Why are pregnancy risks rarely discussed in court opinions and news stories, even though that information is relevant not only to individual decisions but also to policies regarding abortion, pregnancy, and health care for women? This question has lingered since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
As states across the country implement abortion bans, these risks will come to the forefront, both in women’s decisions about whether to get pregnant in a state that prohibits abortions, and in the debates that will take place in state legislature chambers over how much threat to a mother’s health must be present to permit an abortion under untested and rapidly changing state laws.
Because of the minimal dangers involved with the foetus, we spend a lot of time talking about avoiding certain habits.” An economist and author of “Expecting Better,” Emily Oster, instructed me to avoid bean sprouts and deli meats during pregnancy. In addition, “we seldom discuss the hazards of things that are nearly certainly going to happen” with individuals,
For example, “Your vagina is going to be ripped during a natural delivery. ‘It’s going to rip up a lot,’ she said. ‘That isn’t even a danger, it is simply reasonable,’ she said. It takes a long time for those who give birth through caesarean section to recuperate from the extensive abdominal surgery they had.
Furthermore, although if they are infrequent, more severe issues may occur. There’s a good chance that someone in your mothers’ group has survived hyperemesis gravidarum, an ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy-induced hypertensive disease (up to one in 10 pregnancies). All of those ailments have the potential to be fatal.
In most cases, the criteria for risk is informed consent: the ability to accept or reject the possibility for damage. As a result, consumers would expect enough notice and an opportunity to weigh the benefits and risks of travelling by vehicle, train, or aircraft before making a decision on whether or not to do so.
Pregnancy, on the other hand, is unique.
MSI Reproductive Choices, an organisation that provides family planning and abortion services in countries all over the world, is run by English gynaecologist Jonathan Lord. He believes this is because many individuals believe that bringing up pregnancy-related health concerns would cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for women. In fact, it’s something that’s embedded in our culture. This is not a medical issue, but people don’t speak about the hazards and unpleasant elements because they want to be friendly, and I believe that’s the main reason,” he said.
Oster posited a similar theory on the likelihood of major problems during pregnancy. We’re not interested in addressing the possibility of truly horrible things in general, she remarked. “We’d like to imagine that they’re 0,” says the author.
But when it comes to communicating about threats to the foetus, rather than the mother’s health, the narrative deepens.
Rebecca Blaylock, the research lead for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a nonprofit that offers abortion and other reproductive health services, said women are “bombarded” with messages about the hazards they themselves pose to their pregnancies. Her organisation and Sheffield University collaborated on a study of British media coverage of pregnancy. In their study, they found that media coverage primarily depicted women as a source of damage, rather than as a vulnerable demographic. The only thing that mattered was the wellbeing of the foetus.
Even prenatal treatment was impacted by these misconceptions. ‘We were seeing women who were suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum’ — a severe and potentially fatal form of morning sickness characterised by near-constant vomiting — ‘who weren’t receiving appropriate treatment because their health care providers thought the medication posed a risk to their pregnancy, and who really felt they had no choice but to terminate an otherwise wanted pregnancy at that point,’ said Blalock.
Differences in risk-adjusted attitudes Women are “blamed for any and all diseases that may or may not befall their children, and an obsession with reproducing the next generation of healthy citizens” by Blaylock, who told me this.
This investigation was limited to the UK. According to Cornell University philosopher Kate Manne, who has written two volumes on how sexism impacts society, having children is often assumed to be something women are naturally or even ethically destined to do. To this end, some believe that leading children in that direction is in their best interests, even if it means denying them the chance to give their informed agreement to the dangers. Pregnant persons are assumed to be women, even if they are transgender guys or non-binary people, according to standards and cultural expectations.
As a society, we don’t often conceive of pregnancy as something that someone sensibly decides not to undertake because of the danger, she added. It’s a natural and good, and possibly even a sacred, thing for women to do this,” says the author.