America's War On Sex

Marty Klein

Part 3

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Why everyone? everyone? After all, if you think abortion is horrible, don't get one. If you think an intrauterine device (IUD) dehumanizes you, don't use one. After all, if you think abortion is horrible, don't get one. If you think an intrauterine device (IUD) dehumanizes you, don't use one.

While many Americans believe that whatever two adults do privately is their own private affair, many others disagree. For them, s.e.x is either authorized or unauthorized. And s.e.x is authorized only between legally married heteros.e.xual couples, generally limited to p.e.n.i.s-v.a.g.i.n.a intercourse. The only legitimate reasons for this s.e.x are reproduction and, according to some clergy these days, strengthening the bond of holy matrimony.3 This means that most Americans are having unauthorized s.e.x. Put another way, most of the s.e.x people have in America is unauthorized, including most religious conservatives.4 Those who war on contraception and abortion don't just want to discourage everyone from having unauthorized s.e.x. They want to prevent it, or at least make it as difficult as possible. They may call themselves pro-life, but they're really antichoice. Anti your your choice. choice.

Why do these people want all unauthorized s.e.x to stop?

They feel it pollutes their world. Obsessed by unauthorized s.e.x, they feel it degrades everyone, even those not partic.i.p.ating in it. They don't seem to have the psychological tools to ignore what others do behind closed doors.

Because they are attempting to adhere to a very strict s.e.xual standard, temptation appears everywhere. Understandably, they fear their own (generally rather ordinary) s.e.xual impulses, which they project onto others. Fearing their own s.e.xual decision-making, they mistrust others'. They even talk about "slippery slopes"-that if you think you can "get away" with, say, premarital or extramarital s.e.x, there's no limit to what else you'll do, imagining s.e.x with minors, group s.e.x, even b.e.s.t.i.a.lity as the logical conclusion of unmarried people using condoms.

Ultimately, they characterize s.e.xuality as dirty, and therefore incompatible with spirituality, which they claim is what drives them-and legitimizes their attack on your rights.

American government at the national, state, and local levels has created public policy to discourage unauthorized s.e.x and minimize contraceptive use.

This itself is a breathtakingly radical development. The policy isn't quite perfectly sealed yet: you can still buy condoms in Safeway (although Safeway can't Battleground: Reproductive Rights 31 Reproductive Rights 31 freely advertise them); most single Americans do have s.e.x (although getting birth control pills and EC is becoming harder); and abortion is still legal for some some people people some some of the time (if you aren't a teenager, are less than 18 weeks pregnant, can travel several times, and if you can find and afford a provider). of the time (if you aren't a teenager, are less than 18 weeks pregnant, can travel several times, and if you can find and afford a provider).

But these current parameters aren't the point.

The point is that your government has decided to care about what you do s.e.xually. Again. This time it isn't what you do with your eyes, mouth, or imagination, it's what you do with your genitalia. Our government cares about what you do with your genitalia way more than it cares what you do with your arms or legs. And they aren't even honest about the reasons.

FEMALE EMPOWERMENT.

There's another reason some people want to limit or eliminate access to contraception and abortion: it enables women to transcend the limited role of mother, which studies from around the world show is the gateway to more financial and psychological independence.5 Reproductive knowledge and practice has always been part of female folk culture. Birth control techniques were practiced in virtually all societies, including herbal potions, ritual infanticide, abortion, magic, withdrawal, v.a.g.i.n.al inserts, douches, and cervical caps.

The nineteenth-century bans against abortion and contraception were partly introduced to eliminate midwives, seen as compet.i.tion by increasingly professionalizing doctors, and to undermine women's emerging reproductive control. And America's industrialization and westward expan-sion led government and religious groups to desire population growth. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt attacked birth control and the new trend towards smaller families as decadent, a sign of moral disease-and a dangerous response to the huge influx of immigrants who were "weakening" America's gene pool.

The new contraceptive technologies of the mid-late twentieth century were seen as particularly progressive because they could potentially sever the link between s.e.xuality and reproduction. Shulamith Firestone emphasized this would free women from the "tyranny of reproduction," which dictated women's oppression.6 These technical advances were opposed by conservative and religious forces on so-called moral grounds. But their hypocrisy was exposed a few years later.

Whereas abortion and contraception challenged challenged the traditional equation of femininity and motherhood, new fertility technologies helped the traditional equation of femininity and motherhood, new fertility technologies helped fulfill fulfill the traditional female role-and were therefore approved by most Christians. Artificial ways of the traditional female role-and were therefore approved by most Christians. Artificial ways of enabling enabling reproduction were OK, whereas artificial ways of reproduction were OK, whereas artificial ways of preventing preventing it were not.7 it were not.7 As one book put it, "The use of birth control requires a [social] morality that permits the separation of s.e.xual intercourse from procreation, and is 32 32 related to the extent to which women are valued for roles other than wife and mother."8 But only a few years after the Pil and Roe v. Wade Roe v. Wade, it was no longer just contraception that disrupted the natural connection between mother and conception or fetus, it was the new kinds of artificial y aided fertility, with human eggs and embryos moving in and out of a woman's body, or even from one woman's body to another. Sperm was being geographical y manipulated as wel .

In 1984, the British government debated regulating reproductive technologies, including restricting techniques such as in vitro fertilization, egg donation, embryo donation, and artificial insemination, to stable, cohabiting heteros.e.xual couples. Such restrictions look quaint today, but they were an attempt to deal with the same question America struggles with today: who will have access to any new technology, and under what circ.u.mstances?9 Some attempt to frame this as a moral or spiritual or health question, but it isn't. It's a political political question. Perhaps this is more easily seen if the question is posed as, "Who shall be allowed to access the Internet in North Korea?" Or, question. Perhaps this is more easily seen if the question is posed as, "Who shall be allowed to access the Internet in North Korea?" Or, "Who shall be allowed to drive a car in Saudi Arabia?"

SEVERAL STRATEGIES.

The war on reproductive rights is carried out in several ways at once. The strategies are: 1. Increasing the unwanted consequences of unauthorized s.e.x.

2. Decreasing the motivation for using some or all kinds of contraception and abortion.

3. Limiting access to contraceptive and abortion equipment, technology, and information.

The churches, civic groups, and government agencies who promulgate these policies and restrict our choices uniformly claim that they care primarily about the disadvantages of various contraceptive/abortion technologies, and the personal consequences of their use. And these days, some believe that abortion is morally wrong.

But this is disingenuous. None of the disastrous results they say they're trying to protect us from are actual y supported by science. For example, the idea that abortion leads to depression, infertility, and breast cancer, or that premarital s.e.x leads to depression and suicide, are simply untrue. Scary, but not true. not true.

Besides, don't Americans deserve the chance to evaluate the costs and benefits of their own choices-and aren't we used to doing so? For example, some people think flying is dangerous, and so they don't, while others think its benefits make flying an acceptable risk. The same is true with driving on New Year's Eve, smoking cigarettes, getting a facelift, and enlisting in the Marines.

Here's how your reproductive rights are being successfully successfully challenged: challenged: Battleground: Reproductive Rights 33 Reproductive Rights 33 INCREASING THE UNWANTED.

CONSEQUENCES OF UNAUTHORIZED s.e.x.

Those who war on s.e.x depend on a simplistic hypothesis proven wrong repeatedly throughout history, that if you increase the possible dangers of s.e.xual expression, people wil stop having s.e.x. This shows such a dramatic lack of insight into their fel ow creatures, one could be forgiven for imagining they had never met another human. Fear of AIDS has not prevented Africans from having s.e.x, the risk of capital punishment has not prevented Iranian gays from having s.e.x, and the possibility of unwanted pregnancy has not prevented mil ions of American teens from having s.e.x.

And yet the fear (no statistics, just fear) of your "promiscuity" is routinely cited as justification for public policy: The belief that giving teenagers access to contraception will reduce their fear of pregnancy and STDs enough so that they'll begin to have s.e.x, or choose to have more s.e.x. The same is true about ending condom distribution in American prisons-as if fear of STDs actually stops some incarcerated men from connecting with or brutalizing others.

Or that a reduced fear of STDs would entice some inmates to start having male-male s.e.x they otherwise wouldn't.

This was the idea the government and Christian conservatives trotted out in attempting to restrict your access to EC (the "morning after pil " or Plan B).

They said they feared that the drug would lower the risks of s.e.x, thereby encouraging you to have more s.e.x with more partners. In December 2003, Dr. David Hager, one of the four Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee members who voted against Plan B approval for over-the-counter (OTC) sale, said, "What we heard today was frequently about individuals who did not want to take responsibility for their actions and wanted a medication to relieve those consequences."10 Discouraging such behavior is a function of the family (and church), not not the government. Besides, studies show that access to the drug does the government. Besides, studies show that access to the drug does not not increase contraceptive risk-taking.11 Unfortunately, this increase contraceptive risk-taking.11 Unfortunately, this fact fact (and very positive safety data) has not influenced the antis.e.x movement's desire to discourage access to and use of the drug (for details about the government's campaign against Plan B, see below). (and very positive safety data) has not influenced the antis.e.x movement's desire to discourage access to and use of the drug (for details about the government's campaign against Plan B, see below).

The latest twist in this irrational saga is the development of a vaccine that can prevent prevent HPV-the Right's favorite STD, because it can lead to cervical cancer ("see, s.e.x kills!"). To be effective, the vaccine must be administered HPV-the Right's favorite STD, because it can lead to cervical cancer ("see, s.e.x kills!"). To be effective, the vaccine must be administered before before a girl becomes s.e.xually active. Remember, the Right is always pointing to HPV/cervical cancer as a tragedy people should avoid by abstaining from unauthorized s.e.x.12 Then it attacks this medical marvel by claiming, without any data whatsoever, that the vaccine will increase promiscuity by reducing the possible consequences of s.e.x. ("That's OK, Kevin, I'm vaccinated so I can't get HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. Come on inside me!") Thus, they're against a girl becomes s.e.xually active. Remember, the Right is always pointing to HPV/cervical cancer as a tragedy people should avoid by abstaining from unauthorized s.e.x.12 Then it attacks this medical marvel by claiming, without any data whatsoever, that the vaccine will increase promiscuity by reducing the possible consequences of s.e.x. ("That's OK, Kevin, I'm vaccinated so I can't get HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. Come on inside me!") Thus, they're against anyone anyone using it.13 using it.13 34.Their alternate strategy for unmarried women to avoid getting HPV when they have s.e.x? Unmarried women shouldn't have s.e.x. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher, of the Family Research Council.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital s.e.x."14 This clearly il ustrates that they are far less interested in supporting people's health than they are in control ing others' s.e.xual behavior. They have the right to want this, of course, but their intel ectual dishonesty about it is spectacular.

DECREASING THE MOTIVATION FOR.

USING CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION.

Although reliable contraception is a modern marvel, waging war on s.e.x requires undermining people's motivation for using these products and procedures.

Contraceptive information is, of course, systematically withheld from s.e.x education in most American schools-often by legal requirement. Any young person who develops the habit of using contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy will have to do so in spite of what he or she learns in school. (For more information, see chapter 2.) Antis.e.x forces lie about the effectiveness of condoms. After years of urging condom use to prevent HIV, the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Web site suddenly doubted their efficacy until criticism forced this down in 2005.

That same year, physician Senator Bill Frist equivocated on national television about condoms' value in protecting users from HIV. A few months later, after he backed away from that, the FDA proposed requiring labels on condom packages that warn that they are probably less effective against certain STDs, including herpes and HPV, than others.15 President Bush had been lobbying for such condom labeling for years.16 It isn't only the American government that is willing to lie about condoms to discourage their use. For years, James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Jan LaRue (Concerned Women for America), and many others have been talking about how condoms don't protect people very well. In 2003, the Vatican stirred international controversy with its false claim that the HIV virus can pa.s.s through condoms, and request that governments "act accordingly."17 The "effects" of contraception and abortion have been lied about so often that the lies have acquired the patina of accepted fact. The most common lies are: * contraception and abortion encourage promiscuity in young people; * abortion leads to physical problems such as infertility and breast cancer (in Mississippi, those requesting an abortion are required to undergo "counseling," which must must include the warning that abortion may lead to breast cancer. Both the National Cancer Inst.i.tute and include the warning that abortion may lead to breast cancer. Both the National Cancer Inst.i.tute and Lancet Lancet medical journal refuted this in 2004.); medical journal refuted this in 2004.); * abortion leads to mental problems such as depression or suicide; * RU486 leads to infertility.18 Battleground: Reproductive Rights 35 Reproductive Rights 35 No one has pro- duced any scientific THE POPE ON AIDS.

evidence that these are The Catholic Church's continuing stance against true. But antis.e.x con-condoms as being somehow "immoral" extends to its servatives obviously opposition to using them to prevent AIDS. In Janu-don't trust the faith ary 2005, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed church teach-of their flock enough ing urging abstinence and marital fidelity to stop the to give them access to spread of AIDS and forbidding condoms. As Nicholas medical and scientific Kristof commented, "The worst s.e.x scandal in the Cath-truth about contracep- olic Church doesn't involve predatory priests. Rather, tion and abortion.

it involves the Vatican's hostility to condoms, which is The Right attempts creating more AIDS orphans every day. The Vatican's to discourage people ban on condoms has cost many hundreds of thousands from using abortion of lives from AIDS. Historians . . . wil count its anti-by making the process condom campaign as among its most tragic mistakes so difficult or repulsive in the first two mil ennia of its history."a that many women just give up. Increasingly, aNicholas D. Kristoff, "The Pope and AIDS, The New York The New York individual states are individual states are Times, May 8, 2005, http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/ May 8, 2005, http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/ using techniques such article?res=F10A14FD3E540C7B8CDDAC0894DD404482.

as mandatory waiting periods, forced exposure to photos or ultrasounds, and mandatory, propaganda-filled lectures.

Thirty-two states require require that women receive scripted "counseling" before receiving an abortion, something not required prior to far more dangerous procedures such as plastic surgery or heart bypa.s.s surgery. In 2004, South Dakota pa.s.sed a bil requiring that a woman be informed that abortion "wil terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Three states require disclosure of a supposed link between abortion and breast cancer. Three others require information on possible psychological impacts of abortion. In 2005, three states introduced bil s that would require patients to view ultrasounds of their fetus, or "unborn child," as South Dakota wants to require.19 that women receive scripted "counseling" before receiving an abortion, something not required prior to far more dangerous procedures such as plastic surgery or heart bypa.s.s surgery. In 2004, South Dakota pa.s.sed a bil requiring that a woman be informed that abortion "wil terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Three states require disclosure of a supposed link between abortion and breast cancer. Three others require information on possible psychological impacts of abortion. In 2005, three states introduced bil s that would require patients to view ultrasounds of their fetus, or "unborn child," as South Dakota wants to require.19 Twenty-four states currently require require a waiting period (usually 24 hours) between counseling and abortion, with bills pending in 10 other states. This ne-cessitates two separate trips to a clinic, an enormous burden for poor women or those responsible for children-especially in states where women have to travel hundreds of miles to get to an abortion provider. a waiting period (usually 24 hours) between counseling and abortion, with bills pending in 10 other states. This ne-cessitates two separate trips to a clinic, an enormous burden for poor women or those responsible for children-especially in states where women have to travel hundreds of miles to get to an abortion provider.

Three states now require women be told that the fetus may feel pain during abortion, and they must be offered anesthesia provided directly to the fetus. In 2005, 15 more states introduced requirements that informed consent materials must include the claim that the fetus can feel pain. Bills were introduced in Colorado and West Virginia that would require require fetal anesthesia fetal anesthesia regardless regardless of a patient's consent or additional risk.20 of a patient's consent or additional risk.20 36.Eleven states sel "Choose Life" government-issued license plates.21 In addition to sponsoring this religious propaganda, those states then give the government-col ected fees to antiabortion pregnancy crisis centers. In fact, states introduced two dozen bil s in 2005 to support these centers. Terrified pregnant women, often young, alone, poor, arrive there and are promised comprehensive information and choices. But they never never learn their ful range of options, and learn their ful range of options, and never never learn the truth about the safety and efficacy of early abortion. learn the truth about the safety and efficacy of early abortion.

Kansas, for example, now provides grants to organizations that encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term, and prohibits grants to groups that provide abortion. Minnesota just appropriated $5,000,000 to encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term.22 DECREASING THE OPTIONS FOR.

CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION.

Given how clumsy and ineffective our government is in pursuing many of its goals, it has a.s.sembled an impressive array of methods to deliberately decrease our contraceptive options.

For starters, the federal and state governments are committed to reducing access to contraception, abortion, and sterilization for anyone under their legal or financial supervision. Women in prison who want legal abortions face tremendous obstacles which are not supposed to exist. Medicaid and Medi-Cal funding for contraception, abortion, and sterilization have been drastical y cut. Those on welfare-for whom unwanted pregnancy real y can be a matter of life and death- are in terrible trouble. And in 2004, Congress pa.s.sed a bil denying federal funds to women in the military seeking abortions even in the case of rape or incest. even in the case of rape or incest. 23 23 In 2005, 52 state measures were enacted that restrict access to reproductive health care.24 Early in 2006, South Dakota made it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The law was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade; Roe v. Wade; its sponsors want to force a reexamination of abortion law by the Supreme Court. According to Republican sponsor Rep. Roger Hunt, lawmakers defeated exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the woman to maximize the law's impact on the national scene (rather than because it was best for the pregnant women of South Dakota).25 its sponsors want to force a reexamination of abortion law by the Supreme Court. According to Republican sponsor Rep. Roger Hunt, lawmakers defeated exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the woman to maximize the law's impact on the national scene (rather than because it was best for the pregnant women of South Dakota).25 And in a dramatic restriction of contraceptive availability, Kansas has now made s.e.x between teenagers more dangerous than ever. Attorney General Phill Kline now demands that doctors, nurses, counselors, and all other care providers report, as abuse, any any s.e.xual interaction between teens under 16, even when it's consenting and there's neither injury nor complaint. He claims this is to discourage and punish child abuse, but providers are already mandated to report s.e.xual interaction between teens under 16, even when it's consenting and there's neither injury nor complaint. He claims this is to discourage and punish child abuse, but providers are already mandated to report abuse. abuse. He admits he periodically gets these reports from physicians and others, but, "I do not get them from the abortion clinics."26 So that's his goal-to continue hara.s.sing abortion providers.27 He admits he periodically gets these reports from physicians and others, but, "I do not get them from the abortion clinics."26 So that's his goal-to continue hara.s.sing abortion providers.27 Battleground: Reproductive Rights 37 Reproductive Rights 37 In the process he has made it even less likely that teens will request contraception, STD and HIV testing, or simple information about s.e.xual function and health. Quite a repulsive legacy for someone who claims to care about young people. This is a typical example of how the Religious Right's ideology of "protecting life" actually undermines it.

EXILING EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION.

Wouldn't it be great to have a product that could minimize one of the worst heritages of rape and incest; help prevent families from self-destruct-ing; give foolish or unfortunate young people a second chance at a mature, responsible future; and in general, reduce the problematic consequences of s.e.xual intercourse?

There is such a product: emergency contraception (EC). Essentially a high dose of conventional birth control pills, it has been available in Europe and the United States for decades. It prevents pregnancy for up to 72 hours after intercourse. That's the window-72 hours. The common side effects are uncomfortable, but nothing out of any woman's ordinary experience, and certainly absolutely nothing compared to an unwanted pregnancy.

First, the government was pressured against making it available here.

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Then it was approved, but only for prescription use. Obviously, though, a person needing it needs it immediately. So it must be available OTC and kept on hand. Although there's absolutely no rational reason it shouldn't be, a few key government officials and religious leaders have successfully prevented all of America from having this access.

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