Here at Blue Water Woman, we like to live in a Pollyanna world, where we kind of ignore a lot of the craziness of the world around us most days, and we focus on just bringing to the table good, solid stories about the incredible women in our community.
Over the years, I’ve learned that being the editor and publisher of a local women’s magazine comes with great responsibility…responsibility I didn’t originally anticipate when I started on this journey in 2011.
When issues important to women come up in the news, I’ve had people reach out and ask me what can or what should they do? Whoa. I’m absolutely nobody’s moral compass; I’m definitely not a trained therapist. Mostly, in response, I just tell women to follow their hearts and to thine own self be true. That is certainly good advice, across the board, for a lot of issues you might encounter in life, and it certainly doesn’t subscribe to one political party or interest, or the other.
In Blue Water Woman magazine, I have tried, very hard, over the years to be very inclusive. I’ve written stories about women who are gay and transgendered who have been both “out” to friends, family and the world, and those who chose to remain silent about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
I’ve written about women of great faith who are Christian. Muslim. Progressively liberal Christians. Right wing conservative Christians.
I’ve written about loud and proud Democrats and loud and proud Republicans.
The shared experience, of course, is that they are female, either through birth or identity realization.
Though I don’t think it is any secret to most people who read Blue Water Woman that I am a Democrat, I’ve tried hard to keep a whole lot of my personal political beliefs out of the pages of this magazine.
But today, I just don’t feel right keeping my thoughts to myself. And no, I’ve never had an abortion. I’ve never been pregnant.
And by the grace of God or Allah or whomever I might worship, I was able to avoid a potentially dangerous pregnancy with the help of safe and effective birth control.
Today, a woman’s right to an abortion in the United States of America was knocked down by the Supreme Court of the United States.
And in his written opinion regarding abortion, at least one of the SCOTUS justices – Clarence Thomas – stated that he would like the court to continue on this vein and reverse a previous, 1970s ruling on contraception and return women to what is now considered the Dark Ages by making contraception illegal.
Illegal. Birth control. Of any kind.
I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent.
The story below is my own personal opinion based on my own health and medical story. I’m just trying to shed some light on an issue that is of extreme importance to the health and wellbeing of women across the country, including women right here in our Blue Water Area.
Did you ever take birth control pills to help regulate your period or to help your severe and debilitating menstrual cramps become less painful?
Yeah, me too.
I hope there doesn’t come a day, in the not-so-distant future, when you can’t do that anymore.
Just hope Justice Clarence Thomas doesn’t get his way.
I offer the story, below, with peace and love to you all. We are all entitled to our own stories and opinions. The words, below, are mine.
–Editor and Publisher Patti Samar
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby …
or Have We?
All through high school and well into my 20s, I suffered from very bad, face scarring acne.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect many different parts of my life. I was extremely self-conscious about it. It altered my self-confidence and self-esteem. It altered the way I interacted with both boys and girls, adults and peers.
Sometimes it was even physically painful.
My parents sent me to a dermatologist throughout high school who, at one point, offered me a prescription for Accutane, a very effective and very, very potent drug that pretty much cures acne forever. If a female taking this medication becomes pregnant, the risk of severe birth defects in the embryo is so strong that the manufacturer requires a woman to take a pregnancy test, at the expense of the manufacturer, prior to staring the medication.
For my own very personal reasons, when I was 16 years old, I decided not to take the drug. Certainly this “adolescent acne” would clear up on its own soon, right?
Ten years later, when I was 26, it was still going strong.
I was recently married and living in Lansing. After more than a decade of dealing with this issue, I was tired of my face constantly being covered in scabs and puss and bleeding. I was ready for Accutane or whatever it took to make this go away once and for all.
I visited a Lansing-area dermatologist. I told her my hometown physician had offered me Accutane and asked would she do the same?
She paused and said, “Well, you know, Accutane causes really severe birth defects if you get pregnant…and you’re of child-bearing age…”
The thing was, since I was 14, I had been taking an anti-seizure medication that also had the potential to cause defects to an embryo. To be honest, no one explained that to me, or my parents, until I was 18 years old.
Additionally, the anti-seizure drug I take, to this day? Oh yeah, by the way, it can make birth control pills almost completely ineffective. So, Little Miss Patti, don’t think about starting a sex life and think that going on birth control pills will prevent you from getting pregnant while you are on this anti-seizure medication.
I guess back in 1978, nobody figured a 14, 15 or 16 year old gal was having sex and could get pregnant.
Lucky for all of them, I was not having sex at that young age.
And, when I did start having sex regularly, I knew about the birth defect risks of my anti-seizure medication and I took extraordinary precautions to prevent pregnancy with every single partner, every single time. Extraordinary. Measures.
And, by the way, I was not some bed-hopping rock ‘n roll star; I was very discriminate regarding anyone I invited to become intimate with me, and I was also still, back then, a very Catholic gal at heart.
But quite frankly, who cares if I wasn’t? The point of my story is still the same. Who cares if I wore nothing but black leather, painted great big black stars around my eyes like the band Kiss, and ran around sleeping with every man I met, yelling, “Rock and roll foreva!”
The point is this: Any woman having sex (and we are all allowed to have all the sex we want with anyone we want so long as there are consenting adults) should be able to chart her destiny on her own timeline, most especially since sometimes women end up having sex forced upon them while they are not a consenting partner.
But I digress…
But there I sat, in 1990, at 26 years old, newly married to a husband I was supporting while he was in graduate school, looking at the hesitant doctor, who was looking back at me skeptically.
I cleared my throat and looked the doctor right in the eye. I will never, in my life, forget EXACTLY what I said to her:
“I am not in any kind of financial, medical or emotional condition to be giving birth to a child right now,” I told her solemnly. I stopped talking and she kept staring at me. I held her gaze stoically, defiantly.
The word “abortion” never passed between us. But she knew what I was talking about.
And so did I.
She wrote the prescription. My acne went away.
I am now 58 years old and, in all of my child-bearing years, I never did become pregnant.
Due to a whole host of medical issues related to my seizures/epilepsy diagnosis at age 14, and some reproductive issues in my 20s, strictly from a health standpoint, getting pregnant – accidentally or on purpose – was not necessarily a good idea for me, per my neurologists, my gynecologists and my family physicians.
And, before I married my first husband, I specifically told him all about the issues that hindered my ability to have a family in the traditional way. In our discussion, we talked about other options that might be available to us, like adoption, should we ever decide that we wanted to become parents.
And we both worked very hard – and to his credit, he was just as diligent and responsible as I was – to avoid an unplanned pregnancy during our intimate life. He understood that pregnancy might be dangerous to me and could cause irreparable defects to any embryo I might carry.
I have always been proud of the fact that, for two 20-somethings, we really did handle this issue very carefully with much thought and responsibility.
And, because we were dedicated to one another, I never got pregnant and we never had to make any difficult decisions regarding an unplanned pregnancy.
Quite frankly, it was a combination of diligence on our part, and just plain dumb luck.
No condom ever broke.
No contraceptive sponge ever failed.
I was never raped, with no opportunity to “plan” and use every contraceptive known to man- and woman-kind before being violently attacked by a man’s penis injecting sperm inside of my body while I lay there, screaming either inwardly or outwardly.
Therefore, I’ve been given a gift than many women in this country have not been given: I’ve never had to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Not for any reason.
Be it a much-wanted and much-loved pregnancy that is found to be unviable for any number of medical reasons.
Be it a pregnancy that was unplanned and therefore presented great harm –potentially even death — to myself or the embryo.
Be it a pregnancy that came about as a result of a violent physical attack.
Or, quite frankly, be it a pregnancy that came about as a result of a few minutes of passion between two consenting adults, either as a one-night stand or a long-time partnered or married couple who, in the heat of the moment, found that their birth control was unavailable or perhaps failed them.
The reasons why or how a woman ends up pregnant are not what matters.
The thing that matters is that now, in the United States of America, women do not unilaterally have the right to make a decision about how to address their pregnancy.
We’ve lost our right to make medical decisions regarding our bodies.
Just like there are safe and unsafe ways to give birth, there are safe and there are unsafe ways to terminate a pregnancy. Every physician in the nation knows this. That is why, across the board, multiple medical societies, like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology defend women’s right to an abortion.
I stand with them.
Go ahead and believe whatever you want to believe about abortion. If you are vehemently opposed to it, I am not going to change your mind here and I’m not going to try. And please know there’s no chance you will change my mind, either.
But what happened in the Supreme Court of the United States today was far more scary, in many ways, than the loss of abortion rights.
It was the loss of rights for women, period.
And, even scarier, was that at least one justice, Clarence Thomas, noted in his opinion: “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
Those cases refer to the right to contraception and the marriage rights of the LGBTQ community.
So all of what I wrote, above, about my medical issues: having epilepsy and being on an anti-seizure drug that causes severe birth defects, and avoiding pregnancy while taking a medication to clear up a long-time skin condition that even the drug manufacturer recommends be used in conjunction with strong forms of birth control…
…all of those precautions wouldn’t be available if Justice Clarence Thomas has his way.
I never had to make a decision regarding abortion because I never got pregnant, in large part, because I took such diligent precautions to avoid pregnancy by using any number of contraceptives, most times multiple forms of contraception. Thanks to those medically safe contraceptives working so well, I never got pregnant and never had to make any kind of decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy.
But what if I hadn’t been able to use contraception?
What if that contraception was illegal?
Our nation has just turned itself around a corner that is leading to a long and slippery slope regarding the rights of women, the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and, I’m certain, the rights of people of color.
So, while yes, I will tell you that I am devastated – but not surprised — by today’s Supreme Court decision, I am more worried about what is yet to come.
Let’s face it; I’m 58 years old. I’m menopausal and I’m not getting pregnant any time soon. I don’t personally need to worry about abortion or pregnancy. But I do worry about Americans losing rights that it makes sense that they have. Rights that were hard fought and earned as our nation moved forward, relatively quickly on some issues, considering the youth of our nation at under 250 years of age.
Quickly or slowly, the United States has been progressively moving forward during the past 58 years of my lifetime, beginning with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then awarding women some substantial rights with regard to abortion, contraception and financial concerns (ie: unmarried women couldn’t have their own credit card until the early 1970s), and even more recently with the rights given members of the LGBTQ+ community to have sex and be married.
When I was growing up, the cigarettes called Virginia Slims were marketed to women with the ad campaign slogan: “We’ve come a long way, baby…”
We’ve come so far, we’ve outlawed cigarettes in most public spaces because they are detrimental to our health.
Forward movement is driven by momentum from the past. How can we be backsliding into an era that might eventually remove the right to vote for one of the Supreme Court Justices who just voted to remove rights previously provided to her own gender? I’m looking at you, Amy Coney Barrett.
At what point will the SCOTUS remove Justice Thomas due to the color of his skin?
Farfetched examples? Sure, they sound farfetched. But … are they? Really?
At the end of the Pledge of Allegiance it states:
“With liberty and justice for all.”
As far as I can tell, “liberty and justice for all” means, well, all.