As Gail Collins writes, in today's column "Behind the Abortion Wars," GOP leaders just can't seem to bring themselves to talk about contraception when they decry the evils of abortion.
This is important because it speaks to a disconnect in the entire debate we’ve been having about women and reproduction. For eons now, people have been wondering why the two sides can’t just join hands and agree to work together to reduce the number of abortions by expanding the availability of family-planning services and contraception.
The answer is that a large part of the anti-abortion community is also anti-contraception.
Over the past three decades, anti-choice activists have succeeded in pushing back the moment that life begins to the point of conception, and rally to defend the fertlized egg. What I don't understand is why anyone thinks they're likely to stop there.
Obviously the real problem in the minds of some social conservatives is not the rise in teen and unintended pregnancy per se but rather sex divorced from pregnancy itself. The pill, for example, allows sex without pregnancy, therefore the pill is similar to abortion, and therefore wrong.
As Gail Collins notes,
Many anti-abortion activists believe that human life and, therefore, pregnancy begin when the human egg is fertilized and that standard birth control pills cause abortions by keeping the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This isn’t the general theory on either count. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as beginning with the fertilized egg’s implantation. Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood says that the pills inhibit the production of eggs or stop the sperm before they reach their destination. “There is absolutely no direct evidence that there is interference with implantation,” she said.
Beyond the science, there’s the fact that many social conservatives are simply opposed to giving women the ability to have sex without the possibility of procreation.
And that's where they diverge from the vast majority of the American public (and why we never hear the full articulation of their radically anti-contraceptive views). As Sarah Brown (of the National Campaign to Reduce Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy said yesterday,
over 70 percent approve of making it easier for people at all income levels to obtain contraception. And, in fact, 90 percent of evangelical Christians have no objection to hormonal methods of contraception. Even many members -- over 90 percent of the board of the National Association of Evangelicals approve of contraception. So, unfortunately, the sort of sweet spot of being pro-life and pro-family planning has not been carefully articulated. Planned Parenthood is indeed an abortion provider, but their own numbers say that that's about 3 percent of what they do.
For radical social conservatives, the only valid kind of sexual experience is the kind that leads to pregnancy. But there are lots of kinds of sexual experiences that don't lead to pregnancy.
I'd say it's beyond time for a clear label for the conservative GOP position. They call it "pro-life" and we call it "anti-choice" but I think it's more complex than that.
I suggest pro-"Pregnancy-Inducing Sex" or perhaps (since the outcome is not always certain) "Potentially Pregnancy-Inducing Sex" (PPIS).
To achieve the PPIS utopia, the methods are therefore clear, and can be summarized as "Ban Sexual Experiences That Are Disconnected From Potentially Pregnancy-Inducing Sex."
Calling it the pro-PPIS position helps makes the social conservative take on lots of issues so much clearer.
--Opposition to Gay Sex
--Opposition to Masturbation
--Opposition to Contraception
--Support for Abstinence-Only Education
Calling it the pro-PPIS position explains why the conservative wing of the GOP advocates abstinence-only education for teens, despite overwhelming evidence that abstinence just doesn't stop everyone from having sex, and even makes abstainers more vulnerable to negative consequences when they do have sex.
But there are even larger implications of the pro-PPIS position. What about married couples who do not adhere to the pro-PPIS position: infertile couples, older couples, couples with a breast-feeding infant.
Must everyone who's not able to get pregnant stop have having sex?
And how to enforce this?
I ask this (only partly tongue-in-cheek) because it seems to me that the invasion of privacy is only beginning. The attack on Planned Parenthood is the first assault in the conservative GOP war on the privacy of people's sexual lives.
Frankly, I'd like to see the GOP be forced to own their true rationale for opposing Planned Parenthood's contraceptive services.Updated by political junquie at Thu Apr 14, 2011 at 07:55 AM PDT
"I Have Sex" video, per means to an end in the comments: