The War on Contraception and STD Treatment Goes Mainstream


 The joys and obstacles facing the female music nerd are discussed with Courtney Smith. Mainstream media clues into the war on contraception, and Michele Bachmann goes on the warpath against the HPV vaccine.

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Personhood amendment in Mississippi

NPR admits hostility to contraception is based in hostility to contraception

That’s right, you’re not a friggin’ doctor

On this episode of Reality Cast, Courtney Smith will be on to talk about the joys and obstacles facing the female music nerd. The mainstream media finally admits that the war on contraception is a war on contraception, and Michele Bachmann gets even nastier in her attacks on the HPV vaccine.

Unfortunately, a personhood amendment is going forward in Mississippi.

  • personhood *

As a reminder, the hope of anti-choicers is that by defining a fertilized egg as a person, they can not only outlaw abortion, but they can also see every woman, even those who aren’t pregnant, as potentially having a “person” inside her. Which could mean outlawing some forms of birth control, certain kinds of employment, and could give the police an excuse to criminalize women for having menstrual periods or miscarriages the government decides somehow look fishy.

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I probably don’t have to tell you, podcast listeners, how frustrating it is to talk about the problem that is the mainstream media ignoring the right wing war on contraception.  Oh, it gets covered here and there, but there’s this strange unwillingness on the part of the mainstream media to call it for what it is.  Instead, you see reporters bend themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how anti-choicers who oppose contraception access are really all about abortion.  And that’s because accepting that they oppose STD treatment and contraception right along abortion means accepting that the entire mainstream media frame for abortion rights, aka women vs. fetuses, is wrong.  They would have to instead revisit the issue and admit that it’s all about sex and how much anti-choicers fear and loathe female sexuality.  And if they did that, they’d get angry letters.  I know, because I get angry letters from anti-choicers who somehow have it in their head that others are obligated to lie on their behalf, and present them as fetus-lovers when their behavior actually suggests sex-phobes.

Anyway, the situation lately is this: The tacit agreement between the mainstream media and anti-choicers, where the mainstream media pretends antis are all about fetuses and antis agree to keep their hatred of contraception a little bit quiet, is falling apart. This is because anti-choicers got cocky and started thinking they could openly attack contraception without being called on it.  And for months, they did get away with this, because the mainstream media doesn’t want to give up their pre-existing narratives, no matter how false.  And then this happened on NPR.

  • contraception 1 *

It is true that it was linked to abortion before, but that’s not because of any specific objection to abortion per se.  The reason anti-choicers linked their objections to contraception to abortion is that it was part of the game.  They pretend this is about fetuses, and the media agrees to take them at their word.  What we’re seeing now isn’t a new sentiment really.  The right has always been hostile to contraception, which is why they supported abstinence-only education, which would be better described as anti-contraception propaganda. They just knew that their objections to contraception were easier to sell if they were attached to something else, like education or abortion.  Now they’re just trying to tie their hatred of contraception to health care reform and federal spending.  But the constant here has been an objection to contraception.  And NPR is finally beginning to admit that all this hostility to contraception might actually be rooted in a hostility to contraception.  I do suppose it helps to have Rep. King imply that babies won’t be born without force, and Sandy Rios compare preventing pregnancy to getting your nails done.  Right wingers are getting bolder in their attacks, but these sentiments have always been there.

NPR even responsibly explained why there’s still a high abortion rate even though contraception is legal.

  • contraception 2 *

In fact, as I covered with Lawrence Finer in last week’s interview, the unintended pregnancy rate for women who can afford contraception has gone down dramatically, taking the abortion rate for that group with it.  But the unintended pregnancy rate and abortion rate for women living in poverty has gone up dramatically, and I imagine that the reasons NPR gives are right.  The price of birth control has been climbing for years, as income inequalities are growing.  Poorer women have simply been priced out of contraception. 

But hey, there’s still some right wing nuts on hand to explain that it’s all about the evils of sex.

  • contraception 3 *

This argument only makes sense if you assume that people having sex is a de facto bad thing and the government should consider it a scourge to stomp out.  And even then, it doesn’t make sense.  She has no evidence whatsoever that punishing people with STDs and unintended pregnancy has stomped out this scourge of sex that she hates so much.  But even if you assume that it lowers the number of overall sexual encounters, so what?   Is sex so evil that it’s worth inducing a public health crisis to raise the price of it? I would argue that if you think sex is evil, argue for it on those grounds.  Convince people to avoid sex of their own free will.  But using government policy to impose punishments for sex because your religion teaches that most sex is evil? I would also argue that it’s a violation of the First Amendment, because it’s an attempt to impose your specific religious teachings through government force.  If my religion forbade enjoying food, it wouldn’t be right for me to try to get rid of food safety regulations.  If I said, “If you eat, you should run the risk of dying of botulism, because the fear of it will make you eat less,” people would think I was mad.  And that’s how we should approach people who want to invoke a public health crisis in order to satisfy their esoteric religious teachings.

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Insert interview

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Few things are as successful at provoking irrational anxieties as the thought that pre-pubescent girls are going to grow up, go through puberty, and become sexually active. That the only alternative to this trajectory is too horrible to speak of somehow doesn’t quell the predictable freak-out that occurs at the idea that the girl of 11 standing before you today will one day be a woman of 21, and will likely be having sex and otherwise acting like a grown-up.  And that grown-up woman of tomorrow deserves her full human rights, including the right to avoid an easily avoidable death from cervical cancer by being full vaccinated.  But such is the panic that female sexuality causes that many people look at the cute 11-year-old and want to punish her grown-up self for being a grown-up by withholding vital medical care. 

Because of this problem, I wasn’t really surprised that the HPV vaccine has become a major issue in the Republican primary. For social conservatives, the vaccine has grown in its hated reputation to the point where they speak about is as if the vaccine itself turns cute little girls into adult women with sexual appetites. Michele Bachmann certainly sounds like that’s what she thinks.

  • hpv 1 *

It’s depressing because I saw even some liberals defending Bachmann’s attacks.  I realize anxieties about young girls growing into women affect people of all political stripes, but man, that bothers me.  The way she carries on about “innocence” is a very deliberate provocation of people who simply cannot accept that little girls turn into women.  But in fact, there’s a good reason that we want to vaccinate so-called innocent little girls and not already sexually active women.  It’s a vaccine.  The point is prevention.  You get it before you get exposed, so when you’re exposed, you don’t get it.  Duh.  I hate the word innocent to describe virginity, but the hope is that you get them while they are in fact virgins so that when they do grow up and start having sex—which they will do—they are protected.  

Rick Perry’s defense of himself makes sense, as far as that goes, but the conservative base isn’t hearing it.

  • hpv 2 *

One thing I’ve learned in all my years of doing this is people who are all up in a sex panic don’t listen to reason. Perry is himself a sex panicker, so he should get this.  The only reason he was able to listen to reason on this is Merck gave him money, which made him more open to reason.  But no one else has a financial incentive to be reasonable here, so they’re all going to freak out and assume that vaccinating girls to prevent STDs will turn them all into sluts.  But even I was surprised to hear Bachmann go even further than the slut panic thing when she came on the Today Show to defend her comments during the debate.

  • hpv 3 *

So now the line is not just that the vaccine turns little girls into sluts but that it makes them retarded.  Awesome.  It does no such thing.  I don’t know where Bachmann got that story, but even on the very slim chance that a woman did say that, I’m guessing the vaccine had nothing to do with it.  I had a cup of coffee this morning and then later stubbed my toe, but I don’t blame the coffee for it.  The only reason every health complaint under the sun gets blamed on this vaccine is that people think of it as the sex vaccine, and sex makes them anxious and they can’t help but think that some deity is punishing them for even thinking about sexual protection instead of simply lashing themselves in shame.  Bachmann should be ashamed of herself for scaring parents into not getting their daughters vaccinations, especially since at least some of the parents who opt out will be facing the very real pain and trauma of having a daughter who either has cancer or is rendered infertile from treatments to prevent bad cells from going that direction.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, when your myth-making is beyond even what Sean Hannity can handle edition.  Hannity has never met an outrageous claim about the evils of female sexuality that he doesn’t like, but the whole Gardasil will make you retarded thing caused him to ask questions.

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Of course, he didn’t grill her hard enough.  She even admits she’s not a doctor and doesn’t really know this.  And that’s because it’s not true.  But because it has to do with girls and sex, she’s completely willing to run around the country claiming that Gardasil will turn your little girl retarded.  I just can’t fathom how irresponsible you have to be to say something like that. 


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • trisarahtop

    When I heard that the interview this week was about female music geeks, I was so stoked. I am not nearly as big a geek for music as some of my friends, but I can more than hold my own at their monthly “record clubs,” where they stand around drinking beer and playing records and talking about records. Yes, it’s a total pissing contest, but there are always at least a few ladies in attendance. That’s why the actual interview really bothered me. Ms. Smith was really insistent that all women only care about feelings, and can’t be analytical. A woman who makes lists is less feminine than a woman who doesn’t care about them? As a woman who is analytical, I just found the whole interview to be awfully disrespectful to me and women like me.

     

    I also don’t understand how Ms. Smith is supposed to be someone young women should think of emulating, based on her story about going to the record store where she was consistently overcharged because she was a woman and wasn’t “cool enough.” Why would she keep supporting someone who’s disrespecting her? There were no other record stores in that town? Come on.

  • trisarahtop

    When I heard that the interview this week was about female music geeks, I was so stoked. I am not nearly as big a geek for music as some of my friends, but I can more than hold my own at their monthly “record clubs,” where they stand around drinking beer and playing records and talking about records. Yes, it’s a total pissing contest, but there are always at least a few ladies in attendance. That’s why the actual interview really bothered me. Ms. Smith was really insistent that all women only care about feelings, and can’t be analytical. A woman who makes lists is less feminine than a woman who doesn’t care about them? As a woman who is analytical, I just found the whole interview to be awfully disrespectful to me and women like me.

     

    I also don’t understand how Ms. Smith is supposed to be someone young women should think of emulating, based on her story about going to the record store where she was consistently overcharged because she was a woman and wasn’t “cool enough.” Why would she keep supporting someone who’s disrespecting her? There were no other record stores in that town? Come on.