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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Sunday, May 7, 2006

Sex is bad unless you're doing it to have children.

It's little secret that's the real message behind efforts in the US to end abortion, keep emergency contraception out of the hands of women, and foist abstinence-only 'sex education' onto young people — unless of of course you get your news exclusively from the 'mainstream' press. Major US news media tend to look at each of those efforts in isolation from one another, and to cover them mainly in terms of tactics. Reporting on the ideology and long-term goals of anti-abortion and anti-sex ed activists is rare, so 'anti-sex' groups are largely free to pursue their real agenda below the radar.

The New York Times Magazine, however, is breaking the pattern. The current issue features a major article by Russell Shorto in which he shows how a movement that wants to bar contraception is finally starting to lay its cards out on the table.

I can't possibly do justice to the article with excerpts — you really need to read the whole thing. But I will give you some tidbits to get your curiousity up. (All of the emphasis is mine.)

For the past 33 years — since, as they see it, the wanton era of the 1960's culminated in the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 — American social conservatives have been on an unyielding campaign against abortion. But recently, as the conservative tide has continued to swell, this campaign has taken on a broader scope. Its true beginning point may not be Roe but Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that had the effect of legalizing contraception. "We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion," says Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, an organization that has battled abortion for 27 years but that, like others, now has a larger mission. "The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set," she told me. "So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome. We oppose all forms of contraception." [...]

Edward R. Martin Jr., a lawyer for the public-interest law firm Americans United for Life, whose work includes seeking to restrict abortion at the state level and representing pharmacists who have refused to prescribe emergency contraception, told me: "We see contraception and abortion as part of a mind-set that's worrisome in terms of respecting life. If you're trying to build a culture of life, then you have to start from the very beginning of life, from conception, and you have to include how we think and act with regard to sexuality and contraception." [...]

It may be news to many people that contraception as a matter of right and public health is no longer a given, but politicians and those in the public health profession know it well. "The linking of abortion and contraception is indicative of a larger agenda, which is putting sex back into the box, as something that happens only within marriage," says William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Siecus has been around since 1964, and as a group that supports abortion rights, it is natural enemies with many organizations on the right, but its mission has changed in recent years, from doing things like promoting condoms as a way to combat AIDS to, now, fighting to maintain the very idea of birth control as a social good. "Whether it's emergency contraception, sex education or abortion, anything that might be seen as facilitating sex outside a marital context is what they'd like to see obliterated," Smith says. [...]

While Americans as a whole don't hold such a dark view of comprehensive sex education, many do feel there's something wrong with a strictly clinical approach. This ambivalence, according to Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, gets to the root of the problem and may explain the numbers. "One of the things I'm most often asked is why the abortion and unintended pregnancy rates are so much lower in Europe," she says. "People talk about the easy access to contraception there, but I think it's really a matter of the underlying social norms. In Europe, these things are in the open, and the only issue is to be careful. Here in the U.S., people are still arguing about whether it's O.K. to have sex."

Short's article is definitely worth your time. You can read the whole thing here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:15 AM | Get permalink




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