The owners of the grocery chain I work for decided to remove pregnancy tests from the shelves and place them behind the counter to be available on request. And you know what? I’m fucking livid.
I can think of nothing more terrifying than being pregnant. It’s the idea of something alive inside you, you. Your body is supposed to always be your own and under your control. With your knowledge you care for it and it cares for you. But the combination of two people (who may not even like each other very much let alone see one another again come daylight) turns your body into a shell for the mollusc that has slowly started to grow from a man’s gross seed. To some you’re secondary to this pea sized individual with no name or personality. You come to believe you are secondary to this pea sized individual. Your life is no longer your life. Nine months of expected agony (ignored by most) and mundane pains (labelled motherhood) and all you receive from such a tortuous labour that rips through a part of you that once brought you such pleasure is a screaming baby who can’t do anything and will gently ruin small parts of your life. The benefit is it becomes a small human though as someone who hates people generally including myself, you can guess my opinion on a baby version of myself. Pregnancy is horrific. That’s how I see it. I already know I’m terrible but that’s fine. As long my womb stays child free I can be the most selfish person on earth and still remain content. This is only my opinion, one of a billion. It’s not everyone’s opinion, but some will agree with it. Some women don’t want children. Some girls don’t want children either, still children themselves when they get their first pregnancy scare.
The only women I see buying pregnancy tests are in their thirties, putting the box on the counter as if it were any other item, distracted from the situation by the baby in her pram, demanding it be fed. It’s difficult to imagine these women sharing my views and fears. They simply want to know despite the outcome. Perhaps they’re well off with more than one child. Perhaps this is how their family was and will be made. Perhaps the child will be welcomed. (Nevertheless I can’t make assumptions based on appearances. The situation could be far worse and their poker face could simply be stronger than my own). These women will ask if we have the tests under the counter now and of course we’ll say yes. But would a sixteen year old girl have the audacity to ask?
This fear of mine hasn’t arisen in older age, rather it has gone mild with time. As a teenager, pregnancy was a near phobia of mine. Every sexual encounter became a scare that would carry on until the end of the month. Days and weeks of worrying. I never ever thought to go out and buy a test for fear of running into the scenario my work as made a reality. How could I get the words out to ask a cashier for a test? And what if both the cashiers were men? How heavily would they judge me? Would they try to guess my age, guess my situation? What my workplace is doing from the theft of a single seven dollar pregnancy (which I will expand on) is making it unbearably difficult for the girls and women who are frightened, ashamed, and disadvantaged to know the truth that’ll stave off weeks of insomnia and anxiety. It has me utterly disgusted.
The women who stole the test weren’t rich, that was obvious. It looked less like an act of desperation and more of a way to cut corners judging by the way she hid it under her baby’s pram. However I can’t judge because the situation is beyond my knowledge. And because of a single theft the pregnancy tests are off limits for everyone. It’s a childish, bullshitty punishment of a badly trained school teacher. The situation is made worse by two facts: that this a time shortly after a season of celebration (particularly the school leavers celebration of ‘Schoolies’) therefore an increase in holidays, alcohol, and sex. Happy sex, sex against the wall, sex in the light, sex in the dark, sex laughing through your nose, sex with funny sounds, sex without a condom, sex when you’re too drunk to react, sex when you’ve missed one of your pills, sex with someone that makes you cringe, sex that makes you cry, sex in a place you don’t recognize. To go alongside this season of potential pregnancies is the fact that in our store there is absolutely no sign at the place the tests were stating the pregnancy tests are located at the front end. How would anyone know? Of course the rare few will ask, but most will walk out of the store as quickly as they came in, heart beating too fast to take a solid breath as they scratch out that plan and make another through the bubbling anxiety.
I’ve known a few of my school friends to get pregnant at a young age. It’s never planned, it simply happens. People have unprotected sex sometimes and that will never stop. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes they’ll not know the consequences until they’re hunched over a toilet gasping and coming to the epiphany that this isn’t normal. It makes me shudder to imagine these girls struggling to figure out what to do in this situation. Sometimes there is nobody to turn to despite circumstances. Your own parents become the enemy, friends a jury, every stranger a bad experience. Is it really so shocking a panicking, sixteen year old girl would steal a pregnancy test rather than buy it to avoid the cashier? Sixteen year old girls aren’t the most wealthy. There are females of all ages who aren’t the most wealthy. Life is hard and an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy would make it harder. And my store isn’t helping. It’s a deterrent to struggling women.
My boss is a fat man who wears a pink shirt and pretends to deliver great advice when really he simply enjoys telling his workers how to do a job he’s never done himself. It was he who no doubt made the choice to hide away the tests. Has he ever had a pregnancy scare? What about when he was younger? Did he walk circles around the house considering the consequences of that late night the week before? Did he walk past the condoms aisle seven or eight times with sweating palms? Who is he to decide to keep the tests behind the counter with no fucking sign stating they’re there? Hey, we have a large amount of people stealing soap. Why don’t we keep soap behind the counter? There are bottles of body-wash worth ten dollars that are stolen more frequently than pregnancy tests that were stolen in a single instance. Therefore we should keep soap behind the counter and allow people to ask for them. WHY DON’T THEY DO THIS? BECAUSE IT’S STUPID. JUST LIKE KEEPING A SEVEN DOLLAR PREGNANCY TEST BEHIND THE COUNTER IS STUPID WHEN THERE ARE BETTER WAYS OF MONITORING THIEVERY THAN DEPRIVING PEOPLE OF PRODUCTS THEY NEED TO BE SEX SAFE BEFORE AND AFTER.
I’m not saying my store should be the hub for sexual health, rather it should be a positive and safe place in which any girl or women can enter and receive what she came for. Every place that supplies condoms, lube, pregnancy tests, and everything else you can think of should be a place in which both women and men (and girls and boys) feel comfortable buying these products. Why stock these products only to hide them? To assume a pregnancy test will not be stolen is naivety. Not planning adequately for this theft and instead resorting to the piss poor method of hiding them like a packet of lollies is a lack of planning and empathy for customers.
To sum up this silent argument I’m having with my workplace: pregnancy tests should be available on shelves for all to purchase. Theft by both the disadvantaged the ashamed is to be expected. If it is to be heavily targeted then so be it. The answer is not keeping the tests without signage behind the counter. It defeats the purpose of stocking pregnancy tests. Perpetrators shouldn’t be named and shamed. My argument is flawed but valuable but I shouldn’t have to make it. For fuck’s sake don’t penalise scared and innocent women.
Since I’m passionate about this, there’ll be more edits of this article.