(This Blog Posted May 8, 2006) – The May 7, 2006 New York Times Magazine had a terrifying front-page article on contraception, a woman’s right to choose, and the social conservative right who are hell-bent on controlling women’s bodies and our lives. The article, The War on Contraception by Russell Shorto, is a loud wake up call.
The article focused on the switch from making abortions illegal (which has been happening since Roe was passed; 52 state laws have been passed restricting abortion last year alone) to making contraception inaccessible. The conservative Christian right not only see contraception as a type of aborifacient, but also it promotes a culture of promiscuity. According to the article:
Organizations like the Christian Medical and Dental Association, 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 to the FDA’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.”
You may laugh off these comments, perhaps chalk it off to the “crazy conservative right,” but these people are in powerful decision-making positions. The FDA postponed the approval of a widely accepted and safe pill for over the counter purposes, the morning after pill.
The article goes on to say:
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’s natural enemies with 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.
Not only are our rights as adult citizens in the country being infringed upon (yes folks, this “culture war” is real), our children are at risk as well. With abstinence-only education seeing millions of dollars funneled its way, our teenagers are being denied comprehensive reproductive healthcare education, important and life-saving information on contraception, and the responsibility that goes along with sex as well as receiving information from the abstinence-only curriculum that is flat out wrong (like condoms fail 31% of the time – a total lie). It is a well-known fact that offering comprehensive sex education to teenagers not only increases their chances of preventing life-threatening diseases, they actually postpone having sex.
I have been mulling this article over all-day and talking to friends and family about it. To my amazement, most people responded by saying, “Oh, they can’t make contraception illegal, don’t worry.” 20 years ago, the thought was Roe could never be overturned. Maybe Roe won’t be overturned. But at this rate it does not have to be. States continue to restrict abortion (see my April blog), why not make contraception inaccessible? Or abstinence education the only reproductive health education?
On CultureKitchen blog, Liza submitted a post about the UN’s update on the status of women. We aren’t doing too well worldwide and the US has yet to support anti-abuse laws for women and children. I suppose it’s hard to fight for the rights of women in other countries when we are still struggling here. I am not comparing oppression of women in other countries, like Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive, to the struggles we have here. The point is we must protect our rights now before we start slipping back. We should be fighting for women’s rights all around the world, but we must fight for our rights here too.
Whether you believe it is a political strategy of the right to continue to create the “culture war” because of the Iraq debauchery or to keep our mind off of the scandals and insurmountable debt, it doesn’t matter. The outcome will be that government will be regulating our behavior behind closed doors. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep my relationship with my husband between us. I’d prefer if the government, or other religious organizations of which I am not a member, stay out of my personal life – especially the choices my husband and me make about our relationship and our family. Can you imagine the government making contraception so inaccessible that it is essentially dictating to you when to procreate? And all this based on one religious belief. It seems inconceivable, but don’t be fooled. Or it will be too late (I’ve said this before).
BushvChoice blog also covered the NYT article. The blog states: “Yeah, I know, a real shocker. Pro-choice activists have been pointing this out for a while, but it seems that a lot of folks still don’t understand that even our right to contraception is at risk.” I couldn’t agree more.
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