Commentary Contraception

Anti-Choicers Will Deny How EC Works, Regardless of How Much Evidence You Give Them

Amanda Marcotte

The science is in and has been for awhile: Emergency contraception prevents fertilization. But anti-choicers continue to push quack science asserting the opposite. Why?

The science is in and has been for awhile: Not only does emergency contraception not cause abortion—this was never in doubt, because EC prevents pregnancy and abortion terminates it—but it can’t even be considered “abortion” even under the fake definition created by anti-choicers, where anything that could keep a fertilized egg from implanting is “abortion.” (Considering that half of fertilized eggs don’t implant, the most “abortions” are performed by women who don’t use contraception at all, a biological reality pointedly ignored by anti-choicers.) Research shows that emergency contraception doesn’t prevent implantation, but works by suppressing ovulation. In the aggregate, emergency contraception likely prevents more fertilized eggs from “dying” because it prevents them from getting fertilized in the first place. If anti-choicers were sincere in their concern for the supposed souls of fertilized eggs, they would want women to use emergency contraception on those occasions when women had unprotected sex for whatever reason.

Despite these scientific realities, anti-choicers continue to oppose the use of emergency contraception on the grounds that it’s “abortion.” (Other kinds of contraception are more honestly opposed because they just straight up don’t want you to have non-procreative sex.) Just this week, Rewire ran two stories about how anti-choicers continue to be outraged about emergency contraception and are trying to do everything in their power to make sure women who have already had sex are forced to ovulate whether they like it or not.

Imani Gandy wrote about how Bart Stupak and the Democrats for Life, despite their opposition to abortion, are trying very hard to keep the abortion rate high by keeping women from preventing pregnancy.

An amicus brief recently filed by Bart Stupak and Democrats for Life of America in the Newland v. Sebelius birth control benefit lawsuit contends that the Newlands, their for-profit corporation Hercules Industries, and “millions of other Americans” oppose “being forced to cover medicines that are, or that may colorably be thought to be, abortifacients.” The arguments made in the brief are based on false claims that go against an overwhelming consensus about how emergency contraceptives work, and the false claims are based on non-peer reviewed “scientific research” pursued by agenda-driven religious extremists, who continue to assert that Plan B and Ella are abortion-inducing drugs when they are not.

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Eleanor Bader wrote about how a Plan B vending machine has survived anti-choicer trying to drum up outrage:

Gigliotti believes that someone on campus—he does not know if it was a disgruntled student, faculty member, or staff person—tipped off the press that Shippensburg had a Plan B vending machine and within hours the story was garnering headlines and energizing anti-choice and abstinence-only advocates across the country. ”What we did by making Plan B available in a vending machine is very emotional for a lot of people,” he begins. “When the story broke we immediately received more than 1000 calls and emails. Right away it became clear to us that people were confused about what Plan B is and how it works. The largest number of contacts came from people who oppose Plan B on a moral or religious basis and they did not want to listen to facts. In their minds Plan B is an abortion and no amount of scientific information will change their minds. They told us that we were killing babies and were all going to go to Hell.”

One letter-writer complained that it was like giving “dynamite” to the students, which is indicative of the amount of anger and anxiety conservatives feel about the fact—boring to most of us—that college kids like having sex with each other.

Why do conservatives persist in claiming that ovulation suppression is the same thing as “abortion,” which they then erroneously compare to killing babies? It has nothing to do with “life,” as you have probably guessed already—EC works by the same principle as a condom, by preventing the gametes from meeting in the first place. What is really driving this is a desperate desire to preserve a belief that men are the doers of the world while women are simply passive objects.

This works in two ways, the most obvious being the direct assault on anything women can use to control their own bodies. The amount of hatred anti-choicers have for a contraception method is in direct proportion to the amount of autonomy it provides the woman who uses it. Condoms, which require male cooperation, get the least amount of abuse (though it’s still substantial). Hormonal contraception and IUDs, however, give women independent control, and unsurprisingly, the bulk of anti-choice efforts are aimed at blocking access to these forms.

Beyond that, it’s also a symbolic matter. In a sense, the entire anti-choice movement is about defending a male-centric view of reproduction. In their minds, the action that “makes” a baby is the man ejaculating. The woman is simply a passive agent, the soil a man uses to grow “his” offspring. That’s why they are so insistent that “life” begins at fertilization, and not after the woman does the months of hard work that it takes to grow an actual baby. Abortion frustrates that reading, because it’s a reminder that it is not, in fact, a baby as soon as a man ejaculates. Emergency contraception frustrates it, too, because it’s a reminder that even the fertilization process occurs well after a man has done his part. Both abortion and emergency contraception defy anti-choice demands that a vessel-woman, once ejaculated in, loses all agency over her body and simply becomes a receptacle. So it is vigorously resisted.

Of course, in the real world, most men aren’t ejaculating into women while imagining said women are the soil in which they are planting their seed. Still, we have a long way to go when it comes to not giving men most or all of the credit for making babies, starting with the peculiar tradition of naming children after the person who didn’t have to gain a bunch of weight and then push them out of a sensitive part of his body. As long as there’s tension between what conservatives would like to believe—that men make babies and women just incubate them—and what biology actually tells us, anti-choicers are going to be angry over emergency contraception. Just remember, in anti-choice mouths, “abortion” is a code word for any technology that refutes their image of women as passive receptacles.

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