Being A Pill

May 9, 1960: The Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of oral contraceptives, and on June 23, 1960 Searle received permission from the FDA to market Enovid, the first oral contraceptive prescription drug. [AWH] Within the next five years 25% of the women in the United States of America had used “The Pill.”  This shouldn’t have surprised anyone.  As of 2011 the CDC would report that  “In the United States, most women of reproductive age use birth control. Between 2006–2008, 99% of women who had ever had sexual intercourse had used at least one method of birth control.”  And, herein lies an interesting question.

Of all the contraceptive methods available why is The Pill the one attracting attention? Why is The Pill argued to be a form of murder in the womb? But, barrier methods, transcervical sterilization,  tubal ligation, and male vasectomies are not commonly included in the list of evils?

Racial Overtones?  Consider the following graph from the Centers For Disease Control’s 2010 study (pdf) on the use of contraception in the United States.

While The Pill is popular with all sexually experienced women during their reproductive years, it is the most popular among white women.  The disparity between racial groups may have something to do with the expenses involved if we assume that most women are spending about $240 per year or more for oral contraceptives. [DailyFinance] It is difficult to look at this graph and not see that some ultra-conservatives may perceive The Pill as an obstacle to increasing the percentage of the white population in the country. This is an interesting point to ponder because there were initial fears in the African American community centered on whites using the pill to reduce their percentage of the population back in the 1960s.  [AmEx PBS]  The fact that 78% of African American women in their child bearing years are now using oral contraceptives indicates most of  these fears have been placated.

Age Related?  The CDC study also indicated definite differences in contraceptive decisions by age.

The Pill is associated most strongly with young (15-24 yr) women.  The rationale is probably obvious.  Younger women are attempting to avoid unintended pregnancies, and not considering any permanent procedures which will affect their ability to become pregnant later on, especially after college or initial business experience.  This conclusion isn’t too hard to reach with the graph showing a drop from 48% to 35% at age 25.  The point is driven home in the next graph:

It’s possible to write a full paragraph about the contents of the chart shown above, but perhaps it would be more economical to write that by age 35 most women who select sterilization as their contraceptive of choice have simply said, “Enough.”

So, when we hear presidential candidate Santorum refer to contraception by saying, “It’s not okay, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” Santorum said. “They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal… but also procreative,” [TDB] the statistical context is that young white women are “doing things” that aren’t, “conjugal.”   Memo to former Senator Santorum: Since the dawn of time young people have been doing things that aren’t “conjugal.” The use of the term “license” is also provocative.

We really don’t wish to be a licentious nation.  However, neither are we a naïve one, but given the statistical context in which his statement was made it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that his concern centers on what young white women might be doing — and not on what young white men might be seeking.  Does Senator Santorum believe that it is the female who is “licentious” while the male is excused because “boys will be boys?”  Or, it is the female who is allowing the males to be “licentious?”   Is Santorum’s contention founded on the medieval perception of Eve as the Evil Temptress — conveniently forgetting that the original sin was eating from the tree of knowledge (separating ourselves from Creation by assuming judgmental authority) and not that homo sapiens suddenly discovered our sexuality?

A secondary question should be: To whom does Santorum’s message appeal? The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released its February 22, 2012 results saying,  “Sen. Rick Santorum’s lead among Republican voters and GOP-leaning independents is built on the votes of Republican men, Tea Party supporters and white evangelical Christians,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.”  These might be the same individuals who are more likely to espouse culturally defined interpretations of Biblical sin, and perhaps be equally likely to worry about the decline of the white population as a percentage of the total U.S. population?

As sincere as Senator Santorum’s beliefs may be, they are far from the mainstream of American thinking.  It’s hard not to agree with the Democratic pollster who opined: “I don’t know where the they think the electoral advantage is on this. These are things that have been decided a long time ago.” [TPM] And, thus we have the spectacle in which yet another Republican debate audience added “contraception” to the list of things to be booed, joining uninsured people in ill health, gay members of the Armed Forces, while cheering for the death penalty. [C&L]

I have to agree with the pollster, I simply do not understand “where they think the electoral advantage is on this.”  Any of this.

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1 Comment

Filed under 2012 election, abortion, Republicans

One response to “Being A Pill

  1. This is a great rundown. Last night, during the debate, when the entire audience booed just the mention of birth control was terrifying.

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