Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Returning America to the dark ages

The New York Times has a simply frightening story about the latest manifestation of religious conservatism in America: opposition to contraception. While a large part of it is an extension of the anti-abortion movement, it is also being driven by an explicit desire to change Americans’ sex lives - whether they want it or not. By banning emergency contraception and slowly eroding access to regular contraception, American conservatives are attempting to steer their society back to some imagined golden era, when people didn't have sex except for the purposes of reproduction, and those who violated God's law were both easily identifiable and naturally punished (at least if they were women).

I'm horrified. The pill was one of the great advances of the twentieth century, dramatically enhancing women’s choices and freeing them to lead lives of their own, without the risk of unwanted pregnancy fouling everything up. Rejecting it - on a social rather than personal level - is like rejecting antibiotics, or the flush toilet: a return to the dark ages. But on top of that, there's also the imagined society these people are aiming for. Bluntly, these loons are attempting to deliberately create social conditions which would significantly increase misery and suffering. And if that's not a perfect definition of "evil", then I don't know what is.


Oh my goodness!

Idiot, the pill turned women into geishas - there for the pleasure of men without the need for worrying about the potential of expensive progeny. And if there is pill failure, then it's all on the woman to have an abortion. All this dressed up as "liberating" for us. No wonder there's a backlash.

Posted by Lucia Maria : 5/09/2006 09:32:00 AM

It also has a lot to do with that age-old desire by men to control women's lives in all aspects especially sexuality and reproduction.
In this, Christo-fascists do not differ one jot from the Islamo-fascists: if Christians were able to get away with stoning adulterers too, they would. And they are mirroring each others' attitudes to gay people: death for all.
Social control is what it is about and these kind of tendencies are a call to arms to defend secularism from their desert religion clutches.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 5/09/2006 10:25:00 AM

I dont think the backlash is so much from women who dont want to take the pill.

While the pill may not be such a good example to use in this post, it is social and religious conservatives who are driving the backlash.

As a contraceptive i think the pill is a little weird - it works, but there have been associated health problems and it strikes me as problematic to put your body into hormonal denial.

But i do have to partially disagree with the "turned woman into geisha's" comment. I understand that it may have been made in a historical context and that the attitudes of women today are a little different. But can you seriously claim that upon taking the pill women turn into sexual submissives?

I have known plenty of strong women in my life who view the option of deciding when they will get pregrant as empowering.

One analogy is if we look at the power relationship between strippers and punters. Who has the power? Ive known some strippers as personal friends and from talking to them i can assure you, its not the punter who has any power, even though they may think otherwise.

And as far as the anti-contraception brigade in the US goes, they are heading down a very slippery slope. There are far too many levels of self denial and blind faith in an ideal that are blinkering them to what is actually happening.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2006 10:27:00 AM

whoops forgot to sign my name on abnove post


Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2006 10:31:00 AM

I doubt American Christian conservatives are heading down a slippery slope, that would be far to well lubricated for them. Think more a scree slope of dry, rough, loose gravel.

The under current here is one of fear of female sexuality and the consequent need to control it. This might have made some sort of sense in a subsistant pre-industrial agarian society where trading in women as chattels was a way of feeding the rest of the family; In this day and age its just pig-ignorant barbarism.

Posted by Sanctuary : 5/09/2006 10:44:00 AM

Lucyna: then don't take it. But don't presume to try and dictate other people's choices over something as fundamental as their own reproduction for them.

(I should also point out that this isn't just about the pill, but about everything. Condoms, diaphrams, IUDs, emergency contraception, everything that might break the link between sex and pregnancy and therefore allow people to control their own lives)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/09/2006 10:46:00 AM

"Think more a scree slope of dry, rough, loose gravel."

ha ha - wish i had thought of that


Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2006 10:49:00 AM

An example of the mindset driving this issue is in the NY Times article linked to above and it is revealing. On p.5 of the article it is reported that Ron Stephens, who is a Republican state legislator for Illinois and a pharmacist supports pharmicists right to refuse to fill prescriptions for either the contraceptive pill or the morning after pill. He himself fills prescriptions for the former but not the latter.To qoute from the article
'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." '
The morning after pill does not end a pregnancy, rather it delays the release of an egg so that pregnancy won't occur.His justification seems to be based on his "natural prejudice" of what he "believes" the science to be instead of what it actually is, and it seems that where science contradicts his beliefs he will choose belief over the science if it conflicts with his idea of morality. That is simply not rational.
For an explanation of the science behind the morning after pill, go to http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/why_the_wingnuts_hate_plan_b.php

Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2006 01:39:00 PM

"But don't presume to try and dictate other people's choices over something as fundamental as their own reproduction for them"

Indeed.... but things are a little more complicated than that in the US (as they tend to be).... Rights to contraception for married couples were read into the Federal Constitution in 1965 in Griswold preventing any level of government from making its own laws regulating this. This wasn't a completely crazy decision, but it's a little odd too, and it was the first step down a bone fide slippery slope of judicial activism. The justices in Griswold explicitly say in effect "Of course, *unmarried* couples don't have any rights to contraception and the states may regulate *their* contraception how they see fit in accordance with the usual deference to states's legitimate interest in regulating public morality, fertility etc. It would be a straw man to suggest otherwise..." A few years later, though, the Supremes change their tune and the restriction to "marrieds" is seen not to be important (leaving conservatives going "WTF"?).... and the rout is on....finally hitting bottom (from one perspective) with Roe. It's almost impossible for NZ-ers to grasp how angry this general judicial activism and slipperiness made a very broad range of Americans, and how hollow and lazy being able to rely on ruling through the courts made the left in the US for at least the 30 years since Griswold (why bother building political consensus/support when you can just have the Supreme Court get you everything you want from on Constitutional high?)...

But let me try: compare the case of legalizing all drugs.... there may be lots of people who think that that's the right thing to do, and perhaps some of them even say with I/S: "But don't presume to try and dictate other people's choices over something as fundamental as their own consciousness and body for them". But then you really should try to win over most of your community to seeing the dictatorialness in current policies that you see... On the other hand, if some superior court intervenes and tells a myriad of jurisdictions that they can't make any laws regulating drug use/availability, no matter what their publics think about that, then there's going to be trouble.... drug legalizers win at least in the short term but look out for the long term!

That's the dynamic that's playing out in the US now and for the next 20 years. The strongest hand the right has to play in the US is the broadly states-rights and anti-judicial activism one, and even though they are horribly inconsistent about it, they'll play it for all its worth.

Sure, there's lots of "fear of unbound sexuality" etc. floating below the surface here just as there's plausibly fear of broader human dionysian impulses (and indolence etc.) floating behind all drug-control regimes.... Those fears aren't unfounded or crazy, but they *are* easily exaggerated ("Geishas") or ridiculed ("Christo-fascists", "Dark ages") .... They're the sort of thing, in other words, that the ordinary political/legislative process should addresses directly and indirectly (though Health authorities etc.).

The US *didn't* do that in the reproduction/sexuality case and has suffered greatly for doing so (and shouldn't be emulated). Consider even Bush's creepy dodging of contraception questions talked about in the Times article: it's impossible to know what's going on there. Bush could be pro- (or at least anti-anti-)contraception but simply doesn't want to seen to be in favor of the Griswold legal pathway.... Feel sorry for voters in the US having to pick their way through this Kabuki theater...

Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2006 03:41:00 PM

I agree that the pill has offered women up to men for pleasure and recreation, and it is women who bear the physical risks of various contraceptives, eg, pelvic inflammatory disease with the IUD, cancer with hormonal drugs. HOWEVER, it is each women's responsibility to decide her own standards and moral choices.

I personally have a moral problem with artificial contraception, but I wouldn't impose my choice on anyone else. I personally could not aid another person to do something I regard as immoral, but then I am neither a pharmacist, nor a doctor, so the issue doesn't arise for me.

My public policy issue is not with preventing pregnancies, but with terminating existing persons through abortion (or lack of implantation). Not because I want to control another person's sexuality, but because I think that unborn babies are persons with a concommitant right to live.

Obviously preventing pregnancy is most effective with abstainence. But if people are not going to abstain then they need to decide how they will deal with the resultant effects of sex. Better a condom than an abortion.

If women want to be sluts and men want to be gigilos that's _their_ call. It's their body to hawk at the local meat market if they so choose consensually. Heck throw contraceptives at them, let them wade through seas of condoms, pills, jabs, coils and spermacidal jellies, gels and creams. May an ocean of nonoxyl-9 whet their whistles (and bells).

Posted by Muerk : 5/11/2006 09:53:00 PM