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Birth Control, Abortion, Sexuality – Reproductive Health and the Ladies of Sex & the City

Sex & the City premiered 15 years ago this week. In 2013, it is hard to remember just how revolutionary the show felt in 1998. And, yes, Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte led that revolution wearing very expensive clothes and impractical heels. But the frank discussion of women’s sexuality, reproductive health and marital choices was something we did in private but hadn’t seen on television before.

As an advocate for reproductive health, I cannot tell you how frustrating it can be to try to change policies on an issue that many people are embarrassed to discuss. I once had a 20-something Hill staffer run from a meeting flushed and sweating because a bunch of older women were talking to him about sperm and eggs (we were trying to explain how EC worked as opposed to medical abortion).

But, there on TV, four fabulous women were talking about everything from anal sex, to abortion, to choosing to be childless. They kicked down the boundaries of what women could openly discuss about their lives.

I remember the moment that I realized something new and unprecedented was happening on HBO. The Season 1 episode, “The Baby Shower,” found the ladies going out to the suburbs for the baby shower of an old friend. As I watched it, they were experiencing exactly the same things that I had in that situation. They felt out of place and diminished by the married women with kids because they hadn’t taken the “traditional” path - and as a single woman that was a feeling I had experienced a lot.

Suddenly, there were Samantha, Miranda, Carrie and even Charlotte saying the things that I never could at one of those events. When Miranda described the cult called “The Motherhood” that seemed to change your friends, she was talking for me.

When Samantha threw a party, pouring champagne and yelling, “I’m not pregnant, everybody drinks” she was celebrating my life choices.

And, while Carrie (who was having a pregnancy scare) wondered whether she wanted to have kids and, if she did, what kind of mother she wanted to be, she gave voice to the anxieties of a generation – the women who had grown up with the rights our mother’s had fought for and were now trying to figure out how to make it work.

Over the years, we watched the women embrace masturbation, experience infertility, have unintended pregnancies, get tested for HIV, survive breast cancer, discuss their abortions, decide to get married, decide not to get married. And, of course, have a lot of sex. Joyful, unapologetic, enjoyable sex. Sex & the City was the original “slut-shaming” free zone.

So, sometime this weekend, join me in celebrating the revolution of frank talk that Sex & the City started. Let’s all get a Cosmo and toast the ladies and all the issues they faced.

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