World Contraception Day Comes and Goes

Today was World Contraception Day. Sponsored by organizations from most parts of the globe, its goal is straightforward: to create a world in which every pregnancy is wanted.

So simple. So life-affirming and life-enhancing. Such a dramatic, proven program for reducing poverty and domestic violence. Who could be against such a thing?

Unfortunately, way too many people:

* Religious adherents who think their god is against it;
* People who don’t want women to have more power in their relationships, families, and lives;
* People who see children as a source of family labor or national wealth;
* People so obsessed with abortion that contraception has become controversial;
* And some American presidential hopefuls.

That’s right: some Americans are actually considering whether to elect a President who opposes contraception. Kinda makes you yearn for the progressive days of, say, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Yes, familiar names who are against reproductive rights aren’t just against abortion. They’re against birth control. One example is Michelle Bachmann, who recently trashed Obama’s health-insurance bill by referring to “contraception and the so-called morning-after pill, which some researchers say are abortion-inducing drugs.”

“Some researchers say” is a handy rhetorical device that allows a speaker to lie without having to take any responsibility. Concluded Bachmann, so “people who have a moral issue about supporting abortion and paying for other people’s abortions will be forced to do so…”

Presidential hopeful Rick Perry one-upped Bachmann’s rhetoric with his recent actions as Governor. Together with the Texas legislature, he cut funding for family planning clinics by two-thirds. Asked if this was part of a “war on birth control,” state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches) said “Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything—that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.”

Civic groups, decency groups, religious groups, and just plain screwball groups are all out there, fighting against contraception—again, not abortion, contraception. One well-funded organization is the American Life League, which supports state legislatures in criminalizing birth control pills.

The believe that “separating lovemaking from procreation” leads to a couple’s, and a nation’s, death. A recent honored speaker repeatedly made the bizarre claim that “Contraception feeds the abortion industry.”

Websites like thepillkills proudly distribute lies about the effects of various forms of contraception. With a public whose scientific literacy is in tatters, readers of such sites are easily misled and inflamed. For them, the tea party awaits to channel their anger, fear, and alienation.

Fundamentalist religious groups have been challenging the scientific advances of contraception for a century. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, and evangelical Protestants use eerily similar words to describe their opposition to family planning for not only themselves, but for all members of their tribe—and yours. It’s one more way in which fundamentalists of various religions are more like each other than they are like the moderates of their own faith.

In America, the massively destructive expansion of homeschooling has been a godsend to evangelicals, whose children are virtually untouched by secular culture. Sexuality, gender roles, and the Satanic intentions of contraception are central issues to sects like Quiverfull or the United Apostolic Brethren, whose adherents routinely have 10 children per family. Only last month such a fundamentalist couple with 9 kids spanked their 7-year-old to death, persuaded they were divinely instructed.

The choice to bear a child is without question the single most dramatic action most humans ever take. To believe that humans should take no responsibility for this “decision” is reprehensible and immoral, whether the belief comes from interpreting the Bible or channeling Napoleon. There’s nothing quite so disgustingly disingenuous as a Catholic or other pious couple claiming their “religion” forbids contraception—while they tolerate divorce, premarital sex, or women working outside the home. How convenient to treat religious dogma as a bunch of suggestions on Monday, and rigid guidelines on Tuesday.

Of course, if religious people taught their children to masturbate, and supported each couple in enjoying various forms of non-fertile sexual expression, their impact on society would be less damaging. Instead, people who oppose contraception refuse to teach their kids about it—who predictably still have sex like their peers, but without doing it safely. Why anti-contraception parents can’t see that they’re increasing their kids’ chances of unplanned pregnancy is a mystery for the ages.

While hosting his 1960s quiz show, Groucho Marx famously interviewed a woman with a dozen kids. “That’s a lot of children,” he said. “Well, my husband and I love each other very much,” replied the woman.

“I love my cigar, too,” said Groucho. “But periodically I take it out.”

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