Attacks On The Poor Uterus
May 24, 2010
BHS302-Introduction To Human Services
Two healthy 25-year-old women walk into a clinic. Both have two children and are interested in birth control. They see the same gynecologist but are offered two types of birth control. The woman of color is offered sterilization and her white counterpart is offered temporary birth control. This hypothetical story isn??™t a valid case for forced sterilization, but it clearly underlines a difference in treatment regarding reproduction. Poor, physically disabled, incarcerated or mentally challenged women are often given little choices for contraception and forced to prevent pregnancy permanently.
The idea of contraception was developed to help prevent pregnancy in the beginning but expanded to eugenics or population control. The male condom was developed out of all sorts of materials that include animal intestines and dates back to 1562. The birth control pill is 59, yet the idea of birth control dates back to Egyptian times. According to AmericanPregnancy.org, forms of contraception include:
??? Abstinence ??“refraining from any sexual contact or penetration
??? Fertility Awareness Method-natural family planning using tools like and ovulation calendar and hormone test
??? Barriers ??“designed to prevent male sperm contact with female egg or cell. Can come in many forms like condoms, sponges and foams.
??? Hormonal Methods-birth control pills, shots and implants by medical professionals
??? Withdrawal-removal of erect penis before ejaculation
??? Sterilization-surgical closing, removal or tubal ligation of male or female tubes that carry sperm and eggs to penis and uterus.
Medical dictionaries describe the uterus as a pear shaped organ in human females responsible for child birth or reproduction. Uteruses have populated this Earth, yet remain under observation, discussion and attack because of structural and systematic deficiencies. Unfair legislation, malpractice, inhumane research and denial of basic human rights have put much strain on poor uteruses all over the world. The concept of freedom of choice to have a child or not should be naturally extended to every woman on Earth. Yet, international history is full of poor, disabled and uneducated women denied ???informed consent.???
In class we learned of Carrie Buck. She was a mentally ill woman who was involuntarily sterilized after giving birth to an ???illegitimate??? child. The state of Virginia used her as their first forced sterilization and their only argument was fear her child or future children would be another ???imbecile???. This was a human rights violation that our American justice system upheld. In fact, the article, ???Sterilization,??? explains how court decisions often perpetuated many states involvement in forced sterilizations. ???In 1907 Indiana adopted a law authorizing sterilization of persons deemed “feebleminded,” or as one leading proponent put it, “socially defective.” Other states soon followed. The Supreme Court lent both practical and moral support in its 1927 decision in BUCK V. BELL, upholding the constitutionality of Virginias law. By 1935 more than thirty states had adopted forced sterilization laws, and 20,000 “eugenic” sterilizations had been performed. The victims of such laws tended to be poor; indeed, in the view of eugenics proponents, poverty and other forms of dependence were the marks of the “socially inadequate classes” that needed eradication (Karst, 2000).???
It is nearly impossible to discuss eugenics without discussing China??™s population control methods. Their very strict ???one child per family??? policy is known all over the world.
Often tagged as the worst systematic example of population control, the most horrific fact is no one knows the exact count on how many children and women affected by China??™s one child rule; estimations vary from 5 to 10 million. According to Eugenics Watch article, Population Control, ???the Chinese family policy uses forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced insertion of IUDs. Family planning workers monitor menstrual periods for the women in their assigned areas or workplaces, and start to ask questions when a woman misses her period. In some factories, menstrual periods are charted on the wall, so that everyone can keep track of everyone else.??? We must discover how the uterus became more of a threat than a penis.
Ironically, countries like the United States are very concerned with the inhumane conditions and treatment of women and children of foreign nations. International media has brought awareness of issues like forced sterilization to many of our door steps. ???In 1985, The Washington Post ran a three-part series (January 6-8) on Chinas brutal policy. Michael Weisskopf reported, “Any mother who becomes pregnant again without receiving official authorization after having one child is required to have an abortion, and the incidence of such operations is stunning ??” 53 million from 1979 to 1984, according to the Ministry of Public Health ??” a five-year abortion count approximately equal to the population of France.”
An article about involuntary surgical sterilization of Native Americans, in the Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, states ???Historically, the practice of forced sterilization has varied according to time and place. Nevertheless, in every case, the practice has been implemented to serve the interests of the ruling elite.
Right into the early twenty-first century, the forces of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy have kept the practice alive in order to diminish the power of those deemed ???inferior??? or ???unfit.??? In particular, poor women of color have borne the brunt of this practice. (Moore, 2008)??? The forced sterilization of Native Americans in the 1960??™s through the 1970 is an example racism and classism being use to dismantle the uterus.
Genocide, medical neglect and human rights violations have occurred under the auspice of population control and medical research. Stephen Moore writes, ???These programs were never about giving women reproductive choice. Just the opposite. Population control programs have been from their inception about preventing couples from having “too many” babies. Moreover, these “family planning” services do not promote womens and childrens health; they come at its expense. There are many Third World hospitals that lack bandages, needles and basic medicines but are filled to the brim with boxes of condoms — stamped UNFPA or USAID (Moore, 1999).???
As with any social justice issue, the answer to stop the war on the uterus is to do what is needed to change the policies and legislation that continue to oppress and repress the disenfranchised. Hartwell writes, ???for Native American women and other women of color, the primary question is how one negotiates power on an unequal playing field. In continuing to dismantle the U.S. legacy of ???patriarchal colonialism??? put upon all women, women-of-color organizations are leading the charge for a bigger piece of the pie. By connecting their histories with the present, they seek a more egalitarian society and greater openness and freedom in the areas of gender-based reproduction, health, and well-being (Hartwell, 2008). This type of action is a catalyst for lasting social change.
An example of the power poor women can create is a news headline from the ???Prague Post??? that reads, ???A District State Attorneys office in north Bohemia ruled that the forced sterilization of women is a crime. The decision is expected to affect outstanding complaints by local Romany, or Gypsy, women that doctors sterilized them without their consent. The cases had been shelved because previous legal precedence held the doctors not criminally responsible.???
Poor and disabled women have and continue to suffer many human rights violations. It seems their bodies are not their own. One of the special gifts any woman has to share with the world is the uterus and its products. The uterus is connected to every woman, even if a woman never gives birth. It houses the essence of humanity and is inadvertently abused to deal with man-made issues. The decline in births all over the world can be accredited to women having fewer children according to Wattenberg. ???Thus, racism in biological and cultural forms has led to policies and practices that are detrimental to the health and well-being of marginalized people everywhere. This is particularly true for nonwhite women in the lower echelons of the socioeconomic ladder. And more often than not, it is these marginalized women who are the targets of forced sterilization (Moore, 2008).???
If ever there was a ???fall of man,??? it will stem from the disrespect of the uterus.
“Forced Sterilization.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. Ed. John Hartwell Moore. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 483-486. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 May 2010. Document URL
FORCED STERILIZATION OF WOMEN IS A CRIME.? (7? June). Info – Prod Research
(Middle East),1.? Retrieved May 24, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry.
“Forced Sterilization of Native Americans.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. Ed. John Hartwell Moore. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 487-488. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 May 2010. Document URL
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do&id=GALE%7CCX2831200160&v=2.1&u=apollo&it=r&p=GV http://www.eugenics-watch.com/roots/chap15.html RL&sw=w
KARST, KENNETH L. “Sterilization.” Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. Ed. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst. 2nd ed. Vol. 5. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. 2528-2529. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 May 2010. Document URL
Moore, Stephen (1999, May 9). Dont Fund UNFPA Population Control. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from The Cato Institute Web site: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.phppub_id=5457
Wattenberg, Ben. Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future. Ivan R. Dee (Publisher), 2004. ISBN 978-1566636063