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happy ec-niversary!

Posted by pocochina on August 25, 2007

Just about a year ago, the FDA finally approved EC for OTC purchase.  And in honor of that auspicious occasion, I want to take the opportunity to talk about anti-choicers, and their relationship to some of the discourse around pregnancy.  Not just pointing and laughing, either (though don’t get me wrong, I think pointing and laughing at anti-feminists should be an Olympic sport), but the ways in which our culture, and particularly the anti-choice movement, characterizes all consequences of sex as pregnancy.

This is something that I’ve noticed so many women do, and I include myself and my sistafeministas in this statement.  Going on that long-deserved vacation?  Don’t get pregnant.  New boyfriend?  Girl, don’t have his baby.  At Student Health for a sore throat?  Here, take a pregnancy test, don’t you know Hussyitis spreads to the larynx first?  And even the most pro-choice among us do this.  I naturally don’t mean to underestimate the terrible consequences of unintened pregnancy for a lot of people, but I do think it’s important to look at how we understand sexuality and potential consequences.

Part of it, at least for me, is the total inability to enunciate all of the other things that we all know can go Oh So Wrong with sex and relationships.  STIs, intimate partner violence, rape – Jesus.  Pregnancy sometimes seems like the least negative of all bad consequences for sex.  It sounds horrible, but at least pregnancy ends, whether with birth, abortion, or miscarriage, and it rarely kills you – although, of course, it can, and no one in this loud, misogynist public debate should be allowed to forget that, ever.

The other part of it is our cultural obsession with Girls = Sex and Babies.  Even those of us who wouldn’t want to be pregnant now, or with our current partners, or ever, are absolutely not allowed to forget the potential of our anatomies.  We could have babies, given the right circumstances, sperm, ovulation patterns, and healthy reproductive systems, so we must ALWAYS THINK OF THE BABIEZ!  And of course, men can’t get pregnant, so when we assume that problems with sex are contingent on pregnancy, then hey, there really are no consequences for blokes!  Guys can’t suffer from sex!  Which plays into our all-too-slowly fading construct of Men Are Pigs and women are their Innocent Victims.

And shite, that’s heteronormative.  As if you can’t suffer any negative consequences from lesbian sex, because hey, you can’t get preggers, what could go wrong?  As if you can’t get sick, or hurt, or a broken heart from Teh Gay Sex, any less than you can from baby-makin’ breeder love.  And I hate that in this world that it doesn’t go without saying that gay sexuality is just as much a part of the full spectrum of human emotion as straight sex.  So yeah, this sex = pregnancy crap is pretty freaking unfair to those who’re unlikely to get accidentally pregnant, too.

But that’s nothing – nothing, I say! – to the oversimplification of human sexuality done by the anti-choice movement.  (Aha, I hear you saying, the Land of the Nonsequiter has made her its queen!)  This one particular quote struck me:

You can say, Oh, I got drunk; I didn’t know this person that I slept with. I can undo it all with a pill.” Moira Sheridan, president of Delaware Right to Life

Now, as anyone who’s ever made a bad decision knows (not to imply that La Pocochina is imperfect, but so I hear) it’s an unbelievable relief to be able to avoid one particular consequence of that poor decision, but it rarely avoids all of them, and it doesn’t prevent regret.  To be specific, it’s not a magic Virgin Again pill, and the women and girls who take EC know that.  EC simply allows us one more tool to prevent unwanted pregnancy its emotional, physical, and financial baggage – and yes, Moira, that does include abortion, so get off your Pollyanna-ass high horse already.

I read this article in the New York Times magazine (it would’ve been mid-January, I wish I’d saved it) about an anti-choice activist who’d had an abortion in her wild youth.  By itself, that’s hardly surprising, but this particular anti had a particular single-mindedness about her life, as if everything bad had stemmed from her abortion.  A prominent part of her ministry is to speak with women who’ve had abortions, particularly vulnerable populations like those in prisons, and to beat them over the head with the message that abortion = wild youth, or drug use, or victim of a terrible crime.  Now, class, that’s a classic logical flaw.  Just because two things are somehow correlated doesn’t mean that one directly causes the other, and some mistaken or unscrupulous people may even imply that the effect in question is in fact a potential cause!  What I mean by this, of course, is that it’s possible that teenage idiocy, or drug abuse, or rape may be experiences of a woman that has had an abortion, they may have even been indirect or direct causes of the abortion, but to imply that they are common aftereffects of abortion is downright irresponsible – especially when a population of one in three American women means you can find a significant number with just about any relatively common life experience.  It’s irresponsible in general, but especially to the women she’d speak to, as some of them clearly needed honest help with terrible events in their lives.

It’s all part of the same movement, of course, and so there’s going to be similarities in worldview.  But it’s also a strikingly similar sentiment.  Life is rough, and when you’re talking about unplanned pregnancy, it’s especially rough on women.  If there was just one cause, just one thing that hurt women so terribly badly!  (There is, of course, but it’s not reproductive freedom, it’s patriarchy.)  It’s a dirty, underhanded appeal to sympathy and human decency.  Bad things happen to women, therefore we should add unwanted pregnancy and back-alley abortions to our problems.  And it’s really, in the case of the antiabortion minister, some really twisted victim-blaming, too, in which she would keep reminding the women under her care of the blackest moments of their lives just to create an association with their abortions.

Which is why it’s so insidious to consider unplanned pregnancy as the main or only negative consequence of sex.  It adds to an environment where someone could claim with a straight face that emergency contraception will lead to unimpeded and widespread fucking in the streets – because you can avoid pregnancy with its use.  Oh, but then, we are assured, all that sex combined with rejecting our natural role as Baby Mama will drive us into therapy, depression, and despair.

And it gets even darker.  There’s also a fixation on the ability of rapists to now rape with impunity – as if they don’t do so far too often anyway in our society.  As if what a rapist is really concerned about is the victim’s pregnancy.  As if women on birth control can’t get raped.  As if the crime is somehow lessened with the lack of conception.  As if, as if, as if.

“Making EC available would be a welcome tool for adult sexual predators who molest family members, children of friends or students. They could keep a stash in their bedroom drawer or their pocket to give their victims after committing each rape.” Jill Stanek, Concerned Women for America

This, too, is ridiculous.  (Not to mention disturbing, in its graphic detail about what rapists think.)  First of all, the framework of the “argument” is one of adult sex offenders and child victims, which is certainly one tragic paradigm of sexual abuse, but far from the only one.  It implies that the only rape victims who deserve our concern are children, as if adult women couldn’t possibly be innocent enough.  Not to mention, it’s a disgusting and irresponsible representation of available evidence in rape cases.  I will know more about this when I am a real lawyer, but if there is in fact the possibility of conception, it’s likely that there’s other trace evidence, if the victim comes forward in time.  And in the situation she mentions, of acquaintence rape, the victim knows her attacker anyway and could identify him.

And, in a throroughly unrelated statement:

“Male sexual predators can easily use this medication to cover their abusive and unlawful actions. Likewise, the potential exists for increased pressure on young women to become sexually active, since they may be led to believe that preventing pregnancy is as simple as taking a pill after intercourse. For many, such sexual exploitation will not be in their best health interest.” statement by American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns

I have only this to say:  preventing pregnancy, in the overwhelming number of perfect-use cases, is as simple as taking a pill after intercourse.  Sexual activity is not the same thing as sexual exploitiation.  Isn’t it great that the (alleged) viewpoint that got Andrea Dworkin in so much trouble is now SO POPULAR (“all sex is rape”) has been wholeheartedly embraced by the anti-choice movement?*  I’m totally creeped out that a group of doctors would make these particular claims.

*Sarcasm.  I wish Andrea Dworkin were still here to scorn them as they so wholly deserve.

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