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Steady As She Flows

A few years ago, I moved to New York City and began a whole new life. I never lived in a particularly large city and was intrigued. Shorty after arriving, my periods got quite heavy. My menstrual cycle has always been uncomplicated so this was slightly alarming. It got to the point where I was bleeding heavily not just on my period week but every single day. I worried about leaking through a regular sized tampon if I was stuck underground for more than an hour in the subway. Menstrual cups do not work well for me and the amount of tampons I was going through got to be kind of crazy. My income was low but I was lucky enough to have a new, patient boyfriend that had access to an endless supply of free tampons at his college.

Working as a nanny with no health insurance, before the Affordable Care Act came into effect, I turned to Planned Parenthood. They had me sign up for Medicaid in order to be a able to help. I had no idea how long it would take to get an appointment but should have assumed just as much with a city of eight million people, almost half of which are living below the poverty line. After multiple visits to different Planned Parenthood physicians, I was sent to a specialist for a vaginal ultrasound. The results showed nothing abnormal and I was diagnosed with menorrhagia without a cause.

I was advised to get back on the birth control pill in order to control the periods, which I did, but it took some trial and error. The dose I needed was a stronger one, and the whole process of the first appointment to finally getting the correct amount of hormones took about a year. That year was stressful, as I was still learning how to get around the city, scrambling to find jobs, and taking care of this new, bloody issue.

To complicate things even further, I was repeatedly kicked off Medicaid every two months for no reason. Constantly re-applying and attempting to get ahold of someone at the Medicaid office was a complete nightmare, finally escalating to me appealing in front of a judge. My income had stayed the same and I was definitely eligible for the care I was receiving. I presented the judge with a two-inch thick, stack of paperwork I had collected from Medicaid disputes. I was extremely luck in getting a female judge. She asked me why it was so important for me to be on this insurance and I showed her a note from a gynecologist, stating that I have menorrhagia. She took one look at it and immediately dismissed my case, allowing me to stay on the insurance with no more issues, at least for the next year.

I think it is important to point out that since this issue, I still have not been offered health insurance by a company that I have worked for on the books. Many people may not realize the Affordable Care Act states that small businesses with less than fifty employees do not have to offer health insurance. In New York City, ninety percent of all businesses are those that have less than fifty employees. It is almost impossible to receive health insurance or any benefits while working in this city. The Affordable Care Act is definitely a necessary step in order to provide care to those in need, but it needs to be revised, and quickly

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I started my art project after working at an abortion fund, where I learned firsthand how abortion restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, which blocks people from using Medicaid to pay for abortions, can impact people. There were and are so many politicians who will stop at nothing to erode reproductive rights. Working in abortion care made me realize that the act of having an abortion, especially having an abortion in the context of politicians trying to deliberately make it impossible, and in the face of so many intersecting oppression (like poverty, racism, etc), is a revolutionary act. I felt like I wanted to do more to further dialogue about abortion access, and also wanted to create something that talked about abortion in a way that honored peoples’ experiences and their resistance.

The Hyde Amendment is so connected to many parts of our lives. Sometimes when I describe my project to people for the first time, they ask me, “Wait, your whole project is about one amendment?” And I have to explain to them that yes, it’s one amendment with giant consequences, and its reach doesn’t just extend to denying poor folks reproductive autonomy. Hyde means that people put off paying rent and bills and buying food to come up the money for an abortion. Hyde is food security. Hyde is devaluing women of color. Hyde is making value judgments and dictating the reproductive futures for poor people. After I say that they start to realize the connections that abortion restrictions have to people’s lives. I try to do that with my art too – to make people think about abortion not just as a singular event in people’s lives – because that’s not what politicians are saying when they try to stop us from having abortions.

 

I hope that (through the project) people feel welcomed into a conversation about what abortion access is and conceptualize things differently. I also hope that people see messages that affirm their value and self-worth. I make this work for people I love. I try to reflect that love back into the universe for others to receive. That’s the way we will win.

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I have never had any form of discrimination or anything like that. My story isn’t heart wrenching or horrible just more of a pain in the ass. As a single mother going back to school I don’t make enough to afford insurance. Alabama did not take the Medicaid expansions so that doesn’t help either.  Until I graduate and get a better job, I just try really hard not to get sick. A few years ago Alabama also decided to shut down the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. I think there might be one or two left but I’m not sure. That had been my only way of seeing anyone about gyn issues. Thanks to the state and the ever so lovely republicans running it, I haven’t seen a doctor in a good four or five years. Nothing bad has happened. I just keep hoping it stays that way.