What a DA’s Actions Reveal About The War on Contraception

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What a DA’s Actions Reveal About The War on Contraception

Amanda Marcotte

The war on contraception may not go mainstream any time soon, but current efforts point toward the creation of sexual Haves and Have Nots, those who “deserve” contraception and those who don’t.

Those of us monitoring the right wing War on Contraception (otherwise known as the War to Make Sure Sex for Fun Is Available Only to the Highly Privileged, a term usually rejected because, while it’s accurate, it’s also unwieldy), know this is an issue widely neglected in the media.  But recently things seemed to be heating up on a number of fronts. Witness this item, forwarded to me by more people than I technically think I know:

A Wisconsin prosecutor  is warning that teachers who teach the state’s new sex education curriculum could be arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of children.

Many things jump out at the average person when considering this item, including the fact that way too many prosecutors are perverts who spend time thinking of ways to get teenage girls into handcuffs.

I personally thought about how weird it is to think that not getting pregnant is the sort of thing that might be considered “delinquent behavior” in a minor. When I was a teenager, I think my mother would have thought it way more delinquent to come home pregnant than not pregnant. But what really jumped out at me was that Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth has a very poor understanding of the law for someone who claims to be and is working as a lawyer. He appears to think having sex for pleasure is automatically illegal in the state of Wisconsin, or at least that it is if you’re under the age of 18. But in reality, it’s only illegal if one person is a minor and the other is an adult. Contraception works pretty well for 16-year-old lovebirds in the reality-based world.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Alarmingly, Southworth also conflates “sex-for-pleasure” with sexual assault on minors, and suggests that knowing how to use contraception is the basis for both. Most rape victims would not agree with Southworth’s suggestion that the sex forced upon them was the same thing as sex for pleasure, at least not theirs. But I also hesitated at the suggestion that contraception is a major factor in sexual assault. I worry that Southworth doesn’t think it’s rape if the rapist doesn’t use a condom. Consider the recently reopened Roman Polanski case in light of this information. Polanski didn’t use a condom while raping his victim, after all. Let’s all be grateful that the prosecutor in that case wasn’t Scott Southworth, who is more worried that someone might avoid pregnancy and have fun in a fully consensual situation than the reality of child rape, which has very little to do with contraception education.

But what’s interesting about this story is the audacity of it. Usually, anti-choicers try to micromanage public awareness of their hostility to contraception, because if the public at large knew that the movement opposed all non-procreative forms of sexual expression, we the public would probably not be too happy with them. Instead, there’s this familiar if facetious story about fetal life, one I’m sure you’ve heard. But here Southworth is blowing their cover, and putting it right there in writing, that “sex-for-pleasure” is an evil that needs to be stomped out.

This story is no anomaly. The War on Contraception, which is usually fought under cover for fear that the anti-sex agenda of the anti-choice movement might make them less popular, is going mainstream in the U.S. Seems like some members of Congress are experimenting with putting forward arguments that assume that contraception funding can be presumed immoral and disgusting. Minority Leader John Boehner made these statements in an attempt to use female sexuality to derail healthcare reform:

Now we learn that Washington Democrats’ government takeover of health care dramatically expands taxpayer funding of contraceptives and the abortion industry. First Democrats removed this controversial provision from the ‘stimulus’ and then they hid it in their government takeover of health care, hoping the American people wouldn’t notice. That’s why Republicans are fighting to repeal this health care law and replace it with common-sense reforms that respect taxpayer dollars and protect life.

“Protect life” is now an unambiguous euphemism for “punish female sexuality with forced childbirth.”  Boehner doesn’t even try to pretend that he’s using fetal life as a foil, since he’s objecting to funding for services that would prevent conception in the first place. The word “abortion” is slapped on to make the language more hysterical, but if you strip away the randomly inserted alarmist language, what Boehner is objecting to is a health care system that includes education and provision of contraception, from the condom box at Planned Parenthood to a woman with health insurance going to a doctor and having her birth control prescription covered.

In other words, Boehner is asking his audience to believe that use of contraception, methods to prevent unintended pregnancy used by 98 percent of women at some point in their fertile years, is so controversial that an entire health care bill should be repealed to curtail the behavior. This wouldn’t be so remarkable if the anti-contraception sentiment wasn’t coming from the House Minority Leader. Boehner isn’t doing what the Bush administration did with emergency contraception blockages or abstinence-only education, which is hide the anti-contraception agenda behind a facade of merely wanting to control teenage girls’ sexuality. This is an assault on the right of women of all ages to have sex for pleasure without fear of pregnancy, except for those who are wealthy enough to pay for family planning services out of pocket.

Which is where I think things could be heading. We’re probably not going to see the anti-choice movement’s across-the-board war on contraception go mainstream any time soon, but I fear we’ll see more folks like Boehner and Southworth, who try to create sexual groups of Haves and Have Nots, i.e. those who “deserve” contraception and those who don’t, because their sexuality is wrong and icky. The Have Nots will include young women, women who aren’t wealthy, and women of color. The Haves — women entitled to have sex for pleasure — will be the wealthy women they deem deserving. Women that just so happen to look like their wives, which is just a coincidence I’m sure.