The Battle Over Birth Control

Notice that the fight over women’s health has lurched from a strict focus on abortion to an ever-increasing attack on contraceptives.

Does the pill prevent pregnancy or terminate it? Conservative Christians in my town hand out flyers at the county fair declaring that all forms of birth control are abortive in nature. They are sure to set up a booth directly across from Planned Parenthood’s booth, the one that hands out information on how to be safe if one is to have sex.

Are condoms an effective barrier-method or does AIDS seep through the “tiny holes” in the latex? Our beloved late Pope endorsed the idea that condoms “have tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass,” and lovingly passed this information to four continents worth of churches, effectively confusing those who reside in areas of a global pandemic. Some of these are areas in which the greatest contibutor to health aid is Oprah Winfrey and extra funds are spent on coffins because they “never have enough.” Praise the lord.

Is giving teens accurate information about their sexual health, and access to the materials necessary to do so, tacitly urging them to, you know, do it?

As pharmacists are gain support in their refusal to fill birth control prescriptions, the right to this legal medication is usurped by our ability to access it.

“I am deeply concerned that they have gone further than I have ever seen them. This is far past a woman’s right to make decisions regarding abortion to the point now that it’s about their right to make decisions on contraception,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Salon. Murray and her Senate colleague Hillary Clinton have blocked President Bush’s nominee to head the FDA, Lester Crawford, over his inaction as acting director of the agency to approve the morning-after pill for over-the-counter sale. An FDA advisory committee has given the drug overwhelming support as safe and effective, and Canada approved its nonprescription status last week. Publicly, Crawford says his indecision on the drug has nothing to do with ideology, but privately he told Murray it raises his concerns about “behavior,” apparently alluding to arguments that the pill will encourage promiscuity.

Crawford is clearly concerned about the behavior of rape victims, considering that they are the ones who suffer most from the lack of availablity to not only the medication, but medical centers who will prescribe it. And those harlots probably asked for it.

Opposition to Plan B is just the latest and most visible drive by conservatives to curtail contraception, according to Heather Boonstra of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research group for reproductive issues. “There’s a constituency out there that equates all contraception with abortion, and they’re organizing in concerted ways to denigrate it,” she says. That constituency includes a number of social and religious groups, but the one that takes the abortion-contraception connection perhaps the most literally is the American Life League (ALL), one of the largest antiabortion lobbyists. Founded 25 years ago, it claims 300,000 families as members.

“Many forms of so-called contraception work by preventing the implantation of an already created human being, and that kills a baby in the womb, and we consider that to be an early abortion,” says ALL’s vice president, Jim Sedlak. He says ALL’s main mission is to inform women that all hormonal birth control methods and the IUD “are actually causing abortions themselves” and to force manufacturers to put that description prominently on contraceptive labels.

ALL’s STOPP International campaign also seeks to cut government funding for Planned Parenthood, which it believes misinforms women about how contraception works. Sedlak says STOPP has been successful at the city level — closing over 100 clinics around the country in the last 10 years — and is now targeting state funding. He pointed to the Texas Legislature’s recent decision to cut Planned Parenthood’s state funding as one of ALL’s biggest victories. “It’s not as fast as we would like, but we’ll take it, and we believe it will have a snowball effect and that when people understand what they’re doing we’ll be closing clinics even faster.”

ALL’s three-stage action plan against Planned Parenthood is spelled out on their website.

  • Building community-based coalitions of churches and faithful citizens to oppose Planned Parenthood at the grassroots level
  • Training and mobilizing people to expel Planned Parenthood from their local schools
  • Empowering activists to strip Planned Parenthood’s tax funding at the state level

ALL uses excitable language in order to obscure that while Planned Parenthood advocates for sexual education, they are not literally in the schools. Hell, if you’re a girl in a public school health class, you’re lucky to find out that you bleed.

Where ALL becomes a formidable force is in attempting to bring in coalitions of “churches and faithful citizens.” With the current political climate and three years left under Dubya’s kingly reign, the religious right has nearly effectively hijacked the Republican party. By saying that PP is an organization that “only makes money when our young people are sexually active” obscures the fact that the majority of those who enter the doors of a free clinic are there for routine visits that often have little to do with sex, but with general health issues that go along with having icky ol’ girly bits.

ALL is not the only threat to Planned Parenthood’s funding. In every one of his budgets, Bush has frozen funds for Title X, the 30-year-old program that pays for family-planning services for low-income women. Susanne Martinez, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for public policy, says that although Congress has restored some of that money, this “assault on family planning” has crippled Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive distribution — about 95 percent of the Title X funds it receives go directly to that service. She is also concerned Bush has appointed to agencies like the FDA and Health and Human Services “people who have very publicly said they opposed the use of birth control for the unmarried. It’s something [Bush] has been doing in a very strategic way.”

Several other groups support ALL’s views and its mission. The Family Research Council joined Republican leaders last Sunday on a national telecast blasting the Democrats for blocking appointments of conservative judges who could decide key reproductive-rights issues. And while the conservative Concerned Women for America (CFA) says it does not take a position on contraception, it does oppose abortion and has been vigorously defending the recent drive by anti-choice pharmacists to stop distributing emergency contraception, which CFA considers an “abortion pill.”

I personally am a big fan of ALL’s Rock for Life campaign, because teens are stupid enough to buy any message packaged in the Xtreme. Look, there are free downloads! And a blog!

This may be the final proof that rock n’ roll is indeed dead.

But back to the behavioral business again, the kind of business that shows that abstinence-only programs were ordered to be rated by the CDC on attendance, not effectiveness:

The abstinence-only programs — which have largely replaced safe-sex education — have not only curbed the distribution of condoms and birth control pills in school health clinics, but have entirely banned information about contraceptives and sexual health. The nonprofit Abstinence Clearinghouse, which promotes such programs, says few could argue that refraining from sex is the only sure-fire way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. And it dismisses repeated studies finding that abstinence-only programs are ineffective in either delaying sexual experience among teens or protecting them from disease. So does Alma Golden, Bush’s pick to head the Population Affairs department, which runs the programs. “One thing is very clear for our children, abstaining from sex is the most effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, STDs and preventing pregnancy and the emotional, social and educational consequences of teen sexual activity,” she says on the Clearinghouse’s Web site.

Read that again. Abstinence-only programs “have largely replaced safe-sex education.” It makes my hair curl.

It seems as well that there is federal talk of moving abstinence-only programs into elementary schools, thereby exposing yet another hypocrisy in the fight against doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well, safe, and healthy, considering that one primary argument against comprehensive sex education is that it exposes children to sexual themes they aren’t ready for. Kansas, in the meantime, is in a legal battle over the existence of Adam’s navel. In the children’s best interest, my ass.

Amanda asks, “If you get pregnant on accident, should you be allowed pain medication during labor? Or is that part of your sentence?” Of course it is. No matter that it takes two to make things go right. If woman should slip up and experience prurient sexual desire, she should be punished.

Welcome to America. Don’t let the sun set on your female behind.


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12 comments for “The Battle Over Birth Control

  1. Lauren
    May 3, 2005 at 4:51 am

    It’s good to know someone else is up late at night still filled with righteous indignation that can help me procrastinate while I stay up late with feminist outrage as well. It’s a good thing my hair’s already curly ;-). But this type of thing is probably giving me more white hairs.

    Did you see the comments on Amanda’s blog? The denial of pain medication during child birth to punish them actually happened to someone.

  2. May 3, 2005 at 7:33 am

    This has been the true agenda behind the anti-abortion movement for a number of years. Fortunately, Americans tend to support access to birth control in overwhelming numbers. Anti-choice activists recognized this years ago. They realized that what they needed was an issue that they could use to sway people’s opinions and hopefully move the public down the slippery slope towards an anti-contraception/abstinence only agenda.

    The issue that they chose to highlight was abortion. At first, this was couched in mostly negative and often militant terms. The anti-choice activists have gotten wiser over time and have attempted to re-cast their agenda in positive terminology which has won them some concessions in both the courts and public opinion.

    Falsely emboldened by the recent election, anti-choice activists seek to press their agenda further. They’ve made great strides over the past couple of decades by electing individuals first to school boards, then city and state governments and now on the national level as well. Politicians, even conservative ones, are generally not willing to risk their careers for an unpopular decision, but they are now buying into the rhetoric of the social right that the last election was some sort of sign of a sea change in public opinion. Hence, we’ll see more activity towards an anti-choice agenda.

    The challenge for pro-choice activists is to expose these cynical tactics, work to promote viable candidates, and to do so in manners that will be accepted by the average citizen, who often times doesn’t have the time or energy to read up on the philisophical underpinnings of these discussions, but rather moves on gut instincts.

  3. May 3, 2005 at 8:19 am

    It’s amazing how the “prolifers” who always said they had no intention of interfering with the rights of others to use contraception have suddenly determined, years after hormonal contraception was made available, that it causes abortion. The facts haven’t changed since they were first approved and marketed, so why did it take 30 -40 some odd years for them to assert these drugs are causing abortions? The “pro-life” movement invents abortions to be had and, since they encourage scientific illiteracy and insist that anything they don’t support must be rejected based on faith (regardless of the facts), they’re followers will believe anything they’re told. They deny their ignorant but abstinent young have been contracting STIs, but when the rates of PID and HIV increase dramatically among the “good, Christian” women, where will the men find suitable pure wives?

    We should encourage them to continue to go off the deep-end, they’ve gotten as far as they have because the rational folks who have been extremely complacent and overconfident we will not lose rights are finally starting to see the dangers these extremists pose.

  4. May 3, 2005 at 9:27 am

    This is about taking away not only a woman’s right to have an abortion, but also her right to her own contraceptive medication. It’s about controlling women…duh. Oh and notice many of these anti-choice/anti-contraceptive fanatics are pearly white Christian males. Interesting. ::gags::

  5. May 3, 2005 at 9:55 am

    Wow. If those are rock stars, I am sure to be famous someday.

  6. May 3, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Redneck Feminist beat me to it, but I’m going to say it anyways: Rock isn’t dead. The only reason I know any of the Rock for “Life” bands is because I was quite sheltered in my youth and listened to nothing but Christian music (Switchfoot came after that, but they were on a Christian label before they did whatever it is they do now). The pro-choice bands that they list are much more well known, and are much, much better. I’m wondering why they even bothered to list those bands. It’s not like anyone supporting the website actually listened to any of them in the first place.

  7. May 3, 2005 at 11:20 am

    I like the long list of “pro-abortion” bands. There is actually a good spread across genre and target age groups.

    Maybe we should have a “pro-abortion” FRT.

  8. Elaine
    May 3, 2005 at 11:37 am

    Saying that Planned Parenthood only makes money when people are sexually active is like saying doctors only make money when people are sick. So let’s get rid of doctors already!

  9. Kyra
    May 3, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    It is anyone’s RIGHT to engage in consensual sexual activity. And, the idea that sexual activity is bad happens to be a religious belief—in other words, if the government takes into account any of this yammering about causing promiscuity in its decisions about Planned Parenthood or comprehensive sex educations, then they would be passing a law respecting (the beliefs of) an establishment of religion. Which is expressly prohibited by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    On another note, why does that “Abortion kills kids” T-shirt have a picture of an alien on it? What do aliens (and quite ugly ones at that) have to do with abortion? Yeah, I get it, it’s a fetus. Yuck. I think their scheme backfired there.

    Women are people, not walking life support systems. No one can be legally required to provide a blood donation or a kidney donation or any other medical support for someone else, how can anyone advocate forcing someone to provide ALL life support. The ability to survive solely at someone else’s expense is a privilege, not a right.

  10. May 3, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    Sorry to bring a touch of levity to a very serious post, but check out these “pro-life” band names!

    Death Through Adam, Crucified, Cannibal Culture, Black Tie Suicides, Leprosy of the Soul, One Bad Pig, The Discarded…

    Are Christian groups really morbid or something? I’m pretty pleased with the fact that the only one I recognize out of that whole list is MC Hammer. lol

  11. Alli
    May 5, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    After doing a lot of research on this, I found that not only are the majority of Americans in favor of contraceptives, but 70% of Republicans are pro-choice. Granted, less than 1/2 would consider having one, but they think a safe option should be available.

    All of this emphasizes the importance of the pro-choice community reaching out to ALL Americans who are pro-choice. It’s time to build a strong and united coalition that can create and protect a sexually safe and well-educated environment.

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