Contraception ignorance: Stupid or evil?

Contraception ignorance: Stupid or evil? March 6, 2012

“How many people really are so stupid that they don’t know how hormonal birth control works?” BooMan asks.

Millions. Tens of millions.

But, again, it’s not a matter of innate stupidity. It’s the same willful, voluntary, pretense of stupidity that permits them to pretend to believe in a vast conspiracy of scientists, insurance companies, wildlife and glaciers promoting the “myth” of climate change. The same deliberate stupidity that enables them to look at the night sky without questioning that the universe is 6,000 years old. It’s a defiant ignorance that chooses to cling to ignorance and to vigilantly guard against any alternative.

If you choose not to know how hormonal birth control works, then you can pretend to believe lots of other things. You can pretend to believe that contraception is an “abortifacient,” thus enabling you to pretend you’re morally superior to those evil, evil people using it. And then you can lecture those people without having to feel guilty about lying to them, because you can pretend that it’s not really lying if you’re also willing to deceive yourself.

In other words — for those keeping score in the neverending game of “Stupid or Evil?” — I’m putting this one solidly in the “Evil” column.

Jesse Singal gamely tries to make a case for “Stupid” before sliding into sarcasm because, well, it’s just impossible to believe that anyone is as innocently stupid as these folks are pretending to be. In a post called “Contraception: That’s Not How It Works, Guys,” Singal writes:

Reading the comments that have been made recently, you get the sense that the people — mostly older guys — puking out these sorts of arguments haven’t quite grasped the basics of circa-20121960s contraceptive technology.

… Here’s a quick primer. This debate is mostly about the pill, not condoms. It’s not the case that every time a woman has sex she has to take a pill (though something like that also exists for emergency situations, and I’m aware that this enrages you). Rather, women get a prescription for these things called birth-control pills that are generally taken every day. So it’s a fixed prescription cost, and like many such costs, if insurance doesn’t cover it it can get out of hand really quickly because our medical system is an octopus riding a donkey riding a skateboard into a sadness quarry. But there is no proportional relationship between the amount of sex a woman has and the number of standard birth-control pills she consumes. Why, there are even women who aren’t sexually active who take the pill for medical reasons.

Rachel Maddow was slightly more successful at following through on the premise that the false claims being made and repeated about how contraception works might be an innocent error of simple ignorance.

What if that were really the case? What if all of these politicians and pundits and pastors arguing that contraceptives are “abortifacient” really don’t know any better? What if they really do somehow genuinely believe that those who have sex more often must have to take the pill more often too? What if they just never had “that little talk” with their parents and they honestly just don’t know how this works?

I suppose it’s possible, in some cases. A lot of these folks, after all, were raised in the kinds of conservative Christian homes where “that little talk” never actually happens. So what if they’re really, truly as ignorant as their comments, behavior and legislative proposals suggest?

Maddow tried to dispel any such potential ignorance with a helpful segment titled “The Man Cave’s Not-Too-Upsetting Guide to Down-There Parts.”

The strongest argument for “Stupid” is probably to consider the case of Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., since no one is going to make the mistake of regarding Murphy as a smart man. But Murphy provides a classic example of how deliberate, defensive ignorance works. Confronted with facts correcting his preferred misapprehension, he doesn’t just challenge those facts — Murphy challenges the possibility of any facts at all. Murphy denies that there is any such thing as objective reality — only competing religious assertions:

SEBELIUS: There also is no abortifacient drug that is part of the FDA-approved contraception. What the rule for preventive care …

MURPHY: Ma’am that is not true. … Is the morning after pill or something like that an abortifacient drug?

SEBELIUS: It is a contraceptive drug, not an abortifacient. It does not interfere with a pregnancy. If the morning pill were taken, and a female were pregnant, the pregnancy is not interrupted. That’s the definition of abortifacient.

MURPHY: Ma’am that is your interpretation, and I appreciate that’s your interpretation.

SEBELIUS: That’s what the scientists and doctors …

MURPHY: We’re not talking about scientists! Ma’am we’re not talking about scientists here, we’re talking about religious belief.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defines “abortifacient” as having the effect of interrupting a pregnancy. Murphy doesn’t like that definition. Why? Because he desperately wants to believe that hormonal contraception is a baby-killing abortion drug that he can thus condemn loose women for using. So Murphy redefines the word “abortifacient” to mean, roughly, whatever “religious” believers want to pretend it means.

It’s not a coincidence that Murphy’s views on contraception precisely parallel his party’s views on climate change. You think carbon traps heat? “That’s your interpretation. But we’re not talking about scientists here, we’re talking about religious belief.”

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  • Tonio

    deliberately and unnaturally altering that process for the express purpose of defeating one of those functions is bad

    What are those functions, and why is that deemed bad? The big problem is that “supposed to” can’t be translated into secular terms, yet the practice above is claimed to be universally bad instead of simply proscribed for Church members. It would be like the Amish saying that using autos and utilities is wrong for everyone. If a religion is going to make declarations of universal right and wrong, it shouldn’t be too much to expect at least an attempt to include secular arguments for its declarations. Otherwise, the religion is effectively taking the stance that the individual has no moral (as opposed to legal) right to follow the religion of his choosing.

  • Tonio

    Here’s a Murphy constituent’s letter to him, and his jaw-dropping response:

    For any Pennsylvanians reading this, has Murphy even tried explaining what religious belief has to do with contraceptives allegedly being abortifacients?

  • Tonio

     Sorry, I meant a letter to Harry Readshaw, a sponsor of PA’s version of the Virginia ultrasound bill.

  • That’s kind of funny, since millions of IVF eggs have been destroyed
    over the decades without a peep from the so-called ‘pro-life’
    movement–at least until they were wanted for stem-cell research. Even
    now, I haven’t heard of people protesting IVF clinics or doctors.

    Remember that this is also part of class warfare.  IVF eggs belong to rich people.  Planned Parenthood is there for the poor.

  • Tricksterson

    No you’re not stupid.  First of all I’ve read a number of your posts and all, including this one are intelligent and articulate.  Second you’re most certainly not stupid in a wiful way because you seek out opportunities to lessen your ignorance.

  • Tricksterson

    Except the folks on the anti-contraceptive side of the argument don’t want things to be clearer because then they’d lose.  In contrast you and Rysdux are taking active measures to reduce your ignorance.

  • Daughter

    I wonder if part of the problem with people not knowing that ejaculation, fertilization and implantation are separate, time-delayed processes has to do with how reproduction is taught. On several occasions as a teenager (in health class and in biology class), I saw actual footage films of the beginning of pregnancy at a microscopic level. In each of the films, you see a bunch of sperm rapidly swimming toward the egg, one successfully penetrating it, and the egg immediately beginning to divide, divide again, and again and again, and then that blastocyte swimming down to the uterine wall, all in less than a minute. It always gave me the impression that pregnancy occurred almost immediately after sex.

  • Anonymous

    This post is not meant to reflect any personal anger or hatred at you or anybody specific who’s more or less on our side of things. I do, in fact, hate conservatives and Republican wholesale. I don’t mean I don’t like them. I don’t mean I disagree with them. Both of those are true, but what I mean when I say hate is that visceral, choking, incredibly powerful feeling you get right in your gut, the feeling that makes your blood pump and renders you unable to think  clearly. 

    My nice Aunt JoJo who I used to visit when I was a kid and would do anything to help me? She is what’s wrong with America, because she votes for and supports Evil.I’ve spent three years watching the President of the United States attempt what you’re saying here on the Republican Party. I’ve watched centrists and independents and whatever else groups do that try to make deals and be nice and refrain from being mean to the Right. It was and is outrageous and offensive to think that being nice to the rabid dog is going to convince him not to rip out your throat. Individual members of evil groups aren’t necessarily evil, but they are contributing to the whole, and fundamentalism and conservatism are Evil.My mom argues basically what you’re advocating for here, on a utilitarian ground; yelling at people never gets them to change the way you want. This is valid, but only when we’re discussing people who are amenable or open to reason at all.From a purely utilitarian perspective then, this approach Does. Not. Work. I can summon up fifty separate and interesting instances in which reaching out the hand of friendship to conservatism and offering them a chance to help with our country’s problems has resulted in the President pulling back a bloody stump. What did the President get for holding down Healthcare for, what, a year? While he wrangled and appeased with these fuckers?He gave away so much, as he is wont to do, because, you know, gotta give these guys the benefit of the doubt. They really want what’s best for America, right? He gave them so much to secure even the slightest bit of support. After incorporating so much from Republicans and thus weakening Obamacare significantly, how much support did Republicans afford him on this?Not a single vote, I believe. Not one.Evaluate what the Right has been doing for, oh say, the last fifteen years. Now tell me that the Right as a whole isn’t fucking Evil capital E. Evaluate the result of everything these bastards have done and then tell me the problem is that we’re not being nice enough and we’re not reaching out enough and we’re not trying to make peace enough.We’ve tried. Many of us have tried, including Presidents all the way down to just folks like you and I. We’ve been trying for decades. It hasn’t worked. By the Gods, it hasn’t even slowed down the rate at which these fuckers try to ruin the country.Their only response to anything that you, as a dirty communist atheist socialist liberal say or do, is “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” What you suggest would work to convince people who are functionally human, but the hardcore Right isn’t functionally human in that sense anymore. They literally do not accept your input in any form. Some of the people on the edges might be reachable, maybe, although you’ll need to present solid evidence of that, and even so, most of the people who were going to get off the psychosis bus have done so by now.I’ve gone from angry to really, really miserable through the course of writing this because some liberals have been shouting this very warning I’m giving now for literally decades and getting ignored by folks like the President, with universally disastrous results.You cannot reason with a Teabagger or, a little more on topic, somebody who’s last line of resort is “Well, but you do the thing that makes Jesus cry because I say so.” They reject reason, and they will tell you as much to your face.

    Your impulse, to treat them fairly and honorably and honestly and nicely and Christian, is a noble one, but in this case, it’s not the right path. We have to treat them like an enemy to be, if they’re lucky, knocked aside so that other, better folks can get to fixing our country’s many, many problems. We have to stop Conservatives, because they’ll sure as Hell itself never stop themselves.

  •  That’s an interesting point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that explained why ordinary people (ie NOT legislators armed with subpoenas or ideologues backed by a huge think tanks filled with people who do nothing other than research things and accumulate knowledge)

  • Daughter

    I don’t recall it ever being explained to us that the footage is speeded up or actually how long those processes actually take. If it was explained, the information was easy to forget compared to the visual impact of speeding sperm and a rapidly dividing blastocyte.  (Images which popular culture has reinforced, such as the conception scene in the movie Look Who’s Talking).

  • Okay, from now on, any legislator attempting to impliment policy based on “morality” will be forced to write “I will not attempt to legislate morality” one-hundred times on a whiteboard.  Protest of or distraction from this disciplinary action will result in a further disciplinary whack with a yard stick. 

    This will continue until legislators stop trying to make morals enforced. 


    @ec0c3750d3b1d04704f1382766a9ad42:disqus (Images which popular culture has reinforced, such as the conception scene in the movie Look Who’s Talking).

    I was about to bring up that very scene in response to your previous.

    For those who haven’t seen it: The scene shifts from two characters clearly about to have sex, to a time-dilated sperm-and-egg film much like those in the sex ed videos, thence to the leading lady throwing up in the office restroom, giving the strong impression that all of this happened within a span of 24 hours.

    I came away from that movie not only with the idea that “conception happens during sex” reinforced, but also the idea that morning sickness happened the day after conception.

  • Tonio

     We shouldn’t even calling it “legislating morality,” because that implies that the legislator is justified in deeming it immoral when a woman wants to have sex without becoming a mother. There’s nothing moral about treating a woman’s sexuality as though it belongs to society and not to her.

  • P J Evans

    I remember seeing stuff like that too – although I suspect that they didn’t know some of the stuff we know now. And they should have said ‘time-lapse film’ or ‘in a Petri dish ‘ (which it maybe was) or ‘simulation’ (the other likely kind of film).

  • Let’s get this straight. Forced-birthers wax on and on about zygotes being full-fledged persons, but it is yet another lie. No one believes this, not really. I know this because I make it a point to ask pro-liars this: “Since you believe that fertilized eggs are people, do you hold funerals for your/your wife’s feminine hygiene products? After all, we hold funerals for people, especially our loved ones, but even indigents are given funerals.” I have yet to get any sort of answer at all, because it leaves them in a real Catch-22. They don’t, but the certainly won’t admit that because it would reveal their hypocrisy, but they can’t denounce such a thing as the ludicrous action it is, because that would also be a reveal.

  •  I honestly don’t understand how the Bible could even be the source for the whole, “life begins with conception” thing. How would people back then even be able to measure the development prior to ‘quickening’?

  • Hence why I put “morality” in scare quotes.  It is morality to the legislator.  The point is, the legislator should not be trying to apply the moral standards that they choose to live by to other people.