Holy “Handmaid’s Tale,” Batman!

The United States is a baby factory; we just live here.

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

Want to get really freaked out? Check out the first paragraph of today’s Washington Post story “Forever Pregnant,” which explains that new federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ask “all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves — and to be treated by the health care system — as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.”

Pause. Breathe. OK. What?

Apparently, all women “between first menstrual period and menopause” are now supposed to take supplements of folic acid, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and watch chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. Other recommendations, mentioned lower down in the Post piece, are that women stay away from cat feces and “discuss the danger alcohol poses to a developing fetus.”

Why stop there? What about avoiding sushi, uncooked meats and unpasteurized cheeses? Perhaps women should only be allowed on planes once it has been determined, by routine pelvic exams administered at the gate, that they are not carrying a fetus that could experience trauma midflight.

What’s this all about? According to the Post, “experts say it’s important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.” So even when we’re not pregnant, or have no intention of becoming pregnant, or have already been pregnant and are done having babies, we should make our theoretically possible but wholly imaginary fetuses our priorities.

These new guidelines are meant to address the fact that the rate of infant mortality in the U.S. is three times higher than that in Japan and 2.5 times higher than that in Norway, Finland and Iceland. In fact, it’s higher than that of most other industrialized nations, and rose for the first time in 40 years in 2002, to seven deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, it’s worse for poor and minority women. The infant mortality rate among black women is 13.5 per 1,000 live births, as compared with 5.7 for white women.

But that’s because we have a sick and failing healthcare system that leaves millions of disadvantaged Americans without anything resembling the care they require. Almost 17 million women lack health insurance.



Pretending that we’re going to solve this problem by instituting guidelines that treat women as baby incubators is not the solution. All it does is reinforce an attitude that problems women have with reproduction are the only ones worth worrying about. How about federal recommendations about using birth control to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases? How about federal guidelines that require doctors to talk to women about the dangers smoking, poor nutrition, unprotected sex, drug use, lack of exercise, and heavy drinking can pose for them, and not just their precious potential cargo?

Dressing up this “pre-conception care” crap — which is supposed to be administered by every doctor a woman sees, from her G.P. to her gynecologist, perhaps even her podiatrist — as “a reproductive health plan” to help women shut out of the healthcare system doesn’t track.

Even the report itself notes that women who already cannot afford to see a doctor — the ones whose pregnancies are compromised by poor or nonexistent prenatal care — aren’t likely to be able to get their “pre-pregnancy care” either, since obstacles to this “include getting insurance companies to pay for visits.”

No, mostly this sounds like an Orwellian language trick played by the healthcare authorities, letting you know why your health as a woman really matters.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>