Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Anti-Choice Across Wisconsin

I am inspired to write this after having ingested a cocktail of Time Magazine's article on Creationism vs. Evolution with a chaser of talk radio on the evils of emergency contraception. I ended up looking like a raving lunatic as I drove down the scenic byways of western Wisconsin yelling counter-arguments peppered liberally with crude insults at my radio. I will leave the Time article for others to read if they like, though I warn you that it's the intellectual equivalent of eating Pixie Stix for lunch. Instead, I will focus on the radio show hosted by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Today's conservative Christian firebrand was Julaine K. Appling, executive director of The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin (basically a miniature Focus on the Family). FRI's beef today is the pending decision by the FDA on whether or not to allow emergency contraception, such as Plan B, to be sold over-the-counter. The decision is due in September and has the Anti-choice community trotting out its shrillest advocates to storm the airwaves. Let's turn over the rotten log of Ms. Appling's self-righteous indignation and see what's wiggling around underneath, shall we?

Emergency contraception causes a fertilized egg not to implant; ergo, abortion.

While it is true that emergency contraception does inhibit implantation, the argument that it constitutes an abortion is ridiculous. We don't call miscarriages "accidental abortions". I also find it ludicrous that anti-choice groups want to consider a fertilized egg as a "human being". Does this mean that ALL cells bearing the human genome are human beings? If so, that means 96% of men admit they have much killing to answer for and the other 4% are lying about it. To the question of "When does life begin?" I ask: When is life not life? Sperm is alive and eggs are alive. Why does a fertilized egg get special treatment?

Emergency contraception may not be used as directed.

In exactly what way does this differ from every single other over-the-counter drug at your local Walgreens? Liberal as I am, I still don't approve of an oppressive "nanny state" that holds people's hands through every decision that may have a negative outcome. Emergency contraception will have the same label requirements as any other medication and some people will fail to follow those directions. It is their choice to take that risk (this anti-choice thing runs deep!).

Emergency contraception has potential negative side-effects.

Again, just like every other drug. The FDA will require the manufacturers to disclose said side-effects and potential users will have to decide for themselves. Yes, sometimes the FDA approves drugs which later turn out to have negative side-effects that were unknown or, as in the case of Vioxx, undisclosed. Shortfalls in scientific knowledge and corporate malfeasance are risks that potential users will have to choose to bear if they want to use the product. (Are you sensing a theme about choice in these arguments yet?)

Emergency contraception promotes sexual promiscuity.

Now we're getting to the real meat of the anti-choice argument. It has nothing to do with medical science and everything to do with ideology, which, if you're a liberal as I am, should come as no surprise. Ideology has become the sole breadwinner for the Conservative Right; facts are only facts if they support your religious and moral beliefs. Promiscuity is a completely subjective term and the objections of the Conservative Right are based on a Puritanical discomfort with sex in general. How an individual chooses to conduct their own sex life is no one else's business; not the government, not the church and not anti-choice PAC's.

Over-the-counter emergency contraception could be purchased by minors.

Of all the excuses the Conservative Right uses to justify their political views, "Do it for the children" is the one I despise the most. I'm the father of two (soon to be three!) children but I don't for one second believe that my love for my children should be used as a justification to curtail the rights and freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. I don't need religious and political organizations trying to mold public policy around their narrow view of what's best for my children. My wife and I will decide what's best for them, thank you very much!
Moreover, I reject the notion than somehow minors in this country don't enjoy the same fundamental rights as adults. I would prefer that my daughter not be sexually active at 16 but I would much rather she have a safe sex life than an unwanted pregnancy. This whole argument is nothing but a ham-handed attempt to generate a knee-jerk emotional response, which is why it doesn't work on free thinking liberals.

Emergency contraception doesn't prevent sexually-transmitted diseases.

No kidding. Prilosec doesn't prevent male pattern baldness. Good thing I don't take it for that...

I could go on with this but the arguments go downhill from here (believe it or not). The point is that groups like FRI and people like Ms. Appling are trying to impose their interpretation of Christian morality (nothing "Judeo" about it) on others by having it legislated into law. This is both blatantly against the teachings of Christ and is really an attempt to step around the First Amendment. Ms. Appling and FRI want the government to legislate away the right of others to make decisions with which Ms. Appling and FRI don't agree, all in the name of promoting their version of acceptable family structure and culture.

It will be a Pyrrhic victory at best.


Anonymous said...

Well, I disagree on the use of such drugs. One, I think it will be used as an afterthought. "Oh, we forgot a condom, I'll just go to the pharmacy tomorrow."

Instead of promoting a "choice" as 'you' call it (general you, not really you), why not do more to promote safe sex, the use of birth control and heck, keep up with the abstinence thing. Why not teach people the satisfaction of self/mutual masturbation vs. needing to always go for intercourse. Which of course, does nothing really to protect against STD's if you are doing any type of oral stimulation between multiple partners or within open relationships.

I've heard the side-effects of this particular drug are highly unpleasant; good. Maybe that will prevent abuses of it, but more than likely it won't. Now instead of having to wait to have the abortion, they'll just use this as birth control instead.

And, honestly, I don't know how popular something like this will be for teens, with their whole issue of not wanting anyone over the age of themselves to know they are having sex. They'll use it, most definitely, but I'd worry more about the 19-30 crowd. The partiers, the "it can't happen to me's" and such.

On the other hand, I'm all for a 'choice' in the instance of rape, or incest. I think those people deserve a choice since they've already had one very important one taken from them rather cruelly.

IMO, if you choose to have sex and you choose not to take precautions against pregnancy; then you've already made the choice to become pregnant. Tough nosed look at it, but it's what I'd tell my son or daughter if they came home at 17 and told me news like that.

Thought you might want someone to argue at it! LOL

Jessica (that crazy chic from AM)

Samurai Sam said...

Hi Jessica!

Please feel free to disagree, I welcome it. In fact, I think I've argued with my mom on one of my Evolution vs. Creation threads.

I don't see what the difference is between taking gradual doses of birth control over the course of a month and taking a huge dose all at once the morning after unprotected sex. Both a monthly like Ortho Tricyclene or a "morning after" such as Plan B work the same way. It's just a difference in dosage.

Moreover, I think ready access to something like Plan B would cut down on the number of unwanted pregnancies, which are really what cause abortions. That's a goal I think anyone can get behind. I'm Pro-choice but I don't like the idea of abortion very much and I'm strongly opposed to its use as birth control. The good news is that the research I've seen seems to indicate that the "abortion as birth control" secenario is quite rare. Naturally hard numbers are hard to come by due to the sensitivity of the matter.

I strongly disagree with the scenario of an unwanted pregnancy being consigned as punishment for irresponsibility, though I know that, intuitively, it seems like the responsible choice. No matter what a person's views on the beginnings of life are, it is impossible to argue that a growing fetus is a dependent part of woman's body. I can't see any justice in telling any woman, be they 17 or 37, that they are required to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. That seems cruel to me and it also seems like a situation that could lead to resentment of the child on the part of the mother. To me, I would see that as a greater wrong: to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will and to compound that by bringing an unwanted child into the world. I think an individual woman, even a minor, knows her own mind and body better than I or any government official possibly could.

However, abortion and, to a lesser extent, birth control are very controversial. I plan on hitting these topics often so please come back and set me straight!

Anonymous said...

Here's the very fine difference I see between birth control and Plan B.

Birth control is planned protection against pregnancy. Plan B is unplanned, I had unprotected sex, protection against pregnancy. Like I said, fine line there. PLan B has very real potential to be abused; and since women will know that this is out there, they may attempt to emmulate Plan B using their own birth control pills; and to what effect?

Is there an overdose rate for birth control? What is the threshold for the human body when presented with too much birth control? What is the long term effect of this drug on a person who uses it frequently? I know that birth control itself brings along many health concerns for women; does Plan B also carry potential health risks due to the increased dosage?

And, don't get me wrong, I would never tell my child that she couldn't have an abortion, but I certainly wouldn't suggest it. My first suggestions would be to A. get her life together and keep it (with support from family) or B. give it up for adoption. Abortion would never be uttered from my lips. And ultimately, I would hope that she was mature enough to discuss this with her "boyfriend" and for them to come to a mature adult situation. If possible I would hope both families would help to support them (not financially, but emotionally), but I know that isn't always the case.

I get that a fetus is fully supported by the woman's body, really I do get that part, but I don't see why the woman is the one who gets the choice. A fetus, when aborted, is alive. Where is the fetus' choice? Some fathers of these aborted fetus' would care for and help to raise the child, but they are not given a choice either. I'm all for having the right to do what I want to my body, but when you really look at abortion, you aren't only affecting your body, you are also affecting the body of a living child inside of you. I don't see the choice there.