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Larry Beinhart's Body Politic 

Life is Sacred. Right to Life. Culture of Life.

Those all sound marvelous. Positive. Inarguable. They are all, as used today, euphemisms for being anti-abortion.

Is it true? Is being against abortion really about being in favor of “life?”

On a general philosophical level if someone was in favor of life, it seems reasonable that they would be against war, guns, and the death penalty, and be for healthcare for all.

That is true for the Pope, an intellectually consistent fellow, but it’s not true in American politics. It’s exactly the opposite. Anti-abortionism clusters with being pro-war, for the death penalty and guns, and against national healthcare. That cluster is called the Republican Party and/or the conservative movement.

America leads the modernized world in teenagers getting knocked up. And in teenagers having abortions. Among girls ages 15 to 19, the rate of pregnancy is 85 per thousand. Fifty-five have a baby. Thirty get abortions (UNICEF, 1996).

In the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Germany, and Finland, the rate of pregnancy is under 20 per thousand.

It’s worth noting that four of the five countries closest to the US are the Anglophone nations: New Zealand, 60 per thousand; the UK, 51; Canada and Australia at 44. That indicates something about speaking English and getting pregnant, but it’s hard to say what.

More significant is that back in the 1950s the rate of teens having babies was 91 per thousand. That’s not the rate of pregnancy. It does not include miscarriages, or abortions, which were illegal at the time. It is the rate of birth.

So, the sexual revolution, the dreadful decline in moral values, the advent of rock’n’roll, the eroticization of movies, television, and advertising, the availability of abortion, all put together, has not led to more kids getting pregnant.

On a practical level, if someone really wanted to cut down on the number of abortions, they would be for sex education, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, and same-sex fun. In particular, they would be for contraception.

This is not the case. According to Christina Page, “There’s not one pro-life group in the United States that supports contraception.” (“Why the Anti-Choice Movement Is on the Verge of Civil War,” AlterNet, 7/3/09.)

Conception goes like this. Sperm meets egg. If they unite, they form a zygote—a single cell with two sets of genes. The zygote travels down the fallopian tube. As it does, it forms more cells and becomes a hollow ball (called a blastocyst), but remains the same size. When it gets to the uterus it may implant in the wall of the uterus and develop further. If it does, it is called an embryo. About eight weeks later it is considered a fetus.

There are two primary means of contraception. The first is to create a barrier between egg and sperm. While there are multiple ways to do that, the big one is the condom.

“Pro-life” and abstinence-only literature dwells so much on the limits and potential failures of condom use that when you’re done you have to figure that the mere act of rolling one on will leave you with herpes and genital warts. Maybe even HIV.

Plus you’ll get pregnant. According to Prolife.com: “One of the studies found that among teenagers, the condom failure rate regarding pregnancy was 36%! On average, that means that one out of every three teenage couples using condoms will become pregnant each year.”

Don’t believe it. Don’t take it out of context. The context is that they’re loons.

But pretend they’ve convinced you that there’s no point in using condoms.

There are other forms of birth control. Lots of them. The pill prevents ovulation. IUDs kill sperm and also interfere with implantation by making the wall of the uterus less hospitable to the blastocyst. The morning-after pill (“plan B”) prevents implantation. With any of these methods you could still get STDs, but at least you won’t get pregnant.

Hold on a minute!

There is a growing body of “pro-life” literature that says life does not begin with the fetus, or even the embryo, it starts at zygote-hood. So actually, by that definition, with some of these drugs or devices you won’t be preventing pregnancy! A sperm could unite with an egg, form a zygote, and become a blastocyst. If it is prevented from attaching itself to the wall of the uterus, they call it abortion!

The only form of prevention for pregnancy and STDs the movement will accept is abstinence. It does have the kind of “period, end quote!” logic that appeals to the conservative mind. As a practice, however, abstinence does not work.

A study of 12,000 adolescents over six years, presented at the National STD Conference in 2004, showed that the rate of STDs among those teens who had pledged virginity was statistically identical to those who had not.
If the “pro-life” movement is not about protecting and nurturing life, and it’s not about preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs, what is it about?

It’s about fear of sex. That’s why the only solution they’ll accept is to stop all that screwing! It should be called the Sexophobia Movement.

“Pro-life” is a brilliant term.

It is completely misleading. Probably more so for its advocates and followers than to anyone else. That’s a large part of its genius. It takes fear and dresses it in the costume of a moral superhero.

But that doesn’t mean we must, or should, accept their language. We should, instead, insist on calling a spade a spade. Next time you hear someone refer to “Pro-Life,” or “Right to Life,” politely say, “Oh, you mean the sexophobes?” When you read those labels in a newspaper or hear them on radio or TV, call in and tell the reporters and broadcasters, “Please don’t participate in that misdirection. Kindly call them what they are. Sexophobes.”

Speaking of...

  • Larry Beinhart mans the barricades in “Invasion of the Sexophobes."

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