Birth Control- In More Ways than One

While we were working on the collaborative blog posts in class I was able to discuss multiple different relevant themes that could have been used for the post. While they were all ideas worth exploring, not all of them could be used in our collaborative blog post, just for the sake of time. I would like to explore one specific idea that we discussed further. In Clay’s Ark, when the people who live with the organism have children, the children do not look like what we think a baby would look like. They also don’t grow in the same way we would think of a normal child growing. They are covered in hair, and they are nimble and quick on their feet, especially for their age. They also have more peculiar aspects, like being able to sense the sex of a child while it’s still in the womb just by listening to its heart beat. When Keira and Rane each meet children who were born on the farm, Keira accepts them as they are, and Rane chooses to judge them. Rane’s judgement of the children reminds me of the discussion of reproductive health in Medical Apartheid. In both cases people believe that there are groups who should not reproduce, but for different reasons.

Rane and Keira automatically have very different responses to the children that live on the farm in Clay’s Ark. While Keira and Rane are separated they each get a chance to meet different children who have grown up on the farm. Keira meets Zera, and Keira tries to make her comfortable. When talking to Zera she even invites her to sit on her lap. Eli is the one who makes Zera get off of her, and to the judgement of Lorene, Zera’s mother. When Lorene asks Keira if she thinks she would be willing to have a child that looked like Zera she even says “I think I could handle it (Butler: 546).” On the other hand, when Rane meets Jacob, she doesn’t understand what he is or why he looks the way he does. She rejects the idea that she will ever have a child that looks like him, saying “I never cared so much for the idea of aborting children, but if I thought for a moment that I was carrying another Jacob, I’d be willing to abort it with an old wire coat hanger! (Butler 532).” This statement offends Stephen, who she is talking to when she says this. To reject having children just because they look a certain way is hurtful to the people on the farm, especially because they know she will either be overcome by the organism and start having children, or she will die in the process.

In Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid, she discusses the relationship between black people and reproductive experimentation in great detail. The first quote of the chapter is from Barbara Harris, who says “We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children… (189).” There is then a reference to a specific woman, Fannie Lou Hamer, who had her uterus removed against her will in 1961. She had surgery to remove the pain that she felt in her abdomen, and later found out that she had her uterus removed as well, for no medical reason. She was unable to have children because of this, but it lead her to be “A lifelong opponent of birth control (Washington: 190).” After she had her uterus taken without her consent she felt that by creating birth control, the government was using it as a means of surveillance in order to keep black women from procreating. After she felt like she had her choice taken away from her she felt that it was important to keep her reproductive right to procreate, without the interference of birth control.

The connection I see between Clay’s Ark and Medical Apartheid is that each group is judged for having children. While Keira is understanding and open to the idea of having children, as Fannie was, Rane and the doctor who took Fannie’s uterus without her consent are judgmental over the children who each respective group is having, and they think it would be better to not have children or not allow someone to have children. While the children who are born infected with the organism seem to be doing fine physically, Rane still judges them for their appearance and actions. In the same vein, even though Fannie had not had any children and worked hard to make a living, the doctor still saw her as procreating too much, which is the same attitude we get from Barbara Harris’ quote. The use of the term “litter” by Harris also connects to the way in which Rane repeatedly refers to the children as animals. By equating children to litters of dogs both Rane and Harris are able to dehumanize them. By taking away someone’s reproductive rights, in either case, they would have their autonomy taken away from them as well.

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