By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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