It happens every now and again. Someone writes something really remarkable. A post or article that is so full of win that I want to give it as much attention as possible. It has a ring of truth that many people don’t want to read, especially segments (HA! Segments. By segments, I mean most of feminism.) of feminism that believe that reproductive justice is a one-size-fits-all movement and that we should all snap-to and join together, because all of our interests are equally yoked in the fight. A strike of brutal honest fact that shows that some victory has been won, historically over the backs of others.
But then I read it and I see some little segment of non-truth, some swipe that isn’t as well-done as the rest that leaves me with a sour taste and I see it as equally harmful to some.
That can be said of this almost-home-run piece by Nicole Guidotti-Hernández at Ms. Magazine’s blog. It isn’t a secret that I have my share of issues with Ms. or their blog, like their ridiculous Obama as Superman cover or the recent blog post about how all us disabled folk were a hive mind of dupes working for the anti-choice movement. The difference being that Guidotti-Hernández’ piece was actually good. Solid. The reproductive justice movement, and feminism in general, has thrived on as marginalized women have laboured, forgotten. White women, rich, well-off women marched on to vote, enjoy their new freedom, and gain rights and non-white women nursed their children, and disabled women stayed in the corners forgotten as worthless and unworthy anyway.
Nicole had me until the part where she seemed to be dissing on IUDs:
Yet, I can’t help but think of a recent visit to the gynecologist (not my usual one, but an affiliate in the practice at the University Medical Center in Tucson), at which the doctor kept insisting that I consider an IUD even though I am unmarried and have no children. As a recently tenured faculty member with a hyphenated “Latino” name, this unwavering persistence that I need an IUD–or, rather, am a good candidate for one–and therefore not needing to reproduce, suggests that reproductive racism is alive and well, even for an Ivy-league educated Chicana. It makes me wonder how many other Latinas, educated or not, are being pushed to control their reproduction with this subtle racism that is the dark underbelly of reproductive justice.
I can sympathize with her feelings of frustration here. My own heritage is full of women who were forcibly sterilized. Perhaps what she senses was happening is in fact what was going on. I don’t know. I am not one to fully discount institutional racism. I know all too well what it feels like to feel like your provider isn’t listening to you, maybe even better than she does. There is no excuse for a provider to not listen to your wishes. It still doesn’t change the rest of it. It is also entirely possible that she had a doctor who was simply trying to give her the best possible birth control option for her, and that because she hasn’t researched the IUD properly, and that she is spreading myths about it, that she was dead set against hearing that it was that: a great choice for her. Having “Native American” stamped in my medical record didn’t make obtaining my one any easier. I had insurance on my side, and even my “white” appearance, getting me more than one odd glance when what they see doesn’t match what they read. I am forgetful with pills. I am horrible with getting refills. I have all kinds of complications that interact with hormones, and more reasons than fingers for doctors to dissuade me from having more children. And yet, I have had the opposite experience. Twice.
It is also no secret how I love my IUD. How I have had to fight to get it. Why is that you ask? Why did I have to fight to get it?
Because people seem to be caught up in the days when IUDs in the U.S. were getting a bad rap for still being dangerous, and it seems that most people — women, nurses, doctors, preachers, whathaveyou — can’t be bothered to pick up the latest literature and brush up on what is so awesome about IUDs, or so safe, convenient, affordable (for a privileged sect), and practical.
Modern IUDs, available in two forms: The plastic hormonal and the copper non-hormonal (Mirena and Paraguard in the U.S.). The thing is, they are not just for married moms of three kids these days. IUDs are also great for…well, almost anyone. No longer do you have to have popped out kids in order for your cervix to be right. Some doctors still believe otherwise, and I believe that if we continue to allow people to spread myths like the above quoted passage, they will continue to turn women away from this great form of birth control. Armed with information, doctors, nurses, and even *cough* nurse midwives, will begin to see that everyone’s cervix is different and that it depends on the woman, not her status of maternity.
Being married is no longer required either. It is more important to be smart and responsible about your sexual health than to be in a marital, or even a monogamous, relationship. I think people realized a while back that being married is no longer (HA!) proof that you will be protected from STIs. Many professionals recommend a second barrier method in conjunction with an IUD, but you would have to use that with the pill, the patch, and most hormonal birth control anyway.
IUD is about the most popular form of birth control in the world. In fact, according to Guttmacher, its use in Europe outdoes the other leading three uses of contraceptive in the U.S..
Why could that be?
Well, for one, if you opt for the Paragard, or copper version, there are no side effects. Once your body adjusts — most women experience mild to “oh my stars I want to ker-smash things” cramping the first month or so — you no longer have any of the brought-on-by-hormones deals that are associated with the pill, the shot, etc. Smokers, those with high blood pressure, heart disease, and even people like myself who have medical situations that interfere with the pill, can happily use the copper IUD.
Mirena offers a low dose of hormones with the benefits of being an IUD. An extra whammy if you will. Conditions like endomitriosis are believed to be helped slightly by its use. It is also believed to help aid heavy periods and can help lighten them. It won’t set off metal detectors at airports*. Slate has a good article that focuses on the IUD.
Both are easily reversible. By “easily”, I mean “almost instantly”. I mean, were I to go in to my doctor’s office today and have my Paragard removed, The Guy and I could, in theory, conceive a child within ten minutes of the doctor leaving the exam room. Long term doesn’t mean permanent. You don’t have to wait a month (or longer) for the hormones to leave your body. Many women in Europe and Asia use the IUD as an alternative to the more permanent sterilization at the end of planning their families. The U.S. just hasn’t caught on yet.
It is also ready to use the day (THE SAME HOUR!) you have it inserted.
The start-up cost is, sadly, higher than most other forms (between $300-$500 without insurance), but the maintenance is lower. “Lower” here reads as “virtually nonexistent”. Every other form of birth control requires you to maintain. The shot and ring: Monthly. The patch: Weekly. The pill: Daily. Condoms: Every damn time (no, really, you can’t re-use them, even if you wash them!). With the IUD, you have it inserted, and then you basically ignore it for five years or ten years, depending on your device (well, you should stick some fingers in there to check for the strings once a month or so, but checking your bits out is a good idea anyway), or until you decide to have it removed, barring any complications (and I am not saying there won’t be any).
There is no month-month cost, and if you are paying $60 a month in birth control, over the 5-10 life of your IUD, it is cheaper. In reality, I know that if you can’t afford $60 a month, you likely can’t afford $300, let alone $500, but this is the reality of the economics of the device. If you have access to a women’s health clinic, like a Planned Parenthood, they may be able to help assist. More VA centers are getting into the Women’s Health arena, with closed curtains and everything, but I am not holding my breath. IUDs are usually covered by insurance, but I am not going to pretend this is always the case. I know quite a few notable exceptions to this, which is why it is important for people to realize that reproductive justice issues are a part of women’s health care.
The reason attitudes like this irritate me is because even OB/GYNs and other women’s health professionals have a hard time paying attention to the good side of IUDs. The reasons for this, I am not sure, but it makes it damned difficult for people who want or need them to get them. Some people who need them, who can not use other forms have a hell of a time getting them, and not just because of lack of availability or costs, but because doctors just simply don’t keep up with the latest information (as I recently found out for myself).
You would think that its 99% + efficacy would be a drawing factor. Sure, studies show that the pill and patch and condom also tote these, but with perfect usage. Typical usage put them at closer to … not so much. Depending on who you ask, those methods are more or less reliable if you use them well enough. The copper IUD is has a less than 1% failure rate, and the hormonal IUD a pretty close second. That is the most effective birth control after abstinence. A couple of hormonal birth controls come close, but really, it is the most reliable.
It just irks me, irks me to no end, that amidst sharing parts of a dark history that needs to be highlighted that someone would mix in myths with their, possibly justified, suspicion. Non-white women have endured a long history of forced sterilization, and messages that we shouldn’t enjoy the same freedoms with our reproductive rights. That justifies the suspicion with reproductive medical professionals. I’ve had them myself. But it doesn’t mean that every time it is going to be that way, or that things like IUDs are suggested to keep our wombs closed forever, because that just isn’t what they do, and I will not sit idly by while someone writes a mostly good article, and while it is passed around passively and highly praised (albeit, mostly deservedly). But someone needs to point out the flaw. Someone needs to point out the dangerous myth. Maybe some young woman, maybe a young Latina woman, possibly with some sort of disability or need I can’t think of, someone who doesn’t want children while she completes an education, or doesn’t want a family and doesn’t want an invasive procedure like sterilization, might read this article and think that she has no other options. And specialists will only confirm that suspicion.
I can’t have that.
For more IUD love from a non-white perspective, see Lena Chen.
More of my IUD love.
*I had the surprising experience of my IUD setting of a metal detector at the Honolulu Airport while going to drop The Kid off for an Unaccompanied Minor flight. I had no metal whatsoever on my body, no clips in my hair, and a t-shirt on. The guards were baffled, that the wand was only picking up a crackle near my abdomen. They let us through and when I came back, it was the only thing that occurred to me. They agreed that it was what must be giving them issue. We all had a good laugh, and it cheered me considerably.