Trusting Women Means Always Trusting Women

Robin Marty

Should all medical decisions be left to a woman in conjunction with her caregiver and any family members she wishes to include?  Or do some in our wider community have a "pro-choice" double-standard?

I felt that I had made my peace when it came to my decision to choose a repeat c-section over an attempt at a vaginal birth after a cesarean.  But now I’m realizing that although I may have made my peace with it, I have by no means said all that needs to be said.

I read every comment on the post, and frankly I was somewhat shocked by the number of people who stated that although my choice was the proper one for me, they needed to “clarify” statements I made to ensure I didn’t somehow improperly sway others into thinking a repeat c-section could ever be a better option than a VBAC.

There were a lot of assumptions made about my previous birth, including one that my induction wasn’t medically necessary (it was, I was very much overdue), or that my care team rushed to a c-section to finish a long labor (untrue, I actually begged to stop labor three hours earlier, and was told to keep trying until the baby’s heartrate hit a point where it could no longer be ignored).  

But the thing I really found surprising about the comments is that although nearly everyone “congratulated” me for making the right choice for myself, there was a ruling attitude that if I did make the right decision, it was a one time situation that could not be applied to anyone else, and that I should almost apologize should other women consider the same option.

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It’s an issue that Pam touched on beautifully when she discussed her plans to have a hysterectomy.  We consider ourselves to be a pro-choice community that believes women should have bodily autonomy, and that medical decisions are best left between the woman and her doctor.  Yet when faced with something outside of the realm of abortion, all of our advocating for choice goes right out the window.

Many people, not all of them in the comments, responded to my post by sending me links to complications from c-sections.  Regardless of the page, they often listed infection, excessive bleeding, possible impairment of future fertility.  They cited the risk to future children I might plan to have, or mental impacts to my relationship with this child, including

Emotional well-being: A woman who has a c-section may be at greater risk for poorer overall mental health and some emotional problems. She is also more likely to rate her birth experience poorer than a woman who has had a vaginal birth.

Mother-baby relationship: A woman who has a c-section is more likely to have less early contact with her baby and initial negative feelings about her baby.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I trust my doctor.  I trust the decisions he and I have made together about my birth, and know that a planned c-section is our healthiest option, both for myself and my child.

And I trust Pam, and Pam’s doctor, and I know that her hysterectomy is going to be the best decision she ever could have made for her reproductive health and well being.

I trust every woman who has tried to decide between a repeat c-section and a vaginal birth, because what woman would entrust her own care, and the care of her new child to medical professional that is more interested in planning his or her schedule than ensuring patients’ health?

When you state that a woman may somehow be coerced into choosing an unneeded surgery under her doctor’s orders, how is that any different than anti-abortion activists claiming that woman are being coerced into abortions they didn’t really want by reproductive medical professionals?

If we are going to trust women, we have to trust them in all situations.  Being pro-choice means allowing women to choose the medical care they need with the input of a doctor that they trust.  And we can’t assume that just because they made a choice we may not approve of, they were somehow misinformed or wiled into a “bad choice.”  Otherwise, we’re falling into the same “women are too weak to decide for themselves” rhetoric that the anti-choice have been leveling for decades.

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