By Leigh Creighton Bond • December 30, 2020•Writers in Residence
As an attorney, a Black woman, and a creative, I have decided to end 2020 and my time as a 2020 Writer in Residence with one of my personal stories from 2020.
I had a hysterectomy this summer. I am not quite ready to share every detail of my hysterectomy story; yet, I am not sure I will ever be ready. My first thoughts when I approached my own story turned into a question, “how do you share a story when you hold shame?” The answer may be to contend with that shame and attack its roots. The roots of my shame go deep into the global history of and in particular, United States’ history of reproductive harm of Black women.
If you have not read Dorothy Roberts’, Killing the Black Body, then take some time to read her book and learn about the forced sterilization and reproductive oppression which gave rise to organizing around issues that would later be coined “reproductive justice.” A plethora of resources on forced sterilization, experimentation on Black bodies in the name of science, and racism within the medical industrial complex indicate that balanced and varied medical options and services are difficult for Black women to find even in modern times.
Therefore, my story is literally a trigger for many Black women. Simply, for me to share that I had a hysterectomy leads to a Black woman recalling the aforementioned history she has inherited. “Why?” a friend asked me. “Why” when in my home state of Georgia -- this year -- women detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Atlanta were forcefully sterilized when hysterectomies were performed without their consent.
“Why” when there are other options outside of hysterectomies? Briefly, I must add for even more historical context that my hysterectomy was due to fibroids, including a large fibroid behind my uterus, causing several symptoms. I will likely write more in another space about my particular symptoms due to fibroids, but here, I will simply ask a question connected to one of my symptoms: How scared would you be if your bladder was enlarged to three times its size for several hours on more than one occasion?
I recognized and acknowledged all of the history associated with a hysterectomy and elected to move forward with the procedure because it was absolutely the best decision for me. Yet, as a Capricorn and as an attorney, I constantly live in the grey. I firmly acknowledge that my personal decision is just that and strive to stay clear of judging someone else’s decision, especially because I do not fully know anyone else’s story or set of circumstances. With that said, I’ll end by musing on the shared controversial nature of my personal health decision made during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, folks decided to get pregnant, and there were thought pieces published addressing whether it was morally right to give birth in the middle of a pandemic. The audacity of that sort of questioning alone illustrates the continued immediate need of the reproductive justice movement, which includes the “right to have a child.” Moreover, right now a Black woman is grappling with the history of medical experimentation on Black, indigenous and people of color and whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine. I do not believe any decision is wrong, just a nuanced issue as are many of the issues I come across in my various aforementioned identities: attorney, Black woman, and creative.
I hope by sharing this story (and my blog series), you are inspired to grapple with the concept and nuanced issues that led to "Everything is Reproductive Justice."