rsz_the_tampons

Fighting Texas’s Anti-Abortion Burial and Cremation Law With Art and Used Tampons

In a year chock full of attacks on reproductive rights, Texas’s House Bill 201 may get the award for The Worst of the Worst. This charming regulation mandates that all “fetal remains” from abortion and miscarriage at medical facilities be buried or cremated.

Currently, materials from abortions and miscarriages are disposed of as sanitized medical waste. Under the new Texas rule, these materials will be disposed of like human remains. The regulation mimics similar attempts in Indiana and Louisiana, adding yet another layer of dread to the incoming rule of Vice President Michael “Defund Planned Parenthood” Pence. HB 201 is currently stalled pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

The bill is bad for a gazillion reasons. It forces abortion providers to bear the costs of a medically unnecessary form of disposal and women to bear stigma and reduced access to medical care. It denies women the agency to experience abortion in the way they choose, whether that be mourning, celebration, or both. It infringes upon religious liberty by imposing funerary practices. And it displays a dangerous ignorance of women’s experiences of our own bodies, mandating burial or cremation of embryos that we may not even be able to see, yet alone want to mourn.

Bills like HB 201 send a message loud and clear: our reproductive functions are more important to the government than our health, agency, personal religious choices, and—oh yeah—our humanity. If the government is going to make choices about how we and our healthcare providers deal with what comes out of our vaginas, how long until it mandates funerals for everything? Ovum? Menstrual blood? Who knows: the tampon funeral bill may be just around the corner.

Well, we’re one step ahead of ya, Pence.

In anticipation of such a bill, some fellow feminist artists and I recently staged a Tampon Funeral. More specifically: we staged a cremation ceremony for December’s Endometrium. (Did I store a week’s worth of used tampons in my cool feminist mom’s freezer for just this purpose? Yup.)

Participants in the performance paid their respects to December’s Endometrium by enjoying beautiful live music, reminiscing fondly over the Endometrium’s life, and eating snacks.

We light the flame

We light a candle in remembrance

This Isn't Just a Woman's Fight

Real talk from the guest book.

 

 

Rest in Peace, Dear Tampon

It was a short life for Tampon #8

 

 

 

rsz_i_mourn

I gaze mournfully into the flame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests offered donations to the Center for Reproductive Rights (which is leading the lawsuit), The Lilith Fund (which gives economic assistance to women to make abortion accessible), and Planned Parenthood Texas.

You should make a donation, too. And make a protest. And make an art project. And shout, a lot. ‘Cause the reproductive rights onslaught is here, baby, and we gotta stop it.

Happy 2017.

The tampons burn

The endometrium bids adieu.

Project Credits:

Conceptualized by Ellen Gallos, Ripley Nichols, Reina Gattuso, and Devon Fiorino.

Music by Andrea Yanulevich and Matt Gordeuk

Script by Reina Gattuso

Visual art by Ripley Nichols (@flowersfornoonepress), Claire Conley, Michelle Kwiecien, and Olivia Barber

Photography and videography by Miranda Dworkin

Speech read at Tampon Funderal:

Beutiful tragic portrait

Such a lifelike portrait of such a beloved friend.

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of this Endometrium. This month’s Endometrium was a good Endometrium, which struggled valiantly to fulfill its highest ambition to support a human pregnancy. We take this opportunity to gather together in community to remember her life.

This Endometrium began her life as a humble set of columnar cells, clustered together to form the decidual layer of the uterine lining. Through the course of the month, inspired by hormonal messages, the endometrium thickened and strengthened. The Endometrium waited patiently to fulfill her duty and nourish a recently implanted zygote. Yet alas, this was never to occur. This lack of fulfillment of her duty led to the death of our dear friend.

There are many reasons for this tragic and untimely death. A bad streak of sexual luck, perhaps, on the part of the endometrial host organism or—even more dire—lesbianism. Perhaps we have hormonal contraceptives to blame, which corrupted the Endometrium’s beautiful purpose by thinning its resolve and nefariously preventing ovulation. Or perhaps, we must blame the use of barrier methods in casual sexual encounters, both to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and as a form of backup pregnancy prevention.

Defeated by dashed dreams, defeated by broken hopes, the Endometrium ended up falling into folds of regular and super OB-brand applicatorless cotton tampons, rinsed off size twelve poly-rayon blend Marilyn Monroe brand underpants from The Burlington Coat Factory, and plunging to a toilet-watery grave alongside humble feces.

Yet we know that even a life outside of the conventional dictates of heroism can be a brave and fulfilling life, and we admire the courage of this uterine tissue for sacrificing herself to protest the evils of sexual agency and equitable access to reproductive care.

 

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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