Check out this lengthy NY Times piece on contraception and the religious right’s battle against birth control. It is a stunning article, completely laying out the right-wing’s agenda of eradicating our access to birth control and transforming our sex lives, even within our marriages. With the right-wing’s support, the government will soon mandate how you have sex with your spouse in your bedrooms and what you feel while you do it. It’s frightening, people…
Ultimately, I believe the birth control issue itself is a ruse: The Christian Right wants to return all of us to some mythical golden era when women and men had separate and distinct roles in society; when men went to work and women stayed at home with their many children; when women didn’t have desires of their own – sexual or otherwise; when men only had sex with their wives to make babies; when rape or incest simply did not occur; and when men controlled women’s bodies and minds as masters.
Screeching back to reality – opposing birth control is political suicide, as hopefully Reid and Clinton will demonstrate with their bill on insurance-funded contraceptives – the Prevention First Act. If we penalize birth control, who’s going to pay for child care and education for all these unplanned babies? Who’s going to take the place of all those brilliant and successful professional women now entrenched in companies across America?
There is an international element to this too – the article states that the GAO released a study last month finding that in many developing countries, administrators of U.S. foreign aid were forced to cut funds intended to fight mother-to-child HIV infection in order to finance abstinence programs. As the article reminds us, even the Catholic Church is debating its stance on condoms within marriages in which one spouse is infected – discussed from a wide variety of perspectives here, here, here, and here.
One thing that interested me greatly was the notion that the right-wing has the advantage when talking about relationships (versus the left, which is characterized in the article as simply caring about the physical act of sex). We on the left need to regain ground on this – we need to redefine what it means to be in a committed, loving relationship (not just a heterosexual one) built on equality and shared liberal values of charity, service, and individual freedom. Perhaps our programs to teach teens about birth control need to talk more honestly and openly about relationships, gender equality, and the emotional aspects of sexual experience in addition to birth control and safe sex.
I’ll leave you with perhaps the strangest anecdote of all from the article, one which illustrates the grim picture of a woman’s sexual freedom being controlled and transferred according to the will of men:
"… [At] "Purity Balls," which fathers attend with their teenage daughters…, a father gives a "purity ring" to his daughter — a symbol of the promise she makes to maintain her virginity for her future husband. Then, during her marriage ceremony, the daughter gives the ring to her new husband. Abstinence Clearinghouse's Web site advertises the purity ball as an event ‘which celebrates your 'little girl' and her gift of sexual purity.’”