C Rulon: Birth Control (Political, Patriarchal & Religious Opposition)

By | April 24, 2011

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College ([email protected])

Powerful MEN still oppose birth control

Historically (and still today) there remain many reasons held by men in political and religious power for opposing the R & D of better contraceptives, birth control education, and the dispensing of birth control methods:

a. Religious/moral: Sex is a seri­ous and sac­red act reserved for re­pro­duction in marriage. Unwanted preg­nancies out­­side of marriage were divine punish­ments for illicit sex. If birth control were al­lowed, how could God punish immoral, loose women?

b. Blocking God’s plan: We all re­ceive our right to life direct­ly from God. We are all planned in His eyes. If a woman be­came pregnant it was meant to be. A baby was a gift from God. “Be fruitful and multiply,” the Bible tells us. Therefore, using birth control is interfering with God’s plan for us. It allowed hu­mans in­stead of God to de­cide when there should be con­cep­tion.

c. Reducing us to ani­mals: Scrip­ture warns us that pleas­ures of the flesh are sinful (1 Cor. 6:18-20). Birth control would encourage women to have sex just for fun and this would reduce them to mere ani­mals.[i] (Men, of course, weren’t expect­ed to control their “animal drives.”)

d. Loss of respect: Birth control could cause husbands to lose re­s­pect for their wives, considering them mere instruments of selfish en­joyment and no long­er their res­pect­ed and beloved com­pan­ions.

e. Collapse of society: Birth control could undermine social sta­bi­l­­ity. If women could have sex without fear of pregnancy, why get mar­ried in the first place? Indeed, having sex with­out worry could lead us down that slip­pery slope to pro­mis­cuity, pornography, mor­al de­cay, devi­ant sex­ual prac­tices, bro­ken homes, and finally the ulti­mate col­lapse of so­ciety.

f. Natural roles for men and women: Motherhood is the noblest calling possible for women. Mar­riage is for rearing fam­ilies and pro­vid­ing com­fortable, clean, spiritu­ally uplift­ing homes for hus­bands returning from the dog-eat-dog world. Women served best in the home and were not meant to com­pete with men for jobs, money and power. It wasn’t natural.

“The low status of women and girls is one of the most damaging, wasteful and immoral defects of society today”

—Dr. H. Mahler, former Director-General of the World Health Organization for 15 years

Current birth control battles

1984: The Reagan administration canceled all U.S. fund­ing of Inter­­national Planned Parent­hood, an organization that pro­vided family planning services to over 130 nations. Behind this decision was an agreement reached with the Vatican.[ii]

1992: The Bush administration ordered all birth control infor­mation removed from 275,000 copies of an already printed health care book being sent to federal workers because it might be seen by their children.

1993: The pope declared that using con­doms or the birth con­trol pill could be a mortal sin, even if a mar­ried couple was using con­doms because one partner had AIDS. (17 years later the pope announced that using condoms was a lesser sin than spreading AIDS.)

1994: The major­­ity of House Repub­licans voted to elimi­nate all U.S. funding for in­ter­na­tional family plan­ning programs. They also voted to exclude a number of ex­treme­ly effec­tive contraceptives (the pill, Nor­plant and the IUD) from federal health care cov­erage, claiming that these con­tracep­tives could cause abor­tions by preventing fertil­ized eggs from implan­ting in the uterus.

1995-2006: The Republicans gained control of both houses of Con­gress. Over 85 motions were passed that con­tinued to erode teen­age girls and women’s access to reproductive health services. Severe fund­ing cuts were impos­ed on U.S. family planning assistance to poor countries. The House of Representatives approved an amend­ment that would deny U.S. family planning funds to any foreign organization that even partici­pated in debates over abortion in their own countries (the global gag rule).

1997: Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) spon­sor­ed a House amendment that would eliminate all U.S. fund­ing for inter­national family planning programs. Al­though it was even­tu­ally defeated, the major­ity of House Republicans supported it.

1998: Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) spon­sor­ed a House amendment that would bar federal health care plans for federal employees from pay­ing for the pill, Norplant, Depo-provera and the IUD because, he claimed, they were “baby pesti­cides.” Almost 200 mem­bers of the House sup­ported his position!

1998: The Vatican attempted to stop the distribution of the “morning after pill” to the Bos­nian Muslim women in Koso­var refu­gee camps who had just been bru­tally raped and had already lost every­thing, including their loved ones. Arch­bishop Flynn referred to the aid workers who were offer­ing these pills as perpe­tra­tors of vio­lence.

1999: House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) claimed that youth violence was a re­sult of day care, the teaching of evol­ution, and ‘working mothers who take birth control pills.’

2000: At the United Nations Conference on Women, the Vati­can and delegates from a handful of fundamental­ist coun­tries (Libya, Al­geria, Iran, Sudan, Nicaragua and Paki­stan) blocked language that would have called for ac­cess to birth con­trol for women around the world.[iii]

2001-2008: The Bush Administration saw to it that abstinence-only sex education, despite its effectiveness being thoroughly discredited, received around $1.3 billion in funding. This funding was only available to those states that agreed to NOT teach about contraceptives as well. Eventually 25 states turned down the funding.

2002-2008: The Bush Administration withheld a total of $235 million in congressionally approved funds for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). The UNFPA sup­ports volun­tary family planning and reproductive health care pro­grams in 154 countries worldwide. In 2007 a record 181 U.N. member states contributed to the UNFPA.

2007: An amendment was presented in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have required one-third of all the money allocated for President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief overseas to be spent on abstinence-only programs. The amendment was narrowly defeated: Yes (200), No (226).

2007: In Darfur, mass political gang rapes had been occur­ring for some time. Amnesty Inter­national, an international human rights organi­zation, sup­ported the right of those raped women to have access to emergency contra­ception and abortion. They empha­sized that they were dedi­cated to upholding basic human rights, not specific theologies. In response, the Vatican sus­pen­d­ed all finan­cial aid to Amnesty International and called upon Catho­lics world­wide to boycott the organization.

2009: President Obama overturned the “global gag rule” and signed legislation which increased funding for international family planning to $84 million. In addition, Obama reinstated low cost birth control availability at college health centers and at some 400 clinics serving low-income women. He also moved to rescind the Bush adminis­tra­tion’s “con­science” clause which allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and the morning-after pill if doing so offend­ed their relig­ious beliefs or moral convictions. Not a single Republican in either the House or the Senate supported Obama.

2009: A report from Population Action Intern­atio­nal estimat­ed that more than 200 million women in the devel­op­ing world were still denied birth control, resulting in over 50 million unin­tended pregnancies, 140,000 pregnan­cy-related deaths, about 500,000 orphans, and 22 million abortions yearly. The GOP controlled U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Finance wasn’t fazed. They approved an amendment to the health care reform package that would provide $50 million through 2014 for abstinence-only education and would bar funds from being used for contra­ception education.

2011: The GOP budget bill in Congress cut all funds to Planned Parenthood and other reproductive care facilities in the U.S. These facilities provide information and birth control to about 5 million women a year at over 4,600 health centers. Each year, over one million unintended pregnancies and several hundred thousand abortions are avoided. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that for every $1 spent by our taxes for contraceptive care, taxpayers save around $4 in Medicaid costs for mother and baby in just the first year. Only about 3% of Planned Parenthood funds go toward legal abortions, none of which comes from taxes.[iv]

Some final thoughts

We have become the only an­imal to ever be able to sepa­rate sex from pregnan­cy. Every child can now be a wanted child. Yet, power­ful anti-birth control religious and poli­tical patriarchal forces continue to be effective in redu­c­ing contra­cep­tive research, edu­­­ca­tion and avail­abil­ity. For dec­ades adver­tise­ments for con­tra­­cep­tives on primetime televi­sion have been blocked and teens across our country have not been ade­quately edu­cated about contraceptives. In­stead, they’ve been taught to “Just Say No.” As a result over one-half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are still un­planned. Our teen pregnancy rate is now two to six times higher than in the coun­tries of Western Europe.[v]

[i] The evolution of continuous sexual availability of human females has been con­si­dered by evolution theorists to be criti­cal for mate bonding, for female survival and for the survival of the young. In fact, non-reproductive sex is believed by some theorists to be as impor­tant for our humanity as was our mastery of fire and language. These findings are con­trary to those conserva­tive religious teachings that tell us that God only wants us to have sex in marriage for repro­duction. To have sex only when pregnancy is possible would be, indeed, to act just like an animal.

[ii]Bernstein, C. 1992. “The Holy Alliance.” Time, Feb. 24.

[iii]The Holy See and Women’s Rights: A Shadow Report on the Beijing Platform for Action and Catholic HMOs and Reproductive Health Care. Published by Catholics for Free Choice. (www.cath4choice.org)

[iv] Time, March 14, 2011, p. 66.

[v]A 2006 Columbia University study found that 88% of teenage girls who took “virginity pledges” eventually had premarital sex and were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did, making them vulnerable not only to unintended pregnancies but to sexually transmitted diseases. See .

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