John’s post about “Jon Stewart on GOP Government Shutdown & Obamacare exchanges” got me thinking — particularly when I watched the Jason Jones Obamacare segment.
One of the women Jason interviewed was Gina Loudon, a ‘conservative analyst.’ In his interview with her, Jason couldn’t keep a straight face when Loudon tried to assert that our pre-“Affordable Care Act” (aka Obamacare) “free market” healthcare system was perfect.
Then Jason began discussing the commercials being aired by both sides, including the infamous “rapey gyno-Uncle Sam” one. Loudon walked right into the rhetorical hypocrisy in saying she believed that the government had no business being in the doctor’s examination room, treatment is a private matter, and should be between a patient and her doctor, and so on.
Then Jason asked Ms. Loudon if she was pro-choice. She stammered, “It depends on what issue you’re talking about.” And then tried to assert a ‘right to life’ in the Constitution. (Funny how most conservatives don’t believe there’s a right to life when talking about convicted criminals though… Or a right to life for children and adults who can’t afford health care.) Anyway, click on over to John’s post if you want to see the Jason Jones video. It’s a classic.
Far-right conservatives deliberately conflate abortion and contraception
I’m coming at this post from the abortion-angle in particular because conservatives (Republicans, fundamentalists, ConservaDems) just love to conflate abortion with contraception and family planning. Then they use their opposition to abortion, on what they feel are moral grounds, also to oppose the right of women to control what happens to our bodies.
Including whether or not we get preggers in the first place.
As I’ve remarked before, it’s not enough for them to say we can’t have abortions — whether medically necessary or by choice — we’re also not really supposed to do anything that would interfere with any man’s sperm fertilizing an egg inside our bodies. Even if that sperm was introduced by rape or incest, or if that resulting pregnancy will endanger our lives.
Doesn’t matter. It’s not even a fertilized egg that has more rights than we do. The sperm cell does.
Think about that: According to the radical right, a rapist’s sperm cell has more rights than women do.
And they accuse Uncle Sam of invading my gynecological personal space? Uncle Sam’s got nothing on these guys.
The far-right lies constantly about contraception and women’s reproduction
Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a nearly endless barrage of lies and deliberate misinformation whenever the radical (often religious) right talks about contraception (or any issue really):
- Rush Limbaugh describing contraceptive medication as if it’s something women take every time we have sex. (The pill form is usually taken daily, regardless of sexy-time plans. I’m not going to bother linking anything because it’s self-evident to anyone who isn’t an ignorant misogynist.)
- “Plan B is actually an abortion pill.” (No, it’s not. It prevents ovulation, and if an egg has been released, prevents fertilization. While it does affect the uterus lining, it won’t prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. This is why it needs to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It will not cause an abortion if the woman is already pregnant.)
- “Hormonal contraceptives cause cancer.” (They don’t. There’s a slight increase in risk of breast cancer, but significantly reduced chances for cervical and uterine cancer.)
- “Planned Parenthood is essentially an abortion mill.” (No. Abortion services are 3% of what they do. Contraception is 35% — which makes me wonder if that isn’t the real objection of the radical right.)
- “Contraceptives make it harder to get pregnant after stopping them.” (Nope. It’s possible to get pregnant in the very next cycle after stopping, and a return to full fertility is usually reached within six months max.)
- “Contraception is an entirely new thing.” (Actually, condoms date back at least to the middle 1600s. And women have been using herbs for millennia. We’ve just become more scientific about it.)
- “Women taking birth control causes prostate cancer in men.” (Another lie.)
- “Women who don’t have sex don’t need contraceptive medication.” (Not true. A mere 42% of women use it only for that reason.)
- And of course: “Women can’t get pregnant from rape.” (5% of rapes result in pregnancy. Roughly the same rate for any woman of fertile age having unprotected, unplanned sex.)
Half the time, it seems like we’re reduced to fighting a defensive war against these outright falsehoods, 24/7.
Why publicly supported family planning services are essential for women
The Guttmacher Institute, whose mission statement is, “advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis, and public education,” just came out with a video. In just 3.5 minutes, it does a fantastic job of explaining why publicly supported family planning services are essential. Not just for women, but for society in general.
A few of the highlights:
- Contraceptive and reproductive health services help women avoid well over two million unplanned pregnancies each year.
- An estimated 760,000 of those pregnancies would otherwise result in abortions, pushing the current abortion rate 2/3 higher than it is now.
- Family planning enables parents to space out the births of their kids, resulting in healthier mothers and children, both.
- Helping low-income women avoid unplanned pregnancies saves $5.68 in Medicaid costs for every dollar invested. (Isn’t keeping people off of public assistance a conservative goal?)
- For many women, places like Planned Parenthood and women’s health clinics are their entry point to receiving healthcare at all — including preventive health screening for cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and much more.
- Medicaid, family planning funding, and Title X programs are facing relentless cuts and attacks from the radical right.
- Close to seven million low-income women are at risk of losing this vital social safety net due to far-right anti-woman ideology.
Access to contraception reduces abortions. There is no rational debate about this, no arguments save those which deny facts and reality.
Abstinence-only sex ed has been proven time and time again not to work at all. (It reminds me of the old joke I grew up with, raised Irish Roman Catholic as I was: What’s the other name for the Rhythm Method? A new baby once every year.)
Access to contraceptive medication enables young women to finish their educations and to get good jobs. It also makes it more possible for us to serve our country in the armed forces, where an unplanned pregnancy could really be a problem.
The difference between having an unplanned pregnancy when 18 and unmarried should be obvious when compared to having that baby a few years later, after college, settled down, employed and married, etc. The planned family will, in most cases, be far better off than the unplanned one. It’s also obviously better for the kids.
It bears repeating: Access to contraception results in fewer abortions. Family planning results in healthier women and children. It also results in more stable and prosperous families.
The fact these pro-family goals are not priorities for the conservative far right is telling.
I myself come from an extended family where unplanned pregnancies — including the health-threatening one that resulted in me — were the norm, not the exception. Another family member unwisely ended up in a horrible marriage to a drug addict as a result of an unplanned pregnancy (due entirely because contraception wasn’t used, not even a condom). Why? She was 19 and had no job, no prospects, and had been still living in her parents’ house. She’s okay now, but those were hellish years of abuse and poverty. The S.O.B. even sold the family groceries to support his addiction.
As good Roman Catholics, my parents didn’t believe in contraception or abortion either. My folks argued most often about money, and I know it was in large part because while affording to raise two kids would’ve been a challenge, four was a whole lot harder.
Being able to control how and when we get pregnant is a health issue for women
Being able to control how and when we get pregnant is a health issue for women. It’s a vital economic issue for us. It’s also an issue of personal freedom and privacy. The right to control what goes on in our bodies is one of the core pillars of women’s liberation in modern times.
Personally, people can argue back and forth on the abortion issue, although I know where I stand: I am 100% in favor of women’s right to choose what happens to our bodies. Pro-Choice. I support a woman’s right to choose an abortion; I also support her right to choose not to have one. I further support the idea that access to healthcare should be considered a fundamental civil right for everyone. There’s actually a good chance that known, guaranteed access to healthcare might convince more than a few pregnant women they can actually cope with an unplanned pregnancy.
Yet the far right is opposed to this. I can see no other reason than a desire to make a woman’s unplanned pregnancy as painful, unpleasant, and dangerous as possible. To punish her.
To me, the right to use contraception is a no-brainer. Plus yes, I do feel that preventing a pregnancy in the first place is morally preferable to ending one.
What am I against? Well, for one, I’m definitely against panels of men forcing their misogynistic, patronizing decisions on us. Like this one.
Every time a man wants to mandate a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound for women, I want to mandate a required manual digital prostate exam for any male who wants a Viagra prescription. For his own safety, of course. Plus a two-visit minimum and a 48 hour waiting period. And a ban on insurance coverage for it. Plus he should have to look at photos that graphically show the physical dangers of uncontrolled priapsis. (I’ll spare you the links.)
If there’s one assertion the radical fundamentalist right likes to make that needs absolute refutation, it’s that using contraception is intrinsically morally wrong. There is no non-religious philosophical or ethical justification for this position, unless one posits that a sperm cell and an unfertilized egg cell actually have more civil rights than the adult woman they happen to be inside.
That the mere potential that an egg might be fertilized is of greater value than the actuality of an adult woman and her life and health.
Writing in Esquire back in July, Charles Pierce astutely notes how the real target of the far-right conservatives isn’t abortion. It’s the right women have been enjoying since 1965: To be able to have sex without the risk of unplanned pregnancy. The right not to fear our own bodies.
The simple fact is that American women have a right that these people do not want them to have. Period. (That right is based in a right to privacy that most of these people believe is at best a constitutional confection and, at worst, an outright lie. The target always has been Griswold, not Roe.) They do not want that right exercised and they will do anything they can to keep it from being exercised, and they absolutely…will…not…stop.
I agree. The goal, as I’ve said many times, isn’t to protect unborn fetuses — because if that was the goal, pre- and post-natal healthcare would be an absolute civil right. As would pediatric care.
No, the goal is to punish women for having sex. To force us into positions of dependence and submission. To ensure that the consequences of sex — whether it was invited or compelled through violence — remain entirely upon us.
There are women who need contraceptive medication for health reasons totally unrelated to avoiding pregnancy — I was one of them. There are those who need to take it because a pregnancy could kill them. And yes, there are those of us who simply want a choice over whether we get pregnant or not, but be able also to engage in normal, natural, human sexual activity. Quite frankly, if non-reproductive sex wasn’t natural, women wouldn’t be sexually receptive throughout our monthly reproductive cycles and even after menopause.
Simply telling women “don’t have sex” isn’t an answer. And family planning is only “morally wrong” according to certain patriarchist religions, not all of them.
As far as that creepy “gyno-rape Uncle Sam” anti-Obamacare ad goes, I prefer this version – though someone ought to do a version of the ad where John Boehner, or Ken Cuccinelli, pops up between your legs. Because you know what, I’d rather have Uncle sam down there than John Boehner and Ted Cruz.