The dog wags back!

A sometimes funny, somtimes angry, but mostly progressive, blog on the politics and issues of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and America.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Rick's Ignorance

Contraception protection
Oregon Daily Emerald, Jan. 10, 2005

Ailee Slater, Columnist

"A reproductive right"-- a cliche phrase that stands for one of two general ideals: for abortion or against? Beyond the inherent problems in asking ourselves to choose between black and white, U.S. citizens must now deal with a new gray area emerging into the sphere of political discussion. Pro-death or pro-misogyny won't come into play here; the issue is not abortion but birth control.

For those of us who believed that a fight about hormone pills and condoms was a fad of the '70s, like disco and sequins, I am sad to report that it seems to be making a dramatic comeback. Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in our nation's senate, is pushing the envelope of privacy and basic rights in his opposition to contraception. Santorum is not just talking about abortion pills, he's talking about birth control pills. According to a recent Newsweek article, Santorum believes that each state should have the right to regulate contraception as it sees fit, meaning that Santorum would support, for instance, Oregon if it decided to ban the sale and use of any contraceptive. Coming from a high-ranking senator who has expressed wishes to run for president, this fact is certainly unsettling.

Also upsetting is the fact that Santorum has quietly, yet publicly, expressed his opposition most strongly to one form of pre-emptive birth control in particular: the pill. According to a quote from Santorum about his opposition to birth control pills in Prevention Magazine, he claims to be against insurers covering medication which "would lead to a fertilized egg not being implanted in the uterus ... I would not support drugs that would prevent a conceived embryo (from being) implanted."

Of course, the error in Santorum's thinking is amusing as well as disturbing. I shudder to think how many politicians are making medically unsound decisions concerning the bodies of women. Birth control pills are designed to deliver certain hormones into a woman's body in order to trick her system into thinking that it is already pregnant, therefore preventing the release of an egg. For Santorum to claim that birth control pills could possibly stop an already fertilized egg from becoming a fetus demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about an issue for which, as a policy-maker, he should be intimately acquainted with.

Likewise, emergency contraception manipulates hormones in the same manner, simply at a larger level. If conception has occurred, the "morning-after pill" will have absolutely no effect on this fertilized egg. The opposition to emergency contraception as killing life, from both Santorum as well as an increasing number of conservatives, is scientifically unfounded. The Justice Department recently published new guidelines for treating rape victims, which include no reference to emergency contraception as a method of preventing pregnancy. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have already spoken out against this prominent omission; still, it is frightening to realize that it is the radicals rather than leaders of our country who are coming to the aid of women recovering from rape.

Of course, it is not just these methods of birth control coming under fire. Santorum has made no distinction between hormonal birth control and latex birth control and this fact, along with Bush's well-known support of abstinence-only education, points to a group of policy-makers amiable to the idea of condoms as a thing of the past. This particular group just happens to be in charge of The United States of America, meaning that without left-wingers asserting power, the legality of our little latex friends might be liable to go limp. And, at the point where condoms are being discussed, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS in relation to policies of contraception present even more concerns within backwards ideas on birth control.

It is just one senator from Pennsylvania, and it is just one former governor from Texas. Just one partial-birth abortion policy, just one emergency-contraception regulation. It is just one Justice Department. It may seem impossible, improbable and everything in between that birth control, just birth control, could ever be illegal. Let us hope that those running our nation will remember that human rights and women's rights have taken us this far; now is not the time to turn back the clock.