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When War Crimes Are Impossible
Bruce E. Levine
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Eleanor J. Bader
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“Birth Control Causes Promiscuity” & Other Specious Arguments
W hether opposing mention of global warming or access to contraception, the political right consistently chooses politics over science. Thus, in May 2004 a single political appointee at the FDA halted approval of the Plan B Contraceptive, rejecting 40 studies and 15,000 pages of clinical data that demonstrated the safety of emergency contraception (EC). One person overruled the 23-4 decision of two advisory panels to make Plan B available without prescription.
Many arguments against women’s access to information (sex education) and reproductive control are made with the pretense of “protecting” females. Rev. Jimmy Swaggart declared, “Sex education classes in our public schools are promoting incest.” It has also been argued by some on the political right and within the Catholic Church hierarchy that birth control “causes promiscuity” (like umbrellas cause rain?).
Among the arguments against pharmacist-prescribed emergency contraception is the bizarre rationalization by Colorado state Sen. Greg Brophy that EC is a drug used to take advantage of women. In his imagination, a sexual predator— “possibly a high school coach”— would obtain emergency contraception to give to his underage victim in order to cover his transgression, making Colorado “a playground for sexual predators.”
Similarly, long-time abortion foe Mark Crutcher accused Planned Parenthood of “protecting pedophiles” by preserving confidentiality of medical records of women who had abortions. The Kansas attorney general used the same argument in 2005 when he subpoenaed the abortion records of adult women—not the “10-year-olds” that he professed to protect against pedophiles.
Arguing that, “Incest is a voluntary act on a woman’s part,” former Notre Dame University law professor Charles Rice opposed abortion in cases of rape and incest, reinforcing blame of the victim and the notion of pregnancy as punishment of females. Bush judicial nominee and former head of Arkansas Right to Life, James Leon Holmes, opposes abortion for rape victims: “The concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snow in Miami.” This apocryphal notion has long circulated within right-to-life circles, expressed in right-to-life denial literature: “Medically we know pregnancy in these cases [incest or rape] would be rare if not impossible” because “fear prevents ovulation…only when the female is consenting does pregnancy occur.”
Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL) used the same erroneous logic—“rape rarely results in pregnancy”—in drafting the 1977 Hyde Amendment denying Medicaid coverage for abortion. The 1998 Republican candidate from Arkansas for the U.S. Senate, Fay Boozman, stated, “Pregnancies from rape are rare because of ‘God’s protective little shield.’” For Boozman and others an adrenalin rush triggered by fear supposedly causes hormonal changes that block a woman’s ability to conceive during a violent attack, a claim apparently based on his observations as an eye surgeon rather than any scientific evidence.
The right wing consistently frames every issue—from welfare
reform to abortion and family planning—to protect male prerogatives
of behavior and punish females for any perceived sexual transgression,
even their own abuse. Welfare reform became yet another occasion
to punish and stigmatize single mothers, who were blamed for everything
from high taxes and immorality to crime and drug abuse. Welfare
reform was exploited as an opportunity to eliminate access to family
planning and to institute abstinence-and-marriage-only options for
women. The right continues to withhold funding for domestic and
international family planning programs under the guise of opposition
Anti-abortion leaders who object to abortion used “as birth control” are the fiercest opponents of contraception. The American Life League, whose president Judie Brown brands contraception “better killing through chemistry,” ran newspaper ads in 2000 predicting that Microsoft CEO Bill Gates would suffer divine retribution for the hundreds of millions of dollars he donated to international family planning programs. The most strident anti-welfare, anti-choice legislators, led by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Henry Hyde (R-IL), have targeted for elimination Title X domestic family planning, as well as international family planning programs. “Baby pesticides” is Smith’s favorite term for contraception, his justification for the 1998 House vote that barred Food and Drug Administration research on a wide range of contraceptives to prevent implantation.
The Vatican has enthusiastically endorsed Viagra for men yet vigorously opposes contraception for women. So, too, have insurance companies who rushed to cover Viagra, while boycotting contraceptive coverage for over 30 years. A spokesperson for the Health Insurance Association of America justified the omission, declaring Viagra a treatment for medical dysfunction and contraception a “lifestyle drug.”
Further erosion of contraceptive access has been legislated by some states in the form of “conscience clauses” that increasingly subject women to pharmacists’ refusal to fill contraceptive prescriptions that they deem “morally objectionable.” So pervasive is the imposition of fundamentalist political right doctrine that even total strangers presume the right to violate the conscience and health of women.
Michele Swenson is the author of Democracy Under Assault: TheoPolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.