Summertime and the Opposition’s Uneasy


Ah, summer is finally here.  School is out and blockbuster movies are in.  Barbeque pits and ice cream stands are opening.  Women are revealing shoulders, knees, thighs, and cleavage.  Suggestive dance music fills the air, emanating from dance parties and car windows. Young couples walk down the street holding hands, or canoodle in the park.  Ripe, delicious, tempting homegrown tomatoes are beginning to show up at markets indoor and out.  The world is bursting with signs of life, so naturally, America’s oxymoronically named “pro-life” forces are haunted even more by the “fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”  And sometimes outside of the field of vision, where they can’t be properly harrumphed at!

With this much unapologetic, unpunished, joyful sexual energy in the air, what’s a puritan to do?  Well, while the rest of us kick off the season with barbeques, sports, concerts, and dance parties, the anti-choicers kick into high gear with their annual campaign of trying to raise hysteria about the birth control pill, with the final goal of banning it forever.  The American Life League leads the annual charge with their “Pill Kills” campaign, a snappy motto that certainly sounds better than what I imagine was the original one, “Fewer smiles, more unwanted babies.”  ALL’s theme this year is exaggerating claims that the pill is filling our seas with clouds of estrogen, which turns dude fish into “lady fish.”  In other words, they’re claiming that their symbolic fear that the pill is emasculating is actually a literal truth.

Believe me, as a real environmentalist, and not a fair weather one who only worries about pollution as a tool in the war against sex, I can tell you that real environmentalists think reliable contraception is the greatest technological invention to save our planet since basically ever.  Since the main source of pollution is people using resources and creating waste, the one thing that gives environmentalists hope is the worldwide embrace of limited family size, which could keep population levels low enough that we can believe we will find earth-friendly ways to take care of us all.  But without contraception, that goal would be hopeless—there would simply be too many people to provide for them all.

Not that estrogen mimickers in the water don’t worry environmentalists, but the reality-based concerns have to do with chemicals that ALL doesn’t care one whit about—pesticides and industrial by-products that far out-swamp women peeing out both real and synthetic estrogen. 

The timing of this campaign couldn’t be worse for anti-choicers, of course, because while they’re fixating on misleading claims about water pollution from the birth control pill, a blown out oil well 5,000 feet under water in the Gulf of Mexico is gushing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, and it’s become apparent that no one in the drilling process ever seriously considered how to fix an accident like this.  Interspersed with pictures of dour-looking women wearing their scold faces at the “Pill Kills” site are pictures of the fish we’re supposed to believe they’re worried about, but it’s hard to imagine they give two hoots about water pollution when they’re too busy protesting Planned Parenthood (every day helping people not make babies that create even more demands for oil that lead to offshore drilling!) to do something like, oh, protest British Petroleum or the Minerals and Management Services that issued their drilling license.  If you want to have fun with fake environmentalists, though, I suppose you could go to their protests and count how many of them drove themselves over in gas-guzzling SUVs.

Not that you can blame anti-contraception activists for trying on a new tactic, since the usual tactic of making frowny faces every time someone seems like they’re having too much fun doesn’t endear them to the public.  Check out, for instance, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review attacking non-procreative sex and women who have too much fun at blockbuster movies.  In the same vein, you have Rita Diller, the head of the “Pill Kills” project, writing editorial screeds condemning women for having sex before marriage, getting divorced, having sex while living together, having children out of wedlock (which the pill technically prevents, but she’s on a roll, you know), having sex while being black, and having a job so you can pay for the children you do have instead of pumping out more while trying to figure out how you can pay for all of them.

And just in case you didn’t pick up on the theme, which was, “The pill is evil because people—women especially—have too much liberty to pursue happiness,” you get this awesome section:

To date we have had an estimated 52.7 million abortions, and — combined with more “efficient” birth control — the under-45 generation is more than 100 million people smaller than it would have been without them.

I’ve thought of their slogan for next year.  “Ban the pill, because traffic jams in this country aren’t bad enough.”  Sure, it makes it more obvious they’re in this because they’re morbid, sadistic people who are suspicious of freedom and pleasure, but the upside to being honest is that you don’t get egg on your face when your dishonesty is exposed by an inconveniently timed oil spill.

You might think it’s a waste of time to pick on people that seem to be on the political fringe.  Unfortunately, anti-contraception activists aren’t as fringe as we’d hope, since they are one and the same with the “pro-life” movement that wields so much power in this country, as  Cristina Page has documented here. Anti-contraception activists got abstinence-only education into American high schools, and contraception funding out of the economic stimulus package.  (Mainstream publication Politico implied that government funding for contraception was somehow paying people to have sex.)  House Minority Leader John Boehner is in the pocket of the 31 percent of Republican voters who want contraception outlawed.

Since contraception is basically ubiquitous, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the existence and the scope of anti-contraception activism.  After all, many and probably most of the people out there fighting against access to contraception probably are using or have used it.  But as the endless drumbeat of sex scandals shows, hypocrisy is no obstacle when social conservatives have an agenda.  And so we cannot simply brush these folks off, or assume  that because they’re fringe, they’re powerless.

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  • ahunt

    To date we have had an estimated 52.7 million abortions, and — combined with more “efficient” birth control — the under-45 generation is more than 100 million people smaller than it would have been without them.

     

    We get this one a lot…and of course it is horseshit.

     

    A) Abortion may well have the effect of allowing women to form stable family relationships…facilitating the birth of additional children.

     

    B) Other forms of contraception, while very slightly less effective than chemical BC, would no doubt have been seriously employed by women seeking to manage their fertility.

  • crowepps

    A women who wants three children is going to have three children. Without birth control and/or abortion those children might be the result of her first three pregnancies. With birth control and/or abortion those three children might be from the second, third and fifth pregnancies. She’s still going to have three children.

     

    The idea that everything would be rosy if people were still having eight kids because of all the extra CONSUMPTION they would generate when little and all the extra TAXES they would pay when they started working totally misses the fact that REMOVED from the equation would be the ability of their mothers to participate in the economy.

     

    The parents dealing with all those extra kids are not going to HAVE money to fuel consumption because Mom isn’t going to be able to work anymore. Without Mom working the parents of all those extra kids aren’t going to be living in a fancy house or paying for piano lessons or getting teeth straightened or sending the bright one to college or buying new cars.

     

    It may be that cutting the income of parents back to the poverty line, as incomes were back in the 20’s and 30’s, will miraculously cause an rediscovery of ‘moral values’, generate a wonderful economic miracle, etc., etc. It is far MORE likely however that watching their children do without what they took for granted as children would instead give rise to another extreme populist/socialist movement and in reaction tip the country into fascism.

  • amanda-marcotte

    I mean, it’s clear from the data that women in the past had more children than they wanted on average, and they were very unhappy about it.  But “more children than you want” is NOT a good thing.  It’s bad for the planet, bad for women, and bad for children that suffer everything from emotional neglect to lack of family resources.  Forcing women to have more children than they want only helps one group: people who want to see women’s lives constrained and ambitions destroyed.

  • princess-rot

    Amanda is bang on the money, here. However…

     

    *puts cynical specs on*

    The idea that everything would be rosy if people were still having eight kids because of all the extra CONSUMPTION they would generate when little and all the extra TAXES they would pay when they started working totally misses the fact that REMOVED from the equation would be the ability of their mothers to participate in the economy.

     

    I think the point is to create an gigantic underclass of poor people who will work to support the rich, ergo, those already here. It will only be SOME people’s kids who get a decent education, only SOME people will have a good job and a car. Only SOME people will eat regularly and get health care and have a roof over their heads. These people will be the ready-privileged ones who have decided they “naturally deserve” it.

     

    Oh, they’ll pay lip service to the IDEA that the poor can change their lives for the better – y’know, bootstraps and all that jazz – while their privileges run on unchecked in the background, destroying others to support them. For some time now I’ve thought that opposition to abortion and contraception, support of returning to “tradional morals” and everything that goes with it is a roundabout way of returning us to a full-blown feudal system. Which, of course, the people in charge of the anti-choice movement will even throw their supporters under the economic bus if it means they’ll stay on top. Because they deserve it, or something.

     

    Editing…

    I also meant to say that the economic and reproductive subjugation of women, neglect of children and suppression of the poor is just a feature of the greedy drive to take over.

  • ahunt

    Forcing women to have more children than they want only helps one group: people who want to see women’s lives constrained and ambitions destroyed.

     

    That genii is not going back in the bottle, Amanda. US women, discounting a small subset, will not give up control of their fertility.

  • colleen

    I think the point is to create an gigantic underclass of poor people who will work to support the rich, ergo, those already here.

    I’m quite certain that neo-feudalism is a goal of republicans and ‘centrist’ Democrats. Traditionally, the Church also does very well when there’s a tractable, poorly educated peasant class eager to believe in miracles and the hope of less suffering after death.

    Watch what Obama’s  ‘Deficit Reduction Commission’ led by Bruce Reed does to Social Security and Medicare/medicaid.

  • sayna

    It’s not the start of summer that made them choose this date, Amanda. As Christina Page pointed out when they started this nonsense, June 7th is the day that Griswold vs. Connecticut made birth control legal. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they chose that day. And since then they’ve had it on or around that date every year.

  • profbob

    For people interested inthe pros and cons of contraception and abortion I suggest reading the 2 chapters in book 4 of the free ebooks at http://andgulliverreturns.info