Respect Life, But Let Me Keep My IUD

Jessica Griffin

Candidates vying for the Republican nomination love to talk about their respect for human life whenever they get the chance. Last night on CNN Mitt Romney threw in his own unsolicited quip about unborn life while talking about health care reform. While seemingly harmless, what I heard was, "We're taking away your birth control!" Here's why.

Personhood. Republicans love to talk about it. Even without being directly asked about abortion, Republican presidential candidates love to throw in – Life, from fertilization to natural death- whenever they get the chance. Or, as Romney offered while discussing Paul’s stance on health care on CNN last night “both unborn and living.”

But as this past year has made perfectly clear, the notion of respecting unborn life doesn’t just stop with respect. Personhood amendments been are become increasingly popular; both in state legislatures and in the grassroots pro-life rhetoric.

As a young woman, I find the notion of personhood personally terrifying, and not because I’m planning on having another abortion.

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Anyone familiar with my story knows that the reason I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy in the first place was because oral contraceptives just don’t work for me. The combination of my hectic and unpredictable schedule and very sensitive stomach meant that just about every pill I tried made me sick, or I would just plain forget to take it.

For two solid years I had complained to doctors and nurses alike that the pill wasn’t a good fit for me. Their response was that I should consider other forms of birth control, but that they would cost more.

Since I didn’t have enough leftover student loan money every month to pay more than the $15 I was already paying for the pill, and because I certainly didn’t have the $500 down payment required to get the IUD I had been eyeing, I stuck with the pill and tried to remember to use condoms.

Almost inevitably, I found myself sitting in a Planned Parenthood talking with a counselor about the abortion that I would be having that day. She asked if I had any questions and I blurted out what frankly was my primary concern at the moment – How do I make sure that this doesn’t happen again?

I explained to her my now obvious problem with the pill, and she suggested that Planned Parenthood could insert an IUD that day, free of charge. The Mirena IUD would protect me from another unintended pregnancy for the next 5 years – I wouldn’t have to pay for birth control again until I had finished graduate school.

When I sat back down in the waiting room I turned to my boyfriend and excitedly told him that I would be getting an IUD for free that same day. In retrospect, I know that he didn’t really know what that meant, but at the time I didn’t care – a huge weight had been lifted off of me.

Life with the IUD has been just short of amazing. It may sound corny – but finding a form of birth control that really works for you is nothing short of liberating.

Which is why these personhood amendments are so troubling.

Personhood amendments, which this year alone have been introduced in countless states, would grant legal rights and protection to a fertilized egg (implanted or otherwise.) IUDS – like the one that has prevented me from taking another trip to the abortion clinic – would become illegal.

That’s right; this kind of amendment would make it illegal for me to do something that would change the lining of my uterus on the off chance that a fertilized egg may be hoping to nestle in there. Really?

And don’t give me any nonsense about other forms of prevention, like abstinence or the rhythm method.

The first guy I ever had sex with “practiced abstinence” (he had a ring to prove it!) and as my Catholic mother who has had five pregnancies explains- the rhythm method is what you use when you’re trying to get pregnant.

My hope is that I’ll never have to face the reality of one of these amendments in a state that I call home, or that if I do there’s a neighbor state close by with less regressive laws.

Can you imagine having to travel to another state for birth control?

The harsh reality is that the passage of a personhood amendment would almost guarantee that I would find myself facing another unplanned pregnancy, and in need of another abortion.

Should these amendments catch on and be upheld in court in the manner that anti-choicers are praying they will be, chances are I’ll be headed on an international vacation in order to exercise the right to my own body.

And that’s saving babies how?

Of course, there would be plenty of other women who wouldn’t have the ability to leave either the state or the country, and those women would be subjected to the same horrors that economically disadvantaged women faced before 1973.

But in the war against women, concern for our wellbeing isn’t exactly paramount.

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