Padmé Amidala died in childbirth. She kept her pregnancy secret due to the austere strictures of a religious minority. She did not receive consistent, comprehensive prenatal care and her labor was induced by stress and trauma. Padmé delivered her twins under observation. It is not clear what, if any, options she was given for privacy or pain management while in labor and delivery. She was not informed that her husband was mortally wounded and presumed dead. She did not hold her children. No one asked her what she wanted. No medical interventions were taken to prolong her life. Everyone accepted the medical droid’s diagnosis that “she lost the will to live” and proceeded to deliver her children and watch her die. Her family was not told about the twins. Her twins were not told about their parents.
Why Reproductive Justice?
The phrase ‘reproductive justice’ was first used in 1994 by a group of eight Black women who came together to build an intersectional framework of reproductive rights and social justice in contrast to the restrictive and polarizing pro-choice movement. They called themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice. Three years later SisterSong was founded to solidify the movement.
Reproductive Justice [is] the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.SisterSong
Padmé’s story does not fit into the pro-choice vs. pro-life/anti-choice binary. A lack of good choices is a theme of the Star Wars prequels. Padmé and Anakin want their baby, but due to their circumstances the options are hide or ruin. Their reputations would be tarnished by the scandal and it’s suggested Padmé would lose her appointment as Senator of Naboo. In Anakin’s case, the Jedi Order provides his career, position, housing, clothing, tools, and community. Leaving the Order requires him to give up just about everything.
People who become pregnant on Earth don’t have to worry about their standing in the Galactic Republic or being shunned by the Jedi. But every single choice a person makes about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood is debated and derided in our society. There is controversy over and stigma related to:
- birth control
- in vitro fertilization
- teen parenthood
- single parenthood
- mixed race parenthood
- homosexual, bisexual, poly, trans, nonbinary, or otherwise queer parenthood
- step parenthood
- natural childbirth
- home birth
- surgical birth
- cesarean birth
- bottle feeding
- parental leave
- child care
- returning to work
- not returning to work
- never working outside the home and family
- choosing not to have children
Having or not having “a choice” is inadequate to describe the list above. We need autonomy and we need access.
The United States has the highest rate of death during childbirth in the developed world. In 2020 the birthing person mortality rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. And for Black people who gave birth it was more than double that: 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. If being a pregnant Black person was an occupation, it would be the second deadliest job in the United States.
There are risks and costs for every pregnancy. The pregnant person’s body is fundamentally altered and it does not reset after birth. With even the best insurance there are copays and deductibles that pile up over 9+ months. One month before the release of Revenge of the Sith, I had an emergency c-section after my labor didn’t progress for a full day. I remained in the hospital for two days after the surgery. It took me a decade to pay the bills despite being fully insured and at an in-network facility.
Prenatal care is healthcare. Birth control is healthcare. Abortion is healthcare.
Revenge of the Sith is my favorite Star Wars film, but it shows absolutely everyone at their worst. Every single time I watch the scenes on Polis Mossa I am outraged at the dismissal of Padmé’s rights to privacy and autonomy. After hiding her pregnancy for months she is required to give birth prematurely in a big glass room while Bail Organa and Yoda watch. Obi-Wan is a close friend so I accept his presence even though he betrayed her trust and tried to kill her husband a few hours earlier. But Bail Organa is a coworker and Yoda is Yoda.
Three men with power decide what to do about Padmé’s pregnancy, and what to do with Luke and Leia when she doesn’t survive their birth. It doesn’t matter if their choices were or were not the best choices for her or her children. It was Padmé’s choice to make and they took that away from her.
Join the Rebellion
I didn’t intend for this to be my offering for May the Fourth. But on May 2, 2022, at 8:32pm, Politico reported the impending revocation of Roe v. Wade and abortion protections in the United States. So here I am, asking you to stand up for all the Padmés who deserve better.