Friday, September 28, 2012

Sex, Lies and an Awful Video

Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Part of my job with a family planning advocacy organization involves keeping an eye on what the other side is up to, crazy videos included. And this one is a real doozy.

The video, called “You Deserve to Know the Truth: Contraception” (catchy!) was uploaded to YouTube by an organization called Come Unity in Truth on Sept. 26 and mentioned by @LifeSite as a “GREAT new teaching video on the harms of contraception.”

Well, I have a few words for it, and “great” isn’t one of them. Perhaps “misleading.” “Ridiculous.” “Offensive.” And plain old “wrong.” Here are the “facts” it gives:
  • When women use the birth control pill, they are no longer desirable to men. While some studies have shown that altering women’s hormones might slightly change the laws of attraction, humans aren’t animals. We don’t solely rely on hormones when choosing mates. Yet the video’s makers present this laughable scenario:  “What’s a man to do when the majority of women are contracepting, and he no longer finds them desirable?” More women than ever are using IUDs. Perhaps our poor man will meet one of them?
  • Because of that, women who use contraception have to dress all naughty to get male attention. In the video’s words: “contracepting women degrade themselves through immodest dress” in order to make up for the fact that men don’t find them attractive anymore. See! Rush Limbaugh was right!
  • The World Health Organization has classified contraception as a Class 1 carcinogen. Yes, sort of. The WHO says that combined estrogen and progestin can slightly increase the risk of liver, breast and cervical cancer, but they also PROTECT against endometrial and ovarian cancer. And the studies were done on pills with up to 4 times the amount of hormones women take in today’s oral contraceptives.
  • 7-12 million babies are killed by the pill every year. Since pregnancy begins at implantation, according to legitimate medical organizations, I’m not sure what “babies” they’re talking about. The source is listed as the book “Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives” by Bogomir Kuhar, a hawker of “pro-life/pro-family vitamins” and founder of Pharmacists for Life, which fights for refusal clauses so your friendly local druggist can refuse to fill your birth control prescription. There’s an unbiased source!
  • There is no over-population problem! This is a favorite argument of the “pro-lifers”: The world’s entire population could fit in Texas! Sure – if you don’t need any food, water, energy or other natural resources. In fact, we’d need four earths if all 7 billion humans lived like Americans do.
  • The inventor of the birth control pill blames his invention for “demographic catastrophe.” Completely false. Carl Djerassi debunked that here in 2009. The anti-contraception crowd knowingly takes him out of context.
  • “We’re contracepting ourselves out of existence.” Not even close. There are 7 billion people on the planet now, as I mentioned before. The United Nations projects that we’ll have at least 9 billion by 2050 – and possibly even 11 billion if everyone watches this video. I’ve never been good at math, but I do know that 11 is bigger than 7.
  • 30-150 million children have died because of IVF. Only if by “child” you mean “embryo,” and even that appears to be a major exaggeration.
  • Contraception “pollutes the heart” and rejects the “will of God.” The video also says that with contraception, “we allow passion to take over reason, and our actions become more like animals than humans,” and that contraception will lead to bestiality and pedophilia. The old slippery slope argument.
  • Sterilization has resulted in 223 million infertile couples. Stop me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t that’s the whole point of sterilization?
  • “If you had a valuable racehorse, because of its worth, you would want it to have as many offspring as possible.” Last time I checked, I’m not a racehorse.
  • “We should want to procreate – knowing that every person has a unique and immortal soul.” Well, many people DON’T want to have kidsfor a variety of reasons. Videos like this one try to make them feel bad about it, but there’s nothing wrong with it. No source was provided for the “unique and immortal soul” part. Imagine that!
  • “Pregnancy is not a risk – it’s a privilege.” Untrue. Pregnancy is always a risk. Depending on where you live and the care you receive, it can be a huge risk. Complications include ectopic pregnancy, fetal growth restriction, gestational hypertension, incompetent cervix, miscarriage, placenta accreta, placental abruption, RH factor, gestational diabetes, hyperemesis gravidarum, placenta previa, preeclampsia, toxoplasmosis and fistula, to name a few.
  • Contraception = sin, and churches that are OK with it are putting the pleasure of man above the law of God. When everything else fails, try guilt!

The video ends with this gem: “If someone you know is contracepting, tell them to stop. It will destroy them.” Unlike unintended pregnancies and unwanted children, which are totally awesome!

Whew! So … seen any good movies recently?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Study: American Women Use Contraception for Great Reasons!

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

I’m not usually a big proponent of made-up holidays (International Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Donut Day excluded) but I can TOTALLY get behind this one:  Tomorrow -- Sept. 26 -- is World Contraception Day! Yessss!

I'm a huge fan of family planning. Contraception has allowed me to choose the direction of my life rather than have only one option – motherhood. Given my lifelong disinterest in parenthood, I’ve instead chosen to focus on being a wife, writer, employee, volunteer and cool (I hope) auntie to seven great nieces and nephews.

I’m not alone. A new study just out from the Guttmacher Institute proves what I've suspected all along: American women use contraception to  -- wait for it – “better achieve their life goals.” Whoa.

"We can wait to have a kid until we're ready? YES!" (Mathias Kunzli/Flickr)
(Of course, some conservatives argue that women shouldn’t have any life goals beyond being a wife and mother, but I’d kindly suggest that they have at it if they'd like but let the rest of us live our lives how we see fit, thank you very much.)

Tidbits from the study:

  • 63% of women surveyed say contraception has helped them better take care of themselves and their families – including the kids they’ve already got.
  • 56% say contraception has allowed them to support themselves financially.
  • 51% say contraception has allowed them to complete their education. Those silly women thinking they need college degrees!
  • 50% say contraception has allowed them to get or keep a job.
Among reasons women said they used contraception were that they could not afford a baby (65%), they weren’t ready to have children (63%), to have better control over their lives (60%) and wanting to wait until their lives are more stable to add a baby to it (60%).

Those sound like really responsible reasons to me! And here I thought we were all using birth control to engage in wanton hedonism. Oh well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Contraception: It's the Economics, Stupid

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Here’s something a lot of people just don’t seem to get: Access to contraception is an economic issue. It’s not a “social issue.” It’s not a “women’s issue.” It’s certainly not a “religious issue.” It is, fundamentally, an economic issue.

Women pay a premium. (TheeErin/Flickr)
Men are lucky (in more ways than one, you could argue.) While a partner’s unplanned pregnancy might shake up their lives a little bit, the effect is entirely different for women. An unplanned pregnancy can turn a woman’s world upside down and shake it so hard, pieces fall off. Sperm unintentionally meets egg, and her entire life’s plan could be erased.

Plans to start a business? Unless you’re wealthy, don’t count on it.

That promotion she’s always wanted? No good. She wasn’t chosen, because she’s a mother.

Each of these decisions isn’t just a “life choice.” They have economic consequences.

According to Ann Crittenden’s “The Price of Motherhood,” college-educated women in the United States lose $1 MILLION in income over their lives when they have a child. Other research shows that higher-skilled women forfeit up to a third of their potential lifetime earnings if they decide to have children. Lower-skilled women forfeit up to 14 percent of their earnings. This isn’t a small amount.

Meanwhile, for years, women have paid up to 50% more for their health insurance, and many policies have refused to cover contraception while covering drugs for men, such as Viagra. The Affordable Care Act should change that, but a number of employers are suing to avoid covering birth control for their employees. How that will turn out is anyone’s guess.

Of course, a favorite conservative argument is that if women would just keep their legs closed, then it wouldn’t be an issue. Apparently, it’s the duty of women to divorce themselves from the sexual aspect of their humanity in order to have any shot at economic equality. I getcha.

When a lot of women weigh the costs, they decide that it’s worth it. They want to become mothers. I salute them. It’s not easy giving up so much for a job that’s unpaid, often thankless, and never ends.

But for those women who don’t want kids, or who want to delay having them in order to finish school or start careers, contraception is not “slut pills.” It’s their ticket to dream big, dare often, and accomplish just as much and be compensated as well as the guy in the office next door.

And that’s not a small thing. It’s everything.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Maintaining Family Planning Momentum

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Remember this little shindig in July?

Yes! The London Summit on Family Planning! It was a great opportunity to put family planning back on the world’s agenda where it belongs and make some real promises. In fact, global leaders vowed to provide 120 million of the world’s poorest women the ability to plan their families by 2020. Nice!

Of course, anytime you have a big, fancy summit like this one, it’s possible that everyone will come together, have great discussions, reach agreements, shake hands, fly home, and get sidetracked. An event Monday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars focused on maintaining the momentum.

A huge crowd turned out – two overflow rooms were required to hold everyone. Momentum! Karen Hardee, a senior fellow at Futures Group, led the discussion. Here are a few highlights:
  • Win Brown, senior program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said there is much agreement that family planning programs must offer quality services, promote equity, protect human rights, integrate well with other health care and be completely voluntary. He said experts are working on how to ensure that the $2.6 billion committed during the Summit has the greatest possible impact.
  • Julia Bunting of the UK’s Department for International Development said that while the $2.6 billion in commitments is a huge amount, money isn’t enough. Access and delivery of contraceptive knowledge and supplies are still issues. Bunting said one of the biggest accomplishments of the Summit was to put family planning back on the world’s front burner.
  • Scott Radloff, director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health for USAID, cautioned that results won’t be instantaneous – it typically takes 20 years for countries to move from low-use to high-use of family planning. Radloff said, however, that real progress can be made in areas of Africa and South Asia, where family planning investments have long been neglected.
  • Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver and co-founder of Family Care International, was thrilled by the increased attention to family planning that the London Summit provided. “Girls and women have suffered from this neglect – if women can’t plan their fertility, they can’t plan their lives,” she said. “We can’t let the opposition control the argument.”
Amen to that!

Friday, September 14, 2012

We're "Values Voters" Too!

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

This weekend in Washington marks the Values Voter Summit – a yearly conservative conference marked by speeches, panel discussions and seminars. There’s no shortage of hot rhetoric about how only right-wingers have “values.”


Just because liberal values are different from conservative values doesn’t mean we have no values. We have lots of values! We’re especially fond of equality. Personal freedom. Justice. Compassion. Taking care of the planet. Those are rock-solid all-American values right there. So pass the apple pie!

Freedom, equality and justice are American values. (Micky/Flickr)
In fact, I’d make the argument that we’re the REAL “values voters.” Here’s why:

Family planning saves lives. While conservatives fight to make contraception harder to get, we know the truth: Family planning is good for women, children, communities and whole nations.

Banning abortion doesn’t end abortion. At the same time they're cracking down on contraception access, conservatives have fought to make abortion harder to get through a series of laws at the state level. But outlawing abortion doesn’t end abortion. It just means more women die from unsafe, illegal abortions. Standing by and letting women die doesn't sound like very good values to me.

Women deserve equal opportunities. While conservatives like to talk about how important women are, much of the talk seems to be about women’s ability to become mothers and housewives. There’s nothing at all wrong with mothers and housewives – one raised me! But women should NOT be limited based on their biology. Women should pursue what makes them happy, whether it’s raising kids, or rocket engineering.

Protecting the planet for future generations is our sacred duty. You’d think that “conservatives” would be into conservation – but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Climate change denial is only part of the story. Some conservatives seem ready to reject clean energy altogether.

So while the “Values Voters” have their weekend in the spotlight, don’t forget that we also have values. Awesome values. Let’s work to reclaim the word!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's No Time to Deep-Six Title X

By John Seager, President, Population Connection

This little-known program has been saving money, lives and heartache for more than 40 years here in the U.S. It prevents unwanted pregnancies, detects cancer, treats deadly infections and helps babies get a good start in life.

What would happen if that program suddenly vanished?

It wouldn’t be pretty. If Title X funding hadn’t existed in2008, we’d have seen an extra 973,000 unintended pregnancies. 433,000 unplanned births. And 406,000 abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Teen pregnancies would rise, and taxpayers would have to spend more on public services. Our health care system would suffer. So, too, would flesh and blood people.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just an interesting thought experiment. The future of Title X isn’t entirely secure.

Title X provided 5.2 million Americans with reproductive care in 2010, but future funding is in doubt. (afagen/flickr)
The National Family Planning Program, or Title X – pronounced “ten” – is one of the most important public health programs in the nation. Begun by President Richard Nixon in 1970, this program is a crucial source of reproductive care. In 2010 alone, it provided 5.2 million Americans with Pap tests, breast exams, family planning advice and contraception. Not a dollar of Title X money is spent on abortion. About 69 percent of families served by Title X had family incomes at or below the poverty level. Without Title X, these families most likely would simply go without.

Why should you care? I’m glad you asked.

When women are able to postpone pregnancy, plan their families and space their births, they are healthier, and their babies are, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teens can stay in school. College dreams can become reality. The economic pressures large families face can be avoided.

Our planet benefits, too, by less use of the natural resources we all depend upon.

Family planning also saves you and me money. Every dollar invested in Title X family planning programs saves $3.74 in Medicaid costs the next year, according to Guttmacher.

But for some strange reason, family planning now finds itself in the crosshairs. Whether for short-sighted budgetary concerns, arcane religious arguments or simple sexism, the House this year voted to defund Title X – and leave those 5.2 million Americans to fend for themselves.

This is no time to back down on our commitment to healthier women, children and families.

So the next time you hear silly politicians vowing to defund family planning programs, confront them. Ask them why they want more unintended pregnancies, extra unplanned births and a spike in the abortion rate. Ask them why they want fewer Americans taking responsibility for their choices by using contraception. Ask them why they want women’s lives constrained in a way that men’s simply are not.

Then listen – really listen – to their answer. That should tell you all you need to know.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Pro-Life"? Nope. Just Pro-Birth

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Well this is an infuriating blog post from the often infuriating National Review:

Countless media pundits question the efficacy of the pro-life movement. … Some maintain that overturning Roe v. Wade would not result in fewer abortions. The spin they give is that if abortion policy returned to the states, women seeking abortions would simply travel to blue states where abortion would likely remain legal.

However, a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that women seeking abortions are sensitive to the travel costs and that state bans on abortion would be effective in reducing abortions.

In other words, “pro-lifers” are excited by evidence that state restrictions on abortion  – or outright bans if Roe v. Wade were overturned – force poor women to give birth. Rich women (National Review readers?) are fine – they can just buy a ticket to California or New York or Europe or someplace and make a long weekend of it. No biggie.

But poor women couldn’t afford to travel to places where abortion was legal, so they’d have no choice but to have a child. No money = no choice. Mandatory motherhood.

And don’t forget that all the while, “pro-life” lawmakers are slashing funding for family planning, making it even harder for poor women to avoid pregnancy in the first place. 

Luckily, aspirin between the knees is super cheap, according to conservatives.

Here’s my question for “pro-lifers”: If women can’t afford an abortion, how on Earth will they afford to adequately care for a child? Have you looked into the cost of diapers these days? Day care? Food? Education?

The right wing can crow all day about how much they respect life, but forcing women to give birth to children they don’t want and can’t afford while voting to slash the social safety net doesn’t sound “pro-life” to me. Pro-birth, maybe. There’s a BIG difference.