Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
Ah, summer is finally here. School is out and blockbuster movies are in. Barbeque pits and ice cream stands are opening. Women are revealing shoulders, knees, thighs, and cleavage. Suggestive dance music fills the air, emanating from dance parties and car windows. Young couples walk down the street holding hands, or canoodle in the park. Ripe, delicious, tempting homegrown tomatoes are beginning to show up at markets indoor and out. The world is bursting with signs of life, so naturally, America’s oxymoronically named “pro-life” forces are haunted even more by the "fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." And sometimes outside of the field of vision, where they can’t be properly harrumphed at!
With this much unapologetic, unpunished, joyful sexual energy in the air, what’s a puritan to do? Well, while the rest of us kick off the season with barbeques, sports, concerts, and dance parties, the anti-choicers kick into high gear with their annual campaign of trying to raise hysteria about the birth control pill, with the final goal of banning it forever. The American Life League leads the annual charge with their “Pill Kills” campaign, a snappy motto that certainly sounds better than what I imagine was the original one, “Fewer smiles, more unwanted babies.” ALL’s theme this year is exaggerating claims that the pill is filling our seas with clouds of estrogen, which turns dude fish into "lady fish." In other words, they’re claiming that their symbolic fear that the pill is emasculating is actually a literal truth.
Believe me, as a real environmentalist, and not a fair weather one who only worries about pollution as a tool in the war against sex, I can tell you that real environmentalists think reliable contraception is the greatest technological invention to save our planet since basically ever. Since the main source of pollution is people using resources and creating waste, the one thing that gives environmentalists hope is the worldwide embrace of limited family size, which could keep population levels low enough that we can believe we will find earth-friendly ways to take care of us all. But without contraception, that goal would be hopeless—there would simply be too many people to provide for them all.
Not that estrogen mimickers in the water don’t worry environmentalists, but the reality-based concerns have to do with chemicals that ALL doesn’t care one whit about—pesticides and industrial by-products that far out-swamp women peeing out both real and synthetic estrogen.
The timing of this campaign couldn’t be worse for anti-choicers, of course, because while they’re fixating on misleading claims about water pollution from the birth control pill, a blown out oil well 5,000 feet under water in the Gulf of Mexico is gushing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, and it’s become apparent that no one in the drilling process ever seriously considered how to fix an accident like this. Interspersed with pictures of dour-looking women wearing their scold faces at the “Pill Kills” site are pictures of the fish we’re supposed to believe they’re worried about, but it’s hard to imagine they give two hoots about water pollution when they’re too busy protesting Planned Parenthood (every day helping people not make babies that create even more demands for oil that lead to offshore drilling!) to do something like, oh, protest British Petroleum or the Minerals and Management Services that issued their drilling license. If you want to have fun with fake environmentalists, though, I suppose you could go to their protests and count how many of them drove themselves over in gas-guzzling SUVs.
Not that you can blame anti-contraception activists for trying on a new tactic, since the usual tactic of making frowny faces every time someone seems like they’re having too much fun doesn’t endear them to the public. Check out, for instance, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review attacking non-procreative sex and women who have too much fun at blockbuster movies. In the same vein, you have Rita Diller, the head of the “Pill Kills” project, writing editorial screeds condemning women for having sex before marriage, getting divorced, having sex while living together, having children out of wedlock (which the pill technically prevents, but she’s on a roll, you know), having sex while being black, and having a job so you can pay for the children you do have instead of pumping out more while trying to figure out how you can pay for all of them.
And just in case you didn’t pick up on the theme, which was, “The pill is evil because people—women especially—have too much liberty to pursue happiness,” you get this awesome section:
To date we have had an estimated 52.7 million abortions, and — combined with more “efficient” birth control — the under-45 generation is more than 100 million people smaller than it would have been without them.
I’ve thought of their slogan for next year. “Ban the pill, because traffic jams in this country aren’t bad enough.” Sure, it makes it more obvious they’re in this because they’re morbid, sadistic people who are suspicious of freedom and pleasure, but the upside to being honest is that you don’t get egg on your face when your dishonesty is exposed by an inconveniently timed oil spill.
You might think it’s a waste of time to pick on people that seem to be on the political fringe. Unfortunately, anti-contraception activists aren’t as fringe as we’d hope, since they are one and the same with the “pro-life” movement that wields so much power in this country, as Cristina Page has documented here. Anti-contraception activists got abstinence-only education into American high schools, and contraception funding out of the economic stimulus package. (Mainstream publication Politico implied that government funding for contraception was somehow paying people to have sex.) House Minority Leader John Boehner is in the pocket of the 31 percent of Republican voters who want contraception outlawed.
Since contraception is basically ubiquitous, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the existence and the scope of anti-contraception activism. After all, many and probably most of the people out there fighting against access to contraception probably are using or have used it. But as the endless drumbeat of sex scandals shows, hypocrisy is no obstacle when social conservatives have an agenda. And so we cannot simply brush these folks off, or assume that because they’re fringe, they’re powerless.