Posted by: hatzihatzi | May 9, 2010

The one I wouldn’t be caught dead in

Being half Jewish and half Catholic means having to go to two gynecologists.  What?  I’ve talked about penises.  Now it’s time to talk about vaginas.

I live in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore that I like to call Kikesville because of its huge Jewish population.[1] The major street near me is lined with synagogues, one right across the street from another, reminding me of the joke about the Jewish guy on a deserted island who built two synagogues—one he prays in and one he wouldn’t be caught dead in.  It’s the road my husband drove down to get to the hospital in Baltimore City the night I was in labor.  As it was a Friday night, we saw many Orthodox families walking to and from synagogue.  My husband couldn’t avoid pulling up beside one such family when I asked him to stop the car so I could vomit from labor pains.

Baltimore, just down the street, has a Catholic history.  Maryland was founded as a refuge for English Catholics.

Moving is more than just a physical process.  It is also a huge administrative task—changing your address with a multitude of businesses and agencies, finding your new grocery store and Jiffy Lube, finding a new vet, finding a new doctor, etc. ad infinitum.  Since I didn’t know who to ask, I went to my insurance company’s website and searched for a new gynecologist.  I found many male gynecologists near me, but precious few women.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m for equal rights and equal opportunities.  But I’m not sure how I feel about going to a male gynecologist.  I know it’s discriminatory.  Deal with it.

I did find one woman, however, just a few blocks from my house.  I read a few reviews, which all praised her as being caring and gentle.  I called and scheduled an appointment for my yearly exam.

When that fateful day arrived she sat me down in an office to discuss birth control options.  “As you can tell,” she said, gesturing to the name plate at the head of the desk featuring a masculine name, “this is not my office.  It is my colleague’s.  And this is not my family,” she said pointing to the pictures.  The pictures on display were that of an Ashkenazi family, whereas the doctor I saw was Asian.  Also behind the desk were pictures of Jerusalem and other pieces of Judaica.

“I only recommend natural family planning,” she said matter-of-factly when discussing my birth control options.

It took me a minute to respond.  I had heard of people who practice natural family planning.  They are called parents.  I also knew that NFP and abstinence were the only methods of birth control condoned by the Catholic Church.  “Excuse me?”

“It’s a way of learning about your body and determining your most and least fertile days.  It’s as effective as the pill or an IUD.”  Yes, she said this.  No, it’s not true.

“And if I want the pill?”

She removed a business card from her colleague’s desk.  “I’d recommend you to him.  Call and make another appointment.”  She said this as there was nothing the least inconvenient about it and not at all a way for her practice to double bill their patients and their insurance companies.

I took the card and stared at the man’s name.  A very Jewish name.  I thought about calling him, and I imagined meeting him back in this office.  I’d extend my arm to shake his hand.

“Sorry,” he’d say holding up a hand but not reaching for mine, “I’m shomer negia.”[2]

I laughed at this.  Of course some shomer negia people will still shake the hand of someone of the opposite sex.  And who has ever heard of a male shomer negia gynecologist?  Surely that’s not good for business.  But who has heard of a gynecologist that refuses to recommend birth control either?

It made me wonder truly why the religious views of the woman doctor were more important than the religious views of the man.  Sure, being shomer negia is not a very popular or mainstream belief.  And no where near as pervasive as the Monty Pythonian concept that every sperm is sacred.  But they both come from Biblical passages.  Why can we accept a female gynecologist that lets the Bible interfere with her work and not a male one?

In the end, I felt sorry for her.  I’m a criminal defense attorney.  I worked for people who did a lot of crappy things—child molestation, drug smuggling, rape, aggravated assault, and of course murder.  I don’t do trial work.  I handle post conviction matters.  That means I don’t deal with people who allegedly did these things.  I deal with people who have been found guilty by a jury of their peers.  But of course, in so doing this, it doesn’t mean I condone these acts.  I find them to be morally and ethically repugnant.  But it means that I think there is something more important than my own personal beliefs and morals and the ethics of society.  Without getting too high on this soap box, I think it’s the Constitution and my calling as an attorney.  I feel sorry for the doctor that I saw because she clearly does not feel as though her calling—woman’s health—is something larger than her narrow mind.

[1] I will post more later about taking back the word “kike.”

[2] A religious Jewish person who does not touch members of the opposite sex other than family.  At college, I swear this shomer negia guy was hitting on me.  I was at Hillel on my birthday, and my friend Will came up to me and gave me a hug.  Yitzhak, the shomer negia guy who I had met a few times before and had some pleasant conversations with, asked where his hug was.  I know that doesn’t sound so risqué, but picture it from a man whose only contact with women is from behind a mechitza (the partition that separates men and women in synagogue).



  1. Huh, a GYN that doesn’t prescribe bcp? that’s odd. I’m right there with you on the female GYNs. I just feel weird having a guy examine me. I also try to go to female General Practitioners. It just makes me more comfortable to know that the person diagnosing me has at least gone through similar symptoms/conditions.

    • Yeah, I thought that was really odd. And extra odd that I encountered that in Maryland rather than Texas or Louisiana, where I have also lived and received the birth control pill. (Oh, and incidentally, it was the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill last week.) And odd is being nice and generous to this gyn. It was not a huge hassle for me, but I know that it could have been a burden for other women, particularly those with less money or who live in a less urban environment. And that’s what upsets me. The laws around access to birth control aren’t for me. I live in a progress area, I have access to many doctors, and I have the money to pay for it and the time it takes to get there. But a woman who has to face a doctor pulling this shit somewhere else might not be as fortunate.

      Also, I need to figure out how to allow comments without having to “moderate” them…

  2. […] Term:  Kikesville  (from Em over at HatziHatzi, she’s trying to take that word […]

  3. derp, derp. I’m a troll.

    • I wouldn’t call the OB/GYN hateful. Just misguided. It’s better to approach differences with love than hate and ignorance (or posting anonymous rude comments on years’ old blogs), I’ve always found. Wouldn’t you say?

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