Before the election, I was working on a post about blue jeans. There were a few decent jokes in it, maybe—the biggest joke being the simple fact that I had purchased and subsequently returned no less than fourteen different pairs in my search for new jeans that were both on trend and flattering—but, honestly, whatever. Who the fuck cares?
This is what an embryo looks like when the woman who’s carrying it is six weeks pregnant. That’s the technical term, embryo—it’s the size of a lentil. It doesn’t have a face, or tiny little fingers. It’s not considered a fetus yet.
It does, crucially, have a heartbeat, even though its heart really isn’t anything like yours or mine. It’s just beginning to separate into four chambers. If the embryo is developing normally, that weird little heart is beating very fast, 150 times per minute.
The first time I got pregnant, I assumed that everything was going to be fine. As you do. When I was seven and a half weeks along, I went to see my gynecologist, and she couldn’t find the heartbeat. She sent me to a radiologist, though, and there it was. Slow, just 75 beats per minute, but there. When I went back a week later, it was gone.
The second time, we started checking earlier. I went to see my new doctor, a fertility specialist, on a Tuesday, and there it was: a heartbeat! That Friday, I went back, and there it was again. But the next Thursday, when I was approximately eight weeks pregnant, it stopped. The only beating heart in my body was, once again, my own.
Because mine were missed miscarriages, meaning that the embryos were making no attempt to leave the scene, I had to have D&Cs. This is exactly the same procedure that a woman who is six or eight or ten weeks pregnant and doesn’t want to be might undergo. I was awake for the first one, and aside from the emotional impact—the fallout from losing not a baby, but a much-wanted chance at one—it was a cakewalk. I had to go to an abortion clinic, because god forbid a woman be able to get even a dead embryo removed from her body without some drama, but the doctor who performed the procedure was kind, and the recovery was uneventful.
In the midst of these experiences, I spent a lot of time staring at the picture above, and other pictures like it. The site from which it came, Babycenter, puts a considerable amount of energy into humanizing (for lack of a better word) embryos that really don’t seem very human yet. In context, that makes sense; I’d imagine that many of the women hanging around these sites, clicking through development slideshows, are more or less happy to be pregnant.
But, as much as I wanted to have a baby—as much as I wanted the embryo inside of me to eventually become one—I found it hard not to think about the fact that lots of people in this country (lots of men, especially) would happily place the supposed rights of that tiny, tailed, translucent-skinned creature far above my own.
If the bill that just passed in Ohio is signed into law, abortion will be banned from six weeks on…which is to say, four weeks after a woman has had sex, and two weeks, at most, after she might have expected to get her period, assuming she’s both regular and paying close attention. And there are no exceptions in that bill, aside from one for the life of the mother. So even though I wrote, “after a woman has had sex,” I also meant, for example, “after a girl has been raped.” There’s not even an exception for incest.
And, of course, had my miscarriages occurred in Texas, according to a law that will go into effect there next week, my doctors would have had to bury or cremate my embryos. They say that women won’t bear the cost of these entirely unnecessary little funerals, but come on: when it comes to reproduction, women almost always get stuck with the bill.
I’m not sure what my point is, except that I am so, so fucking sick of this shit. I know it’s been said before, but I don’t believe for a second that we’d be facing this kind of law if men (particularly white men) could get pregnant. So, straight men: Unless you have ten kids, know yourself to be sterile, or have been abstinent your whole life, you too have benefited BIGLY from women’s access to abortion and birth control. If you don’t want that to stop—if you don’t believe that women should be punished for having sex, or being raped, or, you know, existing, it’s time to step the fuck up and say so. I know we all have a lot on our plates right now, but even still.—Lauren