Barefoot And Pregnant

I am hopeful that women–and men who care about women– will save democracy in November. If so, it will be “thanks” to the ideologues on the Supreme Court, especially Justice Samuel Alito. His profoundly misogynistic and intellectually dishonest decision in Dobbs prompted a renewed national conversation over the consequences when judges and legislators presume to over-rule medical professionals.

In November, however, voters won’t just determine the fate of abortion restrictions. Unbelievable as it may seem, there are serious efforts underway to restrict access to birth control.

First, abortion.

Special elections in Red states have uniformly confirmed that–where reproductive rights are concerned–even political identities take a back seat. A large number of polls confirm that support for abortion bans has plummeted in the wake of Dobbs. Although I’d seen a number of polls showing substantial gains in support for reproductive rights, I was surprised to read that a recent Axios-Ipsos poll found 81% of Americans agreeing with the statement “abortion issues should be managed between a woman and her doctor, not the government.” That number included 65% of Republicans, 82% of Independents and 97% of Democrats.

The dilemma for Republicans is very real, because a substantial portion of their base remains extreme on the issue. A Republican candidate who tries to soften the party’s draconian stance on abortion in order to appeal to voters turned off by  intransigence on the issue will be vilified–and deserted–by the party’s zealots. And since those zealots are the voters most likely to turn out for primary elections, Republicans in Red states will run hard-Right culture warriors in November. Here in Indiana, Republican Senate candidate Jim Banks wants a national abortion ban with zero exceptions. (If the woman dies, well, them’s the breaks, baby…) Even in Indiana, that’s not a popular position.

In November, voters in a number of swing states will face referenda on abortion. Democrats promising to codify Roe and explicitly repeal the Comstock Act should get a boost.

Then there’s birth control.

American women should hope the federal government stays in Democratic hands, because forced birth Republicans aren’t going to be satisfied with banning abortion. They’re coming for birth control too.

It may surprise many people that there is a a concerted effort going on quite literally under their noses—on the screens of their smartphones, tablets, and laptops—to sow distrust, uncertainty, and fear of ordinary birth control among this country’s young people and particularly, young women.

In most instances the folks responsible for fostering this distrust are the same people vehemently opposed to abortion. Their failure to see any dissonance in advocating such contradictory positions might be perplexing—if you didn’t take their motivation into account. It’s the natural fulfillment of what they would consider an ideal society: one where men are in control, and women know their place.

Salon has recently tracked a sophisticated and well-financed Rightwing “information blitz” on social media, warning of the hazards of birth control.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, they’ve now trained their focus on hormonal birth control, hysterically amplifying its alleged “hazards” to create a narrative of uncertainty ripe for what they see as the conservative-dominated highest court’s next logical step….

Physicians say they’re seeing an explosion of birth-control misinformation online targeting a vulnerable demographic: people in their teens and early 20s who are more likely to believe what they see on their phones because of algorithms that feed them a stream of videos reinforcing messages often divorced from scientific evidence.

One “influencer” candidly shared his motivations:

With fewer women on the pill, more women will become mothers, and some of them will drop out of the workforce and discover fulfillment and happiness as wives and homemakers. This is the real crisis that the Washington Post and the other Left wing rags are worried about. The last thing that the elites want to see is a movement of women fully embracing their own womanhood, and men fully embracing their manhood.

During the fifty years between Roe and Dobbs, most Americans shrugged off the efforts of “pro-life” activists, assuming that the Supreme Court would not overturn a settled constitutional right. Most reasonable people have a similar reaction to warnings that access to birth control will be next. (Those people haven’t read Justice Alito’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.)

Fanatics who want to take this country back to a time before there were “uppity” women (and gays and Blacks) are a minority. But they are zealous and committed and a lot of them are running for office.

Women aren’t returning to “barefoot and pregnant” status. Voters–male and female– who understand what’s at stake will vote Blue in November. I hope there are enough of them.


  1. Whats appearing to be more important is the cost of living for women more than ever… which also ties into whether one is planning for a family.
    Most believe abortion should be limited to the first trimester also in regards to the poll that most believe that a doctor should be the one to consult.
    In 2000 our total govt expenditures were less $2 trillion, now our frderal payment on the debt is over $1 trillion.
    Politicians today are not considering bringing the government under control. Most investment counselors say that Joe Biden is using the federal reserve as a slush fund for his cronies. Consider the last $20 billion green slush fund. People pocket this money that receive these grants and nothing will be done.
    Here is a great resource to abortion that i enjoyed. Hopefully it is helpful in the discussion of birth control rights.

  2. “Choice” is no longer a political party issue. It’s a control issue. It’s a who gets to decide issue. The question is do we give that power to a majority of “stale, pale, males”, elected and appointed, to decide if a woman (or girl) is forced to give birth, or do we leave it to women, in consultation with their family and medical providers. The government should stay out of a woman’s reproductive body and her decisions. If you agree, then get out and vote accordingly. It’s the only way things will ever change. We don’t have to accept where we are or where this is headed!

  3. Maybe sending Alito a bottle of Viagra would provide a cure for his determined efforts to rule over the sex lives of others. Old white or black men ruling over the intimate lives of all others, including other men, is usually traced to a lack of intimacy in their own lives; and there seems to be no thought of the overpopulation of this country becoming a “Soylent Green” level problem when coupled with anti-Climate Change rulings.

    My child-bearing years were spent married to a man who didn’t allow me time to access my birth control and his signature was required for the tubal ligation due to the physical damage and more pregnancies endangering my life. The damage done by 5 pregnancies within a short period of time and required a hysterectomy 18 months after tubal ligation, again required his signature to allow me to undergo the surgery. I was told afterword that had the surgery been 3 days later I would have internally hemorhaged to death. Birth control is one form of providing life-saving medical care; it goes hand-in-hand with pro-choice regarding abortion in severe situations. Old men of any color should not be making these decisions for women of any age; nor should women be allowed to use their religious beliefs to control other women’s lives. Alito is not the only villain in this current national battle for all women’s right to make their own health care decisions. If you believe my above comments are too personal, too intimate to post here; you haven’t been paying attention to what has already been passed into law on this nation’s personal and intimate lives.

    “Women aren’t returning to “barefoot and pregnant” status.” Remember in November, that statement is NOT a given, it is a hope for salvation.

  4. It’s interesting that the latest challenge to Indiana’s abortion ban under the state’s RFRA law is getting some traction. If your religious affiliation makes a difference on your access to abortion, then obviously the state has passed a law that is promoting one religious point of view over another. Doesn’t the Federal constitution’s first amendment kick in making the law unconstitutional?

  5. Aren’t the Republicans also wanting to teach abstinence in sex ed now? They have to convince kiddos that birth control and sex are EVIL. Our country was already hung up on sexuality. We weren’t precisely the Taliban, but we were getting close. I believe that’s why many people refer to the laws passed by Republicans on the topic as “draconian.”

    Sadly, this is how the oligarchy controls us and keeps us pinned down to two political parties that represent them. We can’t veer away from the Democratic Party, or women lose their rights. This is all about control, but not so much from the political party apparatus.

    Religious institutions have way too much invested in this topic. They think the collapse of society is due to not living a God-centric life. They want to restore “the family unit” and get folks back into church because the trends haven’t been good to them. I’m not sure controlling women even further is going to win very many female hearts.

    It’s no coincidence that control or authoritarianism is one avenue that kicks in during the last stages of a democratic republic with capitalism. I believe Marx called that one many moons ago. Look at all the far-right leaders around the world today as we undertake monumental changes globally.

  6. The miscreants fighting to stop access to birth control don’t have the mental capacity to foresee the economic consequences of forcing women to continuously be pregnant. Many businesses have been complaining since the pandemic that no one wants to work. We all know the truth is that people are finally refusing to work for wages that don’t even cover the bare minimum of basic living expenses. With no birth control available millions more low wage jobs would go unfilled and millions of smaller businesses would close due to a lack of workers.

    Who is going to be stuck footing the bill for even higher tax revenues needed to provide food, clothing and shelter for all of the children that parents don’t want and can’t afford to support.

    Will the pro-birthers step up to the plate and become truly honest pro-lifers by choosing to financially support all the children they’ve forced other to bring into this world?

  7. JoAnn, thank you for sharing, I see it as instructive. And, Todd, your last paragraph is spot-on!
    Those who might claim the the country is going to hell in a hand basket because of a lack of “Good Old Time Religion” are the same as those who felt protected and comforted by the strictures of that severely constricted perspective, did not care about how it might have been limiting other people’s lives.
    Those folks would cheer on a book like Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” wherein a privileged fellow seduces a “common” woman, and then goes on to demean and destroy her life. They’d ban virtually any other kind of book.

  8. Down here in Florida, we will have a referendum on the ballot to protect abortion rights to viability and later, if the life of the mother is endangered or the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. We now have an obligation to see to it that those who come out to vote for the amendment understand that it won’t matter what the outcome of the referendum is, if we send the usual suspects to Tallahassee. The Republican control of legislature will allow them to put so many restrictions in any bill as to make it nearly impossible to get one. All Florida women should VOTE BLUE!

  9. Religion, never content, wants too interfere in the life’s of nonbelievers, and others
    All ways talking about the the next life, but really looking for power in this one.

  10. An interesting read is “Superior, The Return of Race Science” by Angela Saini. It traces the history of eugenics from its beginnings as the underpinnings of The Holocaust, its years underground, and its re-emergence in red party politics.

    It’s all about making babies and thinking that whoever makes the most babies will take over the world (the one that rightfully belongs to Northern Europeans).

    It’s the basis for southern border phobia that forms the foundation of the MAGA marketing push presently underway. If we keep the dark-skinned second-class citizens out of our gated community private property then we can enjoy supremacy. At the same time as they starve out of reach of our resources and, coupled with barefoot and pregnant interpretation of the Constitution here; we can overcome evolution and natural selection and select for the growth of the Northern European race as God so obviously wants for His Children.

    Believing compared to knowing is a pleasant preoccupation because we can believe any old thing we want and live in a world that favors our favorite person.

  11. If men were the ones equipped to bear children and in charge of abortion policy I daresay there would be no Alitos among us and no appeal to a return to the “good old days.” To authorize post-Roe (state by state via Dobbs and thus assuring patchwork and inconsistent policies) used car and insurance salesmen sitting as legislators the presumed right to legislate the reproductive health of half of our population is a bridge too far and plainly belongs to those who are pregnant and their medical advisors.

    Sheila wrote recently of some of the individual rights of citizens that are so fundamental that their exercise is not subject to control of government. This does not include measles, Covid, or other transmissible conditions or diseases that pose health risks to others, but pregancies as such are not transmissible. I’m thinking that the question of “who gets to decide” in re the right to abort may be one of those individual rights so fundamental that it is beyond the reach of government, including even the Supreme Court.

  12. sending a message next time anyone votes, the likes of Sen Collins of maine and those others that lie about their sellection of new benches. obviously they were well informed of the pending doom of women rights. the isles s of congress must change. the side show of alito and thomas and their mingling with the factions of wall streets wealth must stop. a majority vote to impeach a seat on the court would become easier if we changed the status quo and demanded the DNC change its policy of suits only to run.. we lost any public need representation in congress for self intrests that suppoet the likes of the heritage found etc. if the justices need to mingle to be self assured, obviously they have lost contact with the people who founded this country, not just the signers of this democracy. we have become a lawyers nations and its dirt that we dont see festering under the carpet. journalism helps keep the eyes open, unfortunatly, many cant and dont read.its lazy will only defeat democracy. i was questioned again about my lic plate on my jackedup 4X4 truck.(its a left leaning moniker) he said I dont like Biden etc etc,, I said i was tollerant of his opinion, as i said im a full fledge Bernie liberal.. ahh NoDak for

  13. The MAGA politicians seem to be totally ignorant of the concept of ceasing to dig when you find yourself in a hole. They must have learned nothing from the backlash against the Dobbs decision because they are blindly plowing ahead from an unpopular position to an even more unpopular position, i.e., from banning abortion to banning contraceptives for females. (Of course, they will not ban condoms because contraception is fine as long as men are in control.) They are shoveling away like mad, arrogantly unaware that they are digging their own (political) graves. You go, boys. Let me hand you another shovel.

  14. How clueless, but no less infuriating, is this observation in your column, Sheila, as follows:

    “With fewer women on the pill, more women will become mothers, and some of them will drop out of the workforce and discover fulfillment and happiness as wives and homemakers. This is the real crisis that the Washington Post and the other Left wing rags are worried about. The last thing that the elites want to see is a movement of women fully embracing their own womanhood, and men fully embracing their manhood.”


    The women who must work to support their families, those who hold two, even three jobs, and who must rely on birth control to control their lives are not visible in his “romanticized view,” if one can actually call it that. They are among the many that “this influencer” and Justice Alito, can’t “see” from their privileged perches. And women who choose to work, they are part of the picture too, of course; they, as with others, contribute to the economy and the society but, in “the influencer’s view,” only life as a mother and household worker will satisfy.

    What b.s. Just another way to control the lives of women and throw some anti-Democratic bile on for good measure.

  15. Things to consider:
    1) Men can no longer deny responsibility for pregnancies as DNA will prove otherwise.
    2) The consequences of #1 will be child support for the child until maturity.
    3) Women and men live much longer now that ever before meaning that child bearing years may be only a third of a woman’s lifetime.
    4) Removing women from the workplace to enjoy the supposed benefits of embracing their womanhood ignores the likelihood that there will be women who cannot bear a child and those who choose to stay unmarried for any reason.
    5) Cultures that deliberately exclude the contributions available to them from half of the population fail to thrive over time.
    6) Men cannot reproduce on their own, at least not yet. Neither can women. There must always be an egg and a sperm. Who decides if and when that is allowed to come to fruition is the real question.

  16. American women should adopt the tactic of Lysistrata until the war on women is over (the ERA is passed and reproductive rights are federally codified).

  17. The rules and regulations in the area of human sexuality has caused a lot of misery. I remember as a kid sitting in in a big Catholic church where a lot of the married women seemed always pregnant and wondering “why don’t they just love the ones they already have”? The church’s rules are draconian and based on prescience times. Seems the church that is run by men who supposedly don’t have sex, think that women are not equal and need to be dominated by men. They’ll drive you crazy.
    Young people need sex education and support in making responsible choices especially at that time in their lives. Birth control needs to be available and affordable if not free.
    Americans need to get real about life and learn to set boundaries protecting their inherent rights. Churches and legislators that want to micromanage women’s lives need to realize their dealing with full-fledged American citizens that are evolving, progressing and developing power. We’re using that power to better our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

  18. I would very much hearing from men, particularly white men, who might want to work with me/us – in MERJ – Men for Equity and Reproductive Justice – – your involvement could be however you are willing and able to support us (not seeking money) to becoming a regular with us. Others – please feel free to share this with men you know and care about. Thanks!

Comments are closed.