In absolute defiance of common sense, the contraception “debate” that I was hesitant to write about — twice — seems to continue, at least by proxy. On leap day, Rush Limbaugh weighed in on that woman who was denied to speak at the House panel ostensibly about birth control. As is usual, Rush Limbaugh had nothing valuable to add to the discussion, but his particular word choice led to controversy and an incredible flight of advertisers from his so-called Excellence In Broadcasting network. His joke of an apology was summarily dismissed and Jon Stewart brilliantly ridiculed the whole mess. It’s so bad that now other right-wing talk radio stars are being targeted for sponsorship withholding.
But while Rush’s particular comments appear to be a lightning rod for focused criticism, the spirit of his remarks forms the cornerstone of conservative opposition to publicly underwritten or otherwise widely accessible birth control. It cannot be that the right protests government spending per se, since it tends as a rule to support robust defense spending, foreign intervention, big oil subsides along with increased and oversight-free drilling, expensive tax cuts for the wealthy, and so on. The BBC has a lovely summary of the major arguments against contraception:
- Contraception is inherently wrong because it is unnatural, anti-life, and separates sex from reproduction.
- Contraception leads to negative consequences since it prevents potentially useful individuals from being born, can be used for social engineering or eugenics, and carries health risks.
- Contraception promotes “immoral behaviour” by encouraging marriage-free sex primarily for pleasure.
Let’s consider these points in turn.