The Body is Political: Part 3

My mother needed a bank account. Her husband, my stepfather, frequently spent their income before the end of the month, leaving us with little food and no money for the mortgage. So she set aside a few dollars out of every shopping trip for lean times. In the 1990s, though, many banks wouldn’t give an account to a married woman without her husband’s signature. They certainly wouldn’t give an account to a married woman who didn’t have a job. As a workaround, I, her 19-year-old daughter, opened a new savings account and added her as an authorized user. 

I saw her embarrassment when she asked me to help. I saw her fear that her husband would find this account, too, and access the few hundred dollars she had squirreled away. My mom’s case wasn’t unusual. The bank denied Nancy a credit card or bank account without her husband’s signature on both. Things are different now. But they aren’t that different.

As a married person with a uterus, some doctors will deny me a tubal ligation without consent from my husband. If I were single, I may not be able to get one at all if the doctor thinks that someday, some man will want to have children with me. Ask my husband how easy it was for him to get a vasectomy. I doubt the doctor even knew or cared that someone might want his sperm some day. It was never part of the equation.

Sandra was denied a hysterectomy by 10 different doctors because each of them were concerned her husband might want her to give birth to children some day. When she finally moved, her new gynecologist was enraged that the doctors had risked her life for so many years. And Sandra is not unusual. Toby, in a different part of the country, has been denied a hysterectomy. Is still being denied one, in fact. 

When Jenny married, her gynecologist refused to insert a hormone-based IUD just in case her husband wanted to have children right away. Jenny was 18 and had just placed a child for adoption.

Lori asked for a sealing cancellation but was denied by the first presidency. When her ex-husband sought one, it was immediately granted.

When I was in the MTC, I had a vicious flareup of endometriosis. Having experienced several in the past, I knew taking a hormonal birth control pill without pausing for menstruation would ease the symptoms enough that I could function. It was the only thing apart from surgery that helped. The MTC doctor refused my request. When I asked why, he said that a sister missionary asking for birth control pills was suspect. To get the care I needed, I wrote a letter to my mom and asked her to call my pre-mission doctor. When I left the country, I carried in my suitcase 18 months’ worth of birth control pills, filled by my pre-mission doctor.

These are a few examples of the way society gives different rights to people based solely on their genitalia. Sure, some women don’t want to think about money. Some women don’t want to use birth control. Some women don’t need to cancel their sealing. But some women’s personal choices should not drive the choices available to the rest of us. 

One last example, and this comes with a content warning. This paragraph is about miscarriage, so if that’s a difficult topic, please skip to the next paragraph. After my marriage, I had several miscarriages. One, at 16 weeks gestation, was particularly brutal. I tried to tough it out at home, but after 12 hours, my husband called the ambulance. I arrived at the hospital hemorrhaging and devastated. Even with all the blood loss, I hadn’t passed any fetal tissue. The fetus was non-viable, but it was still inside me. The only way to get it out was through a uterine evacuation: an abortion. In fact, the treatments for miscarriage are generally the same as for abortion. The current law in Texas makes all those procedures, regardless of whether they’re for miscarriage treatment or abortion, suspicious. They give any neighbor, any community member, any ward member, the right to sue my husband, the doctor, and the attending medical personnel for providing life-saving care for me. While some doctors will take that risk, others will not, reducing the already low number of trained professionals who can provide medical care. And talk about traumatizing.  Can you imagine facing a lawsuit because you saved your wife’s life? 

I’m pro bodily autonomy. I’m pro safe and effective healthcare for everyone. And I believe in trusting people to make the right choices for their own bodies. 

When we trust each other to run our own lives, we weather the storms of life better.

Read Part 1

Read Part 2



  1. Interesting. This is so far from my lived experience that I can see why someone would be upset if these things happened. I’ve had three miscarriages (missed abortions) and had D & C’s for each one, in Texas. No problem. The new law is not going to change that. That is hysterics. I also had a hysterectomy in Texas. My husband didn’t need to give permission. My doctor never spoke to him, in fact. It wasn’t an issue. I’ve never had to have my husband sign on any accounts I have. We’ve been married 27 years in Texas. (We have multiple joint accounts, but we’ve each always had our own separate accounts as well.)

    Where are these things happening? I would be outraged too.

    • Interesting that you used the word “hysterics.” It comes from the Greek word for womb and led to the institutionalization of women for things such as “tears and laughter, oscitation [yawning], pandiculation (stretching and yawning), suffocating angina (chest pain) or dyspnea (shortness of breath), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), delirium, a close and driving pulse, a swollen abdomen, cold extremities, and abundant and clear urine.” Per a list of symptoms of hysteria by French physician, Francois de Sauvages de La Croix.

      Just like those false and harmful diagnoses that destroyed women, ignoring the very real consequences of the new Texas law will destroy women. But you don’t have to take my word for it. I always have sources.

  2. This is absolutely insane. My mind was completely blown about your mother’s inability to get her own bank account as recently as the 90s. As someone who experiences recurring miscarriages, my state’s laws surrounding abortion make me feel sub-human.

    • I’m so so sorry. At a time when you should feel emotionally and physically cared for, it’s extra traumatizing to receive the opposite. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  3. Thank you so much for articulating and demonstrating how the political is personal and the personal is political. This is not a thought experiment. I’m glad some haven’t lived through the effects of harmful legislation. That said, women with multiple bank accounts rarely experience the same kind of medical care as women without such resources. My mother was in an abusive and neglectful relationship with my father. She worked, but even with formal education and a job, she could not get her own bank account. As she aged, I cared for her. I can tell you, first hand, the difference income makes in autonomy and care. She was poor. I am not. That simple difference means I have choices she never had. These laws harm those of us without means exponentially more than those of us with multiple bank accounts and access to care options. It’s not hysterics to call out harm. And it’s privilege speaking when we say harm doesn’texist simply because we haven’t seen it or lived it. I’m grateful some of us have privilege. But we cannot presume to dismiss the experiences of those who don’t share our privilege.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Click to subscribe for new post alerts.

Click to subscribe to our magazine, in circulation since 1974.

Related Posts

Guest Post: Tell Your Story: Religion and Gender in America

Guest Post by Kate Davis. Kate Davis is a PhD Candidate at Claremont Graduate University. Her research looks at new religious spaces and communities...

On Blessings

In Gilead, a favorite novel of mine, a Congregational minister named John Ames recalls his life in a letter to his young son.  Part autobiography...

Conference Bingo: Historic 2018 Edition

Folks, the rumor mill is in full gear. Apparently this GenConf* will be HISTORIC. Writ large. Something to tell the grandkids about. BIG ENOUGH THAT...


I am writing a paper about the intersections, if any, between increased regulation on access to birth control and violence against women. And I need...
submit guest post
Submit a Guest Blog Post
subscribe to our magazine
Subscribe to Our Magazine
Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :