Birth Control Heats Up As A National Issue–But Where Are the Women?

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It’s time for a birth control lesson, ladies. Are you with me?

This week Foster Friess, a major backer of Rick Santorum’s Super PAC, did an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Mitchell wondered if Santorum’s quaint notions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage might be a hindrance to his electability, though she did not mention the outrageous and shocking practice of apparently millions of American women using birth control. Which Congress, in case you haven’t heard, is very upset about and trying to get a handle on. But more on that later.

Friess scoffed to the contrary, and then made a delightful and inexplicable detour into an explanation of how women–I mean, “gals”–used to protect themselves in the good old days. By which I take to mean, using some simple math, about a half century ago.

But let’s move on. Are you ready? Here’s what Friess said to Mitchell on the question of Santorum’s views on sex, according to The Huffington Post. Feel free to take notes:

“I get such a chuckle when these things come out,” he said. “We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex — I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.”

Friess then turned to contraception. “This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,.”.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet?

Unfortunately, Friess’s statement only left me with more questions. (Which Andrea Mitchell, regrettably, failed to ask because she was breathless and at a loss for words.) For instance, how many aspirins did the gals use? Was there a certain number of pills—3,5,7?—they put between their knees that was more effective? At what point did women insert the aspirins? During foreplay? Right before intercourse? Did this rule out certain sexual positions? Was there a trick to holding them in place? What if the aspirins fell right in the heat of things? Or, god help you, broke? Did women always bring the aspirin? Or did men sometimes? Did it have to be Bayer, or was generic OK? And since we’re talking about economics here, how much did a bottle of aspirin cost in, say, 1950?

On that note, it does seem to be “Ladies’ Private Parts Week in Politics.”
Yesterday Republican Rep. Darrell Isa got in trouble for barring women from testifying at a hearing about a matter that mostly concerns, well, women. I’m sure you’ve guessed this already, but the hearing had to do with Obama’s ruling requiring employers and insurers to cover birth control. Issa argued the issue at hand was instead religious liberty and so refused to let a female witness testify. But then he did allow religious leaders to speak. Who are much better informed and more experienced about this kind of thing, as we know. This did not go over well with Democratic House members Nancy Pelosi, Carolyn Malone and Eleanor Holmes Norton, who boycotted the hearing in response to Issa’s decision.

I am not done yet. Then we have the bill by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, which has 37 co-sponsors including Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. (Which, I must point out here, gets more federal dollars than Afghanistan. And they say Republicans don’t like big government!) Under the measure employers and insurance companies could deny you healthcare coverage if they had a religious or moral objection to a procedure or treatment. This is despite the law, of course. But who cares about that? And we’re not just talking free birth control pills here, though making contraception all but inaccessible is the intent behind the bill.

As Thinkprogress points out:

Indeed, under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.

I know some of you think I talk too much about reproductive issues too much. I feel your pain. I wish I didn’t have to. But when a major donor for a GOP presidential candidate who doesn’t believe in contraception, who thinks birth control “doesn’t cost much,” is allowed to go on a news program and make statements about birth control that are strikingly bizarre and fact-free, when a Republican congressman refuses to let women speak about a health issue that profoundly affects their lives because he believes a female college student asked to testify does not have the “appropriate credentials,” when an all-male panel of religious leaders are considered appropriate to speak on contraception instead, I ask you, What’s a gal to do? Turn off the news? Avoid the Internet? Plead a headache and take two aspirins and go to bed?

Or is it four?

birth control

Credit Image: © Sonia Moskowitz/Globe Photos/ Post originally published on BlogHer.


Mona Gable
Mona Gable is a political blogger for The Huffington Post where her posts on the 2008 presidential election and on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy have been linked to by numerous websites, from ABC to The Drudge Report.

In addition to blogging, Mona is an award-winning journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, Health, LA magazine, Wall Street Journal, Child, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

She is a contributor to the new Seal Press anthology “The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change.” Her essays have also been published in two bestselling anthologies, “Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood,” which won the American Book Award and the bestselling anthology “A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters.” She is currently working on a memoir, a portion of which will be published in West this spring. Since 2004, she has taught creative nonfiction and personal essay in the Writers Program at UCLA Extension.
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One Response to Birth Control Heats Up As A National Issue–But Where Are the Women?

  1. Debbie Mohler February 19, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    The bottom line is no one should be made to provide birth control that is abortifacient. Iud’s and All hormone bc changes the lining of the endometrium so a fertilized egg cannot implant. Life begins 6 to 10 days before implantation. Read the Physician Desk Reference insert in your packaging under clinical pharmacology or google your brand and it will tell you that one of the ways it works is what I just stated.
    Hope this gives a new perspective on the topic.

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