So it’s like going to the gym for your vagina?
Yeah, but it’s not like you’re maxing out. You’re not picking up pianos with your vagina—you’re picking up blueberries, so don’t squish them and make a mess. It’s very gentle.
So it’s like going to the gym for your vagina?
"80 percent of women who experienced mostly negative emotions still felt that abortion was the right choice for them."
Everything You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know About Abortion
Founded in 2007, the Museum for Contraception and Abortion in Vienna, Austria, is world’s most thorough collection of all the different methods and objects humans have used to stop them producing other humans. Recently I was given a tour of the museum by Christian Fiala, an abortion provider who founded the museum (pictured, below left), and this is what he told me as we walked through the exhibits.
There is, of course, a backstory as to why I started working in this field [of abortion and contraception], which is considered a big taboo in Austria—even more so in the Alpine region of Tyrol, where they wouldn’t even rent out an apartment to my girlfriend and me because we weren’t married.
Back then, I had just started attending med school and was shocked to discover that loads of my colleagues didn’t know how to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, despite their professional education.
After spending a year in Thailand, where I saw women dying on a daily basis during failed self-induced abortions, I decided to take action. I wanted to help and support the victims and help educate their partners about the risks and possibilities—especially when the choice isn’t fatherhood.
El Salvador to Pregnant Women: Drop Dead
El Salvador’s Supreme Court decided late last night not to allow a 22-year-old woman named “Beatriz” (an alias) to have an abortion, even though she is at risk of serious injury as a result of the pregnancy—and despite the fact that the fetus has an almost zero chance of survival because of its own health issues.
All abortion is illegal in El Salvador but Beatriz’s supporters hoped the Supreme Court would make an exception in this case. After deliberating for fifteen-days, the Salvadoran Supreme Court revealed the fate of Beatriz, the nom de guerre of the five-month-pregnant 22-year-old woman who had legally appealing for a potentially life-saving “therapeutic abortion.” That’s not to say she’ll die when she gives birth in four months—though it’s a possibility, considering she suffers from lupus, an illness which has given her kidney disease as one of its many side-effects, not to mention her fetus is anencephalic, which means it’s missing parts of its brain or skull and thus will live anywhere from only minutes to mere weeks.
Also hanging in the balance these past two weeks was the question: In this staunchly Catholic country—which has declared all abortion illegal since 1998, even in cases of rape, incest, or maternal mortality—would this young woman win the right to choose for or against an abortion in the name of her own health and safety.
Girl Eats Placenta
When my very pregnant friend called recently to tell me that she had arranged for her placenta to be encapsulated and invited me to come watch the whole process, it was a dream come true. I had been passively bringing it up in conversation for nine months.
“I heard some ladies like to eat their placentas because it gives them nutrients that they would otherwise lose after giving birth.”
“Oh yeah, they’re like, really nutritious and shit…”
But while I talked confidently about the process with my friend, I had heard stories from other women about bureaucratic nightmares that required paying a coroner to transport the placenta from the hospital to a funeral home, and then convincing the funeral home to “release” the placenta to you, so you can take it back to your house and eat it. The people I had spoken with weren’t Canadian, though, and after doing a bit of research, I learned that our laws here are way more lax—taking your placenta home in Canada is as easy as putting it in a plastic bag and saying “bye”. Also, it helps to tell the hospital that it’s for religious purposes. Otherwise they’re all like, “???”
Women choose to consume their placentas, technically known as placentophagy, because giving birth is a painful, kooky process that tends to suck the life out of everyone who experiences it, and the placenta has a buttload of nutrients in it that some say can help curb postpartum depression. Pretty much all other mammals (except for camelids, but I mean, come on, look at them) eat their placentas in a bloody, gore-filled wrath as soon as their babies pop out.
My friend’s placenta, smiling for the camera.
As you can see, placentas are pretty much just as disgusting as any other animal by-product that you would come across in a grocery store. The first steps in preparing it for consumption, I learned, are to remove the umbilical cord and the membrane-sac thingy that held the baby in place, and then drain the veins of excess blood.
Boop. It smelled like metal and pussy.
Stacey, our chef and a former placenta curator from an Amazonian utopia, I’m pretty sure, said that even if the effect her capsules produced was only a placebo, the tedious process was still worth it because postpartum is such a debilitating experience to go through.
As a person who is no stranger to eating her own bodily fluids, it felt really nice to be able to speak with someone who didn’t give a fuck about consuming placentas. She was very knowledgeable and relaxed, with a no-bullshit attitude that made me want to spread the word about weird shit going on in the postnatal health world, even if it is borne out of my own novelty seeking.
Stoya on How Porn Stars Avoid Getting Pregnant
A few months ago someone asked me how porn chicks avoid getting pregnant. I rolled my eyes and thought,Duh, the same ways all chicks avoid getting pregnant. My sarcastic response wasn’t worth the energy it would have taken to type into Twitter and send. A week or so later someone asked the same question at a Q&A panel during an adult convention called Exxxotica. Over the next couple of months, more people asked the same thing via Twitter and Tumblr. One of my co-workers, Kayden Kross, brought up the fact that she’d been receiving questions about birth control as well. Neither of us remembered pregnancy on porn sets being a subject of public curiosity in previous years. Maybe all the public discussion of Measure B (the condoms-in-porn law) sparked the interest. So, without the sarcasm, let’s talk about birth control.
I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t get pregnant if you’re completely abstinent. There’s that whole Virgin Mary thing, but if I start factoring in acts of God, the topic gets too wacky to wrap my head around. I’m also pretty sure you can’t get pregnant if you stick to masturbation, are a woman who only has sex with women, or have sex in ways that completely avoid any vaginal contact with semen. However, if you are engaging in penis-in-vagina penetrative sex or moving hands back and forth between penises and vaginas, pregnancy is a risk that needs to be managed. This handy chart provided by the US Government can fill you in on the various types of available birth control.
The Holy War on Irish Wombs
It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a petition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalizing the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”
It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions—and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky—immigrants, shift-workers… anyone who is too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London—the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish parliament are trying to push through legislation that would allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.
Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.
Libya in Vitro
After Libya’s revolution in 2011, tens of thousands of citizens wounded in bloody guerilla battles needed good hospitals and doctors the war-torn country didn’t have. As a quick fix, the interim government established a medical program for Libya’s patients, sending them to some 44 countries with the promise that their medical bills would be covered. And because of its historic ties with Libya and its high-quality, under-utilized medical facilities, Jordan quickly became the top destination for Libya’s post-revolution wounded. Beginning soon after the death of Gaddafi in October 2011, Amman’s hospitals and hotels saw an influx of Libyans—a dozen per week were arriving at one point—and soon, a mounting tab of IOUs from Libya.
But the war-wounded weren’t the only ones getting a free ride. Amidst the dysfunction of the transitional government, many non-fighting Libyans took advantage of the system, using loopholes to receive treatment for non-war related injuries. Among some 60,000 total patients, an estimated majority of Libyans took advantage of Jordan’s expertise in dentistry, plastic surgery and in vitro fertilization. If you’re in the market for getting pregnant with a test tube, it turns out there are few better times for medical tourism than after your dictator of thirty years is removed through a violent uprising. Apart from Israel (which happens to provide free IVF to its citizens, all the time), Jordan boasts some of the best IVF care in the Middle East. In all, thousands of Libyan women were treated for IVF, some of them twice if need be, on the government’s bill.
My Abortion Story
Last year I got knocked up by a dating coach. I can’t claim naivety since I knew what his profession was and had even sat in on a conference call while he attempted to guide a group of men from around the world into the skirts of their local drunk girls. However, while I was repulsed, I was also intrigued.
We met at a 12-step meeting. He was well spoken and short but handsome. We began a three-month Skype courtship while traveling around different parts of the world—me in San Francisco, him in Rio, me in Austin, him in Trinidad. I learned that he had two kids he didn’t exactly show up for, with a woman he verbally disrespected. He loathed his mother, and told me how he encouraged his first girlfriend to have sex with multiple men in front of him in order to help her “process” a gang-rape she went through years prior. Though he recounted this story with a sense of shame, I still should have taken it as a cue to bow out.
In a week of us sleeping together I did that thing that I hate that I do—I checked his phone. I know it’s a violation of privacy. I know it’s horrible. I know it’s dishonest and shitty. But I did it anyway. What I found was an email from his long-distance girlfriend that read, “I know something is wrong. Something feels off. I can’t lose you. If you want me to lose weight I will. Please don’t leave me. Without you I have nothing to live for.” I felt waves of nausea wash over me. I didn’t want to tell him what I’d done, so how could I get him to somehow tell me. A while later, when he was cooking us dinner her name popped up on his cell phone and he rejected the call. I carried on that night like everything was normal until, in the middle of sex, I just couldn’t stop myself from talking.
“I can’t get serious about you.” I said, continuing to ride him with a slow rhythm.
“You know I’m falling for you.” He looked up at me.
“You already have a girlfriend.” I said.
“You say that with such conviction.”
“I have to tell you something. You’re going to be mad.”
“What is it?”
“I checked your phone. And read your emails. I know you have a girlfriend.”
“How do you feel about that?” He grabbed my hips starting to slowly thrust into me again. This is so fucked up, I thought.
“I can’t date you if you have a girlfriend.” I said.
“I wasn’t afraid of you knowing. I was afraid to tell you.”
“I still can’t date you.” He pushed me off and got on top.
“I understand that.” He leaned down and kissed me.
What the fuck am I doing?