An online video puts every crappy anti-contraception argument in one place. "Call the Midwife" makes reproductive health care policy exciting, and Jessica Valenti asks why have kids.
Gary Tramontina/Getty Images
An online video puts every crappy anti-contraception argument in one place. “Call the Midwife” makes reproductive health care policy exciting, and Jessica Valenti asks why have kids.
Subscribe to RealityCast:
Links in this episode:
On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Jessica Valenti about her new book Why Have Kids. Jezebel blogs about a video that puts a bunch of crazy anti-choice myths about the pill into one spot, and the new show on PBS “Call the Midwife” makes reproductive health care policy dramatic and interesting.
Abortion is still banned in Ireland, but that doesn’t mean that pro-choicers there are giving up.
- Ireland *
Pro-choice rants in Irish accents! Doesn’t get better than that.
Thanks to Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel for turning up this amazing video from a group of nuns in Ohio trying to convince women that birth control is the worst thing ever. As is typical of these anti-contraception propaganda pieces, the focus is mostly on the pill, because it’s perceived as the favorite contraception of unmarried women, and anti-choicers tend to be especially interested in punishing single women for sex. I really liked this video, because it was a nice collection of most of the myths being pushed by anti-choicers about the pill, so I thought I’d excerpt parts of it.
- pill 1 *
Do I need to point out that they made this up? There is no research showing that there’s a “fertility pheromone” that women release, and believe me, I googled around to make sure. Nor does the pill trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant, which is a stupid myth that will not die. The pill actually holds your body at a hormone level that is usually modeled on the one right after ovulation. It just keeps you from getting to the hormone level that induces ovulation is all.
But the funniest part about this is they contradict themselves right away.
- pill 2 *
Yep, they tried to scare you off the pill by saying it makes you unattractive. Then they denounced women for trying to be attractive. But just because women are wrong no matter what they do, don’t think that this is a misogynist operation! The visuals really make this, too, because they show a woman wearing make-up. Apparently, prior to 1960, no woman ever tried to pretty herself up.
She then goes on to claim that the pill will cause your man to divorce you and turn gay. No, I’m serious. She cites some study done on monkeys injected with Depo-Provera.
- pill 3 *
Of course, if this was going to happen, I’d imagine it would have happened already, so I really feel the science on this is shoddy. Of course, their model for marriage is to bang out a couple of kids and then stop having sex altogether when you’ve had enough. Doesn’t strike me as a good way to keep the marriage together.
They also make the usual claims that the pill will make you fat and kill you, though the side effects they’re citing are the result of the same hormones that increase during pregnancy many times over, making all of these things much more likely to happen if you’re pregnant. They also claim it gives you cancer, but the reality is that the slight increased risk in breast cancer is countered by the lower rates of ovarian and endometrial cancer. But no matter, they go on at length about how you’re totally going to die if you take the pill, something I think we would have noticed if it were true, because so many women take it. But wait! Things get even loonier. For instance, here’s the argument against fears of over-population.
- pill 4 *
Because that’s all people need to live: Space to stand on. They don’t need food, clean air, or drinkable water, all of which are the actual resources that are strained by burgeoning populations. They don’t need jobs or medical care. As long as you’ve got 1,000 square feet, that’s all you could ever need, right? But instead of addressing these questions, they instead, and I’m not joking, put up a title screen that says, “We Contraception Ourselves out of Existence”. Because the whole human race is really about to disappear because women don’t have one baby after another until their bodies give out. They also claim that birth control led to cloning and now making animal human hybrids. Yes, they said that. And this:
- pill 5 *
Because animals use birth control. Oh, wait. But really, this is just a fanciful way of them saying sex is gross. But you should want to be attractive to men, though not like sexy attractive but, ugh, never mind. Their lack of consistency is tying me into knots. But they then blame contraception for bestiality and child molestation, which is really rich coming from any representatives of the Catholic Church.
But this might be the best argument:
- pill 6 *
So, we shouldn’t want to have sex, because that makes us animals, but we should view ourselves as breeding animals. Got it. I often joke that anti-choicers think of women as brood mares, but here they quite literally say that a woman should view herself exactly as that, a horse made for breeding. Also, love the notion that you either are or aren’t a procreator. In reality, most people both want children but don’t too many. Pro-choicers aren’t against procreation. We just don’t think people should have more children than they want or can afford to have.
A hit show on the BBC has finally come to the U.S., and I couldn’t be more stoked. It’s called “Call the Midwife”, and it’s based on the memoir by Jennifer Worth, who worked as a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. The show brings together two themes that really don’t get their due on scripted television very much, reproductive health and health care policy. Sure, childbirth is often used for dramatic purposes, but rarely do we actually get any realistic portrayals of what it’s actually like. And health care policy is supposedly boring. But as this show demonstrates, it’s really not. On top of all that, the main characters on the show are all female, in stark contrast to most of the rest of television, where women are often absent or relegated to the roles of girlfriends and wives.
I knew going in that the show was going to be a love letter to the NHS. The midwives portrayed were part of the national health insurance England installed after World War II, which basically made health care free to all and is now being attacked by those who wish to privatize it. The show really emphasizes the quality of care that was made to women by the NHS, both in terms of regular prenatal visits from midwives, but also post-natal check-ups to make sure the babies were doing okay, all at the home. But in case you didn’t get the message, they drive it home by having a doctor save a woman’s life and say this:
- midwife 1 *
Clearly the show has a straightforward, progressive worldview. And it’s strongly pro-science. I had my concerns, because some times midwives are touted as part of a larger anti-medicine and anti-science agenda, but on this show, midwives are actually functioning in the way they are best-suited, which is as a low-cost way to deliver babies under circumstances where more expensive interventions aren’t necessary.
To be clear, however, this show does not glorify the 50s. On the contrary, the NHS is seen as a liberal institution fighting for people’s lives in a world that is still very conservative and backwards. In the same way “Mad Men” bluntly portrays the racism and sexism of the 60s, “Call the Midwife” portrays the horrors of an era before reliable birth control, when sexual shame often caused STDs to go untreated for months and years.
- midwife 2 *
There’s this myth that the 50s was an era when people somehow controlled themselves sexually and STDs and unwanted pregnancy weren’t major public health problems. But in reality, the 50s was much worse than the modern era in many ways on that front. That’s why they put drops in baby’s eyes, because it was safer to assume women had untreated STDs. It was also an era when reliable birth control was hard to come by, especially for poor people. One patient in this pilot episode suffers the results of that.
- midwife 3 *
We later learn she doesn’t really have periods, because she’s pregnant all the time. The older midwives, most of whom are Anglican nuns, seem resigned to this reality where babies just keep coming, even if there’s not enough resources to take care of all of them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t see it as a problem and don’t wish for a solution.
- midwife 4 *
This show takes place in 1957, which is right around the time large scale tests of the birth control pill were being conducted. It’s the same year that the pill was approved by the FDA in the United States for menstrual control and three years before it was approved as a contraceptive in the U.S. In 1961, the pill was added to the approved contraception list for the NHS, which meant that it could be distributed through their services. So this fictionalized nun’s wistful dream for a magic potion did come true, and in a few short years after the period this show portrays.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, conservative humor just really isn’t funny edition. Greg Gutfeld is supposed to be the comic relief on Fox News, but his idea of humor was attacking Maria Shriver with this:
- gutfeld *
The only reason given during the segment to attack Shriver is that her mother is a Kennedy. I’m serious.