My parents were well-educated feminists who always gave us the facts of life in an age-appropriate but no-nonsense sort of way; when my siblings and I were young and asked how babies were made, Mom and Dad told us. As we got older and realized that people seemed to have sex for reasons other than to make babies, they made sure we knew all about various types of birth control and the importance of barrier methods for preventing sexually transmitted diseases. When I started menstruating at the age of 13, I knew exactly what was happening, why it was happening and what to do about it. (I admit that the sensation of cramps took me by surprise at first because they felt nothing like a charley horse, which was what I had been expecting, but other than that it was a pretty boring entrance into womanhood.)

It wasn’t until I started dating men, in my early 20s, that I found out the cervix changes positions during various portions of the hormonal cycle. I found this out rather suddenly and painfully and at the worst possible moment. Later, I asked Mom why she hadn’t warned me about wandering cervices. “I didn’t know they did that,” she shrugged. My mother has given birth to multiple children.

I also learned just this year that a pregnancy is dated starting from your last menstrual period, not from the actual day of conception. I guess this makes sense if you’re having a lot of sex – it might be tough to point out which sperm did the job – but it seems that if you’ve had sex only once in the last three months and then you pee on a stick and you’re pregnant, you can pretty safely assume the date the pregnancy started, regardless of when your last period started. Furthermore, periods are, on average, 28 days apart. Let’s say you wrap up your last period Aug. 1 (and you know this because you are regular with your cycle and responsible with your calendar journaling). Your partner’s condom breaks Aug. 15. You take a home pregnancy test and it comes back positive Sept. 1. Even though the deed was done on Aug. 15, your pregnancy will be dated to Aug. 1, and you will be considered four weeks pregnant, not two.

So if you live in a state where abortion is illegal after six weeks, you now have only two weeks to find a clinic, get an appointment, raise the money to pay for the procedure or the medication, go through any mandatory waiting periods that state laws mandate and get your pills.

Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is a lack of power. One of the reasons that restrictions on abortion procedures keep being passed into law is that we lack knowledge about how women’s bodies work. The right wing will not stop at abortion; they will perpetuate and take advantage of ignorance about the human body in order to attack emergency contraception and birth control next. How many times have you heard someone inaccurately refer to Plan B (emergency contraception) as “an abortion pill”? How many people know what exactly Plan B does to prevent pregnancy? (The answer is: It’s a bunch of hormones that prevent ovulation. If an egg has already been fertilized by a sperm, Plan B can’t do anything about it.) A lack of knowledge about the bodies of transgender people – heck, a lack of knowledge about basic endocrinology – makes it easier for the general public to go along with laws that are designed to make it harder for trans folks to just live.

The idea that a fetus has “a heartbeat” at six weeks’ gestation? It literally doesn’t have a heart at that point in development. What it has is a bundle of cells that have developed pulsing activity. It looks more like a sea monkey than an infant. But “fetal cardiac activity” doesn’t pull at the – well, the heartstrings. (By the way, the heart doesn’t contain any strings. Another science lesson.)

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of literature the English language has ever produced, and while it is full of eminently quotable passages, I find myself thinking, again and again, of the scene where the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present pulls aside his robe and reveals two starving, menacing children, a boy and a girl, hidden underneath them. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,” he says, “and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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