By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
As a woman, I must say I’m flattered state and national lawmakers dedicate untold taxpayer-funded resources to debate my reproductive health.
Clearly our government has a role to play in whether insurers cover my birth control pills or whether I must submit to a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion.
So, to our elected leaders, I say thank you.
But surely they know it requires both a man and a woman to produce a child. So where are the men in these debates? Let me explain: I know men engage in the debates – a disproportionate number of them, actually – but they’ve thus far been absent as a topic.
They shouldn’t be. Men are one-half the problem.
Let’s take birth control, for example. With little exception, most women I know take birth control to have sex. With men. Who are not coerced into it, but are willing partners.
And with little exception, these women aren’t whores or prostitutes. (Thanks, Rush Limbaugh.) They’re generally responsible adults who want to enjoy sex without getting pregnant. This notion might offend your religious and moral beliefs – thus the debate over whether employers should be able to opt out of insurance coverage for contraception. But, like it or not, sex for reasons other than reproduction happens every day. Quite a lot, actually.
In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics reported last year that 99 percent of women who have had sex have used contraception at some point. And of those currently using it, a majority of them are married.
But most had sex before tying the knot, too – 94 percent of them, the NCHS found. And though the report doesn’t say so, I’m assuming these women had sex with men.
That’s right. Men.
Women may be the ones to shoulder the greatest burden of birth control because they harbor the greatest potential consequence of sex: pregnancy. That doesn’t mean men have no role to play, although our male-dominated government sometimes acts that way.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, since men themselves sometimes act that way. Let’s face it, some guys can and do walk out after a pregnancy occurs. For evidence, look at the 53 percent of children born today to young, single moms, according to the Washington, D.C., group Child Trends.
Other women choose to end their pregnancies, perhaps fearing nine months of physical trauma and 18 years of potential economic and emotional hardship. They’re not alone. One in three American women have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old, according to the National Abortion Federation.
They didn’t spontaneously impregnate themselves. Somewhere along the way, a man was involved.
I’ve never had an unintended pregnancy nor contemplated an abortion. I imagine it’s emotionally and physically painful. That’s why it is insulting to subject these women to transvaginal ultrasounds – 10-inch wands inserted into their vaginas to check for a heartbeat. Such a plan is being considered in Mississippi.
Surely there’s a better method to discourage abortions than piling on rules and insults to women. Likewise, there must be a better way to ensure them affordable access to birth control, which seemingly benefits men, too.
For starters, how about these lawmakers have a frank discussion with the guys? How about a little chat about reproductive responsibility? A few words about sticking around during pregnancy and child-rearing years? About sharing not just the joys, but the burdens of sexuality? How about a little respect and equality in the debate about something involving both men and women?
In the meantime, I’m calling on all women to do exactly what Rush Limbaugh and others have proposed. That’s right: No sex – until our elected leaders stop punishing women for having sex. No sex for women, of course, means no sex for men. The hiatus may well do them some good. It may give men time to reflect on things, see them in a clearer light, and come back to us with a different attitude.
Until then, know this hurts us as much as it hurts you.
Nah, probably not.
Emily Le Coz covers Tupelo and Lee County government and politics for the Daily Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.