When My Bodily Autonomy Was Questioned With Endometriosis
I have stopped and started this article more times than I can count. The recent leak of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has gotten me completely wrung into a knot and so despairing that my mind just keeps swirling, unable to fully grasp the myriad implications of what erasing 50 years of precedence will mean for future generations of women. While I have never had to make the heart wrenching decision to abort, several people I love dearly have, and I can assure you that their decisions were not made lightly. They were some of the most devastating but necessary choices of their lives and having the option of obtaining a safe, legal abortion was their only saving grace.
I’m a doer. I see injustice and immediately want to do something to help. I was feeling immobilized as to what that something could be, until I realized that the best way I know how to advocate for the reproductive rights of women is to write my own truth. Something I do understand intimately is the demoralizing feeling of being completely disregarded as a human being where matters of the womb are concerned. In the 30+ years that I have lived with endometriosis I have endured my fair share of that. Not just in the blatant disregard of my symptoms and the complete ignorance on the part of countless medical professionals who failed to recognize what my combination of symptoms meant, but more deleteriously in the period post-diagnosis when after years of attempting to manage my symptoms unsuccessfully I kept begging for a hysterectomy.
For nine years my repeated pleas were either met with silence or comments like “what does your husband think?” and “what if you change your mind about not wanting children?” as if I was too stupid, incompetent or reckless to thoroughly comprehend the implications of my decision-making. Even more infuriatingly, when my husband was present in the office to offer his vehement support for my decision to not procreate and obtain a hysterectomy, they’d discuss my care with him like I was completely invisible. At every turn I was abjectly ignored, silenced and rendered powerless by white, male, heterosexual doctors who insisted that they knew what was best. Having grown up in an environment where I was taught that my needs and feelings needed to be silenced to placate others, I just sat there and took it like a “good girl.”
My womb was treated like an independent piece of real estate that existed within me, but over which I had zero jurisdiction. My doctors assumed management over who they deemed it appropriate to inhabit that property with utter disregard for how I felt about the arrangement. It was like having an abusive landlord who refused to actually do any maintenance of the property, but insisted that I continue to put said property up for lease for free without any financial, emotional, or physical assistance and zero consequences when any inhabitant, be it endometrial lesions or a fetus, were causing damage to said property.
It’s humiliating, dehumanizing and infuriating to constantly feel as though your worth as a human being is less than that of anyone else. Your pain is irrelevant, your feelings unimportant, your quality of life an afterthought. Your husband, your doctor and even a hypothetical fetus that you have already stated you don’t want and are actively trying to not allow to move in have more rights than you do over your bodily autonomy. And because we, meaning women, have been socialized to listen to authority, we don’t dare question it, no matter how painful it is to just sit there and take it.
Make no mistake, women’s reproductive care is under attack. For any advances we may be making in comprehending etiology, symptoms, and treatment of diseases affecting women’s reproductive organs, like endometriosis, the policing of how, when and what care we can receive is an affront to our individual rights. We are descending into the dark ages where safe and reliable medical care for women was non-existent. Medical justice is being fundamentally erased for half of the population because a few individuals are allowing their religious beliefs to infiltrate their political agenda, completely disregarding not just the tenet of separation of church and state, but decades of scientific evidence indicating that access to safe legal abortions doesn’t lead to more abortions, it simply leads to fewer women dying horrendous deaths due to obtaining illegal ones, particularly women in marginalized communities. We can’t just let that happen without putting up a fight.
Getty image by Chinnapong