On March 7, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe commented in a telling way on the five Texas women suing the state after being denied abortions that would have reduced the risks to their lives.
About 15 minutes into the program, after the standard political-stuff opening(s), Mika and co-host Joe Scarborough moved into a conversation with All In Together CEO and co-founder Lauren Leader, in Abu Dhabi for the Forbes 30/50 Summit and sitting on set with Mika and Joe:
LAUREN LEADER (to Mika and Joe): We saw just today a new lawsuit that is being filed by five women in Texas who nearly died in childbirth. Women who wanted their children but who were denied life-saving care because of the ambiguity of the Texas abortion laws, which make doctors fear to treat women when they are in near-death conditions. A number of women in those lawsuits are now unable to have children—
LEADER:—because of complications from the—from the, uh—
MIKA: That’s so heartbreaking.
LEADER: —the lack of abortion care that they were denied.
The “Ach” of dismay was the first such noise Mika interjected into Leader’s explanation of the case, which included the following phrases:
…women in Texas who nearly died in childbirth… (This elicited nothing from Mika.)
…were denied live-saving care… (More silence.)
…doctors fear to treat women when they are in near-death conditions… (Crickets.)
…women in those lawsuits are now unable to have childre—
“ACH! That’s so heartbreaking.”
Women who don’t want children and women who can’t have children have this in common: it is blatantly communicated to us that our value is tied to whether we have children
Snips from the Hippocratic Oath:
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required…
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick…
Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.
Above all, I must not play at God.
I don’t think Mika really thought it would be better for those women to have died. But I do think our society is so cult-ified into seeing women’s special purpose as making babies that, even if it’s unintentional, there’s a more emotional reaction to a woman’s lack of fruitfulness than to the potential end of her life.
That’s how we get things like overturns of Roe v. Wade. Who cares about women? Just give us the babies. (*cough* never mind whether those babies’ lives turn out all right)
It’s how states can get away with demanding that a very specific demographic of American citizens continue to suffer a treatable condition—one that can put their short- and long-term health at risk and potentially kill them—without people rioting, without us aghast over how unquestionably barbaric, unamerican, and discriminatory it is.
What if similar laws only applied to Americans with naturally blond hair?
“Blond people may not receive treatment for a life-threatening condition unique to their genetic makeup. If a blond person eats a banana without taking the proper antihistamine (or if the antihistamine fails), they may experience this condition which, left untreated, has been known to cause depression, anxiety, and/or late-life cardiovascular disease or hypertension. Now, unfortunately, blonds in America currently have the highest banana-condition mortality rate among wealthy industrialized nations. Assuming they live after contracting the condition, and most do, care (when the case is uneventful) will cost an average of $20,000 to manage in its initial, critical phase and will incur an additional expense of approximately $1,800 a month for the next 18-to-however many years. An inconvenience, to be sure, but blonds know the risks of banana ingestion. Whether it was eaten willingly or shoved down the throat by some bad actor, as Taylor Swift wisely said, ‘You’re on your own, kid.’”
Putting aside the (lack of) value placed on a uterus-bearer’s continued existence…
When women are led, even with the help of the little things like “ach”-ing over their damaged uteri and not over their near-deaths, to believe that they are meant to have children, how are they supposed to feel when they can’t get pregnant?
When morning shows periodically bring families on their national programs to celebrate that couples have reproduced five/six/seven times – somehow an accomplishment worthy of a spot on the stage droolingly coveted by people who have globally important issues to highlight or impressive successes that took years of education and practice – what is a viewer supposed to feel about herself if all she is is a woman?
Well, on one hand, she might feel so pressured to have kids that she’ll go to IVF lengths to have them even if she doesn’t want them. Like this woman did, and who said the following when she was an anonymous guest on Childfree Girls:
“I feel like over the past year of going through this process of surgery and evaluations I’m more sure that I will be just fine without a kid. I have a lot in my life, and I will be just fine, I think, but I decided to be brutally honest with myself and ask myself, ‘Why do I—You know, I’ve got all this going, so what is it that I want from having a kid?’ And if I’m honest, I think it’s just that I don’t want to be pitied. […]
I see more and more friends, and colleagues in my field, all my age, who are in the same boat, and I can only imagine how many women across the world are doing this just because everyone else convinces them they don’t know true love until they have this baby, then they’ll know what life’s about.”
“I realized that a lot of my thinking around wanting, not wanting, trying, not having children had been unconsciously influenced by the ideology of pronatalism. I thought I was making independent choices, but actually I was following a societal script. And I was angry, because I thought, ‘How many years of my life could have been different had I known a lot of the internalized shame and unworthiness that I felt, as well as the grief that I was feeling over not having kids, was shaped by pronatalism?’”
Who knows how many women would choose not to have children they didn’t want if they weren’t told, one little “ach” at a time, that their lives mattered less than whether they could produce one?
Who knows how many women would have an easier time managing the distress of not being able to have the children they truly want if they weren’t made to feel like they should suffer more than grief for their loss – they should also question their worth?
Fortunately, there is a bright spot, and it was found not on a responsible, “liberal,” grown-up national “news” program, but on a Bravo channel reality TV party-house show called Summer House.
PAIGE (to Amanda): What if the doctor comes back and says, “Hey, Amanda, we regret to inform you that you can’t have kids”?
AMANDA (paraphrased): I thought it would be easier.
DANIELLE (to Amanda): Good news, bad news, whatever happens, you are more than bringing a child into this world.
A simple little sentiment. So obvious, you’d think. One that should, in every single situation, go without saying.
. . .
*I linked to an NPR story about the Texas lawsuit in the first paragraph instead of to the Morning Joe highlights of their March 7 episode because the highlight reel was jam-packed with the list below. There was seemingly no YouTube space to spare for a story about doctors willing to risk five patients’ lives.
- Karl Rove commenting on Trump
- Paul Ryan commenting on Trump
- Commentary on Trump commenting on something
- Congress wanting to restrict Tiktok
- Norfolk Southern’s rail safety plan
- The White House crackdown on travel-related “junk fees”
- and Larry Hogan NOT seeking the republican nomination for president
*This post originally appeared in my Substack newsletter The Choice.
. . .
If you enjoyed what you read here, you might also enjoy my novel The Age of the Child.
“Something interesting and endlessly thought-provoking that The Age of the Child captures are the multiple sides of pregnancy — wanting to be pregnant, not wanting to be pregnant, and what right the government has in controlling pregnancy. This isn’t the first piece of dystopian fiction to consider these questions. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Farm, to name a couple, have opened the dystopian genre to questions about reproduction; however, The Age of the Child is one of the first I’ve read to really consider the issue of reproductive rights and attitudes so deeply.” — Goodreads Review
“This is like no other book out there.” — Amazon Review
“Scathing social commentary.” — Goodreads Review
Kristen Tsetsi is the author of the post-Roe v. Wade novel The Age of the Child, called “scathing social commentary” and “a novel for right now.” She is also the author of the novels The Year of Dan Palace and Pretty Much True (studied in Dr. Owen W. Gilman, Jr.’s The Hell of War Comes Home: Imaginative Texts from the Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq). Kristen’s interview series at JaneFriedman.com offers behind-the-scenes insights into all things writing and publishing.