It’s a family affair…then again maybe not

Family planning. In a country where 4 out of 10 pregnancies are unintended, one would expect that this would be a hot topic. But lately, my head has been spinning with headlines regarding  birth control rights, increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births, and abortion issues. I get it, this is an election year, but who decided that the theme of the 2012 election would be SEX?! Our economy is seriously hindered,  jobless rates are astonishingly high,  and public education is in crisis…but the eyes of the nation are on the uterus. Yay us.

In Washington there’s a battle raging over  whether it’s a good idea to have exclusively male panels discussing women’s right to get contraceptives under their health insurance. (Ummm hello?….No! Is it a good idea to have  fish discuss optimum methods of safe sunbathing?!)  Last week in Virginia, the Senate narrowly passed a bill that will require women to have an ultrasound procedure 24 hours prior to having an abortion. And  across the nation tongues are waging over a recent study which found that, for women under 30, most births now occur outside of marriage.

In all this uproar over women’s sex lives and the consequences for modern families, Georgetown law school student Sandra Fluke gained public attention for advocating that insurance companies cover birth control. Shock jock Rush Limbaugh responded to Fluke’s testimony by calling her  a “slut” and a “prostitute”, in a move that created an instant media firestorm prompting a curt, but rare, apology from Limbaugh. Almost as disturbing as the name calling, was the misinformation spewed by Limbaugh, who repeatedly suggested that the amount of sex a woman has is related to the amount of birth control she needs to take. Limbaugh’s main concern seems to be the issue of financing someone else’s sex life. King Rush seems to have forgotten that many insurance companies already do just that- in the form of erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra. Can we say double standard? The underlying misogyny in these debates is a tad bit unsettling…

It baffles me how the very people who are obsessed with limiting the scope of government, feel morally obligated to insist that government get involved in women’s most personal affairs. Perhaps, several decades ago this conversation would have gone on without a hitch. But in 2012, women are fighting back, as we should. Contrary to Limbaugh’s beliefs, men and women today overwhelmingly view birth control, not as a sign of uninhibited promiscuity, but as a sign of responsibility, & of making smart choices about sexuality and parenthood. A recent CNN/ORC International Poll shows that 81% of Americans – and 77% of Catholics – disagree with the notion that artificial means of birth control is wrong. Birth control is not a topic that pertains only to teenagers, party-animal college girls and divorcees. Married women, women in committed relationships, and older women use birth control too, though one wouldn’t think so based on the nature of the debate. And the fact of the matter is, it’s troubling that we are even discussing the “type” of women who use birth control. As if their age, lifestyle, or marital status has anything to do with their right to use contraceptives. I know what this type of thinking leads to, and it’s not pretty, Next we’ll be discussing who is worthy of parenthood…

That aside, I think it’s important to note that because birth control lowers the total outlay for health services, it’s in the best interest of the insurance company to include it at no extra charge. Women who are able to plan their pregnancies tend to make lifestyle accommodations that ensure their babies the best possible chance of  growth & development. And the pay-off of such planning is huge. Those who use birth control to plan & space their pregnancies have fewer costly pregnancy complications, are less likely to need medically necessary abortions, & have a lower incidence of emergency deliveries, caesareans, and stillbirths, all of which result in improved outcomes for infants.  While the powers that be wring their hands over who is having how much sex and when, can we turn our thoughts to the more pressing issues of our day? Such as supporting families who are financially crippled by the loss of a job, lack of affordable childcare, education options & relationship struggles. I only wish those patriarchal bastards would take their minds out of the bedroom for a second to recognize that life goes on AFTER babies are conceived. I’m convinced children would benefit far more from meaningful policymaking regarding family services & support than discourse over the circumstances and nature of their conception…

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