I knew it was going to be a good day when my room mate came in from her weekly Sunday-Times-fetching walk, pulled out the Magazine and said, “Ooooh!” as she held it for me to see. Bright red cover, and the words “The War on Contraception.”And it didn’t disappoint.

The wheels of history have a tendency to roll back over the same ground. For the past 33 years — since, as they see it, the wanton era of the 1960’s culminated in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 — American social conservatives have been on an unyielding campaign against abortion. But recently, as the conservative tide has continued to swell, this campaign has taken on a broader scope. Its true beginning point may not be Roe but Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that had the effect of legalizing contraception. “We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion,” says Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, an organization that has battled abortion for 27 years but that, like others, now has a larger mission. “The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set,” she told me. “So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome. We oppose all forms of contraception.”

I’ve gotta say, I’m thrilled to see anti-choice groups finally having their true views exposed in the mainstream media. While abortion may be a contentious issue among the general public, contraception isn’t. Only the most extreme anti-choicers are opposed to it (and when I say “opposed” I don’t mean “personally don’t want to use it themselves” — I mean “want to disallow everyone else from using it”), but unfortunately the most extreme anti-choicers are the ones running the supposedly “mainstream” pro-life organizations. And, apparently, the ones being selected by this administration to head the F.D.A.’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee.

Organizations like the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, which inject a mixture of religion and medicine into the social sphere, operate from a broadly Christian perspective that includes opposition to some forms of birth control. Edward R. Martin Jr., a lawyer for the public-interest law firm Americans United for Life, whose work includes seeking to restrict abortion at the state level and representing pharmacists who have refused to prescribe emergency contraception, told me: “We see contraception and abortion as part of a mind-set that’s worrisome in terms of respecting life. If you’re trying to build a culture of life, then you have to start from the very beginning of life, from conception, and you have to include how we think and act with regard to sexuality and contraception.” Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002 to the F.D.A.’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee despite (or perhaps because of) his opposition to contraception, sounded not a little like Daniel Defoe in a 1999 essay he wrote: “Sexual union in marriage ought to be a complete giving of each spouse to the other, and when fertility (or potential fertility) is deliberately excluded from that giving I am convinced that something valuable is lost. A husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification.”

Scary. And it’s not limited to appointed positions — these people are getting elected, too.

As with other efforts — against gay marriage, stem cell research, cloning, assisted suicide — the anti-birth-control campaign isn’t centralized; it seems rather to be part of the evolution of the conservative movement. The subject is talked about in evangelical churches and is on the agenda at the major Bible-based conservative organizations like Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition. It also has its point people in Congress — including Representative Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, Representative Joe Pitts and Representative Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — all Republicans who have led opposition to various forms of contraception.

Part of the issue, I think, is that your average person who identifies as “pro-life” doesn’t even know what mainstream pro-life organizations and politicians believe. There are some pro-life politicians like Harry Reid who dislike abortion, and therefore want to see it decreased. So, logically, they campaign for things that will decrease the abortion rate, like available and affordable contraception, comprehensive sex education, etc. It remains unclear, when push comes to shove, whether or not politicians like Reid would actually vote to illegalize abortion. They don’t focus on simply illegalizing it, even if they find it abhorrent; they focus on decreasing the need for it. And that, I think, is what most people believe they’re advocating when they say that they’re “pro-life.” Often they believe that they would never have an abortion themselves (of course, I’ve known many pro-lifers whose views on this changed dramatically at the first pregnancy scare), but they wouldn’t be comfortable telling their neighbor that she couldn’t have one. They use birth control. They want to plan their families, and they believe that having only as many children as they can reasonably care for and want is a moral thing to do. I don’t think that your average pro-lifer realizes that when he or she votes for someone like Tom Coburn, his version of “pro-life” politics isn’t anywhere near in line with theirs.

Many Christians who are active in the evolving anti-birth-control arena state frankly that what links their efforts is a religious commitment to altering the moral landscape of the country. In particular, and not to put too fine a point on it, they want to change the way Americans have sex. Dr. Stanford, the F.D.A. adviser on reproductive-health drugs, proclaimed himself “fully committed to promoting an understanding of human sexuality and procreation radically at odds with the prevailing views and practices of our contemporary culture.” Focus on the Family posts a kind of contraceptive warning label on its Web site: “Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.” Contraception, by this logic, encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality) and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage.

It may be news to many people that contraception as a matter of right and public health is no longer a given, but politicians and those in the public health profession know it well. “The linking of abortion and contraception is indicative of a larger agenda, which is putting sex back into the box, as something that happens only within marriage,” says William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Siecus has been around since 1964, and as a group that supports abortion rights, it is natural enemies with many organizations on the right, but its mission has changed in recent years, from doing things like promoting condoms as a way to combat AIDS to, now, fighting to maintain the very idea of birth control as a social good. “Whether it’s emergency contraception, sex education or abortion, anything that might be seen as facilitating sex outside a marital context is what they’d like to see obliterated,” Smith says.

But it’s not just about limiting sex to a marital context — it’s limiting sex even with that marital context. Sex should be for procreative purposes only, and taking any pains to prevent contraception is immoral; that’ll put quite the kabosh on a married sex life.

Now, some religious conservatives will claim that using “natural family planning” — abstaining from sex during fertile periods — is acceptable contraception. And if that works for them, great. Many non-religious women use NFP as well, particularly if they don’t want to use hormonal birth control or condoms and don’t want to be sterilized. But I think people are fooling themselves if they argue that NFP isn’t contraception. It is. It’s an attempt to prevent conception. But tell yourself what you want — just don’t try and take away my right to use my contraception method of choice.

The Guttmacher Institute, which like Siecus has been an advocate for birth control and sex education for decades, has also felt the shift. “Ten years ago the fight was all about abortion,” says Cynthia Dailard, a senior public-policy associate at Guttmacher. “Increasingly, they have moved to attack and denigrate contraception. For those of us who work in the public health field, and respect longstanding public health principles — that condoms reduce S.T.D.’s, that contraception is the most effective way to help people avoid unintended pregnancy — it’s extremely disheartening to think we may be set back decades.”

Part of what is so scary about this new version of conservatism is how anti-intellectual it is. Facts don’t matter. What’s been proven effective doesn’t matter. What matters is what we believe. We see this everywhere from our international policy to our sexual politics. Pre-Enlightenment perspectives are nothing to be proud of. Trying to push us back in time is not a good idea.

Of course, what’s particularly interesting is to see these same conservatives railing against people in some Muslim countries for embracing these exact same ideas. In the same breath they’ll accuse Muslims of being backwards because they don’t embrace women’s rights, and then argue that women in our country are out of control, and we need to curtail their rights.

At a White House press briefing in May of last year, three months before the F.D.A.’s nonruling on Plan B, Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked four times by a WorldNetDaily correspondent, Les Kinsolving, if the president supported contraception. “I think the president’s views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life,” McClellan replied. Kinsolving said, “If they were clear, I wouldn’t have asked.” McClellan replied: “And if you want to ask those questions, that’s fine. I’m just not going to dignify them with a response.” This exchange caught the attention of bloggers and others. In July, a group of Democrats in Congress, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, sent the first of four letters to the president asking outright: “Mr. President, do you support the right to use contraception?” According to Representative Maloney’s office, the White House has still not responded.

That says something about who the president believes to be his base. He doesn’t want to alienate average Americans by opposing contraception, given that 98% of American women will use some form of contraception in their lifetime. But he’s beholden to a set of fundamentalists who he feels will desert him if he supports birth control. Birth control. Which century is this?

As the author of this article rightly points out, the emergency contraception pill is at the heart of this debate:

The issue is partly — but only partly — one of definition. According to the makers of the emergency contraception pill, it has three possible means of functioning. Most commonly, it stops ovulation — the release of an egg —or prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. In some cases, however, depending on where a woman is in her cycle, it may stop an already fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. In such a situation, for those who believe that life — and thus also pregnancy — begins at the moment of fertilization, it would indeed function as an abortifacient. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, pregnancy begins not at fertilization but at implantation. The medical thinking behind this definition has to do with the fact that implantation is the moment when a woman’s body begins to nurture the fertilized egg. The roughly one-half of all fertilized eggs that never attach to a uterine wall are thus not generally considered to be tiny humans — ensouled beings — that died but rather fertilized eggs that did not turn into pregnancies. Federal regulations enacted during the Bush administration agree with this, stating, “Pregnancy encompasses the period of time from implantation until delivery.”

People are, of course, perfectly within their rights to believe that pregnancy begins when sperm meets egg. And it is reasonable for groups like the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, Focus on the Family and the American Life League to want to alert their members that something billed as contraception might actually have a function that runs counter to their beliefs. But there are two twists. One is that emergency contraception may not actually work as an abortifacient. “There is no direct evidence that it blocks implantation,” Dr. Wood says. “We can’t tell for sure because very little research has been done on direct implantation of human eggs. You run into moral problems doing research on a woman’s body and a human embryo. And since half of all fertilized eggs do not implant anyway, it would be difficult to know if this was the mechanism responsible.” Still, if it’s even possible for emergency contraception to stop implantation, then it’s right for Dr. Rudd of the C.M.D.A. to advise his group’s member physicians, “Regardless of what an assembly of experts define, or fail to define, as the beginning of pregnancy, if a patient retains the moral conviction that life begins at fertilization, she must be made aware of information relevant to that conviction.”

But the other twist is that emergency contraception apparently works in a manner similar to that of the ordinary birth control pill. That is to say, the pill, which contains the hormone progestin, also has three possible means of operation: by stopping ovulation, preventing fertilization or impeding implantation. If emergency contraception is a potential abortifacient, then the same would seem to be true for the pill, which tens of millions of women have taken over the past several decades. Dr. Rudd disputed this. “The scientific evidence is that emergency contraception is more likely to have a post-fertility effect than the routine birth control,” he told me. But Dr. James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and one of the world’s leading experts on contraception, said: “That is completely wrong. The evidence is about the same for all hormonal methods of contraception. We can’t rule out a post-fertility effect for Plan B, and the same is true for the birth control pill.”

Yes, yes and yes. Anti-choice groups have latched onto EC because it’s new and unfamiliar, and it’s easy to confuse people about post-sex contraception, since a whole lot of people don’t really understand how the whole reproductive thing actually works and since RU-486 (“the abortion pill”) is also relatively new and easily conflated with EC. What they try and hide, though, is the fact that EC is the exact same thing as regular hormonal birth control, just in a higher dose. If people knew that, there would be far less opposition to EC. And anti-choicers wouldn’t want that, because it might mean that women could have sex without being punished for it. And it would mean that rape victims could avoid pregnancy. And it would lower the abortion rate. These things, apparently, are not pro-life.

What’s more, Dr. Trussell added: “There is evidence that there is a contraceptive effect of breast feeding after fertilization. While a woman is breast feeding, the first ovulation is characterized by a short luteal phase, or second half of the cycle. It’s thought that because of that, implantation does not occur.” In other words, if the emergency contraception pill causes abortions by blocking implantation, then by the same definition breast feeding may as well. Besides that, the intrauterine device, or IUD, can alter the lining of the uterus and, in theory, prevent implantation.

Ooooh this is good. Can I just throw it out there that I love Russell Shorto? I was aware that breastfeeding limited fertility, but I never knew how. And this little bit of information — that it works pretty much the same way as EC — is fantastically rich. I can’t wait for the anti-choice campaign against breastmilk.

Ron Stephens is both a pharmacist and a Republican state legislator in Illinois, one of the states that are currently battlegrounds between pharmacists who claim the right to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives and women’s and civil rights groups that argue that pharmacists must fill all prescriptions presented to them. Stephens not only supports the pharmacists’ right of refusal but he also refuses to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception himself. He does, however, fill prescriptions for the birth control pill. When I asked him recently to explain his thinking on the two drugs, he said: “It’s the difference between stopping a pregnancy from happening and ending a pregnancy. My understanding of the science is that the morning-after pill can end a pregnancy, whereas birth control pills will make a woman’s body believe she is already pregnant so that the egg will not be fertilized.” And what if studies show that, in fact, both drugs can prevent implantation? “Everyone has their natural prejudice,” Stephens replied. “I’m going to understand it my way, and the issue is that you should not be forced to do something you believe is immoral.”

…what was that about anti-intellectualism? “I’m going to understand it my way.” Well, I’m going to understand that smoking a pack a day and eating at McDonalds for every meal will be a far greater benefit to my health than running five miles and eating nutritiously, but that doesn’t make it so. And while I’m certainly entitled to my beliefs, it probably wouldn’t be a great idea for me to impose those completely unsubstantiated, based only in my own head ideas on other people, particularly if I’m a gatekeeper to healthcare.

In the current, evolving movement against contraception, therefore, some groups soft-pedal their position. “Concerned Women for America does not take a position regarding birth control,” Wendy Wright, president of that influential, 500,000-member, biblically-based organization, told me. She went on to say, however, that C.W.A. does “educate regarding how certain birth control methods operate.” Specifically, the group offers a brochure titled “High-Tech Birth Control: Health Care or Health Risk?” to those who call seeking guidance. Most methods of birth control can pose health risks. A 2005 World Health Organization study, for instance, found a connection between some forms of the pill and cancer. But the C.W.A. brochure goes well beyond this. Its section on emergency contraception advises that “its main function is to abort a living human embryo.” One function of the birth control pill, it states, is to induce “a chemical abortion.” The section on the IUD indicates none of its practical benefits (its 99 percent effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, its reversibility) and consists mostly of a litany of health complications, many of which health experts refute.

We don’t take a position on birth control… except to tell you all kinds of anti-choice lies about it.

Zenarolla told me she converted to Catholicism two years ago: “I tell people I became Catholic because of the church’s teaching on contraception. We are opposed to sex before marriage and contraception within marriage. We believe that the sexual act is meant to be a complete giving of self. Of course its purpose is procreation, but the church also affirms the unitive aspect: it brings a couple together. By using contraception, they are not allowing the fullness of their expression of love. To frustrate the procreative potential ends up harming the relationship.”

…which, being 34, chaste and single, I know a whole lot about.

Again, no problem here with Zenarolla believing what she believes. Wanna not have sex until marriage? You have my blessing! Want to think that contraception is the wrong choice for you? Go for it! Just quit trying to take away my right to it.

But then, from this perspective, the pill began to do terrible damage. “I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill,” Mohler continued. “It became almost an assured form of contraception, something humans had never encountered before in history. Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation.”

The Pill: Doing the most damage to society since the Fall!

And what, exactly, is that “damage”? Well, not forcing women to get pregnant when they don’t want to. And everyone knows that pregnancy should be a punishment, not a desired state of being!

Democrats, meanwhile, have had their difficulty with the abortion issue, and their new hopes are pinned to a strategy that focuses on contraception as a way to reduce unintended pregnancy. Last month, Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton — an anti-abortion Democrat and an abortion rights Democrat — introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to cover contraceptives. In part, the idea is to force Republicans to support contraception or be branded as reactionaries. The conservative counter was that giving even more government backing to emergency contraception and other escape hatches from unwanted pregnancy will lead to a new wave of sexual promiscuity. An editorial in the conservative magazine Human Events characterized the effect of such legislation as “enabling more low-income women to have consequence-free sex.”

This is an important point: It’s low-income women who are being punished the most by these laws. Republicans urge “personal responsibility,” but apparently don’t believe that using contraception to prevent getting pregnant and having children you can’t care for is responsible. They say that sex has consequences, but don’t want women to have the tools to avoid those consequences. And when women do get pregnant unintentionally, they’re shamed. Their options to terminate pregnancies are limited, and if they have more children they’re branded burdens on society.

Wealthier women, by contrast, will be able to afford birth control if they need it, and there’s not the same campaign against them for being “irresponsible” for having too many kids. In fact, these women are being irresponsible by not having enough children, and for letting brown women out-produce them.

The only consistent conservative viewpoint here is that women can’t win.

In addition to providing an information center for the abstinence industry that has blossomed in recent years, she takes her message directly to kids. Besides “Girls Gone Mild,” she sponsors “Purity Balls,” which fathers attend with their teenage daughters. “We think the relationship between fathers and their daughters is the key,” she told me. At the purity ball, a father gives a “purity ring” to his daughter — a symbol of the promise she makes to maintain her virginity for her future husband. Then, during her marriage ceremony, the daughter gives the ring to her new husband. Abstinence Clearinghouse’s Web site advertises the purity ball as an event “which celebrates your ‘little girl’ and her gift of sexual purity.”

Does anyone else find that entirely creepy? Dad keeps your virginity, until it’s passed off to another dude. “Thanks for taking her off my hands — as a special bonus, here’s her hymen.”

The intellectual force behind the abstinence-education movement is Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Rector wrote some of the federal legislation mandating abstinence education, and he worked on a number of studies that purport to demonstrate its effectiveness. One component of abstinence education is the “virginity pledge,” and Rector is an author of one study that concluded that teenagers who take virginity pledges “have substantially improved life outcomes,” and another that showed that “sexually active teenagers are more likely to be depressed and to attempt suicide.”

The idea of promoting abstinence over comprehensive sex education (which includes information on various forms of contraception and how to use them) gets to the core of the expanded conservative approach to birth control issues. It really is all about sex. “There are two philosophies of sexuality,” Rector told me. “One regards it as primarily physical and all about physical pleasure. Therefore, the idea is to have lots of physical pleasure without acquiring disease or getting pregnant. The other is primarily moral and psychological in nature, and stresses that this is the part of sex that’s rewarding and important.”

And what’s “rewarding and important” about sex, apparently, is forced pregnancy. Awesome.

He also mischaracterizes the liberal view of sex. It’s not that it’s primarily physical and all about physical pleasure. It’s that sex should be what you believe it is, so long as it’s consensual and not harming anyone. If you believe that it’s physical and about pleasure, fine. If you believe that it’s about pair-bonding and seeking pleasure in another person who you care about, fine. If you believe that it’s about making babies, fine. This may shock Mr. Rector, but people can even believe different things about sex depending on what stage of their life they’re in, and who they’re having it with. In fact, the exact same person can believe that sex is strictly for physical pleasure, later think that sex is for bonding, and even later think that it’s to make a baby. Crazy, I know. Some people think that it can be all these things at the same time. Some people think that it’s none of these things, or that it’s something else entirely.

The question, then, becomes whether we respect diverse and individualized views of sex, or whether we attempt to legislate a singular viewpoint. That’s where the divide lays.

A December 2004 report on federally financed abstinence-only programs conducted by the office of Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, charged that the major programs presented misleading information about health (one curriculum quoted in the report stated that “condoms fail to prevent H.I.V. approximately 31 percent of the time”), state beliefs as facts (the report cited a curriculum that refers to a 43-day-old fetus as a “thinking person”) and give outmoded stereotypes of the sexes.

All parents struggle with how to shield their children from the excesses of popular culture, and not surprisingly, surveys show that most want teenagers to delay first intercourse. But by wide margins they also say kids should be taught about contraceptives. A poll released in 2004 by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found, for example, that 95 percent of parents think that schools should encourage teenagers to wait until they are older to have sex, and also that 94 percent think that kids should learn about birth control in school.

Again: Fundamentalist anti-choicers and the people in this administration are incredibly far out of the mainstream.

Abstinence has also become a primary element of Pepfar, President Bush’s overseas AIDS relief program — with, some experts say, disastrous results. The Government Accountability Office released a study in April that found that in many countries administrators were forced to cut funds intended to fight mother-to-child H.I.V. infection in order to finance abstinence programs. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for H.I.V./AIDS in Africa, who had previously charged that the Bush program put “significant numbers” of people in Africa at risk, told me: “I feel vindicated by the G.A.O. study. I think it raises legitimate questions about the disproportionate attention given to abstinence as opposed to condoms. At this moment, even the Catholic Church is reconsidering condoms.” On April 7, the State Department issued its own response to the G.A.O. study, in which it claimed that as a result of approaches like the Bush administration’s “ABC policy” — promoting “abstinence” and “being faithful,” then “condoms” — H.I.V. transmission has fallen in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya and “male faithfulness” has increased.

I would have no problem with the ABC program, if they actually used the C part of it. But they don’t. Funding for condoms has been cut in favor of ideological imperialism. And it’s not any better at home.

On the domestic front, the rise in abstinence education has been paralleled by a tendency on the part of some conservatives to denigrate condoms. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who is also an obstetrician, has led a campaign to force condom makers to indicate on their labels that they may not prevent certain S.T.D.’s, specifically the human papillomavirus. In 2001, when he was in the House of Representatives, he issued a press release entitled “Condoms Do Not Prevent Most S.T.D.’s.” Sex educators say this is a twisting of data to suit an ideologically driven anti-sex agenda. “An N.I.H. panel said condoms are impermeable to even the smallest S.T.D. viruses,” Cynthia Dailard of Guttmacher says.

That’s productive: Tell people that condoms don’t work, so why bother?

Social conservatives in the U.S. seem to be moving in the opposite direction from much of the rest of the world. At least 12 countries have liberalized abortion laws in recent years. Emergency contraception is currently available without a prescription in more than 40 countries. In much of Western Europe, abortion and contraception are available and fully covered by insurance.

An interesting thing about growing up and living in the United States for your entire life, as I have, is that you really do believe all the things that Americans say about America. You believe that the United States is one of the most progressive countries in the world. You believe that we’re at the forefront of technology, of women’s rights, of human rights. You believe that people here have access to the best and most comprehensive medical care and information.

Then you find out that you were sorta wrong. And that’s a fantastic disappointment.

I can already here the conservatives saying, “But look at how good you have it! You could be living in Iran!” Sure, and women in Iran could be living in Afghanistan. See how lucky they are?

Everybody’s got it better than somebody. The point, though, is that the United States holds itself up as a beacon of freedom and post-Enlightenment ideals. And as an American who values those things, it’s like a punch to the stomach when our leadership attempts to subvert them.

While Americans as a whole don’t hold such a dark view of comprehensive sex education, many do feel there’s something wrong with a strictly clinical approach. This ambivalence, according to Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, gets to the root of the problem and may explain the numbers. “One of the things I’m most often asked is why the abortion and unintended pregnancy rates are so much lower in Europe,” she says. “People talk about the easy access to contraception there, but I think it’s really a matter of the underlying social norms. In Europe, these things are in the open, and the only issue is to be careful. Here in the U.S., people are still arguing about whether it’s O.K. to have sex.”

Read the whole article.

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59 comments for “Contra-Contreception

  1. evil_fizz
    May 7, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    “Sexual union in marriage ought to be a complete giving of each spouse to the other, and when fertility (or potential fertility) is deliberately excluded from that giving I am convinced that something valuable is lost. A husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification.”

    This is a long post, but this part has bothered me since I read the article last night. It completely discounts the idea that women *want* to have sex. Once the possibility of pregnancy is removed, a husband will have unlimited possibilities to demand sex from his wife! The complete denial of women’s sexual agency and interest in sex is a common theme for this crowd, but it drives me nuts to see it show up in such invidious (and somewhat subtle) ways.

  2. May 7, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Agreed, fizz. It’s like it’s not even comprehensible to them that sexual pleasure is a bonding experience. If this indeed reflects their marriages and sex lives, I pity them. How sad to be married, claim to love someone and avoid happily collapsing in unworried bliss into bed with the loved one? But I suspect a lot more of them ‘contracept’ than will admit it.

  3. Julie
    May 7, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Great Article Jill! Thanks for the link. I read all of it and found it fascinating. I guess I didn’t realize just how widespread the war on contraception is. It’s actually pretty scary to read about and makes me increasingly happy that I live in NY with a very progressive and pro-birth control doctor. And I have never understood how using NFP to prevent pregnancy is any different than other methods. I used the pill for three years and yet any unplanned pregnancy would have been welcomed with open arms, it most certainly wouldn’t have been unwanted. We just knew it wasn’t the most ideal time, so we waited. Exactly the same as if we had been using NFP. I think these people forget that pregnancy is NOT a walk in the park. It’s hard work, it really is. I’m currently 7 and a half months pregnant… it hurts to walk, it hurts to bend over, my sciatic nerve aches about two hous after I wake up. I can’t sleep without my stomach rolling and pulling and hurting. My joints have started to loosen and it feels like someone has taken a sledgehammer to my pelvic area. And I still have 10 weeks left.I am freaking out because I remember how bad labor and the recovery from labor hurt. This sucks and my child is extremely wanted and loved. I knew what I was getting into before I conceived and CHOSE to do so anyway. I can’t imagine doing this if I didn’t want a baby or was pregnant simply because I wasn’t allowed access to contraception. I think it’s time to start stockpiling condoms, just in case.

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  5. the bewilderness
    May 7, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    We’ve come a long way, from forced sterilization of poor women to forced pregnancy for poor women, to stay in the same place. The issue is obedience to authority. No matter how they dress it up, it always comes dowm to the same thing.

  6. May 7, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    So … let me get this straight. Prior to the ability through technology to willfully prevent the potential conception of offspring, men *did not* view their wives as always available for sexual gratification?

    Silly Magpie, that’s what whores were for.

  7. evil_fizz
    May 7, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    It’s like it’s not even comprehensible to them that sexual pleasure is a bonding experience.

    Agreed, Amanda. It’s also interesting to me that the article highlights the mentality that there is an *objectively correct* way to have sex. It’s not just that the sluts/perverts/queers are doing it all wrong. It’s that married people who are enjoying oral sex are doing it wrong too! That part blows my mind (pardon the pun).

    I’m still baffled by the idea that sex has no purpose other than procreation. What, pray tell, is the clit for otherwise?

  8. becky
    May 7, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    I’m still baffled by the idea that sex has no purpose other than procreation. What, pray tell, is the clit for otherwise?

    I love it! The one scientific fact the right cherishes is that pregnancy is the “natural” outcome of hetero sex, and therefore the only purpose of sex. The little scientific fact of the clitoris must be awfully hard to account for, so they ignore it.

    I saw this article last night as I was going to bed, and ended up reading & blogging about it till 5 am. Between this and Glamour magazine’s article on the conservative war against women’s contraceptive health, I hope all women — including Republicans — and the men involved with them are starting to wake up to the backwardness of the extreme right that’s in control. Honestly, our president can’t say whether or not he supports contraception? Are you going to tell me the only time he and Laura had sex was for their daughters? Come on.

    This was another of those articles that made me feel like my Victorian studies is incredibly pertinent.

  9. May 7, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    My dad and I were arguing over this just yesterday. He dismissed my description of the war on contraception as being “just a few of the Catholics” and “exteremely fringe.”

    Guess who reads the Sunday NYTimes religiously?

  10. randomliberal/Robert
    May 7, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Echoing what Julie already said, i wanted to highlight this from the opening paragraph:

    “The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set,” she told me. “So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome.”

    That’s pretty clearly bullshit. My youngest sister was an accident, but my parents didn’t have a second thought about having her, and she’s no less loved than the other two of us (i would say more loved, but that’s probably older-sibling jealousy talking). As usual, it all depends on the circumstance.

    Also, it surprises me not a lick to see Al Mohler’s name in with this crap (i’m assuming the Mohler quoted midway thru is Al). I really wish he’d quit calling himself a fucking Baptist.

  11. dcc
    May 7, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    A must read is PZ Meyers explaination about how Plan B actually work and how the right wing objection to iit has nothing to do with abortion.

  12. dcc
    May 7, 2006 at 4:14 pm
  13. Katherine
    May 7, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Great article.

    In response to fizz’s question of “What, pray tell, is the clit for otherwise?”, I have a bit of a pet theory. So, conservative views like that generally = patriarchal, right? And how does it go for guys? The penis is BOTH the organ for sexual pleasure and what is needed to deliver the sperm for reproduction. It doesn’t occur to them, therefore, that it’s possible to have that same sexual pleasure without doing anything related to reproduction at all.

    And probably also a bit of, why should we care about whether the woman enjoys the act at all, she’s just going to love being pregnant and being a mother blah blah.

  14. May 7, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    I was an accident, so was my brother. We were unplanned, but we were wanted children. My parents hate making plans anyway. Everything is so last minute with them. ;)

    What’s scary to me is that I’m reading this post after having a night of great sex. You know what I mean, just ridiculously awesome sex. The “I-love-you-so-much-I-don’t-want-to-let-you-go-for-a-second” sex. The hottest of all hot sex. The most passionate, beautiful, erotic, and completely wild intercourse I’ve had since finals began.

    I read statements like Judie Brown, I have to wonder, has that woman ever had a decent night of sex? Perhaps she did, and she was taught to feel so darn bad about it, that she ran out the next day and joined some bullshit anti-human, anti-choice, anti-woman “league.”

    She can hem and haw all she wants. This thing is really all about denying women pleasure, denying them equal footing in their relationships. And it’s fueled by self-hatred. And that’s just sad and scary.

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  16. May 7, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    “The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set,” she told me. “So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome.”

    The “anti-child mindset” in question (in cases where there is such a mindset) is already there when someone decides to use contraception. It will be there whether the conception is accidental (birth control failure) or a natural consequence (lack of birth control). The only difference is with the numbers involved.

    Which does this lady think is better? One unwanted pregnancy, or perhaps none, in ten or fifteen or twenty or fifty years while she doesn’t want a child, resulting in one abortion, or none? Or ten unwanted pregnancies, or twenty, or eighty, resulting in ten or twenty or eighty abortions? How many times can a woman get pregnant during her reproductive lifetime, if every pregnancy is terminated within a couple months? That’s a hell of a lot of abortions—and here I thought these people were pro-life.

  17. May 7, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    I’ve gotta say, I’m thrilled to see anti-choice groups finally having their true views exposed in the mainstream media.

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. Not to get the NYT readership to be more pro-choice, because by and large they already are, but to wake them up to these people and what they’re doing. Mobilize the base and all that.

  18. May 7, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    “The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set,” she told me. “So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome.”

    As with Random Liberal, I am utterly bewildered by this notion. As far as I know, my siblings and I were all planned, but my mother miscarried an unplanned pregnancy and was absolutely devastated. Plus, three of my cousins were unplanned, and so were several of my friends. No, birth control isn’t 100% foolproof, but in an age of legal abortion, when a woman carries an unplanned pregnancy to term, it’s usually because she WANTS to. There are some people who never ever want children, and there are others who do, but the timing isn’t optional. A lot of the second type tend to shrug and go with it when they have an unplanned pregnancy.

    I’ve frequently heard people say “Well, we were planning to wait a few more years to start a family,” or “We weren’t intending to have another baby right away,” followed by, “But you know, stuff happens.” There’s a big difference between a situation where a couple is open to the possibility of having children, even if they’re taking precautions, and one where they aren’t open to it or can’t be. And it’s not a difference based on what type of contraception, if any, is used. It depends on attitude and on external circumstances. You get a couple who were intending to wait a few years so they could pay down the mortgage and take that trip to Thailand, yeah the wife’s on the Pill, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be running for the abortion clinic just because the timing isn’t optimal. A couple (or a single) absolutely on the edge financially, or on the verge of divorce, might be in a very different situation, and choose abortion. But they’d choose it because of their situation, not because of their contraception method.

    If the anti-contraception crowd is going to say shit like this, might it not be a good idea for them to try and back up their strange assertion with some facts? I mean, a sociologist could quite easily set up a study looking at a large set of couples who were using artificial birth control, tracking how many became pregnant, and then tracking what they decided to do about the pregnancy.

    Besides, the rhetoric about NFP is just bizarre. On the one hand it’s “showing openness to life” but on the other, according to people like Dawn Eden, it works so much better than hte other kind of BC. My understanding was that NFP really doesn’t work all that well at all (apparently Rusty and Andrea Yates were apparently using NFP, and we all know how many kids they had), and if it does, surely the free market would disseminate the information about this marvellous, cheap, side-effect-free, reliable form of birth control and it would spread by virtue of its own efficiency.

  19. Magis
    May 7, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    Ahh yes, now I remember why we put them under those rocks in the first place. Sun time is over, time to go back.

  20. May 7, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    My understanding was that NFP really doesn’t work all that well at all

    It has a “perfect use” effectiveness rate comparable to reasonably effective contraceptives, and a “typical use” effectiveness rate that is much lower. I think that, actually, it works really well for some couples, and not for others.

    1) Women have different bodies, and some have clearer signs of when ovulation is on its way, and when it has happened, than others.

    2) Women’s sex drives aren’t all alike. So some people report having their sex life gain from the period they don’t have sex, while others find that the period is just when the woman most wants to have sex, and so is just frustrating.

    And, yeah, the rhetoric where NFP is supposed to both be really, really effective and also uniquely expressive of openness to having children is really bizarre to me. I suspect the real reason it’s favored is that it’s pretty useless outside a long-term relationship; you need to know you’ll both be available for sex long term to have any motivation to pass up sex during that fertile period.

  21. geoduck2
    May 7, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    I’m mildly traumatized. I was trying to explain the anti-contraceptive ideology to a dense troll on Pandagon, and then somebody else thought I was a Dawn Eden convert.


    That was a very interesting article in the NYT. I can’t believe that the anti-contraception ideology has become more popular. What are these people, nuts?

  22. Elinor
    May 7, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    It completely discounts the idea that women *want* to have sex. Once the possibility of pregnancy is removed, a husband will have unlimited possibilities to demand sex from his wife! The complete denial of women’s sexual agency and interest in sex is a common theme for this crowd, but it drives me nuts to see it show up in such invidious (and somewhat subtle) ways.

    What I find interesting is that this echoes some feminist anti-contraception arguments from about a hundred years back. I don’t think the idea is completely insane — after all, this was when marital rape was completely legal and female sexual pleasure was supposed to come from the “mature” vaginal orgasm or the sheer joy of being “conquered” — but it’s pretty clear why that particular strand of feminism more or less died out. The contraceptives weren’t the real problem.

    Does anyone else find that entirely creepy? Dad keeps your virginity, until it’s passed off to another dude. “Thanks for taking her off my hands — as a special bonus, here’s her hymen.”

    It repulses me. It has such extremely strong overtones of incest. The father publicly presents himself to his daughter as a husband-equivalent, or the eventual husband as a father-equivalent, and gives the girl a ring to remind her that he, and not she, is the rightful owner of her vagina and by extension her sexuality. And then the husband is supposed to do this sort of symbolic sex act with the ring, putting his finger into it…oh, it’s nasty.

    A lot of wedding rituals in particular carry the same kind of message (giving the bride away, etc.), but this is so much more literal and explicit, it makes me cringe.

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  24. Tony
    May 8, 2006 at 1:55 am

    “I can already here the conservatives saying, ‘But look at how good you have it! You could be living in Iran!’ Sure, and women in Iran could be living in Afghanistan. See how lucky they are?”

    The most absurd part of that kind of reasoning is that conservatives use it as a counter to demands for decent treatment of women here, by implying that only women in places like Iran ‘really’ have the right to complain. Yet when’s the last time you heard conservatives raise a voice to help the women in places like Iran? They want to bomb Iran!

  25. May 8, 2006 at 2:12 am

    Thanks for the explanation, Lynn. Sounds like it could work fine if you’re really careful, and have clear signs of ovulation. And I guess it’s great if you can’t handle the hormones in the Pill, or are allergic to latex, or have some other problem with regular methods of contraception. Or, ya know, if you have religious objections to other forms of contraception.

    Personally, if I were doing NFP, I’d be supplementing with condoms, because I definitely don’t want children ever. A lot of married couples feel differently, though. I’m a big believer in two, sometimes even three contraception methods at the same time, and lo and behold I’ve never gotten pregnant. So NFP probably wouldn’t work for me, even in the context of a longterm monogamous relationship, because I’d be all, “OK, the NFP says I’m not ovulating, so just let me put the diaphragm in and grab the box of condoms and we’ll get to it!”

  26. PHLAF
    May 8, 2006 at 7:33 am

    In all fairness to NFP, I don’t think Andrea Yates’ experiences are the best indicator of its efficacy. NFP does take some amount of forethought and focus, and she obviously wasn’t in any kind of mental state to be as responsible and consistant as NFP requires. But, in general, I do agree about the conflicting rhetoric on NFP by NFP users. It’s a classic example of having one’s cake and eating it, too.

    And, of course, the “contraceptive mentality”, if one buys into the concept, exists among the NFP crowd as well as among the non-NFP BC crowd. Two of Dawn Eden’s commenters who are apparently engaged claim they will use NFP to avoid children for at least the first two years of their marriage so that they can “establish” their marriage and get nicer digs. Well…isn’t that what the conservative Christians are accusing of non-NFP BC users of? Of putting material goods and personal success first? When I got married, one’s marriage was “established” the moment you got up on that altar and said your vows before God, your family and your community.

    Overall, I thought the article was pretty balanced and not really overly harsh on conservative Christians who hold these beliefs. I think there was a general attitude of respect for them and their beliefs, but also a very fair-minded and non-hysterical concern about politicizing those beliefs and how Bush’s policies concerning family planning have probably done more harm than good.

  27. May 8, 2006 at 7:42 am

    I hope this gets the message out there. Glamour recently had a big article overseeing the interference the right wing is causing in healthcare relating to gynecology, too. While those of us in the lefty blog world know all about this stuff, only a small number of people in the country who use the internet use it to read blogs, and most people have no idea what the right wing is trying to do.

  28. May 8, 2006 at 8:24 am

    I haven’t had a chance to even begin this lengthy article yet, but I just finished Christina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. On my own blog I posted the parts that shocked, scared, or amused me (for instance, one site says that masturbation is a homosexual act. I’m not kidding). Please – not for traffic or links or anything for me – go and read this book. Everyone needs to know about this. Page’s sources are legitimate, and extensive. This isn’t just a “feminist” or “woman” issue. Neither men nor woman can have healthy relationships or happy lives (and raise happy children) if they are so afraid, ashamed, and confused about sex.

  29. May 8, 2006 at 8:52 am

    Sex should be for procreative purposes only

    A scientist called Ton Lit exclaims, “You mean we must be thinking about conception during the act? That’s impossible. Men’s penises would droop, and women’s vaginas wouldn’t get moist. It’s like— well, it’s like making the shrill mouth-music while you are urinating. It would take great training, if it can be done at all.”
    (Robert Anton Wilson and/or Robert Shea, The Golden Apple)

  30. Marian
    May 8, 2006 at 9:43 am

    I think these folks are ridiculous too, but if they’re going to go off the “Contraception destroys marriages by driving a barrier between a couple’s love” and “Contraceiving couples are anti-child,” then it’s going to be awfully hard to legislate if you think about it. After all, they’ll be hard-pressed to prove a “mentality” and legislate based on it. This isn’t the Catholic United States of America, so trying to ban something because “Humana Vitae says so” might prove difficult in a court of law.

    Scarier is the “Contraception leads to immorality and chaos” (or what did they say on Dawn’s blog–shootings, drugs, gangs, whatever?), because laws have been passed in this country based on the “morality” and “destroying society” argument (Prohibition etc.).

  31. zuzu
    May 8, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Does anyone else find that entirely creepy? Dad keeps your virginity, until it’s passed off to another dude. “Thanks for taking her off my hands — as a special bonus, here’s her hymen.”

    Why, yes. Yes, I do.

    I keep wondering when the Big Stompy Foot of the pharmaceutical lobby is going to come down on efforts to illegalize contraception. Oral contraceptives are a HUGE moneymaker for them, and I’m sure they don’t want their profits being cut into.

  32. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 10:54 am


    St. Thomas Aquinas is noted as observing that everything that is immoral should not necessarily be illegal. (imagine trying to legislate “impure thoughts”).
    When reading this article yesterday, I cannot remember encountering any efforts to legally ban contraception. I believe it’s a social understanding these groups hope to impart.

  33. Thomas
    May 8, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    I cannot remember encountering any efforts to legally ban contraception.

    Yet. However, Roe opponents’ reasoning generally leads to the conclusion that Griswold was wrongly decided. Without Griswold, states can outlaw contraception. Several bible-belt states outlaw dildoes, and would outlaw pornography and sodomy if the Supreme Court didn’t invalidate such laws …

  34. May 8, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    On Sunday, an article was published in the Washington Post that essentially claims young men are increasingly having impotence problems and that sexually liberated women who “speak their mind” are to blame. Ironic that as we are stripping women’s access to family planning, we are concerned that our young college age men are not virile enough. Can you please pass some Viagra and Misogyny this way?

    You can read the Post’s article entitled “Cupid’s Broken Arrow” here

    You can read my critique of the article here

  35. zuzu
    May 8, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    You’re not looking hard enough, Fitzy.

    Of course they won’t try an outright ban. Look how much of an uproar outright bans on abortion cause (i.e., South Dakota), and contraception is *way* more popular (and has more entrenched interests, i.e. Big Pharma) than abortion.

    No, they’re going to do the incremental strategy, which they’ve already started. First, ban EC. Then, cut funding for contraception for low-income women, as in Missouri. Try to ban contraceptives at state universities (a dumb idea if I ever heard one). Try to cut funding for contraceptives through the military’s health plan. Try to ban the sale of contraceptives to minors. And, a la South Dakota, define “pregnancy” as beginning the second the sperm meets the egg, and forbid any forms of contraception that prevent implantation when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions — leaving room to argue that oral contraceptives and IUDs as well as EC do so and should be banned.

    With any luck, this will turn into a third rail of politics as surely as Social Security is.

  36. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    I wonder how many of the commentators so far have actually read the Russell Shorto article in its entirety; as apposed to Ann’s brief take on it. Before reading it yesterday I took the time to re-familiarize myself with other articles Mr. Shorto has written. It seems he has been the point man for the NYT magazine’s articles concerning social conservatives. I found his other articles (and this one) informative yet lacking. I could go on at length pointing out his willful obfuscations and clever slant. Instead I’ll just try and point out a couple of germane facts that add context to both Ann’s painting of the article, and the way the cover headline does the same.

    As the law stands, the ability of anti-contraception advocates to have any chance of effectively regulating ANY type of contraception method is zero. The line of cases starting with Griswold v. Connecticut and more importantly Eisenstadt v. Baird, make access to contraception a Federally protected Constitutional right. Chief Justice John Roberts openly re-affirmed this right in his confirmation hearings (unlike Roe). This is why FDA approval has become so contentious. Once the drug is declared safe for prescription or over the counter use, no Federal or State action can thwart its widespread dissemination and use. It doesn’t take much empathy to realize how disfranchised from the political process the social conservatives are on this subject. More importantly, even under the most favorable circumstances to federalists, regulation of contraception would be returned to the State Legislatures were people would be voting on it. It strains credulity to maintain that some wholesale rollback is possible. Shorto says as much in his article and the anti-contraception forces are aware of the political/legal terrain. It takes a certain crass opportunism to paint our rights to contraception as under a likely, much less immanent threat. As the article points out, the social conservatives are attempting to focus the nation’s attention on the larger issue of the effects widespread use of contraception has had on our social life as a nation and a people. After all, the didn’t name it a sexual “revolution” by accident.

  37. zuzu
    May 8, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Who’s Ann?

  38. evil_fizz
    May 8, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Fitz, you’re doing that thing where you lecture the lawyers and the law students about first-year con law again.

    More importantly, even under the most favorable circumstances to federalists, regulation of contraception would be returned to the State Legislatures were people would be voting on it.

    Except by people, you mean legislators like Cynthia Davis, who argues that funding contraceptives for low income women means we turn them into prostitutes.

    I don’t expect the court to overturn Griswold and Eisenstadt anytime soon, but don’t kid yourself that they’re not the eventual target.

  39. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    Sorry, meant Jill – I’m carring on the same conversation on two different site’s. :(

  40. Thomas
    May 8, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Fitz, if you’re not sure how to spell a word, like imminent, that handy tag marked Dict. is a link to Also, plurals such as sites do not require (or even permit) the use of an apostrophe.

  41. May 8, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Speaking of Griswold, Senator Rick Santorum says that the right to privacy was created by Griswold, and he doesn’t think it really exists – that we are not entitled to privacy. So people of Pennsylvania – re-elect him and have cameras installed in bedroom, doctor’s office, pharmacy…

  42. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Evil Fizz
    You accuse me of lecturing, and then cede the point you posted as an example therein.

    “I don’t expect the court to overturn Griswold and Eisenstadt anytime soon, but don’t kid yourself that they’re not the eventual target.”
    Even if this were to happen, we would still have our democratic system – Even if Legislators like Cynthia Davis were to propose banning birth control, she would need to convince large numbers of the voters to support her.

    From the link you gave, this does not seem to be her intent.
    (rather she seems more interested in pointing out;)
    “Even if you solve a physical problem you still have not solved the moral, emotional and spiritual problems that come with a promiscuous lifestyle.”


    Thank you for the lesson in English usage and spelling. I’m currently looking for a good secretary; perhaps if you live in my area you could apply.

  43. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Oh – typically constitutional law is not taught until the second or third year.

  44. evil_fizz
    May 8, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Even if Legislators like Cynthia Davis were to propose banning birth control, she would need to convince large numbers of the voters to support her.

    No, she’d need to convince other legislators to support her efforts. She doesn’t have to worry about her constituents until the next election.

    And if you think I ceded the point, you need to reread what I said. I don’t think that the court won’t overturn Griswold and its progeny in the immediate future, but I also still think that anti-choicers are taking aim squarely at that line of cases.

    It takes a certain crass opportunism to paint our rights to contraception as under a likely, much less immanent threat.

    No, it takes a quick look at Google.

  45. randomliberal/Robert
    May 8, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Actually, Fitz, legislators like Cynthia Davis don’t have to convince large numbers of voters; just the group of like-minded fools safely gerrymandered into her district.

  46. evil_fizz
    May 8, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Oh – typically constitutional law is not taught until the second or third year.

    I can’t speak for all programs, but at my law school and Jill’s it’s first year. First year also includes writing requirements which you seem to have missed…

  47. zuzu
    May 8, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Oh – typically constitutional law is not taught until the second or third year.

    Not at my school. Or most schools I know of.

  48. evil_fizz
    May 8, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Oops, I don’t think that the court won’t overturn Griswold and its progeny in the immediate future, should read I don’t think the court *will* overturn…

  49. Elinor
    May 8, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    It takes a certain crass opportunism to paint our rights to contraception as under a likely, much less immanent threat.

    Can you explain what you mean by “crass opportunism”? Does anyone here stand to make millions from Planned Parenthood donations?

  50. Fitz
    May 8, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    It was my understanding that the cultural left was intent on raising the specter of people taking away birth control- as a political weapon. (I never really believed that people were losing real sleep over it)

    I suppose I can lay awake worrying about a return to prohibition.

  51. Magis
    May 8, 2006 at 3:11 pm


    I know of no Law School that would leave out ConLaw in the first year. So much else wouldn’t make sense without it. Hell, I had to take it as an undergrad course.

    Now I don’t know if you were kidding or not but yes, Carry Nation is alive and well and living in Kansas.

  52. May 8, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    “We’re marching proudly backwards to our future.”

    From “The Department of Homeland Decency: Decency Rules and Regulations Manual.”

  53. May 8, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Magis, at Harvard it’s not even a required course.

  54. Tony
    May 8, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    Fitz, as I mentioned on the other site (you know, the one with Ann) you’re doing what a lot of law-oriented types tend to do (and this includes a lot of liberals) which in my opinion is underestimate the role of social norms and popular opinion and overestimate the influence of narrow legal interpretations. I suggest you look over the posts on this thread if you haven’t already for the ways at which the Republicans are chipping away at access to contraception. However distant total, direct and unadulterated victory for the theocon side may be, it is clear that the war is on.

    The real bulwark that protects access to contraception is not going to be static legalisms but what our society comes to collectively believe and ultimately accept is their proper role. And that requires a larger debate over the role of religion in public life– and the place of openness and freedom regarding sexual behavior in social life.

  55. ballgame
    May 8, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    It takes a certain crass opportunism to paint our rights to contraception as under a likely, much less immanent threat.

    The real bulwark that protects access to contraception is not going to be static legalisms but what our society comes to collectively believe and ultimately accept is their proper role.

    Since the leader of the party which currently rules us claims the power to indefinitely imprison citizens in this country without administrative or judicial review of any kind, and also claims that the Fourth Amendment is somehow inoperative under our current circumstances, it is quite unclear to me which freedoms and rights we may safely take for granted, or whether the collective belief of the preponderant majority will suffice to protect those freedoms against legalistic encroachment.

  56. zuzu
    May 8, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Magis, at Harvard it’s not even a required course.


    Well, Fitz argues like someone who hasn’t taken Con Law yet, since the idea of incremental changes in the Court’s opinions through subsequent decisions seems to have eluded him.

  57. May 8, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    Stepping aside from the US Constitutional law a bit {which is a bit of arcana that I only have a pidgin knowledge of}, it seems to me that there is an underlying practical problem with the current legislative direction both in regards to abortion and contraception.

    In both cases, lawmakers are attempting to codify in law proscriptions against what are essentially matters of personal morality and ethics.

    Like the prohibition era when alcohol was banned, all that really happens is that access to it goes underground. People don’t stop drinking because alcohol is illegal, nor do I have any illusions that making contraception illegal will stop it from being used.

    Ultimately, laws that attempt to directly regulate people’s behaviours through some kind of arbitrary morality fail – either when challenged in the courts, or quietly by being ignored by the population. As has been demonstrated time and again, legislated morality fails.

  58. Sina
    May 9, 2006 at 11:08 am

    Grog: No kidding, just look at the “war on drugs.” Only the difference was that during prohibition, the homemade alcohol wasn’t regulated, and so possibly much more dangerous.

    Also, we should perhaps be less worried about imminent efforts to legally ban contraception; it seems like this administration’s MO is to illegally ban things; kind of like the sham holdup of the morning-after pill discussed in detail in this very article, and in a wider sense (as described in Charlie Savage’s Boston Globe article), the various pieces of legislation that the president has never vetoed, but instead attached a little note that says, by the way, this law does not apply.

    Argh. Anyway.

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