Grab your glass of milk and Oreos kids because it is motherfucking story time.
And because I am a one-trick pony, you can expect that this will include talk about death. But this story is about bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy and corpses.
Warning for swearing, descriptions of dead bodies, and a generally grisly topic.
Jason was an organ donor. It was printed on his driver’s license; you know the little box you check when you fill out the paperwork? It’s easy to do and I suggest everyone do it. Not that it will be an automatic thing when you die that you checked a box and now your organs are going to be donated. But at least your next of kin will know what you wanted.
Once the hospital finally told me that Jason was dead, and once I was past the initial screaming and crying and on to the making phone calls and figuring out what was next, I got a phone call. It wasn’t my family. I answered it. I’m not sure why. Though honestly, it might have been a phone that the nurses gave me or maybe they told me I needed to answer? I’m not sure, a lot of things are very hazy.
The morgue – the fuckers who couldn’t tell me he was dead initially – needed my permission to harvest his organs. And they needed that permission as fast as possible to get the most use out of the organs. I said yes, take anything you can use.
But it isn’t that simple. They had to run through each organ and ask about it. They asked about skin. I said yes. They asked about eyes. I said yes. They asked about ligaments and connective tissues. I said yes. They asked about blood vessel, I said yes.
(The big internal organs that you think about when you think of organ donation weren’t on the list. I was very confused about that for about two weeks. Then I went to my car to get my belongings. The passenger side door of the car was caved into the center console. I understood, after that, why it was that they didn’t take any of his big organs.)
Despite his status as an organ donor; despite his wishes to donate his body; despite my blanket permission, they had to ask about each and every organ and piece of tissue. They had to have my explicit consent on each one. I, as the next of kin, had the right to refuse access to Jason’s body. I could have, at any point, have said, “no.” And they would have left that organ in his mangled corpse to rot or burn at my discretion.
As of today, I no longer have that right over my own body. I cannot say, “No, you may not use my organ.” I cannot say, “No, I want to keep this part of my body as it is.” But only one organ. Only my uterus.
The uterus is one of a very short list of organs that are not shared by all sexes and genders. It is the organ that seems to define womanhood for a subset of Americans. And it is the one organ that men have been trying to control since we evolved religion.
I can still say, “No, you can’t have my kidney.” I can still say, “No, I need my lungs.” I can still say, “All of skin should remain attached to my body, thanks.” Or I could choose to say, “You know what, I only need one kidney.” Or I could choose to say, “I have some blood vessels to spare, go ahead and put those ones in someone else.”
But I cannot say, “That is my uterus and I do not want it used right now.” I have lost that right.
I have less rights over my own body than I did over the corpse of my dead husband.
I hope you enjoyed your cookies and milk and story time. Until my next rant, please donate to your local abortion providers, volunteer your time phone banking in the next election, and do everything in your power to get the 60 vote liberal majority in congress so we can get legal fucking protections for a basic human right.