The Birth Control Thing

Here’s the thing that always makes me pause when these conservative people start speaking out against birth control – what are they doing to prevent themselves from having more children?

Now, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have enough children in a short enough period of time that I guess it’s believable that they haven’t relied on hormonal contraception like the Pill.

But why is other contraception is okay but not the Pill? Because I’m going to go ahead and assume that Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have both had sex with their wives that they have not intended to be procreative, and not just when said wives were pregnant already. So they must have been preventing it somehow. It’s believable that their methodology did not involve altering their wives’ hormones, but they were either a) using a non-hormonal device like a condom or diaphragm, b) doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e., pulling out, or c) had one party surgically altered so as to never conceive again. And they could only have done c) after all the kids were born (although I don’t know how long their wives nursed, but sometimes that will prevent contraception between kids – but not all the time and not for all women).

So whether you use a pill or a diaphragm, you are preventing sperm from meeting egg. In the first case, you prevent the egg from being released; in the second, you prevent the sperm from getting into the uterus/fallopian tubes. Why is one better than the other?

And pulling out? Pulling out?! That is “onanism”! I know that’s the term typically applied to masturbation, but the real story of Onan is that his oldest brother Er died (was suddenly struck down by God for some unknown reason), so Onan had to marry his brother’s wife Tamar and then their child would be considered as if it were Er’s and inherit all their father’s stuff instead of Onan being next in line. So Onan decided to pull out when he had sex with Tamar so that he didn’t create his own supplanter. And then God struck him down, too.

Now, I have argued that Onan’s crime was deliberately circumventing the system that would have provided his dead brother with an heir at Onan’s own expense, and masturbation has nothing to do with it. But I don’t get to be the Grand High Priestess of any religion, more’s the pity. This story is usually interpreted by others to mean you can’t “spill seed” uselessly, i.e., either masturbate (if you’re a boy) or pull out!

So even if they’re not using hormonal birth control, I don’t understand how what they are doing is okay by their own standards.

And other politicians who’ve done things like spoken out against hormonal contraception being paid for by insurance, or signing the Personhood Pledge, do not have so many children that lack of use of hormonal contraception is really believable. I mean, pulling out can be effective, but let’s be serious, here. Newt? Rick Perry? They both only have two children, and many years of being married to some number of fertile women (Rick, just one; Newt, infamously three). (And also my research has shown that Rick’s two children are named Griffin and Sydney. Would you have ever guessed that Rick Perry would have children named Griffin and Sydney?) And Newt doesn’t have any children with his second two wives, both of whom he started sleeping with while married to his previous wife. What was he doing to prevent conception? (One would think being Newt Gingrich would be enough, but hey, three women married him, so evidently, they didn’t find him as objectionable as I do.) Am I really supposed to believe that no one in any of these situations used hormonal birth control?

I find it somewhat irritating that conversations around birth control, contraception, and abortion always center around the sex that’s being had by people who are not in long-term, committed, even legally binding, relationships. Not that I think having sex outside a long-term, committed, and/or legally binding relationship is wrong. But a lot of policy seems to be dictated by people who believe it is wrong, and discussed in terms that seem to indicate a certain level of acceptance of the idea that it’s wrong. And even if you think it is wrong, you’re leaving out the sex that’s being had within long-term, committed, and/or legally binding relationships, which I’m willing to bet is most of the sex that’s being had. I know that there are lots of jokes about married people not having sex anymore, but I’m still willing to bet that the average person in a committed relationship is having more sex than the average person not in a committed relationship. And neither the individuals in these relationships, nor we as a state, can afford for all of them to be getting pregnant all the damn time!

I had this problem when there was recent talk about male hormonal contraception, and the pundits’ party line was, “Well, women will never trust men to take a pill because it’s not the man that gets pregnant, it’s the woman.” And I’m going, wait a second, I’d trust Jason to take one. Because we’re in a long-term, committed relationship, and it would be his kid that resulted if we weren’t using any birth control, so, yeah, I’d trust him to be invested enough in our reproductive future to take a pill. If I were single, I wouldn’t trust a guy with whom I had a casual relationship, necessarily, but, again, I really suspect that more sexually active people are in committed relationships than not. So why is the discussion held on the assumption that the only people using birth control are unmarried, uncoupled persons?

Anyway, I do think that it’s great to see the politicians who are in favor of paying for contraception rally around feminist concepts like women’s rights over their bodies, etc. But I fail to understand why non-feminists plant their flags against contraception because I have to imagine that even non-feminists like to have sex with their spouses and prefer not to get pregnant every single time. Why isn’t access to reproductive control a universal (or, an all-heterosexual, non-Quiverfull person) issue, and not a women’s, issue?

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