Reproductive Rights Affected My Life and Career … and Not for the Reasons You Think

When people think of Roe v Wade (including the justices who recently bucked Stare Decisis to rule) it’s very black and white: “murdering babies” or “not murdering babies”. There is nothing else; the focus is singular. The ruling does not take into account the very real, very complex, and non-pregnancy MEDICAL situations directly related to the right to reproductive medical freedom and availability. Unlike others who are posting their personal stories, my story is different.

I’ve never been pregnant.

Read that again.

I’ve never been pregnant.

I can tell you, even though I’ve never been pregnant, I’ve been impacted by law that rules reproductive medical decisions.

It started when I was 14 years old. One night I awoke and started throwing up for no obvious reason. I think we chalked it up to a stomach bug; I can’t remember. I just remember it being 2 am and my sweet Mom holding back my hair as I gripped the porcelain throne.

As each year went on, ages 15, 16, 17, the puking/diarrhea/cramping appeared more frequently until I was 19 years old, and living in a sorority in college. I was scheduled to go to class that afternoon, but instead found myself huddled in the bathroom stall. My close friend checked in on me before she left for class and when she came back a couple of hours later, I hadn’t moved. I was also supposed to go on a date that night with my new boyfriend, but I could not leave the stall; every 20 or 30 minutes my body was expelling clear liquid.

“This is enough,” my friend declared and recruited my boyfriend and another friend to take me to the ER. I was so weak I had to be transported via wheelchair, and even before I could get checked in, I blacked out. Three bags of IV fluid later, I woke up to my worried parents and boyfriend (who had met one another in that room for the first time) looking over me. They told me I had lost 15 pounds in a matter of 7 hours.

The doctors were stumped, There was no food poisoning, no bacteria, no intestinal blockages. My digestive system was destroyed. I spent the next two weeks rebuilding my gut biome- first broths and jello, then breads, then vegetables, until finally, meats, cheeses, and desserts.

When I got home that night from the hospital, my period started.

In all those years, I never made the connection. It wasn’t until my next GP appointment when I gave her my vitals that I mentioned I was in the ER earlier that month. She said, “You were in the ER on May 3? And the first day of your last period was May 3?” I said, “Yes…, ” and as she discovered the connection, I had a moment of realization- every previous gut bursting episode was the same pattern. Each time, my period would start within 24 hours.

She handed me a pamphlet on Dysmenorrhea and told me all about the condition. It’s basically an overactive uterus that causes disruption in all other surrounding organs and painful cramping that cannot be eased by Tylenol or Advil. Guess what? THE ONLY REMEDY is birth control hormones (pills/IUD/etc).

After that appointment, I never stepped foot in the ER for that purpose again. I never had to call in sick or spontaneously lose 15 lbs. in a matter of hours. I could live functionally. I could have a career, a college degree, a life. These medications are prescription-only and for years, my insurance company would not cover them (they were $150 per month for a 19-25 year old just starting out in the world) and I would have to fight the insurance companies every single time, proving that I was using them for medical purposes. Eventually they would give in and I would get them for a $10 co-pay or for free. Each time my company would change insurance carriers or I would change jobs, I would have to start the fight all over again. After 2005, birth control was widely available and this was no longer an issue.

At some point, I had read that you could outgrow Dysmenorrhea, so from ages 32-42, I took myself off birth control. All was fine until one day, I was with two other female colleagues at a sales appointment. We had just wrapped up and were on our way to the next meeting. We got into our respective vehicles and as I started my car engine, the driver’s seat filled with blood. My recently dry-cleaned slacks were submerged in a bloodbath in my bucketed front seat. I had a full-blown period explosion. I called my colleague and said, “I don’t think I can make it to the next appointment,” explaining to her what had happened and silently thanking myself for deciding to drive separately. I drove home, cleaned up the mess, and headed straight to my OB who got me back on course.

If you think Roe vs Wade and Griswold v Connecticut are just about babies not being born, you are sorely mistaken. My story is just one peripheral example of the implications of these decisions. I’d love for a guy to imagine his ball exploding in a car and the only solution is medication that is labeled as “birth control” – an option that could be taken away at any moment by the Supreme Court.

I have always said if I were to get pregnant when I was not ready, I would still keep the child or put it up for adoption … but I never did get pregnant. I never had to make that decision. I never had an ectopic pregnancy. I never went through IVF. I would never pretend to understand or to tell someone how to make their own decisions and I certainly would not let anyone make mine either; including decisions related to ANY OF MY ORGANS, not just the reproductive ones.

So think twice before you assume Roe v Wade only has to do with babies. Look closely at your female colleagues, mentors, sisters, in-laws, spouses, partners, friends, cousins, and bosses that may not have been able to have a career or a fulfilled life without the aid of reproductive choices and options. This court ruling is so much more than just about babies.

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