People with uteruses on medication that could be an abortifacient are being denied it, which is hypocritical: drug misuse is already illegal.
The side effects of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade are causing a ripple of issues that could cost people their lives. And I’m not talking about attempting a self-induced abortion, despite the popular clothes-hanger imagery, or about how an untreated ectopic pregnancy basically means death.
No, I mean women who are being denied necessary prescription medications for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, because they’re potential abortifacients, on the assumption that these medications would be abused. Even though it’s already illegal to misuse these drugs.
The Arthritis Foundation has issued a statement affirming its commitment to advocating for patients who need access to these medications to treat a variety of disorders.
However, the drug methotrexate can be used in other scenarios to treat ectopic pregnancy by terminating a pregnancy. And so, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the interpretation of this drug’s use is aimed squarely at women. Even post-menopausal or infertile women. There have not been any accounts I’ve seen of men having their prescriptions delayed or denied.
When I pointed out that abortion has been ignored as a disability justice issue, I wasn’t fully aware of this issue, in part because my own rheumatologist is in “wait and see” mode in regard to my chronic conditions. But also because no one’s really talking about it.
There have always been problems around policing pregnant bodies: many states already have laws policing and criminalizing drinking alcohol or using drugs while pregnant.
The ghastly implication of this new development, though, is that potentially-pregnant people must be treated as though they are always already pregnant and denied completely unrelated healthcare. This is because abortion was functionally made illegal in many parts of the U.S..
But what’s so maddening is that it’s already illegal to abuse prescription drugs.
According to the CDC, there are already vast frameworks in place to prevent people from sharing their prescription drugs and tampering with them. Pharmacists provide consultations to patients on the hows, whens, and whys of their medication, following a clear set of rules.
So, how is this new development any different from established norms?
Well, there is a lot of history of infantilizing women, making it seem as though we can’t possibly know our own minds and advocate for ourselves. And for the trans men and nonbinary people who can get pregnant too, the history of infantilization exists too, as with the transphobic attempt to invalidate transgender identities by saying “No, you can’t possibly know yourself yet…or now…or now.” Misogyny and transphobia have a lot in common, unfortunately, with both women and trans people (and especially trans women), being treated as second-class citizens who must be managed rather than given agency.
Treating any potentially pregnant body as already pregnant is wrong. It is a human rights violation to strip bodily autonomy from an adult in the name of an unborn, possibly not-even-conceived-yet, fetus or child or cluster of cells.
But it’s even worse to deny life-saving, health-preserving medication to an adult in the name of potential conception when the only thing that differentiates that adult from another is having a uterus. Yet again, it criminalizes and pathologizes having a uterus, and ignores the fact that misusing prescription drugs is illegal. Not allowing adult humans look at a drug label and say “Yep, I understand the implications of this medication and consent to the risks…I’ve got this!” is the ultimate move in infantilizing an entire population.
And it will get worse. We’ll see more reports like the ones I mentioned above, more adults denied the very care that makes their lives livable. And for what?
Sadly, this tendency to prioritize not-yet life over existing life is typical of the forced-birth/anti-choice movement. And I wish it didn’t take more adult women’s and pregnant people’s suffering to lay bare the hypocrisy of it all.