The UK, Northern Ireland and Reproductive Rights

In the center of the picture, a woman holds a piece of cardboard that says, "I have this pill I am taking now!" Behind her, other protestors hold similar signs with prochoice words and slogans.

The topic of abortion is often touchy in the United States, as we talked about in my Ethnicity and Social Movements class last week. In my recitation on Friday, my teaching assistant shared a story about a woman in Indiana who was sentenced to 20 years in feticide.

According to NBC News, she “is the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted, and sentenced on a feticide charge.”

Earlier in the week, I heard something similar that I thought my teaching assistant has been referring to but instead it took place in Northern Ireland.

According to the BBC, a woman in Belfast bought drugs online to terminate her pregnancy. In Northern Ireland, as there is absolutely no abortion access for women.

At the time the Belfast woman terminated her pregnancy, she was 19 years old. Now almost twy years later at 21, she has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Some people who read this at first might be confused. In public education in the United States, I was taught Ireland was part of the U.K. Some other students who were in American public education may also tell you that.

However, some students who were educated in the U.S., may be able to tell you that the land we know is Ireland is split into two separate locations: the Republic of Ireland, which is the sovereign nation mainstream American might be most exposed to; and Norther Ireland, which could potentially be less heard of outside of history or geography classes, is part of the U.K.

In 1967, the U.K. legalized abortions and registered practicioners and regulated the practice through the National Health Service.

So why does Northern Ireland not follow this law the same way England, Scotland, and Wales do?

It’s because the law never applied to the country to begin with. In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal unless it is “to save the life of the mother” or carrying the pregnancy to term would put the women in danger either physically or mentally.

Even though this law is in place, the woman is still guilty of her miscarriage under The Offences against the Person Act 1981, which is a list of crimes that can be considered offenses of violence on a person.

Another story by the BBC about this situation says that women who live in Northern Ireland travel to other countries in the United Kingdom in order to receive legal and safe abortions.

In England, Scotland and Wales, women can legally have an abortion up to 24 weeks (168 days). After that, abortion can be legal beyond that limit in cases where the mother’s health is  being threatened or if there is a substantial risk the baby will have serious disabilities.

It is interesting that two similar situations are happening in what are supposed to be two of the most developed countries in the world are still fighting over what women should do about their own bodies.

The difference in these two stories is that the procedure was available to the woman in Belfast, but since she personally did have the resources to access it on her own, she had to use other resources that are otherwise seen as taboo to other societies.

The woman in Indiana claims to have given birth to a stillborn, but prosecutors are insisting the baby was alive when she gave birth and she neglected to get help. But activists are on her side, saying the conviction is “punishment for having a miscarraige and then seeking medical care…something that no woman should worry would lead to jail time.

Reproductive rights are more than just wanting to terminate pregnancies and wanting contraception. It is also about giving medical and psychological support to women whose pregnancies are physically tolling or traumatic experiences.

I’m curious as to see how these to stories, which is are opposite sides of a body of water play out. I hope to keep you updated.



Why I decided to get the Nexplanon implant

The morning the Ohio House cleared a state bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, I called my university’s health center to schedule an appointment to receive the Nexplanon birth control implant.

But before I can talk about why I decided to make this decision, it’s important to know how I came across this to start. So let’s go back to my time in public education.

Fondly referred to as “Jenn the Sex Lady” by our school district, she originally started off as a sexual education teacher at the middle school level. She talked to my sister’s Work and Family class about the basics of puberty and about sex when she was in middle school from 2004-2006.

I, however, did not meet and encounter Jenn the Sex Lady until it was too late.

The sexual education she normally gave students in middle school, I did not receive until my sophomore year in high school. For some reason, between the time my sister left the seventh grade and I went in, the school district decided to take sex ed away from Work and Family classes. Which I think was a big mistake on the part of the school district. Sex education should start at the time of puberty, not well after.

I took oral contraceptives nightly from 16 until the age of 21 when I got sick with cellulitis, a common but sometimes serious bacterial skin infection. I stopped taking them while I was taking the antibiotics.

Why didn’t I go back to birth control after taking the antibiotics, you ask? Well, after getting off the antibiotics, my eight year battle with depression worsened and I decided to get treatment after an emotional and mental break. But that is another column for another day.

Fast forward to Spring 2015, when I took Human Sexuality for my minor at the time.

Along with learning about how sex affects the brain and the psychology and science behind sexual behaviors, we also learned about birth control and the women’s rights campaign for the right to have birth control.

We discussed common methods of birth control first–oral contraceptives, condoms, spermicide, etc. But there was something new I was unfamiliar with: an intrauterine device, otherwise known as an IUD.

An IUD is a small “T”-shaped contraceptive device that’s inserted into a uterus. IUDs can be effective anywhere between five and 12 years. After that class, I decided to make it a mission to figure out if I was eligible for one of these.

Fast forward again to last semester.

While visiting a friend who was selling her artwork in the Student Union, I noticed a relatively large bruise on her bicep. Hoping she didn’t hurt herself while doing artwork, I asked her if she was okay. She told me she recently received the Nexplanon implant. It was a type of birth control covered by quite a few insurances, including Ohio State Medicaid and mostly covered by the Affordable Healthcare Act (otherwise known as “Obamacare”).

So this semester as a part of my personal project, Self Love 2016, I decided to make an appointment with the women’s health doctor at my school.

At the appointment, my doctor was very help. She told me implant was four centimeters (1.57 inches) and is rod shaped (instead of “T”-shaped) and is inserted into the bicep.

She told me I should be able to feel the implant in my bicep and she even gave me a dummy bicep to feel on.

She also told me that like with all birth control, there’s the risk that it may be more harmful than helpful, but it could always be removed if that happened.

So I accepted the process and she perscribed me progesterone pills to help me jump start a menstrual cycle.

But I chose to get the Nexplanon implant for a number of reasons.

I wanted it because it had a higher chance of being covered by my health insurance than any of the uterine implants. I’m also sick of taking oral contraceptives that I often forget about.

Being sick of oral contraceptives sounds contradictory since I take antidepressants daily.

But the difference was this: I willingly decided to take antidepressants. I was pressured into the decision to take birth control. I was 16 and wanting to appease and repent for a mistake I made and the best way to do so was by taking oral contraceptives like everyone wanted.

By getting the Nexplanon implant, I’m taking charge of my own body and making sure no surprises get in the way of achieving both my academic and professional goals.

By the time my audience reads this (unless you picked up the print and condensed version of this story in The BG News), I will be in procedure process, as my appointment is scheduled for 11 a.m. today.

I look forward to documenting my progess with you and seeing where this goes.