The New York Times Magazine today has an interesting article on the “contra-contraception” movement, as Shorto puts it. I would highly recommend reading it–if you aren’t registered on the Times site, register so that you may do so or use Bug Me Not.
I’m not going to go over too much of the article, because I want you to read it, not read me writing about it. Shorto is a much better journalist than I am. But Shorto highlights the fact that birth control of all forms is under assault in this country, and soon may start getting very difficult to find, even in liberal areas.
Most of us are aware that Plan B and RU 486 are threatened, because both are viewed as abortifacients. But you may not be aware that much of the conservative right wants to ban birth control altogether, because they believe it leads to wanton behaviour and that birth control embodies an “anti-child mindset.” And I’d like to take a few moments to address this claim.
I am child free. This is a conscious choice which I have taken and while I respect parents, parenting is not something I am interested in doing. As a result, certain precautions have entered my life–I take a form of birth control and I use condoms. (I don’t see the right railing against condom use for being an “anti-STD” mindset–who is supposed to stand up for the rights of all the poor little STDs?) In my case, these tools do reflect my own, personal anti-child mindset. But I also know married women with children who use birth control because they want influence over their child spacing, or they don’t want any more children. And I know plenty of young women who use birth control because they don’t want a child at that moment, or aren’t ready. And I don’t see how this should be viewed as a wrongness. Not using birth control at all and aborting every time one got pregnant would be…uncomfortable, to say the least. In the literal sense, yes, using birth control declares the user to be anti-child at that particular moment. But I don’t think birth control is fostering an anti-child movement across the nation, or that all users of birth control are anti child.
In fact, many users of birth control are pro-child. They are all for healthy, wanted children being born when their parents are ready. They are all for healthy child spacing so that their children can be surrounded by other happy, healthy brothers and sisters. What the right wants to tell us is that if you don’t want children, you shouldn’t have sex. And for me, this is just not a healthy idea.
The right would also have us believe that birth control makes women slutty. Now, I have a feeling that if one were to chart sexual activity post-pill that women probably have sex earlier and more often than they did pre-pill–but so do men. And women and men pre-pill certainly didn’t refrain from having sex before marriage, or avoid extra-marital sex, they were just extremely cautious. And sometimes they messed up anyway.
I would also hope that most of you know the United States is trying to push abstinence only education abroad as well, to the cost of lives. Rather than recognizing that people do and will have sex, and helping to educate people about safer sex, the United States has yanked funding from organizations which provide condoms in India and Africa. We have also yanked funding from family planning programs which provide advice about birth control and abortions, even if those programs don’t actually offer those services. The right calls this a “culture of life.” I call it a culture of death, because that’s what it’s fostering. People are dying in Africa because our sanctimonious leader refuses to allow American dollars to buy condoms to distribute. Abstinence only education doesn’t work, especially in male dominated cultures.
I have a sense that the right is warring on women’s bodies and sexuality right now. I’m not sure I buy the “birth control is anti-child” arguments, because I think that the right is trying to take over my body, and my sexual expression. And that makes me angry. I cling to older conservative values, that people should mind their own business instead of sticking their noses into other peoples lives, because if what I do isn’t harming anyone, how is it anyone else’s affair? The right is troubled by sexual freedoms and wishes to restrict them, and I think we need to fight back.