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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