Here, we recommend five stories about a variety of reproductive health topics, ranging from endometriosis to the morning-after pill to the American Rescue Plan.
The Lily’s Anne Branigin speaks to Hampton University student Amber Wynne, a woman who found that many of her fellow students had difficulty accessing basic menstrual products, access that was further limited during pandemic stay-at-home orders. Wynne responded by distributing menstrual products through a donor-funded network, and Branigin expands past Wynne’s experience to point out that 1 in 10 college students struggle to pay for menstrual products each month. Period poverty disproportionately Black, Latinx, immigrant, and first-generation college students, and Branigin highlights that a recent study has linked this period poverty to depression. In her article, Branigin identifies period poverty as being under-studied, a state attributable both to institutional barriers and a broader social reluctance to publicly discuss periods. Hopefully, through the writing and highlighting of stories like this one, we can erode this reluctance, asserting the ‘appropriateness’ of reproductive health care in the public discourse.
With another piece for The Lily, Anne Branigin looks at the impact of endometriosis, beginning by detailing how the debilitating pain experienced by various women had a disruptive effect on their lives. Each of the women who Branigin names were forced to look for “makeshift ‘solutions’” for their years-long pain. Doctors have often attempted to dissuade women looking for surgical treatment for endometriosis, ranging from excision to hysterectomies, impressing upon their patients that they may want to endure the pain so that they can have biological children in the future. This dynamic fits within a longer, and troubling, legacy of both dismissing women’s pain and pushing “biological motherhood above all else.” Of course, this biological motherhood is not valued equally across racial groups, and Black women are more likely to be subject to unwanted and unnecessary hysterectomies. Overall, this story highlights the need for further medical research into female reproductive afflictions like endometriosis, as well as the need to question long-held assumptions that all women are destined for (and desire) biological motherhood.
Writing for The New York Times, Patrick Adams details a recent study that surveyed women who were seeking pregnancy tests which found that many women would prefer to take hypothetical missed period pills rather than have the definite knowledge of a pregnancy test. These women were told that these pills would mimic the effects of a period and would terminate any pregnancy (if it existed). More than 40% of women surveyed responded that they were interested in these missed-period pills, often citing the emotional relief of not being burdened with having to make a decision about how to proceed with the definite knowledge that they are pregnant. This study points to the desire for a broadened spectrum of options for women facing potential unplanned pregnancies, as well as highlighting the mental toll and guilt inflicted by societal stigmatization of abortion, creating a context where women would prefer to never be certain about pregnancy than be saddled with this stigma.
Erin Gloria Ryan writes for The Daily Beast about how television inaccurately depicts the reality of the morning-after pill, creating misconceptions about its function among the public. She begins with a look at the “Arkangel” episode of Black Mirror, stating that “none of the details of [the character’s] pregnancy or drugging make any biological sense.” Ryan speaks to Planned Parenthood’s Director of Health Media who clarifies that, unlike the next-day abortive effect that is reflected in the show, the morning after pill “works by temporarily stopping ovulation so the ovary doesn't release an egg.” Ryan argues that these medical inaccuracies in popular media contribute to the conflation of emergency contraception and “the abortion pill” that is popular among contraception opponents. It speaks to the power that media has in shaping understandings in the under-discussed realm of reproductive health, calling attention to the responsibility these outlets have in depicting the accurate realities of reproductive health.
Katie Fleischer details the impact of the recently passed American Rescue Plan on reproductive health care for Ms. Magazine, first contextualizing the plan with the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women in the economic and occupational realms. She explains that the plan includes incentives for states to expand Medicaid coverage and lowers monthly premiums under the ACA, along with reproductively targeted measures like $50 million in funding for the Title X family planning program and giving states the ability to prolong postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months. While Fleischer grants that these are positive steps forward in efforts to expand access to reproductive health services, she also underscores the potential to pass more comprehensive--and transformative--legislation like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (which we have highlighted in a previous news post) and ending the Hyde Amendment, emphasizing that the American Rescue Plan should be just the beginning of the legislative efforts to improve reproductive health.
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