Tell Me Again How There’s No War on Women…or Common Sense

This makes me crazy.

The Nation reports:

In 2009, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation donated over $23 million to the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a five-year experimental program that offered low-income teenage girls and young women in the state long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)—IUDs or hormonal implants—at no cost. These devices, which require no further action once inserted and remain effective for years, are by far the best method of birth control available, with less than a 1 percent failure rate. (The real-use failure rate for the Pill is 10 times higher.) One reason more women don’t use LARCs is cost: While they save the patient money over time, the up-front price can be as high as $1,200. (Even when insurance covers them, many teens fear the claim forms sent to their parents would reveal they are sexually active.)

So–this sounds great, right? And the results?

The results were staggering: a 40 percent decline in teen births, and a 34 percent decline in teen abortions. And for every dollar spent on the program, the state saved $5.85 in short-term Medicaid costs, in addition to other cost reductions and the enormous social benefit of freeing low-income teens from unwanted pregnancies and what too often follows: dropping out of school, unready motherhood, and poverty.

In June, the original grant will run out, so the state legislature had to decide whether to continue funding the program. One would think continued funding for so successful a program would be uncontroversial–but one would be reckoning without today’s GOP.  After the bill providing  funding passed the Democrat-controlled House, Senate Republicans killed it.

And what were the highly principled reasons for refusing to continue a program that reduced teen pregnancies, reduced abortions, and saved money? According to Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg, using an IUD could mean “stopping a small child from implanting.”

Besides, teenagers shouldn’t be having sex. “We’re providing this long-term birth control and telling girls, ‘You don’t have to worry. You’re covered,’” said Representative Kathleen Conti. “That does allow a lot of young ladies to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places.” (Because the fear of pregnancy has worked so well to keep girls virginal.)

Let me amend that “War on Women” accusation. These moral scolds aren’t waging war against women, they are waging war against women having sex. Especially sex without “consequences.”

If these lawmakers were really “pro-life,” they would support programs that substantially and demonstrably reduce the incidence of abortion.

As this travesty in Colorado clearly shows, however, their real objective is to punish women. Preferably, at taxpayer expense.


  1. Why do these people deny humans their rights? I just don’t understand why they believe in that book (bible) but don’t believe in humanity and science? We women have been fighting this battle for decades and it’s got to stop. I couldn’t have children and I wanted them, badly. I was diagnosed with hormone imbalances and had to get a letter from my doctor for birth control pills because the catholic university I worked for didn’t want to cover the cost through insurance. I won’t name the university but they have recently been in the news about the ACA.

    What about our right to privacy? I was married and was desperately trying to have children but my condition required that I not get pregnant and heal first. These sickos in congress don’t understand that sometimes, a fetus isn’t viable, the woman isn’t healthy and need tools to keep from further harming their bodies, or their status in life (poverty).

    What is it going to take for these bozos to realize that they don’t know what they are talking about and the science and proof the professor states above are fact based. How many of us women have to march to get our body and our health addressed without interference from men and politicians? I’d really like to see a million women march in DC telling the world we have had enough of this crap. Great column Professor.

  2. I’m for turning the tables on those men and any idiot women that follow their rules.

    Demand that rape legally requires castration. Demand that Viagra, Cialis, etc. not only become legally uninsurable, but be completely banned for use by the Catholic denomination and any other religions that fight against women’s rights. Demand that unwed fathers take full financial responsibility for the pregnancies they cause or face castration.

    Yep, I’m pretty sick of all of their crap and would love to see/hear their reactions if we could get these ideas put into law.

  3. I know young women need birth control. I worked in a hospital where I saw young girls and women come in who had tried abortion because they had no birth control. Some used metal coat hangers, some catheters, and another used a bleach douche, which burned her horribly. A few were aided by their boyfriends and even husbands. When doctors asked about birth control, the women said they could not afford it. Many had no income. Who could ever believe that fear of pregnancy would keep someone virginal? A couple of the women died and others would never be able to bear a child all because they had no viable option to get safe birth control. It isn’t just young women and teenagers. Women of all ages should be able to get any type of birth control they choose and help with it if they cannot afford it. Will things ever change?

  4. Modern neuroscience is showing that the part of the brain that exercises good judgment doesn’t fully develop until a person is in his or her mid-20s, maybe a bit later. The Colorado Senate must have the youngest legislators in the nation.

    I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but what the heck. Does anyone else find it ironic that humans can reproduce before their brains fully develop? It doesn’t say much for “intelligent design,” right?

  5. In 1974, my husband and I both fresh out of graduate school and with a 2-year old child in tow, moved across the US to Virginia to begin our new careers. We had little money, loads of university debts, and an unplanned pregnancy.

    Long story made short, in 1974, I had two abortions, earned the nickname “Fertile Myrtle”, and convinced my husband that a vasectomy was in order. Birth control pills did not agree with my body nor did an IUD; hence, early abortions. I’ve never second guessed my decision. As my husband said, “We did what we had to do at that particular time.”

    In 1974, my husband’s health insurance provided total coverage for the two abortions and for his subsequent vasectomy. I doubt this would be the case today in many areas. On a brighter note, my husband had a successful vasectomy reversal, paid for by his health insurance, 10 years later, and we became parents of a 2nd healthy son at a time in our lives when we could afford another child.

    Attached is a link to an interesting long-term study published by the Guttmacher Institute in 2008 re: abortion trends in the US from 1974-2004.

  6. Since you quote a female legislator as proof that the mythical “War on Women” is a real thing, are we to assume it is a civil war?

  7. Had our brains completely developed before the reproduction department was allowed to fully function? The phrase, “population explosion” would be a science fiction definition.

  8. The current war on women is a continutation of an old situation and renewal of male control via pseudo religious health based laws…forced on us by the GOP. When I found a doctor willing to perform a tubal ligation in 1970 at age 34 with five children, I had to have my husband’s written permission to undergo the surgery. At that time it was major surgery and my system could not tolerate birth control pills so it wasn’t a whim that sent me to the surgeon.

    I cringe when, in movies, TV programs and responses from actual parents, that they KNOW their children, their children tell them everything and their child wouldn’t do that – whether referring to criminal activites or being sexually active. Sorry; but I do not agree that a 14-17 year old girl can have an abortion without parent’s knowledge and consent. That they are sexually active certainly IS their parent’s business. We are responsible for our children till age 18 when they are legally considered an adult; this I believe was passed into law by politicians seeking more voters. The morning of your 18th birthday, you do not awaken with full knowlege and understanding of adulthood.

    Like it or not, teenagers are having sex. Abstinence is the furthest thing from their minds when in a passionate clinch. Teenage girls are the ones who bear the child and the responsibility of participating in sexual congress because – boys will be boys! Access to birth control is more a health issue than a sexual issue; not only are children’s minds not fully developed by teen years but girls bodies are not fully ready to bear children and the possibility of birth defects is higher in younger mothers. It is always men who are pushing these issues to control women’s lives and their bodies; boys will be boys into manhood – but it is still we women who bear the burdens of their need to exert power and control over us. Birth contol is too often not available or not financially affordable while men have full access to Viagra and erectile dysfunction supplies approved by their health care coverage to keep them sexually active into their senior years. What is wrong with this picture?

  9. I was a boy once. When I saw studies about how often I thought of sex my reaction was, finally someone understands.

    Every day in the animal kingdom we see examples of males pursuing, females choosing.

    I attended a cultural affair last week where families gathered to photograph young women off to the HS Senior Ball. To say that their bodies were decorated to attract is a gross understatement. The competition among mothers as to whose daughter was most desireable was breathtaking.

    The entertainer in our living rooms is perfectly clear. Skin sells. Beauty counts. Everybody wants everybody.

    All environmental studies reach the same conclusion. Too many people for the size of our home.

    Teens are taught there are two risks to behaving as we’ve taught them. STDs and babies or abortions. We can use technology as Sheila describes to avoid babies or abortions but need another “device” to avoid STDs.

    Empowered women must act like men.

    The Pope is clear. Having babies is a duty.

    Victoria’s Secret ads and those featuring women celebrating technology defeating erectile dysfunction.

    “Free” cultures are comfortable with naked on the beach for those whose bodies have not yet had kids.

    There’s a “war on women”.

    OK kids, now that we’ve prepared you with all of this, go out and have fun.

    It’s no wonder the whole world is nuts.

  10. I’m perfectly content to stay out of men’s issues with their private parts and the functions and/or dysfunctions of those private parts. Because I’m female I’ve never experienced premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, an enlarged prostate, a prostate biopsy, a vasectomy, priapism, or selecting the perfect size condom. As a result, I would never offer my personal opinion about decidedly male issues.

    It only seems proper and fitting that men steer clear of making any pronouncements about decidedly female issues.

  11. Paul,

    I would suggest, from a deep background political perspective, you should assume that this is a “civil war” against women. But not just women.

    That way things would be a lot clearer. It’ not mythology. Just read what the Promise Keepers have to say about women.

  12. It’s another illustration of the Republican dichotomy: they espouse small government, except when they have to take control of individual lives and choices to attract donations and votes, then the hand of government is divine.

  13. This is shrill Rachel Maddow conclusory nonsense, Sheila.

    I wouldn’t accept such sloganeering from a student, much less a faculty member.

    A difference of opinion on morality is not a “war on women.” Such histrionics entitle people to ignore you with a shrug.

  14. I hope you will stay engaged on this one Gopper because I’m really interested in your definition of “morality”.

    To me it is just another word for culture; that which we observe in others that we assume are like us.

    Do you agree?

  15. I prefer to use the term “common sense” rather than “war on women”. Common sense tells me that women who deplore the idea of abortion likely will never have an abortion. That’s fine, and I respect their position. On the other hand, women who might consider an abortion in the future should not be blocked from abortion services because another group finds abortion despicable.

    Male posters here tend to speak from a theoretical game stance of winning vs losing similar to a football game; whereas, women posters speak from an experiential background.

    “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”
    ~~Immanuel Kant

  16. @Gopper

    Mathematica’s evaluation found no evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs increased rates of sexual abstinence—the entire supposed purpose of the programs.Students in the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs had a similar age of first sex and similar numbers of sexual partners as their peers who were not in the programs.  The average age of sexual debut was the same for the abstinence-only-until-marriage participants and control groups (14 years, 9 months)

    These findings have been replicated numerous times, they are not irrational, histrionic, shrewy or any other epitaph attributed to women who see the irony of a political party of old white men obsessed with litigating their womb.

    Given the ineffectiveness of abstinence programs in preventing sex at a young age, not to mention the lack of education entailed, suggesting such cases are likely to be unprotected and more likely to result in unwanted pregnancy, meaning a higher possibility of abortion one would think the “moral” thing to do would be to ensure affordable, safe birth control and practical sex ed. Or is the whole anti-abortion thing a fascade as well. Pious moralizing such as that happening in Colorado, axing a highly effective program because of a desire not to “condone” behavior their personal moral compass disagrees with does nothing to doscourage the behavior they ostensibly find repugnant, and leads to higher instances of abortion, which the GOP also supposedly dislikes. Nothing shrill about calling the GOPS conduct what it blatantly is, irrational, self defeating, misogynistic and hypocrotical.

  17. @Gopper

    It isn’t merely a difference of opinion when you would impose your morality by statute on everyone else. Noone is forcing anyone to use birth control, nor have abortions, nor anything else, you and others espousing your (seeming) position on such issues seem to see a false moral equivalence between being able to impose your morality with statutory impunity, and the freedom of others to make choices about their own bodies and lives. No wonder people somehow feel they are embattled or descriminated against simply because they are told they can’t force chastity on others or discriminate against them.

  18. @Schyler

    Thank you for articulating a common sense response.

    I’m a 68-year old female and trust me, few of my contemporaries in the Boomer generation observed abstinence.

    I was a member of the generation who benefited from President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1959 statement in a press conference that birth control “is not a proper political or government activity or function or responsibility” and adds emphatically that it is “not our business.”

    As you know, President Eisenhower was a Republican with a great deal of common sense. Where has the common sense gone?

  19. @ Bill Wilson

    It is also ironic that people can vote before their brains are fully developed. Of course, a lot of folks obviously never have their brains fully develop at all. One need only look at the Indiana State Legislature for proof of that.

  20. Earlier I wrote that morality is culture is “that which we observe in others (who) we assume are like us.”

    Then I consulted the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and found:

    “The term “morality” can be used either:”

    “descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or, some other group, such as a religion, or accepted by an individual for her own behavior or”

    “normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.”

    “What “morality” is taken to refer to plays a crucial, although often unacknowledged, role in formulating ethical theories. To take “morality” to refer to an actually existing code of conduct put forward by a society results in a denial that there is a universal morality, one that applies to all human beings.”

    Then I remembered reading a Leonard Pitts Jr editorial which said:

    “For all the decades of its existence, American social conservatism has been rooted in a premise simple enough to be fully expressed in just three words:”

    “Us versus them.”

    Given all of that, is it confirmation bias or intellectual curiosity to conclude that:

    When one is absorbing culture the decision about who is like me is somewhere on the spectrum from exclusive to inclusive.

    At the more exclusive end, as Leonard Pitts Jr believes, lie social conservatives believing in a descriptive morality espoused by a limited group of like adherents like a specific religion.

    At the inclusive end are social liberals believing in something closer to a normative morality such as a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.”

    Interesting to think about.

    It certainly aligns with the belief that the more broadly one is exposed to the world, either experientially or educationally, the more liberal ones views (and morality?) becomes.

  21. @Pete

    I have no idea of what your morality is; however, I do have a pretty clear handle on my morality. I’ve never lived in a black or white world of rules, but rather in a world of shades of grey. Can we say “Fifty Shades of Morality”?

  22. Many years ago, I had a friend who was a divorced mother of four children. She loved her children, but she confided to me that she wouldn’t have had so many if it hadn’t been for the actions of the commanding officer at the overseas base where her husband was stationed. The CO was Catholic and wouldn’t allow the base medical personnel to dispense any form of birth control. (This would have been in the mid to late ’60’s.) The expectation was that marital abstinence should be practiced and that sex was meant only for the creation of children.

    As a consequence of this man imposing his beliefs on others, she ended up back in the States with four children to support on a job with inadequate pay for her needs. That and lack of child support landed her in public assisted housing, on food stamps, and without child care assistance.

    As impossible as this might seem, the conditions reflect the road we are headed down, with the attacks on Planned Parenthood and other Republican led attempts to limit access to reproductive rights. Add to that the cutbacks on safety nets and poor-shaming, and what we have can hardly be called anything other than a war on women.

    Keep women bare-foot and pregnant and they’ll stay in their proper place.

  23. Abstinence only programs don’t really appear to be education so much as they are propaganda based on fear, repression and a dearth of facts. If someone wants an alternative to what has been carefully thought through, then fine. Just don’t settle for ideology unsupported by facts and reality. Otherwise, when you settle for programs based on cognitive distortions, you end up with some big time serious dysfunction, as has been witnessed.

    While I’m not a fan of abortion, the Guttmacher Institute has published international data that shows countries with the most restrictive laws have high abortion rates (e.g., South America), while countries with excellent sex education programs, even though they have very loose abortion laws, have the lowest rates (e.g., Netherlands, Belgium). The highest rates are in the far east where they also have virtually no sex education (up to 100 per 100,000). The difference isn’t small, either. Our abortion rate is around 21 or 22 per 100,000; South America with very restrictive abortion rates and unsafe abortions runs around 30 to 40; Netherlands and Belgium run around 7 per 100,000. If you don’t like abortion, provide excellent sex education, not abstinence only. That’s irresponsible.

  24. Does anyone think that there is anybody in the world who’d rather have an abortion than not having gotten pregnant? I can’t personally imagine it.

  25. Thjs is truly a bizarre complaint.

    According to Ms. Kennedy, a government is obligated to use public tax dollars to replace all private grants that expire.

    According to Ms. Kennedy, if you want a government to do something, fund it with a grant for a bit; withdraw the grant, and the government is perpetually obliged to continue your program, at taxpayer expense.

    This is a much easier and quicker path to giving something the force of law than it is to run a program through the legislative process.

  26. What would the world be like if at every contraception failure there was a 50/50 chance as to who carried the fetus? Shouldn’t partners act like that was true?

  27. I believe that Sheila’s point is why would a government entity pass up a chance to save money and be more effective?

  28. Oh, silly Pete, everyone is always incredulous, at every session of Congress, the Statehouse or the City Council, that the government didn’t enact into law the MOST OBVIOUS BEST PROGRAM, EVER.

    Except, of course, for the people who thought the MOST OBVIOUS BEST PROGRAM, EVER was really the OBVIOUSLY WORST, MOST TYRANNICAL, DUMBEST PROGRAM, EVER.

  29. Churches and businesses and governments and families and movements and institutions and militaries and entertainers and science experiments and couples and kids fail some of the time. That’s because they all are composed of flawed people. That’s about all that can be said about everyone. Nothing can be said about always.

    Sheila’s point remains. Why not take the least expensive least risky path to where you are going?

    It’s the same point as science makes with anthropogenic global warming.

  30. @Pete

    As you wrote “Does anyone think that there is anybody in the world who’d rather have an abortion than not having gotten pregnant? I can’t personally imagine it.”

    Of course, you’re unable personally to imagine this situation just as I’m unable to imagine the discomfort my husband experiences when having a prostate gland biopsy.

    I’ve never had a biopsy for any reason, but as a female, I have had two abortions way back in 1974 while a married woman. The discomfort of an early abortion was non-existent. I drove myself to the clinic, had the procedure, and then drove myself home within less than 2 hours.

    I really wish men would not weigh in on matters of abortion. I refuse to weigh in on matters of male physical issues because I cannot fathom those issues, the discomfort or lack of discomfort. Men routinely spill their seed in female repositories with little to no thought; however, the female repositories do have the final decision regarding what’s been deposited.

  31. BSH. I’m having a little trouble understanding if you are agreeing with or disagreeing with my point.

    Plus, I tried to teach my boys that it’s not just her problem should it happen.

  32. @Pete

    Unlike traditional media outlets where the diversity of viewpoints is often reduced into partisan circles and/or agreement or disagreement with fellow posters, I am hoping that Sheila’s blog actively encourages writers and readers of differing opinions to engage in a constructive dialogue.

    Whether I agree with your opinions or disagree with your opinions is far less important than our freedom to engage in a dialogue free of name-calling, free of personal attacks, and where
    the posters can back up their opinions with reliable sources.


  33. “I really wish men would not weigh in on matters of abortion.”

    I’m sure you don’t.

    You kill a guy’s child, and he doesn’t get a say?

  34. @Gopper

    I suspect you’re onto a great truth with women. Moral of the story is to be very careful where you spill your seed. Know your repository before making a deposit.

  35. Earl; you get double high-fives for that response. Truer words were never spake! I wonder if medical scientists have ever thought to study the sea horse reproductive process. The male carries the fertilized eggs in his pouch till time to spew them forth. Might be a problem with that spewing forth part but the male carrying the egg to term should be looked into.

    Gopper; it is never the guy’s child till it is here. And too often it still isn’t their child after they arrive. You may be proud that you “spilled your seed” as seems to be the popular term in this blog, and that it took root, but it is still the woman’s property 24/7 for nine long months.

  36. For lots of reasons, the notion that I am a man and don’t like abortion, but women do doesn’t take us anyplace that makes sense. There are many rational financial and medical reasons why birth control is better than abortion, no matter who you are. The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as Tunisia seemed to have figured that out.

  37. @Stuart

    Actually the notion that women wish for abortion to remain an option makes all sorts of sense to women. Agreeably, most women have no qualms with birth control; however, birth control is not always 100% effective and many birth control methods wreak havoc on some women’s hormonal systems. The only polite way I can think of describing this to a man is, “How’d you like your testosterone level tampered with monthly via a pill or an implant in your forearm?” Occasionally IUDs have a strange way of implanting themselves into the uterine wall causing considerable discomfort and prolonged and heavy menstrual periods which interfere with a woman’s quality of life and with her career.

  38. BSH,

    Your exhortation contains an implicit obligation of a woman to be honest and forthright about her nature to her bedmate prior to accepting a role as a vessel.

    Oh, Joann, how mistaken you are, and how safe you find yourself in holding a perspective that has only existed for a few years, in a few countries, and which may only be legally and safely exercised in a few countries.

  39. @Gopper

    Indeed, you interpreted my exhortation correctly. And, additionally the male’s obligation to be honest and forthright about his nature to his potential bedmate is the same. Seems only fitting that both parties offer a personal caveat in the event they are unmarried or not in a committed relationship.

  40. One thing that is apparent here is polite respectful conversation. At least for the most part.

    I personally would wish that to be elevated over time to debate. Positions taken, questioned and defended. The real stuff of skeptical science. You show me your evidence and I’ll show you mine.

    When I was growing up we called that dinner conversation and we learned not to take indefensible positions.

    Is it possible here?

  41. @Pete

    Yes, I agree the conversation has been polite and respectful, for the most part. There’s been no name-calling, no use of cheap shots such as ‘wing-bats’, ‘teabaggers’, ‘libtards’, or ‘repukes’.

    I also understand your wish for not promoting indefensible positions; however, I confess I broke that rule years ago when my sons were young, despite promising myself I’d never morph into my mother, just as countless women have sworn they’d never do. I realized I’d become my mother the day I turned to my younger son who was given to ‘why not’ questions and finally said that dreaded phrase, “Because I said so.”

  42. Sadly, you are looking for reason in all the wrong places. Look back at all your Republicans want to make government small enough that you can drown it in the bath tub columns and you will see the real reason they are currently acting as they do. Some of the newer tea party office holders may not even realize that their pet projects have been co-opted for this ultimate end.

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