Why You Should Care About Reproductive Rights

Just because a person is pro-birth control does not automatically mean that he or she is pro-abortion. I wish pro-lifers would get that through their heads. Some groups like the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and the Family Research Council are pushing for changes to the health reform bill that would make it harder for women to get birth control. The bill, as it now stands, provides women with birth control coverage as preventive care. Get it? It’s to prevent pregnancies and the fewer unintended pregnancies, the fewer abortions. Why isn’t everyone behind that?

But the Catholic Church and various right-wing pro-life groups insist that birth control is a “lifestyle” choice, and that women therefore do not have a right to it. That’s ludicrous. Couldn’t you say that any kind of medical or dental check-up or procedure is a lifestyle choice? After all, no one says that you have to have screenings for various cancers, but let’s face it, if you don’t and you end up with end-stage cancer, your health costs are going to be much higher than they would be if you had caught the cancer in its early stages.

The same goes for preventing pregnancy. Birth control coverage is a lot less expensive than the costs associated with pregnancy.  The average hospital bill is $5,000-$10,000 for a vaginal delivery. Add at least $2,000 if you need a C-section. These figures do not include the medical costs associated with nine months of prenatal visits, ultrasound costs and other lab costs. If your baby is born premature or with health problems, neonatal costs can range from a few thousand for a short stay to more than $200,000 if your baby is born more than 15 weeks early. And that’s not even taking into account the costs you incur after having the baby! [Source:  Cost of Having a Baby.]

One reason pro-lifers are against birth control is because some of them think that birth control causes “mini-abortions,”  (i.e., they cause fertilized eggs to be expelled from the uterus before implantation can take place). While that might be true of some forms of birth control, there are many other options that definitely do not. (It’s also important to note that this can happen naturally, causing what is known as “spontaneous abortions.”)

The National Women’s Health Information Center provides a fairly exhaustive list of birth control methods on their website. Some of the methods they list do not have abortive mechanisms, some of the methods they list do have abortive mechanisms, and the rest of the listed methods are subjects of much debate. [Source.]

The United States has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies of any other industrialized country. (Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. [Source.]) And that’s in a country where abortion is legal. It’s estimated that 4 in 10 unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. If those pregnancies were prevented in the first place, 1.2 million abortions a year would be eliminated. [Source.] So why is anyone in their right mind against birth control coverage in health care plans?

Obviously, if you’re one of the 4.8 million in the U.S. who doesn’t have any health care coverage at all, you’re going to find it even more difficult to pay for birth control. Is it any surprise then that 42% of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)?  And that 27% of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100-199% of the federal poverty level?

You don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-birth control. But if you don’t want to be in a position where you have to decide whether or not to have an abortion, then you need to care about your reproductive rights. Don’t let conservatives take away the only means that most women have to prevent pregnancy. (Abstinence is not an option for most women. Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. Of these women, 33% had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy, 32% had had concerns about contraceptive methods, 26% had had unexpected sex and 1% had been forced to have sex. [Source.])

Women can and should control their own fertility. We are the ones who have to be responsible. In a perfect world, men and women, conservatives and liberals, pro-lifers and pro-choicers would work together to make sure that every baby is not only wanted, but cared for. But until that day comes, we need to be aware of what is being done to erode our reproductive rights and to fight against it.

What About Population Control?

In the seventies, population control was a huge issue, but like many other hot topics this one has fallen by the wayside. For most people, that is. Not apparently for the man who held three people hostage at The Discovery Channel headquarters yesterday. James J. Lee, who was eventually shot and killed by police, was upset with The Discovery Channel because of the lack of environmental policy on its shows, not the least of which was “Kate Plus Eight” which he felt promoted population growth.

Lee took extreme measures (he even had explosives strapped to his body) to register his protest, but I couldn’t help but wonder when I read the news story where all the protestors about population growth have gone. There are millions more people on the earth than when the book The Population Bomb came out in 1968. (India alone has tripled its population since 1960 from 400 million to 1.2 billion today.) The author, Paul R. Erhlich, was mostly concerned with the world’s ability to feed its ever-increasing population, but since most developed countries have risen to that challenge, the furor over his predictions have died down.

Here in the United States, food supply is not a problem so we tend to overlook the billion people world-wide who go hungry every day. These days the problem is not so much production as it is access. In other words, the world’s population could be fed adequately if we could just get the food to the people who need it.

If the food supply is keeping up with the demand, why should we worry about population growth? I can think of two reasons why we should: 1) depletion of energy resources; and 2) global warming. The more people in the world, the more dire these problems will become. It’s hard to keep on providing enough energy when the number of people needing it is constantly increasing. (And it’s not only the number of people, but their changing lifestyles—like more cars when people’s ability to pay for them increases—that add to the problem.) As more energy is expended, the release of more and more carbons into the atmosphere will only continue to add to the collective problems under the umbrella of global warming.

Maybe we need a book like The Population Bomb for the new millenium. Too bad James J. Lee couldn’t have written one instead of trying to reduce the population by his own hand.

Continue reading “What About Population Control?”

Tuesday Tidbits

Whoops! Turns out Proposition 8 is going to be in effect for a little while longer. For more information, go to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. For more thoughts on the prospects for Proposition 8, or its ban, go here.

  • Teen sex doesn’t mean bad grades, says new study. Not all teens are just “hooking up.” Some are in committed relationships and that makes all the difference.
  • Open letter from a mama grizzly to Sarah Palin. Palin’s use of the term “mama grizzly” is like her use of the word “feminist.” She appropriates both as if all mamas and fems think like her. Not!
  • On August 2nd, HBO Documentaries aired a new film about abortion called 12th and Delaware. (See trailer here.)  So far no word on when it will be shown again, but I advise you to watch out for it. It sounds fascinating.

[The] documentary seeks to offer “a fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare” that happen on the intersection of Delaware Avenue and 12th Street, Fort Pierce, Florida, where Woman’s World Health Clinic, a privately owned abortion clinic, and an anti-abortion Pregnancy Care Center are situated across the road from each other.

Sarah Palin Is NOT a Feminist!

Let’s get something straight: a feminist is not someone who dictates what others should do with their lives. Sarah Palin and her ilk insist that they are feminists even though they would take away all women’s right to determine whether or not they will have children. The irony here is that these pseudo-feminists are also against the federal government sticking its nose into anyone’s business—unless of course that “anyone” is a woman who wants to have an abortion. Apparently it’s all right for government, state or federal, to decide categorically that some citizens do not have the same rights as others.

To make the distinction clear, we ought to change the terminology used by both sides of the abortion debate. Just because you’re against abortion doesn’t mean that you are the only ones who value life. (In fact, it’s amazing how often anti-abortionists are also for capital punishment and complacent about killing in war.)  And alternatively, just because you’re for choice doesn’t mean that you like abortion. It merely means that you uphold a woman’s right to make a choice about her own body.

I consider myself pro-choice and pro-life. I am not pro-abortion in the sense that I think abortion is the only answer for an unwanted pregnancy. But I am anti-force. People like Palin are pro-force.  They want to force women to have babies they can’t afford to have, whether the cost is financial, emotional or physical.

I have four daughters. When they asked, I told them about my own abortion. And then I told them that they should never get themselves in the position where they would have to make that decision. Because abortion is regrettable. It’s morally and ethically complicated. Whether a woman makes the decision lightly or anguishes over it for the rest of her life is something we can’t anticipate or regulate. Every woman had different reasons and reactions. It’s not for any one of us to say what they should believe or how they should act on their beliefs.

A woman who insists that you cannot ever have an abortion is no more a real feminist than one who insists that you have to get married or stay home with your children. And if we allow such women to call themselves feminists, real feminists will forfeit their right to represent all women.

Sarah Palin does not represent me or my beliefs. I don’t represent hers. But if she had her way, my views would be irrelevant. They would be sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and insensitivity.

The Deceitfulness of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Art by Ryan Inzana

Pro-lifers pride themselves on having the moral upper hand in the abortion debate, because, after all, they’re for preserving human life, not destroying it. However that doesn’t mean that they are above a little deceit and coercion. Take crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs. These faith-based organizations lure women into their centers with the promise that they will help them to resolve their pregnancy “issues.” But all they really do is steer these women away from getting abortions. They pretend that they are giving women “accurate information about abortion” when all they really do is lecture them about the “physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.” (Taken from the web site of Pregnancy Decision Health Centers.)

I’m not saying that any center, faith-based or not, should push a woman toward abortion. But in the interest of helping her to make the best decision for her,  a crisis pregnancy center should supply objective, accurate and judgment-free information about all her options: 1) abortion, 2) giving birth and keeping the baby, and 3) having the baby in order to give it up for adoption.

Notice my wording: “in order to give the baby up for adoption.” It seems it is not enough for some of these centers to get the woman to “choose life.” They are often heavily invested in providing babies for the purposes of adoption. Demand has begun to affect the supply and there aren’t enough newborn, healthy (and usually white) babies to go around. So they pressure pregnant women to help to increase the supply. That way they can kill two birds with one stone: avoid abortion and procure babies for adoption.

These centers  use various techniques to talk women into giving their babies up. They tell them that if they choose to keep their babies they’re being immature and selfish. They paint worst-case scenarios about single mothers: poverty, homelessness, despair. And the one I really like: they tell them that giving their babies up is one way to right the wrong they committed by becoming pregnant out of wedlock in the first place.

Many of these organizations provide room and board and pay medical expenses for a “birth mother.” And then, if she changes her mind about giving her baby up for adoption, they tell her that she has to pay them back for the support they gave her while she was pregnant.

They also may purposefully misrepresent the terms of the adoption: They tell the new mother that she has to make up her mind right away, when in reality she might have months to make her final decision. They assure her that the adoption is open (meaning that she will know the adoptive parents and will be provided information about her child as he or she grows up), when the truth is that the adoptive parents are going to spirit her baby away and she will never know what became of him or her.

I’m not saying that adoption is never a good option or that abortion always is. I’m not even saying that women shouldn’t be made aware of all the consequences of their actions: bad and good. But don’t pretend that you’re going to help the woman make an informed decision when you really have your own agenda. Don’t use tactics like shaming to get a desired result. And don’t advertise your services as all-inclusive when in fact you never intended to help a woman to get an abortion or to keep her baby.

Check out this excellent article from The Nation: “Shotgun Adoption” by Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

To sign a petition about truth-in-advertising for crisis pregnancy centers, go here.

Tuesday Tidbits

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

Modern-day Lysistrata? Kenyan women urged to withhold sex for a week to protest political infighting: CNN, BBC

Abortion doctor’s killer, Scott Roeder, receives life sentence including 50 years without parole: Yahoo News Also, possible effects of Roeder’s sentence: Salon Broadsheet

Portrait of Cambodian feminist Mu Sochua: New York Times

Critique of Daily Beast’s “Women in the World” summit that was held March 12-14 in New York City: AltMuslimah

Archdiocese of Baltimore sues city over crisis pregnancy center “truth-in-advertising” law: Feminist News

The Health Care Bill and women’s health: wins, losses and challenges: RH Reality Check

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