Letter to Leigh
by Kathy Cannon
Seems hard to believe Ashley is four years old already! I thought I'd drop you a note in her birthday card since we don't see each other much lately. I wish we could hang out together more often like we used to. I know that you're really busy with Ashley, and I understand it's hard being a single mother. You've got a lot of responsibility, and on top of that, you've been working a lot of hours.
So, like I said, I thought I'd write you a little letter, to let you know I've been thinking about you. It's Sunday, and I spent it as I usually do--reading the newspaper and recuperating from the week. I saw an article in today's paper that made me think of you. It was an editorial written by Cori Baill, an Orlando area OB/GYN. She wrote that most females in their early teens seek abortions. Baill said that for teens, the financial and emotional aspects of motherhood are motives for terminating a pregnancy. Not only do these young girls lack the skills and education needed to support them and their baby, but they also know that their lives will change forever, with less freedom and less social time.
I'm rambling, and you're probably wondering how this relates to you. I'll get to the point. I remember when you told me that you were pregnant with Mark's kid--even though you'd been on the pill. (That's something that really sucks about the pill--you have to make sure that you take it at the same time every day, and you have to be REALLY careful if you miss a pill or if you're on antibiotics.) Anyway, we talked for hours--that day and every day for weeks later--about the difficulties for both you and Mark. Even though you knew it'd be hard to finish college, that you'd have to keep waiting tables up until your water broke, and that Mark would probably have to work two jobs, you decided to have it.
It seems like such a contrast when I think about you and people like Amy Grossberg. You've heard of her, haven't you? She's the college freshmen who hid her pregnancy from her family and friends. Her boyfriend helped her deliver their baby in a hotel room near the college, and after the baby was born, they put him in a plastic bag and threw him in a dumpster. Can you believe that? Like there's only one solution to an unwanted pregnancy--throw the baby in the trash.
THERE MAY BE a new option for terminating pregnancies around the corner, too, I hear. I saw in the news that they're looking for a manufacturer for the French abortion pill, RU-486. In case you haven't heard, it's a pill that blocks hormones that an embryo needs to survive. After a woman takes three tablets of this stuff, her uterus contracts and contracts until the embryo is expelled. Apparently, since the uterus contractions can be quite severe, and because a woman can also experience pelvic spasms, vomiting, and diarrhea, the FDA won't approve it.
I just finished reading an article in the June issue of the Utne Reader that doctors can prescribe two drugs--drugs that have already been on the market for years--that, in combination, have the same effect as the French abortion pill. One of the drugs is used to treat conditions like arthritis and lupus; the other is for treating ulcers. This type of abortion is obviously easy to perform, but hard to track. The government requires that surgical abortions be reported to the Centers for Disease Control, but prescriptions don't have to be. Chemical abortions--whether these two drugs or the French abortion pill--will make the pro-life/pro-choice war more complicated, don't you think? Who would anti-abortionists target? With surgical abortions, the enemy is clear--clinics, abortion doctors, etc. With chemical abortions, the "enemy" is harder to determine. How would you know which doctors were prescribing these pills? How would you know what women were using them, when it has to be done within six weeks after conception? How would you know how many pregnancies are actually being terminated each year? I guess they'd have try to change the values of society--an "enemy" too large for them to fight.
I don't understand why the FDA won't approve the French abortion bill, when these other drugs are available. Plus, the "side effect" argument doesn't make sense--some of the birth control methods available to women have just as many side effects, with some of them just as serious. Even common methods of birth control, like the pill and Depo-Provera shots have their disadvantages--they imitate a woman's natural menstrual cycle, but keep her from ovulating. How healthy can that be for a woman who uses the pill or Depo-Provera for years? Plus, side effects like nausea, vomiting, spotting, migraines, and bloating are quite common. And, these methods also can increase the toxicity of other drugs like steroids, caffeine, beta blockers, and tricyclic antidepressants. Norplant is similar; they put six little rods under the skin in your arm that give off the same type of hormones as the pill. Except with Norplant, you are more likely to have irregular periods, you can lose your hair, and you may develop dark skin over the point where the rods are inserted. Apparently, the rods are easy to insert, but you have to find an experienced clinician to remove them.
Here's a disturbing story for you...the other day, my boyfriend was telling me about this woman he's known for years who is not able to have children because of the IUD she had been implanted with years ago. In case you didn't know, an IUD is another type of birth control--it's a small, plastic device that is inserted into the uterus and left there. It prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, and then growing, because it continuously scrapes the uterine walls. I've heard it described as "an internal scrub brush." Sometimes, it can actually puncture the walls of the uterus; other times, it can cause a tubal infection, which leads to sterility. That's why doctors won't prescribe it these days for a woman who's never had a child, or if she's planning to some day.
MAYBE IT'S ABOUT time that women weren't the "lab rats" anymore. Don't you think it's unfair that there aren't more options for men? While the list of birth control methods for women is long, men have two choices--a vasectomy or condoms--both of which are almost equally resisted! Then again, would you leave it up to a man to be completely responsible for birth control?
At least with being "90s women," we don't have to come up with our own "homemade" birth control remedies. The other night I was surfin' the Net and stumbled across an article about the history of birth control--some of the things women used to do really freaked me out! This is really sick--I read that women used to mix honey with cow dung and put it inside their vagina to prevent pregnancy. I think the smell alone would keep men away; that in itself would be a pretty effective means of birth control. What would really happen is that the mixture would start an infection, causing the woman to miscarry.
The article also talked about old-fashioned barrier methods to birth control, similar to sponges and diaphragms which block sperm from reaching the ovum. They had "block pessaries" which were actually large wooden blocks that fit in the vagina and their concave sides would fit over the cervix. These lincoln-log cabin contraptions were eventually deemed an "instrument of torture" and fell out of use--is it any wonder? Makes a diaphragm seem that much more comfortable in comparison, doesn't it?
Sorry to jump from subject to subject, but do you know what also bothers me about the Amy Grossberg story? How she reacted to her pregnancy. She had written to her boyfriend, who was attending another college, that they "didn't deserve this...all I want is for it to go away." I can understand being upset about an unwanted pregnancy; what I can't understand is why she felt so hopeless and condemned--like her life was over. I can think of worse things that could happen. You know, if I were diagnosed with some deadly, incurable, or disfiguring disease, I'd probably think that my life was hopeless; that there was no escape. But pregnant? Sure, I'd have a hard time dealing with it at first. Maybe since you've been there, you can help me out with this. Did you ever feel so desperate? Did you feel like you were being punished? Did you think your life was over? We can talk about it when we get together, 'cause I really just don't understand. In the meantime, give Ashley my love and a big hug and kiss for me. I hope you're both doing well.
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