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Abortions on “Unpregnant” Women and Other Myths of the Far Right

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

If men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament.

Gloria Steinem, The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.

Here’s how it works.  People who do not oppose abortion are in favor of steps that can be taken to avoid unwanted pregnancies so that there will be fewer abortions.  People who oppose abortions oppose the steps that can be taken to reduce unwanted pregnancies.  Some people who oppose abortions think doctors perform abortions on women who aren’t pregnant.   It is confusing but it is hoped that this column will help readers understand how it all works.

Contraception enables a woman who wants to have sex (as the vernacular has it), but not a baby, to do so.  The Catholic Church and similar luddites think a woman should do nothing to avoid becoming pregnant except rely on her bodily cycles to decide when to enjoy sex.  The Catholic Church makes its wishes known through men who can enjoy sex whenever they want, even with children, without fear of any consequences.

A study was recently concluded that demonstrates that if contraception is widely available there will be fewer unwanted pregnancies.  The study was conducted from 2007 to 2011 and its results were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.   The participants were between the ages of 14 and 45.  The researchers discovered that when cost was not a factor (since the various methods of contraception were provided to the study participants free of charge) the participants chose those methods that were most likely to be successful such as implants and IUDs. The study found there was a teen birth rate of 6.3 per thousand among participants in the study compared with a teen birth rate of 34.3 per thousand nationwide.  Annual abortion rates ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per thousand women in the study compared with 19.6 per thousand nationwide. Megan Kavanaugh, one of the researchers said:  “These findings really show promise for what could happen on a national level” with a combination of free birth control and promotion of the most effective methods.”

On the date the regulations mandating insurance companies to cover, among other things, DEA-approved contraception, became effective, Jeff Fortenberry (R.NE) joined colleagues in a ceremony to mark what he called: “The day Religious Freedom Died. ” He could also have named it “The day the number of unwanted pregnancies (and resulting abortions) was reduced.”  Explaining the reason for the demonstration he said (without using quite these words) that for the government to take away the right of men to decide what women may do with their bodies, including the right to not become pregnant but nonetheless enjoy the same right to enjoy sex that men have, “violates a deeply held traditional principle of the rights of conscience and liberty in our country.”  He was probably thinking of the Puritans.  Jeff was joining the Catholic Church and its allies who have filed lawsuits to ask the courts to invalidate those regulations that require them to offer such coverage to their employees.  Opponents of reducing unwanted pregnancies have lots of tools in their arsenals.  In addition to attacking the Health Care Act in court, legislators, cities, and states have found another line of attack. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the most recent example.

On October 5, 2012, the Oklahoma State Department of Health officials notified Planned Parenthood of the Heartland that at the end of the year it would lose its state funding.  The agency had three clinics that had about 2,800 visits per month.  They performed no abortions.  They provided, among other things, free contraceptive services to women who could not afford to pay for them.  In withdrawing funding, Oklahoma was joining other progressive states such as New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee, all of which have cut or attempted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood even when the clinics in question performed no abortions. Indiana legislators passed a law eliminating Planned Parenthood federal funding and Texas passed a law to exclude those clinics from the state’s Women’s Health Program which is federally funded in part.  Those steps will insure the continuation of unwanted pregnancies and give new momentum to the fight over who controls women’s bodies.

Occasionally the ongoing debate about abortion produces interesting tidbits.  Todd Akin, who is running for the Senate in Missouri, explained a short time ago that women who are raped do not become pregnant because of their bodies’ responses to the assault. In comments he made in 2008 Mr. Akin observed that doctors who perform abortions cheat on their taxes and “ perform abortions on women who are not actually pregnant. “

Here is a bonus for this week’s column that has nothing to do with contraception or abortion. On September 27, 2012, Congressman Paul Broun (R. GA.) gave a speech at a sportsman’s banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia.  In his speech he said:  “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Mr. Broun sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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