The Secret Conspiracy Of The Pill Killers
Unfortunately, some far-out conspiracy theories are true.
It is really rare that I see something by a mainstream media columnist on reproductive choice that I agree with paragraph-for-paragraph. Usually there’s some kind of handwringing or rhetorical bone to the other side. Of course, that may have something to do with most mainstream opinion journos being men, or with the absence of real progressive voices (as opposed to mushy-middle Democrats) from the discourse. Gail Collins wrote something that had me nodding along all the way. She said:
Senator Patty Murray, one of the leaders of the defense of Planned Parenthood in the Senate, says that she doesn’t remember any of the lawmakers who wanted to strip Planned Parenthood’s funds mentioning that they supported contraception services. “They just lump everything into one big basket with the word ‘abortion,’ ” she said.
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.
This is one of many grafs that made me think, “well, someone finally said it where people can hear it!” In the feminist blogosphere, folks have been saying forever (and probably Amanda Marcotte and the folks at RH Reality Check earlier and louder than others – one example among many here) that the real target has always been the pill. But all of us together have a limited audience — now that someone with Collins’s stature has said it, douchenozzles like Will Saletan might have to actually come to grips with it.
This is one of those areas where the real anti-democratic, authoritarian edge of movement conservatism is most exposed. Collins cites the recent figures from Guttmacher: 99% of American women, and 98% of religious Catholic women in the US, use contraception other than natural family planning. Religious organizations that oppose hormonal contraception have just flat lost this battle on the ground, as there is miniscule popular support for restricting contraception. But our government does all kinds of things for which there is no popular support, like create massive loopholes that allow the wealthiest individuals and corporations to avoid paying their taxes. Having lost the battle on the ground, a small group of powerful and well-funded hard-core reactionaries want the government to help roll back the social changes brought about by the pill, and they want to do it while lying about what they’re doing — like Boehner’s bullshit dissembling about Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare and like Jon Kyl lying about what Planned Parenthood does (which is how Collins opens her column).
The best thing that could happen at this point in the discourse if for the secret agenda to get talked about. If we had a functioning media, reporters would start pressing the anti-abortion lobby for positions on contraception, since only a few of them are up-front about their opposition. Collins quotes a few:
“The fact is that 95 percent of the contraceptives on the market kill the baby in the womb,” said Jim Sedlak of the American Life League.
“Fertility and babies are not diseases,” said Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, which has been fighting against requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives under the new health care law.
But most refuse to make their position clear, using the lie (it’s a complete fabrication, as Collins makes pretty clear) that the pill thwarts implantation of fertilized eggs as an elastic clause to stretch abortion to cover the most common contraception while not coming right out and saying they want the pill to be illegal.
Yes, Virginia, there really is a group of far-right radicals who want to turn the clock back to a time when there was no effective technology to decouple intercourse from pregnancy and disease. Collins is almost uniquely blunt among mainstream columnists in that she came right out and said it: “[b]eyond 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.”
Justice Brandeis said “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” There is an infection in our body politic that wants to impose an essentially religious mandate on the healthcare technology that almost every woman uses during her life. They can’t advocate that in the open; it’s about as popular as being against mom and apple pie. So they are trying to do it in secret.
I’ll end with this, for any opinion journalists reading: you need to come to understand that this is why there are no obvious compromises, and it’s because the other side rejects them. You need to start out by saying that, for the anti-abortion folks, the price of admission to the adult conversation has to be agreeing that contraception is a great way to prevent abortion. The only people who don’t agree with that are those who want to roll back the clock to a time when biology was destiny.