A couple of years ago I bought a new-to-me car. As one does, I had grown attached to my old car. We had taken many journeys together, exploring countless destinations and covering thousands of miles on the road for work and pleasure. In the process of cleaning out the car to trade it in, I was caught off guard when I found a sanitary pad and a tampon stashed in the glovebox. I had long since stopped menstruating, but my trusty emergency supplies were still there waiting for me should I need them. As I reached across from the driver’s seat to the glovebox and pulled them out, I unexpectedly began to cry at the flood of memories of another kind of journey — the journey of my life as a woman.
Being postmenopausal is a freeing feeling for a woman in many ways, but something that we don’t really talk about or honor in society. There’s a relief that the physical discomfort and hormonal fluctuations of both the reproductive years and menopause are mostly behind you. Yes, there are new realities to deal with, but the dynamics that come with monthly cycles are complex and challenging in an altogether different way and no woman that I know misses them when they are over. I always said that I was glad those years were behind me, but that day the younger woman who I used to be, who experienced all the challenges of menstruation and finding healthcare that met my changing needs over the decades of my life, sat there in the car with me and reminded me that she had not gone anywhere. My body remembered her and what it had meant to be a menstruating woman, the good and the not so good. I recognized that she was still very much a part of me, the me that was now in a different chapter, and that I would do well to hold her close.
Last month when the Supreme Court (provisionally) upheld Texas Senate Bill 8, aka the Texas Heartbeat Act, that prohibits abortions after six weeks from the first day of the woman’s last period, I thought once again of that visceral memory of my younger self. I remembered the challenges of my own reproductive years, the hard work of being a young woman, and the ever-present thoughts of healthcare needs for a body that announced its presence every month. I reflected on how fortunate I was to have had options during my time, whether I exercised them or not, and knew those were available to me because women before me had fought for them. When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, my heart went out to all the young women who are and will be caught in the cross hairs of this law, which, according to The NY Times, “amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas because 85 to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy” (Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Texas Abortion Law, September 1, 2021). And I felt a sense of dread for young women all over this country as other states started to rally to create copycat laws.
For women in menopause and postmenopause, life beyond our reproductive years should not lead to disengagement from the conversation about the rights and realities of women who are still there. On the contrary, supporting women to determine their own reproductive destiny must be stitched into the fabric of our society but it requires those of us with lived experience to stay in the fight. Women at every stage of life must stand up for each other, staying invested in the struggle for women’s rights even when those rights aren’t ones we might personally invoke. We must remember that we are every woman, each of us here to support the next.
Use your voice, your vote, your influence to help ensure that young women continue to have choices.