Debate Forum Left, 12/20/11

How the “pro-life” movement really isn’t

By  Marianne Stanley

Marianne Stanley

If there’s one consistent thing in government today, it’s that it has become utterly predictable. This makes it easier for intelligent citizens to determine what’s right or wrong. If it’s a new law or policy, it’s wrong.

Gone are the days when science had merit and religion was kept out of politics. Gone are the times when most elected officials in Washington were there because of a desire to serve the American public and lead an enlightened nation rather than feed their own egos while padding their coffers with perks and benefits unavailable to the rest of the nation. And gone are the days when dishonesty and corruption were the exception rather than the rule.

The recent order by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to keep Plan B unavailable to women, ages 11- 17, is just one more example of politics trumping good science and sound policy. Since the FDA reports to HHS, Sebelius has the right to overrule its decisions but that’s not to be confused with doing what is right. The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the entire developed world due to our backwards attitudes on sex, coupled with an unholy marriage of politics and religion despite our Constitutional mandate to keep a wall between the two. For a country steeped in overt sexuality that saturates our media and society, we still honor our Puritan roots by posturing as an asexual, religious people.

Plan B, otherwise known as the “Morning-after Pill,” was actually approved by the FDA way back in 1997. Though the Bush Administration blocked its use, the Obama administration made it available to those ages 17 and older, even though a study committee of medical experts said, as far back as 2003, that Plan B should immediately be made available for non-prescription use with no age restrictions for those ages 11 and older. Plan B One-Step was to be put on the drug store shelves by the condoms since both are a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies.  Its cost of $50 would ensure no easy or frivolous use.  No one seems to question the use of condoms for males of any age.  Why are females repeatedly blocked from control over their own reproduction, their own lives?

Yet, in her ruling, Sebelius said girls in the 11-17 age range don’t have the “intellectual capacity” to understand how to use the pill. When we are told that girls between 11 and 17 don’t have the capacity to use Plan B (hint: swallow it, wash it down with a few sips of water) wouldn’t it follow that they don’t have the capability to carry, birth, nurture and rear a child? It seems reason has disappeared from our government.

When we think that our young and immature males and females should remain chaste although we continue to let them steep in a society of explicit images and themes of overt sexuality, we are irrational. When we seek to “punish” young women who have become pregnant by forcing them to have a child they cannot care for, we are irrational.

We need to realize that great-sounding words like mother, baby, personhood, heartbeat and life often belie the horror of the reality. The truth is, many people in this country are poor, are hurting, and are in need. Those who don’t struggle financially should not be the ones proclaiming that all children are better off born than not born. These folks should spend a day with a Child Protective Services worker before they bow to standard thought and clichés.

A father in Dayton was recently charged with using a dog’s electronic collar to punish his children; an Arizona mother used a hot curling iron in the mouth of her daughter, and parents beat, hurt and even kill their children by the thousands every year in the U.S.  Fathers, uncles, brothers and other relatives force sex on young female family members in increasing numbers as child pornography warps adult minds.

It is time to see the inconsistencies in the stances taken by those opposed to this pill. These are the same folks who are adamantly against abortion. Many of them are men who get off scott-free in the area of reproduction and who have absolutely no idea of how having an unwanted child changes a female’s life forever. They, therefore, have no business even making policy in this area.

The war against women is getting worse. For instance, many states, Ohio among them, are pushing so-called “Heartbeat” bills, which criminalize abortion once a heartbeat can be detected. While those of us with heartbeats emotionally identify with this wording, what we’re not told is that a heartbeat is often detected by six-and-a-half weeks, often before a female even knows she’s pregnant. At this point, the clump of cells still has no discernible head, arms or legs and looks like a narrow tube. It has no brain, no nerve endings, no sensations; it cannot suffer. Nature herself uses the first trimester to get rid of up to one-third of all pregnancies through miscarriage.

Unfortunately, the Puritan beginnings of this country still lie just below the surface. Never underestimate the power of conservative religious lobbies like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other supposedly “religious” groups that feel entitled to foist their own beliefs on countless others who don’t share them. Somehow, the fact that our country was founded on freedom for rather than tyrannical control over the individual has escaped them … and we are all the poorer because of it.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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