Preachers’ Daughters, Family Physicians, and Generation Roe


Obama addresses Planned Parenthood

Don’t stop training family doctors on birth control!

Pat Roberston compares birth control clinics to the Holocaust

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing the author of a new book called Generation Roe. There’s a chance that family physicians will stop getting proper training in contraception in some programs, and a Lifetime reality show demonstrates the dangers facing girls with virginity-obsessed parents.

President Obama addressed Planned Parenthood in a charming 12 minute speech at their national conference. Here’s a tiny bit for a taster:

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He assured the crowd that even though right wing attacks on Planned Parenthood have escalated, he will do his best to defend the organization and its work.

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While most of the focus in the reproductive health debates is on specialists such as gynecologists and particularly family planning clinics and abortion clinics, there’s a huge swath of American women that actually get much of their reproductive health care from another source: Family practitioners. Unfortunately, while the demand for contraception care from these kind of general doctors hasn’t gone away, there might be a decline in the availability of well-trained family doctors who know how to prescribe contraception correctly, because the American Academy of Family Physicians is considering removing a requirement from their training standards requiring students to learn how to prescribe contraception. NPR did a report.

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Getting that training into the program was a big victory for women’s health and now there’s a lot of concerns that it might be going away, much to the dismay of women’s health advocates who fear that it’s already hard enough for women to get the reproductive health care they need under the current circumstances. Because of the political ugliness as of late, it’s tempting to assume that the Academy is cracking under anti-choice pressure, but as far as I can tell, that’s really not the case. It’s more a mundane attempt to make things a little easier, in no small part because the doctors they’re training are so badly needed and anything that’s perceived as an obstacle to getting more doctors certified is being considered for the chopping block.

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So nothing sinister going on here. One group we can largely rely on to be supportive of contraception and abortion care is people running this medical association or that, because outside of the ideologically right wing ones, most of them are focused on what’s best for patients and what the science says. And in both cases, the answer is more and better access to the tools to control their fertility. Indeed, if it were just a matter of patient care and science, then loosening these restrictions up would be no big deal, because training programs would offer them as a matter of course. Unfortunately, in the real world, right wing politics and religious fundamentalism keep getting involved.

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This is where the sinister stuff comes in! As NPR reports, 11 out of 25 of the largest health systems in the U.S. are Catholic-run, and I’m guessing they’re going to be happy to cut contraception training wherever they can. The only thing keeping them from doing that is the training requirements. If this weren’t a nasty, politicized issue, I would have no problem with the Academy streamlining and minimizing their requirements, since getting more good doctors out the door and into communities is a priority. But the anti-choice pressure on the health system level makes that not a good idea. The comment session is closed now, but hopefully, the American Academy of Family Physicians will do the right thing and keep these requirements.

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Insert interview

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I was only recently alerted to the existence of a new reality TV series on Lifetime called “Preachers’ Daughters”, a show that follows around three families of evangelical preachers and how their obsession with controlling female sexuality harms their daughters specifically. I watched the most recent episode, the 7th of the series, and even though you may know intellectually how much fundamentalist Christianity teaches that women are the property of their fathers until they’re transferred into the hands of their husbands, their new owners, it’s still hard to hear men express those attitudes so easily. Like Mark, the father of Olivia, who is upset because his 18-year-old daughter Olivia wants to—gasp!—go hang out with her older sister in Los Angeles for a weekend.

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Olivia got pregnant as a teenager, which is no big surprise when you grow up in a culture that shames you so much about your sexuality that it makes actually planning for sex and using contraception nearly impossible. Instead of letting his daughter’s sad story cause anything like introspection, however, Mark simply characterizes it as a betrayal, as if Olivia’s body belongs to him and, by having sex, she took away something that was his. Now it seems she walks around having to live as some kind of embodiment of female sinfulness, instead of as a full human being who deserved better than to be stuck at age 18 with very little idea of what to do with herself.

Olivia’s rebellious urges are somewhat buried under her still-lingering senses that she somehow owes her father something. Another girl, Taylor, seems to be waking up to how unfairly her parents treat her. It starts when her parents discover photos on Facebook where she was mugging for the camera. It’s all very adolescent and innocent, but because she’s trying to look a little sexy, they flip out and decide to punish her by making her go through “purity” classes again.

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Taylor is only 16, but she’s starting to see how ridiculous all this is. Upon hearing that her virginity pledge is supposed to make not just her vagina her father’s property, but her lips as well, she freaks out and starts to complain, correctly, that this is all completely ridiculous. At 16, it’s easy enough to say you’re not going to have sex, but being told you can’t kiss and hug boys at all really drives home how unfair and ridiculous this is.

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The show makes it really clear what’s going on here: The parents are exploiting their children’s dependence on them and love for them to extract promises that the girls will eventually break. And should break, because their parents are wrong to demand ownership over the girls’ sexualities. But when it’s your parents, it’s really hard to handle how incredibly unfair they are being to you. It’s nearly impossible, in fact, to face up to the fact that they are using your love for them as leverage to try to control you, and to make you feel guilty when you invariably decide to have sex on your own schedule instead of the one they wrote for you. Taylor is still young, but she’s already seeing serious flaws in what her father demands of her.

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It’s a shame she’s made to feel badly, when this situation is 100% her father’s fault for trying to exert control over what does not belong to him, which is his daughter’s life and daughter’s body. That’s what I kept thinking, over and over again, watching this show: How unnecessary all this is. None of this strife between parents and daughters is necessary, if the parents let go of the illusion that they are the owners of their daughters’ bodies.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Pat Robertson telling crazy lies again edition. This time, he told this whopper about Margaret Sanger:

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The only thing that Planned Parenthood in it early days had in common with the Nazis is that neither of them supported abortion rights, but that’s not what I suspect Pat Robertson is getting at. Obviously, Sanger’s organization came around on the abortion issue, but in the early days, they opposed abortion. Robertson isn’t even making the usual facetious comparison of abortion and genocide. He’s actually comparing contraception and genocide. Because yes, they’re out to get your birth control.

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