Where do you stand on women’s rights?

How did you become an ardent feminist?     

A:        This is how I became an ardent feminist.

For 15 years I have given lectures to different classes of students from Georgia Tech (several a year).  Each class had 250 to 300 students.

          I told them about the following three women.  These cases explain why I am a strong supporter of women’s rights:                                                                 

CASE #1:  Mother of 5 in Atlanta Wants Sterilization:  A Grady Memorial hospital employee in her early thirties wants a tubal sterilization after the birth of her fifth child.  Her husband refuses for religious reasons.  He also won’t permit her to use contraceptives or to have an abortion when pregnancy ensues.

Outcome: he decides; she dies:  Shortly after this woman learns she is pregnant in spite of working at a hospital where safe legal abortions have been available for 5 years; she attempts to bring about an abortion by injecting air into her uterus.  Her daughter finds her dying in the bathroom.  She actually dies at the hospital where she has been working and where safe legal abortions are readily available.  Her death was due to the status of women in her religion and, more importantly, in her family.

CASE #2:  An HIV Negative Woman in Zaire is told to use Condoms…Always!  In Zaire’s capital, an HIV negative woman and HIV positive man are entered into a CDC sponsored research study of discordant couples.  They are counseled to use condoms each and every time they have sex.

Outcome: he decides they will not use condoms.  She is savagely beaten two weeks after being instructed to either use condoms consistently and correctly OR to avoid sexual intercourse, she returns to the clinic and says: “I want to see the doctor who told me always to use a condom.”  She is brought to his office.  “I want you to see the effect of your advice that we use condoms every time.” Her one eye is swollen shut and she has multiple bruises and lacerations.  She has been severely battered for insisting on condom use.  Within 6 months she is HIV positive.

CASE #3:  A Georgia Tech sophomore meets her ex-boyfriend: They break up during the spring semester because he wants to have intercourse but she does not, in part because of her religious beliefs as to what is right and wrong for her.

Outcome: He gets unpleasant.  She is raped.  They see each other the next fall in the student union.  They talk pleasantly.  He suggests that they go talk more… in his room.  They do.  He becomes aggressive sexually pulling her down, tearing off her clothes, and raping her.  She does not scream out.  But she is certainly raped.  After a number of calls she finds her way to the family planning clinic at Grady and receives emergency contraceptive pills.

 

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH