Uncomfortably Numb

One of the interesting things about living in this country, for me, is that you kind of start to become numb to the sheer lunacy of Presidential administrations. I read headlines that simply make no sense, and my brain just shuts down, I think in self defense, arguing that the contents of the headline simply couldn’t be possible, and therefore the events documented didn’t really happen. This is not really a good turn of events, because it leads to complacency, which is perhaps the goal of the lunacy in the first place: we don’t see the danger through the chatter.

I felt this way last night when I was sitting in Headlands reading the Chronicle and I came across an article about the appointment of Susan Orr to the family planning section of the Department of Health and Human Services. Who is Susan Orr?

Well, it’s funny you should ask, since she happens to be a major critic of birth control. One of her more quoted statements in the news lately is “fertility is not a disease,” in response to a Bush Administration plan to offer federal insurance without family planning coverage. I should clarify here that the Administration wanted to make family planning-free plans an option, not cut family planning out of federal insurance entirely…yet.

And, you know, she’s right. Fertility isn’t a disease. Fertility is great. But it is something which needs to be responsibly managed, and family planning is really important. To me, family planning includes everything from abortions to child spacing to helping women have healthy, happy babies. And the suggestion that this option should be cut from insurance because “fertility is not a disease” is mindblowing to me. She’s basically suggesting that people shouldn’t have control over their bodies and families. It also sounds to me like she doesn’t care about women’s health, doesn’t think women should get annual exams, and apparently she believes that women should be barefoot and pregnant, making pies and pumping out babies.

I simply cannot believe that this woman is being put in charge of family planning. It seems too fantastic to be true. It’s like putting a cattle rancher in charge of the Department of Vegan Affairs. The Bush administration didn’t need to appoint some abortion-mad child hating doctor (assuming such a thing even exists), but it could have appointed a moderate who supports healthy choices. Because I wasn’t aware that the government was in the position of dictating what kind of health care we get; I mistakenly believed that the government is supposed to protect us from poor quality health care and make options available to us.

What’s so bad about birth control? I don’t understand why the anti-choice movement is so riled up about it. Surely, birth control is better than abortions, right? It’s really confusing to me that there’s such strong opposition to making options available to women (and men) who might not be ready to have children, or who aren’t currently interested. I’m beginning to wonder if this is all part of an anti-fun plot, or if the administration is secretly trying to drive us to homosexuality by preventing us from accessing birth control options. This attitude is intensely puritan, and it bothers me. It bothers me that the government basically thinks that sex should only be used for procreation, especially when their “morally upstanding” officials are soliciting gay sex in airport restrooms and lying about it.

Living in California, I am really fortunate, because I have access to a state-funded family planning program which pays for annual exams, birth control, abortions, and…prenatal care! Because that’s what family planning is about, is health, and choices. It makes me really sad that other Americans don’t have access to the services I do, because I think everyone has a right to a healthy body, to good medical care, to plan how many children they want to have, and when. And the appointment of Susan Orr makes me worry, because I wonder how much longer this awesome family planning coverage in California will last.