“Because until she bleeds,”

Terry Tempest Williams frequently writes at the intersection of feminism and environmentalism.  For those unfamiliar with Williams, she comes from a Mormon background and the landscape of the western U.S. and has lost most of the women in her family to environmental contamination (more specifically to cancer likely caused by nuclear testing).  Her writing draws on each of these parts of her lived experience.  Tempest also recently purchased 1,750 acres to protect it from oil and gas development.

I recently revisited Williams’ essay in her wonderful book When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice about birth control and choice.  The essay is a more condensed version of her earlier essay in The Progressive entitled “The Moment I Became a Feminist.”  Williams’ writes:

My body is my compass, and it does not lie…

No woman terminates a pregnancy easily.  No one who has ever felt life insider her can negate that power.  It is never a decision made lightly, without love or pain or a prayer toward forgiveness.

Because what every woman knows each month when she bleeds is, I am not pregnant.  Because what every woman understands each time she makes love is, Life could be in the making now.  Which is why when a woman allows a man to enter her, it is not just a physical act, but an act of surrendering to the possibility that her life may no longer be hers alone.  Because until she bleeds, she will check her womb every day for the stirrings of life.  Because until she bleeds, she wonders if her life will be one or two or three.  Because until she bleeds, she imagines every possibility from pleasure to pain to birth to death and how she will do what she needs to do, and until she bleeds, she will worry endlessly, until she bleeds…

If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently.

There is nothing abstract about giving birth.  There is nothing more sobering than for a woman to place her hands on her belly and wonder what is the right thing to do.  it is always about love.  It is never done lightly.  And there is nothing more demeaning to women than to have a man, especially a man we don’t know, define the laws that will govern our milk and blood.

If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently.

Ohio’s Governor Kasich signed into law a bill on February 21, 2016 that will prevent state funding from going to Planned Parenthood, causing the organization to lose approximately $1.3 million in state funding.  There are 28 Planned Parenthood locations in Ohio, 3 of which provide abortion services.  These 28 locations serve women’s health needs at low or no costs, and they do so respectfully and compassionately.

I do not know that  Governor Kasich knows the weight of what he did.  I do not know that he realizes what it is to be a woman in search of affordable, accessible reproductive health care.  I do not know that he understands the intimacy involved in conversations about reproductive health, about how difficult it is to find compassionate care.

I do know that these individuals that do not understand an individual’s right to bodily autonomy are in the minority.  I do know that majority of Americans believe in keeping abortion legal, and majority of Americans #StandWithPlannedParenthood.  I also know these people attempting to legislate their religious doctrine do not represent all “people of faith.”  Organizations like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Ohio has a chapter, as do many other states) are speaking out about their commitment to compassionate and comprehensive women’s health care precisely because of their moral, ethical, and religious beliefs.

If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently.

We must make sure they know; we must make sure they never forget; we must demand they love us differently.