June 7 is the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Griswold vs. Connecticut, which granted women the right to privacy in all sexual matters. For many, this was a celebration. Women were allowed to obtain contraceptives, most notably “the pill,” without government interference. Planned Parenthood values the day as a time of celebration, sexual liberation and women’s rights.
Not everyone reveres this day. The American Life League holds June 7 as a day of infamy because women were allowed to easily obtain abortions. They claim even the pill is an abortifacient, which means that it causes abortions. I hope you all took a moment to scratch your heads in utter confusion. The claim not only seems extreme, but is not supported by relevant facts of any kind. The group merely takes the stance that sex is immoral and unless we plan to make babies, we should take to sewing our pants shut.
Being a man, I should not be the one standing up for women’s rights. Women are well past the era of needing a strapping young man to defend them, partially thanks to the pill. In fact, I think it would be incredibly patronizing of me to crusade for women’s rights and assume that I know what they need and how they feel. It is the same as if I were to pretend I know what it is like for an African-American to be called the “n” word. I will never fully understand, and it would be pathetic for me to try.
Instead, I choose to look at how false information released by groups like the American Life League is detrimental to society as a whole. We can start with the obvious; a majority of people – of both sexes – really enjoy sex. The pill and other contraceptives can remove the fear of pregnancy when used properly, allowing couples to explore sex. This can promote physical and emotional intimacy.
The American Life League may argue that sex is immoral and handing out contraceptives leads to more sex and more abortions when those contraceptives fail. First, if you find sex immoral, then do not have it. Second, the Bible and other religious doctrines have a lot of material we already conveniently skip. There are sections in the Good Book that tell men not to cut their hair or eat shellfish. It has lots of wonderful advice; I am a huge fan of he who is without sin casting the first stone. We have already deemed it socially acceptable to skip some sections, so why do we have to enforce others? There is nothing wrong with sex as it is, except the social stigma placed on it.
Another argument against the distribution of the pill is that the use of contraceptives will inevitably increase the amount of sex people have. I have bad news: people have been having sex for a long time. Chances are people will have sex with or without contraceptives, as they have for millions of years. Also, a clinically significant relationship between the availability of contraception and an increase in sexual activity has never been found. The idea that people will suddenly start having sex the moment a bowl of condoms is put out is pure voodoo conjecture.
Finally, the American Life League sees the pill and other forms of contraception as a gateway to – and alternate form of – abortion. The claim that it works as a gateway to abortion is the inverse of the truth. Medically induced abortion rates are consistently shown to drop with the availability of contraceptives. In Soviet Russia, contraceptives were not available, while the country had one of the highest abortion rates in the world. Once contraceptives were made available in 1992, abortion rates quickly dropped.
Most importantly, the American Life League categorizes birth control as just another form of abortion, even murder. If using a condom is murder, that means they value every sperm as a life, thus making teenage boys everywhere mass murderers. A sperm is not a life, and neither is an egg. I admit, Plan B works in a world with considerably more moral ambiguity, but the pill simply prevents fertilization. It is not considerably different from the successful use of a condom. Calling it a tool used to induce abortion only discourages misinformed people from using it, forcing them to rely on less reliable means and helping to increase pregnancy and abortion rates.
The pill is more than just a tool that helped provide increased equality for women. Proper use and mass distribution can help reduce pregnancy and abortion rates while promoting sexual intimacy between partners. Spreading false information about it is an insult to America’s intelligence and can only damage the country. There is no solid reason, other than sexual shame, not to distribute contraceptives at a low cost to the nation.
Kevin Pease is a third-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion