Completely brushing aside (for the moment) this woman’s remarkably asinine comments about how access to contraception and abortion is the reason for the unhappiness of women and the fall of the western family, I have to comment on the fascinating ability right-wingers have to selectively “forget” that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of cancer screenings, HIV tests, and STD treatments for low-income and uninsured women. All of which save lives – and money – in the long run. But, as Lopez so blithely illustrates, the fight against Planned Parenthood, Title X programs, and contraception in general is not about saving lives or money.
If it were, if all of this were really about what the anti-abortionists claim (saving the lives of women and “unborn babies,” protecting women’s mental and physical health, and showing fiscal responsibility), then we would be allocating more money for Planned Parenthood, women’s health centers, and family planning services not less.
This is because, however inconvenient the truth might be for Republicans, access to family planning services reduces unplanned pregnancies, high-risk pregnancies, infant and maternal mortality rates, and health care costs. In fact, for every dollar spent on family planning services that helps women avoid unintended pregnancies, the U.S. saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures. And, by preventing approximately 1 million unintended pregnancies each year, Title X programs also prevent around 406,000 abortions annually, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
If Lopez’s claim is (as it appears to be) that we shouldn’t fund contraception because it doesn’t work and women then have to have abortions anyway, I have two comments: 1) Only about 5 percent of unintended pregnancies can be attributed to the two-thirds of women who use contraception consistently and correctly, and 2) Contraception does not always work. If a woman is going to have sex – which she is – there is always a chance that she could get pregnant (see comment #1). But, considering the vast number of abortions and high-risk pregnancies that contraception helps prevent (and therefore the number of lives it saves), perhaps we should focus more on expanding access to it and developing better methods for administering it rather than on eliminating it.
But, again, this debate isn’t about saving lives or money. It’s about power. As Lopez writes: “Even more important, it [the contraceptive pill] has ravaged women’s fertility, as it seeks to mute exactly what women’s reproductive power is all about.” Forgive me for my navieté, but isn’t “power” all about choice and control? Birth control methods are about giving women more choice, more control, and more options. All of which translate into “more power.” To say that a medication or technology that gives a woman more control over when, how, and if she becomes pregnant somehow “mutes” that power is ridiculous. The truth is that the Republican party does not want women to have more power.
Instead, it wants to make women’s choices for them out of “concern” for their physical and emotional health, which is evidenced by Lopez’s (tired) claim that abortion is devastating to a woman’s mental health. Which is, like all of her other claims, completely unsupported by evidence. Elective abortions do not cause mental health problems. The American Psychological Association has long said this, and, recently, a rigorous study was conducted in Denmark that also showed there was no evidence to support the conservative claim that elective abortions increase the risk of mental disorders.
Bottom line: People are going to have sex. That’s what we do. And, women – young, old, married, partnered, single, and other – enjoy it. If the debate is (as Lopez states) “about what it means to be human,” then we all need to acknowledge this fact.