Walking Past the Picket Line
creative nonfiction by Hanifah Jones
Walking Past the Picket Line
My free clinic is lined with a picket fence. A picket fence of protesters hurling insults, condemning me to Hell for the murder of a child that doesn’t exist. Colorful posters with painted verses from the Bible are shoved in my face as an older man shouts obscenities at me.
I turn my music louder to ignore them, they don’t know that I am only here to refill my birth control, or that this has become a routine for me. I hold my head high as I walk through a metal gate and into a brick building with colorful glass windows. Normally I would stare in awe of such intricate details, but I know these adorned panes were put there to conceal the identity of patients.
As I wait for my name to be called, I avoid eye contact with everyone else in the room. I don’t want them to think I’m judging them for being here, for taking autonomy of their bodies. There are men and women here for various reasons: birth control, hormone therapy, STD testing, and cancer screenings. But a certain orange political figure would have you thinking they were there to commit murder, when some of us are here to potentially save our lives.
My first time sitting in this waiting room, I was young and hurting. Each month my period came along with a bonus gift of debilitating pain and nausea. Was this my punishment for leaving my womb empty? Even after my period, I would experience sharp pains so intense that I couldn’t walk. It was my conservative mother who made my first appointment at the clinic. She knew something was wrong, and our low-income status at the time didn’t give us any other options.
As I spread my legs into the cold, sterile stirrups, the ob-gyn comes in with a friendly smile and tells me to scoot lower, until I felt like I was about to fall into a pit of despair. She entered a speculum that not only opened the flesh of my vagina but opened generations of trauma and women before me who didn’t have a choice over their bodies.
She told me that my pain was due to an ovarian cyst and instructed me to start taking birth control or it would rupture. That was five years ago, and I haven’t missed a pill since. It offered me reassurance once I started having sex, and provided comfort from the pain my uterus has been putting me through since I was ten years old.
Another day, another headline, yet another White politician assuming power over a uterus that never belonged to him. My heart goes out to the women in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, and Iowa. We have the right to decide what happens to our bodies, we have the right to have access to institutions that allow us to do so.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if my great-great grandmother wasn’t forced to birth her rapist’s children on a Southern plantation. Or what would have happened if I wasn’t offered the birth control that would shrink my cyst into nonexistence.
While my motivations for taking the pill have changed, it doesn’t change the fact that my womb isn’t ready to become a home. I would love to be a mother someday, but that day isn’t coming soon. Regardless of my reasons for taking birth control, it is my right. And no man can ever take it away from me.
Hanifah Jones is a recent graduate of Susquehanna University and multi-hyphenate hailing from Philadelphia, PA. As an Aquarius sun with a Ravenclaw moon, she loves all things creative. On any day, you can find her sipping a Chai Latte and listening to Beyonce. You can find more of her writing at www.accordingtohanifah.com (@itsnifahni).