Open Letter to William Saletan: Women’s Bodies Kill

Dear William Saletan:

Oh, William, you’ve come back.

We’ve had moments where we thought you had slipped away from us – taken in by the sometimes masterful, most times absurd, anti-choice propaganda. But I can tell – you’ve seen the light.

Really, it’s hard not to. When anti-choice doctrine infuses itself into potential public policy in such a patently ridiculous way, it’s impossible to ignore isn’t it?

What was it about these new HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) regulations? Was it the re-defining of contraception –  family planning methods that 98% of women in this country will use at some point in their lives – as abortion? Was it the allowance for federal employees and institutions to essentially pick and choose what they believe contraception to be, and what they don’t, giving them the power to refuse to provide health services to anyone, anywhere? Was it the fact that these draft regulations make it okay to refuse to provide emergency contraception to rape victims in order to prevent possible pregnancy at the hands of their attackers, in the states that have these laws on the books?

Whatever it was, your letter to Secretary Leavitt, head of HHS, was brilliant.

I would say, however, that it didn’t go far enough. If breast-feeding, exercise and caffeine are all threats to a fertilized egg, or threats to the occurrence of conception, should we not ensure, according to most anti-choice leaders, that women do absolutely nothing that may cause a spontaneous abortion, otherwise known as a miscarriage?

These HHS regulations, to the extent that they are enforceable, should make sure to document any and all ways in which women’s bodies can be living abortifacients. 

We can’t just let women get away with being women and having our bodies do what they will during the time in our lives that we are fertile. 

Our bodies, as Saletan points out, are living, breathing destruction machines during childbearing years. If our bodies are able to get pregnant and sustain life, they are able to destroy that life just as easily.

Why don’t we ensure that these regulations stop women not just from breast-feeding, exercising and imbibing drinks with caffeine, but from any of our biological functions? After all, if we’ve got a uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, a cervix, a vaginal canal, and a vulva, we are a threat, are we not? Who knows, if we ovulate, how many times a fertilized egg may or may not have fallen by the way side? Not implanted? We are murderesses many times over and we should be corraled in any way possible. 

William, if I may, I would love to co-sign your letter. But I would love to make the above changes to make sure that our government severly restricts any and all biological action within the female-born body that in any way is related to fertility. 


Amie Newman


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  • invalid-0

    Interesting and twisted. As a woman in her thirties I am aware that most artificial contraceptives that I would choose to put into my body will allow for breakthrough ovulation.

    If I then choose to become sexually active I risk a conception, and if I conceive, I risk the new human embryo not implanting in my uterus. When I have my withdrawal bleed (because women on birth control don’t actually menstruate) I will lose the embryo. The implication here is that there has been a loss of human life – quite a big deal for most of us.

    Actions that I choose to take have consequences. I have the right to be informed of the consequences of my actions.

    Many women are not aware that contraceptives are abortifacients, and are extremely upset to find out that they are.

    Besides, why all the ire about calling contraceptives aborifacient?? Isn’t abortion supposed to be this wonderful liberating thing that we women should all choose, have abundant rights to and talk about openly? Why the fuss?? Is there something WRONG with abortion??

  • invalid-0

    The implication here is that there has been a loss of human life – quite a big deal for most of us.

    Nobody considers a newly fertilized ovum a person. They just pretend to in special cases as an excuse to control women’s sexuality. Fertilized eggs normally fail to implant about 50% of the time and no one takes any notice. They are not named, they are not mourned; no one knows they were ever there.

    There are other excellent reasons why believing personhood begins at conception is nonsense. I myself am one of them, since I am an identical twin. Am I only half of a person? What about individuals with genetic chimerism? Are they two persons? Just how many people does that egg represent? Should we take an average?

    Actions that I choose to take have consequences. I have the right to be informed of the consequences of my actions.

    Many women are not aware that contraceptives are abortifacients, and are extremely upset to find out that they are.

    Besides, why all the ire about calling contraceptives aborifacient??

    Because they are not. Hormonal birth control is incapable of halting an existing pregnancy. In fact in many cases they use the same drug used to sustain pregnancy in women at risk of miscarriage.

    It is conjectured that the secondary effects of such drugs may reduce the chance of embryo implantation. This has never been conclusively demonstrated in any scientific study.

    To equate a drug which is hypothesized to decrease the chance of implantation with abortion is patently ridiculous. A short list of things that meet the same criteria would include horseback riding, aerobics, and poor diet, among others. By those standards, it would be impossible to look into any woman’s past and not find a string of abortions, unless she remains a virgin all her life.

  • invalid-0

    leadership line of thinking that most Americans are in disagreement with. This is why "all the fuss" – the federal government is attempting to codify ideological positions with no basis in science or medicine, out of step with the majority of Americans.

    Anti-choice leaders are allowed to put forth propaganda. But even most Americans who consider themselves pro-life cannot swallow this. When you write:

    The implication here is that there has been a loss of human life – quite a big deal for most of us.

    you are bonding with an extremist group of people who are just simply out of step with most Americans. The truth is that the majority of Americans support widespread access to contraception. The fact is that 98% of American women will use contraception to prevent pregnancy (though, by your interesting reasoning, contraception leads to pregnancy).The majority of Americans simply do not subscribe to the belief that every single fertilized egg that is not implanted in a woman’s body is equivalent to the loss of a human life. You have every right to believe it – but it is not representative of how most women experience their bodies. 

    According to a just released report from The Guttmacher Institute, publicly-funded family planning clinics are responsible for preventing 1.4 million unintended pregnancies and 600,000 abortions each year. But according to your interesting logic, these publicly funded clinics, which help families plan for the children they want and ensure that women and their partners are able to access contraception if they need it, actually cause abortions. These are the clinics that help women and their partners plan responsibly for their families – a value that most admire but that you condemn.

    I think, considering the fact that contraception actually saves lives in countries around the world for women who are lucky enough to access it, you are going to have a hard sell with your "contraception is abortion and therefore we shouldn’t use it" rant. In countries where young girls are married off at a young age, where pregnancy and childbirth result in death and horrendous injury like obstetric fistula, contraception is most literally life saving for many. 

    As for the bizarre assertion that since you want contraception to be abortion, we should accept that premise as well and then embrace it because "abortion is supposed to be this wonderful liberating thing that we women should all choose": I would say I’d love for you to point me towards one single document or web page anywhere that even remotely refers to abortion as something all women should choose. 

    That has never been the premise of the reproductive health and rights movement. In fact, legal abortion is what the movement pushes tirelessly for and for these reasons.  But, please, by all means I’m open to hearing your own "personal belief" that counteracts the World Health Organization’s data. 

    Finally, I would assert again that for the federal government to draft medical regulations that every single mainstream, medical association of providers who serve women and girls opposes, and that the majority of Americans disagree with, would be comical if the regulations weren’t so over-reaching as to penalize a woman’s body for being, well, fertile. 

    I would add that the responsibility factor that you note in the beginning of your comment is never anything that any health care provider, reproductive and sexual health advocate or the pro-choice movement as a whole does not embrace or advocate. Responsibility needs to be shared between the individual, the government and society as a whole.  

    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • amanda-marcotte

    Then you should probably BE on the pill.  If you don’t ovulate, you can’t fertilize an egg.  Without a pill, you ovulate more, and therefore kill more eggs.


    To be absolutely safe, surely you’ll want a hysterectomy right now, if it’s that important to you.


    As a grown-up, responsible person, there seems to be no other choice, if you hold the non-grown-up, childish belief that a fertilized egg is a person.  To minimize your killing, you should stop ovulating by taking a pill or, to be really sure, getting a complete hysterectomy.  Your pretend babies will thank you.

  • invalid-0

    Obstetric fistula is a big problem like Amie said in developing countries. I recently sent money to a wonderful organization that helps women in those countries get the surgery to repair it. I got the name of the organization off of one of the feminist websites I read. Besides OB fistula, BC helps with a host of problems here and in developing world. I think it is a wonderful thing, BC. It helps women determine their family size and take their health into their own hands which is great. But then again like my husband and I say you anti choicers are not prolife hence why I call you all antichoice if you were really prolife you would be about women and their lives. Oh btw, totally have a girl crush on Amanda and Amie. You guys rock!

  • invalid-0

    And why are the anti-choice folks not at all concerned that miscarriages increase in areas that are toxic–often women who want to be pregnant cannot because of toxins in the environment. In fact an unusually high number of miscarriages is one of the first signs that there is something very wrong–Love canal, cheronybl etc. Oh wait they aren’t really concerned about the fetus–just restricting those slutty women. And they certainly would not want to restrict the rights of multi-national corporations to make billions of money destroying our environment.