By the Rev. Andrea Cano, Ainsworth UCC, Portland, OR
At my age, well into the post-menopausal 60’s, there’s a lot to embracing cronehood. It is a time to mine experiences for wisdom, continue to learn and deepen my understanding of life, and still be involved in matters of consequence.
One of those matters surfaced in the July 7 issue of Slate Magazine in an article titled “Would you like to become pregnant next year?” This query is the heart of the ONE KEY QUESTION campaign being launched by the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health.
The initiative aims to assure that during each medical visit, women of child bearing age are asked the question, and the response then “triggers a doctor-patient discussion that will keep women healthier, help eliminate health disparities, and save tax payer dollars.”
If the woman answers ‘yes’, resources, a pre-natal care plan, and counseling are suggested for a healthy pregnancy. If she does not intend to get pregnant, the discussion focuses on a wide range of contraceptive options to prevent unplanned pregnancy. If she is uncertain, she is encouraged to take preventive measures until she is sure, because 85% of couples not using contraceptives will become pregnant the next year, whether they intend to or not.
The larger goal is to put reproductive health front and center as part of primary health care. Contraceptives and counseling are considered core preventative health care services under the Affordable Care Act. According to the One Key Question article, women are fertile for about 35 years, “that means a woman who desires two children will spend about 30 years of her life trying to prevent unintended pregnancy.”
For many of us, our self-care practice of taking contraceptive pills was or is as necessary as taking vitamins, antibiotics, thyroid, heart, or diabetes medicine. If we don’t, there are consequences for our health and well being. Hence, the Supreme Court’s devastating decision on the Hobby Lobby case to keep contraceptives out of reach for many women negates the critical dimension of reproductive health care, and even what I believe is a woman’s prerogative to prepare her body to say ‘when’ to new life – as a healthy mother for a healthy baby. It is as much about pre-conception care as pre-natal care.
My interest and support of One Key Question is also paralleled by my involvement in a northwest women of color cohort called We are BRAVE – Building Reproductive Autonomy and Voices for Equity. As a Latina, I join my African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American sisters in grieving the history of reproductive injustice suffered by generations of our women – rape resulting in pregnancies, sterilizations, and abortions. BRAVE is saying ‘never again.’ We have organized to seed community dialogues about reproductive justice, policy making and advocacy, informing and shifting cultural practice, and organizing to stem the double bind threats based on politics and race (and even religion) and assaults on reproductive health, rights, and justice. I am helping with the faith and spirituality toolkit.
Our United Church of Christ’s historic role and leadership for reproductive justice has inspired the CPCUCC’s Justice and Witness Team to promote discussion in congregations, as well as to open churches for community dialogues, especially as safe spaces for teens and women to share their stories, and safe spaces for men to tell theirs. Your thoughts?