The GOP has decided that birth control and women’s sexual health is its (new? Well, not really) campaign playground. This is the go-to wedge issue for politicians who don’t have any good answers for the problems they should be working on: creating jobs, strengthening the infrastructure, fixing the tax crisis, lowering the national debt level, and, you know, maybe dealing with the U.S.’s completely ridiculous tendency to be a mega-interventionist asshole overseas. Among other things.
But there aren’t any easy solutions to these problems, and let’s face it: the national attention span is only going to hold for so long while conservative politicians scratch their heads and wag their jaws over the very real, but somewhat less sensational and emotional, issues. It seems increasingly difficult for the major news networks to sell stories that don’t involve one group making another group really freaking angry, which is where women’s health comes in.
Martha Plimpton, writing at Slate, has some excellent things to say about it:
But notice who is getting the most heat: women. Once again, amazingly, a culture war over women’s health, specifically, their sexual health, has been ignited. Without any serious economic argument against the provisions in the ACA, “matters of conscience” becomes the rallying cry. And women, as always, make the best target. It’s easier to lecture women on sexual morality than it is to explain why all Americans shouldn’t have comprehensive, fair, and equal health care coverage. And it’s easier to wage a campaign of dis-information about Planned Parenthood and the Girl Scouts than it is to bring jobs back to your state.
It’s long been accepted as fact that the availability of family planning services saves lives. Where women have access to these services, children and families are healthier, and society at large benefits. So the question becomes, what is it exactly about family planning that upsets so many conservatives?
She goes on to argue that rather than any coherent objections involving things like economics or science, the biggest problem that Republicans have with family planning is the notion of (hold on to your hat) responsibility. And more specifically, moral responsibility, and the consequences that follow when one doesn’t land under their definition of moral responsibility. In other words, how are young people going to know that having fun, pleasurable sexy-sextimes is bad if they don’t suffer for it afterwards?
It doesn’t even stop there, because it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re young. If you’re a woman, and you want to have sex outside the bounds of marriage and procreation, you are a slut who should be punished. And the most natural punishment? Being forced to carry an unwanted foetus for nine months and then birthing it in a facility that may have the right to deny you lifesaving health services if anything goes wrong because they have a “moral objection” to them.
This is the climate of the birth control debate right now, in the United States of America, in 2012. It makes me sick. And it’s overwhelming to write about. As a young woman who is hugely thankful to be on reliable birth control, the idea that these kinds of dangerous ideas are part of the national dialogue is terrifying. I’m not in a financial situation to raise a child. I’m not emotionally ready to raise a child. Nor is my adult, consensual partner.
You know what I am mature enough to do? Make decisions about my sexual life on my own, without politicians, religious leaders, or anyone else giving me the terms.
Below, I’ve laid out a very, very simple and, in my mind, logical chart loosely detailing the consequences of restricting birth control access. It doesn’t go into the health risks, in-depth economic consequences, or any of the ideologies that have been inspiring the tone of the national debate. All it’s meant to do is illustrate how, at its most basic level, this shouldn’t even be a debate.
Dear GOP: Which scenario do you prefer? Make sure you only invite men to talk it over. You know us females, with all our emotions and shit cluttering up the works.
||Access to affordable birth control is severely restricted across the board, but especially at and below the poverty level.
||Without birth control, women become dependent on unreliable factors outside of their immediate control to keep from becoming pregnant (the “rhythm method”, condoms [which don’t break often, but do break sometimes], dangerous back-alley abortions, etc).
||There is a rise in unwanted pregnancies – especially among youth, who are the least equipped to deal with them. These young women and men, forced to become providers for their families before they reach their maturity level and have had a chance to further their educations and start their careers, find themselves needing to rely more on state assistance than they previously would have, bringing the overall cost per child up.
||Access to affordable methods of birth control is increased across the board, but especially at and below the poverty level.
||With birth control, women and men have an increased ability to decide how and when to start families. They have the “power of timing”.
||There is a decrease in surprise or unwanted pregnancies, a decrease in abortion rates, and an increase in quality of life for those who do decide that they are emotionally and fiscally ready to raise children. It is not a stretch to surmise, then, that the cost in state assistance per child would also decrease.