Michelle Hartney


Suck It Up and Get Over It, 36×60 inches, Fiber

Historically, when considering issues of reproductive rights, feminists have focused primarily on abortion. For decades women have been giving birth in the United States believing they had no choices, no right to informed consent, and left decisions about their bodies in the hands of doctors.

It is estimated that one in three women who give birth in this country describe their experience as traumatic. Birth trauma results not only from the physical challenges that can arise from childbirth, but from verbal and physical abuse from doctors who perform procedures without informed consent.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been increasingly diagnosed in women after childbirth. Doctors and nurses are abusing their patients with words, bullying behavior, and dead baby threats that are not evidence based.

For this project, I gathered quotes from Improving Birth’s Break the Silence Campaign, where women told their stories of abuse at the hands of their doctors. I sewed these words onto canvases covered with hospital gown fabric I designed with tiny drawings of the plant derivatives of drugs used on laboring women for the past century. Varsity lettering, which is typically used for letter-man jackets, was sewn onto the canvas to spell the phrases. Many of these phrases sound like words a rapist would say to his victim. The goal of this project is to bring awareness to the abuse women are suffering at the hands of doctors and nurses.

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