapse in logic. Even though the report makes a point of stating that: "The risk and the burden of disease is unequally distributed, and a small number of women experience the majority of the pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality (emphasis added)", the guidelines also state that "the target population for preconception health promotion is women, from menarche to menopause, who are capable of having children". So -- which is it? Target at-risk women (which would not be a bad idea, by the way, if it actually included a real plan for those women to get free or low-cost health care, something most of them lack due to the fucked-up health care system in this country) or just assume everyone with a uterus has no clue on how to take care of herself and therefore needs to be told how to stay healthy for the sake of her future children.

Menarch, by the way, occurs around age 12 or 13. So according to these guideline, a 14-year old girl should (among other things):

1) Take folic acid supplements
2) Have a "reproductive life plan"
3) Avoid all hazardous chemicals, lead-based paints, alcohol, caffeine, Accutane, anti-epileptic drugs (tough luck, you female epileptics!), and cat feces
4) Consider herself to be in a state of "preconception" at all times and act accordingly

What's particularly infuriating is not the actual health guidelines. They're standard stuff, really -- excercise, eat right, avoid smoking, etc -- but what pisses me off is that the report believes that the reason women should be enouraged to do these things is not for themselves, but because they MIGHT get pregnant one day and if they did, how terrible it would be for the child if they were not in a perfect state of readiness.

"Why is this such a big deal?" you might ask. "Most women have kids sooner or later, all this is doing is trying to raise awareness about how to do it right." That's true, most women do have kids sooner or later. But why are men almost completely invisible in this equation? To read the report, you'd think that women just wake up one morning and magically find themselves pregnant. It does take two to tango, last I checked. And yet, as Echinde so aptly put it:

Men are never asked to consider themselves as the potential purveyors of healthy goldfish for women's aquaria. Even though medical evidence shows that sperm quality can be affected by workplace exposure to toxins and by smoking and drinking.

And a second pet peeve of mine also gets raised here. This plays perfectly into not only the sexist presumption that women are no more than fragile walking uteruses, but it also ties into the whole Culture of Fear. "Ohmygod! I had a sip of caffeinated coffee! My Baby! Will! Not! Be! Perfect!!!!1!!1!"

Here's a tip, folks: If it were that easy to screw up gestation, the human race would never have gotten this far. Yes, not every baby is perfect. Bad things can happen. But you can do everything perfectly, and still have a problem, and you can do a ton of stuff wrong, and end up with a healthy baby.

But that's a secondary issue next to the larger one, which is (not surprisingly) completely absent from the report. Birth control. You'd think that amidst all this great advice about how to be a perfect incubator, the CDC might say something about educating women on proper uses of contraception, so that those unplanned pregnancies they're so worried about might instead be planned ones, right? Nope. The only mention of contraception happens in the section devoted to "high risk" behaviors, such as the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Brilliant.

I could rant on some more, but this is long and disjointed enough for one night.

On a lighter note, I tried the bit about "Honey, the CDC says I shouldn't be cleaning the cat's litter box becasuse I'm in a state of preconception," on Scott tonight. It didn't work.

Comments (1)

I just wanted to let you know I thought this was a pretty good post, not a "rant" at all, and I would've included it in one of my link roundups except that I need to start highlighting new feminist bloggers.

But thanks for writing it anyway.

Best - Melinda

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 16, 2006 11:44 PM.

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