Just back from a month of travel throughout France visiting family, I'm reacquainting myself with the streets of my beloved city. I pass a compelling mural by collage artist Brittney DiMauro depicting actors of “The Handmaid’s Tale” on currency wearing their signature red uniforms with “Blessed Be My Basic Human Rights” written above in ransom-style lettering. Although the television series is dystopian and fictional, the street art response to the timeless fight for female bodily autonomy is striking.
Here in NY state, abortions remain legal up to 24 weeks of gestation, but the recent reversal of Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case in the US essentially criminalizes unwanted pregnancy nationally, promoting forced birthing as the norm. France, on the other hand, has historically offered more comprehensive reproductive healthcare for women. This June, French legislation ensured that a women’s right to abortion until 14-16 weeks gestation was protected in their Constitution. They also offer supportive postpartum care that includes at least 10 visits of free pelvic floor “re-education or physiotherapy” for all birthing people. (Although I originally assumed this was due to progressive and feminist thinking, I recently learned it was a political move to address concerns around a dwindling population. Regardless, this is preferable to the American pressure to “bounce back” postpartum, with 1 in 4 new mothers returning to work within 2 weeks of birth according to a 2012 study.) Like most members of the EU, every expectant mother is eligible for paid maternity leave in France, though the exact length of leave depends on her current and expected number of children.
French feminist and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir is quoted as saying, “Never forget that all it takes is a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question. These rights are never fully acquired. You must remain vigilant your whole life.” These NYC streets, too, serve as gritty visual reminders of what has and perhaps always will be at stake for birthing people.
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT PMH-C
Mural by Brittney DiMauro @eternalpossessions