I read here that Melinda Gates has decided that ‘birth control’ and ‘family planning’ are important. On the one hand, I have a lot of concern about the ‘contraceptive culture’ and the impact of separating the way we make babies from the actual matter of making babies. [Full disclosure: we did use those things in the first year of our marriage because we wanted a year off before we had to face pregnancy and birth.] And, the ‘population explosion’ panic of the mid-twentieth century seems to have not panned out as feared.
On the other hand, Melinda says that her campaign is not about ‘population control’ but about giving women choices. I noticed that the desired contraceptive of choice in the parts of Africa where she visited is something called Depo-Provera, which is injected into the female at an office visit and the ‘husband’ does not need to know about it. In that part of Africa, people don’t cohabit much necessarily, but the ‘husband’ may have several ‘wives’ and he may not be interested himself in limiting the number of his offspring. The ‘wife’ will probably be beaten to a pulp if she insists on withholding sex, or requiring him to use a condom, or something of that sort. That’s just the way it is in large parts of the world.
On the other hand, I don’t think Depo-Provera, or condoms, or pills, or anything like that should be given out free. If the poor can afford to pay a few cents for what they get, they will value it more. I remember when I was at Summer Institute of Linguistics, when Wycliffe finished its New Testament, it sold copies to the tribespeople for a price – way below cost, especially when there may be less than a thousand people who spoke the language and could ever read the book, and the language looks in print more like a chemical formula than like any written language we’re accustomed to. [I have seen some of those texts.]
The other good sign is that her program will not involve itself in abortion. One hopes, in some way, that this program could spread to the poor parts of American cities. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood has captured a near monopoly on charitable reproductive health services in the inner city, as we hear when Komen tries to pull their support. And I have a lot of problems with Planned Parenthood. First of all, though in one sense only 3% of what they do is abortion, abortion fees are a cash cow that support a lot of their work. Second, for all they say that a lot of what they do is to make abortions ‘unnecessary,’ true or not, they spend a lot of time advocating for abortion ‘rights.’ Third, they work to undermine the authority of parents, and to get government schools to undermine the authority of parents, in sexual matters; they oppose any sort of parental notification for abortion, for example, and they want schools to be able to distribute contraceptives to minors without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
I will state here that I can think of two things that adolescents should be able to get without parental consent; treatment for STDs, and prenatal care for pregnancy. That’s it. And I understand that there is no age limit on purchasing condoms at a drug store. A 16 year old can go to a drug store and ask for a pack of Trojans, a pack of Marlboros, and a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Guess which one he will be actually allowed to buy. If this is the case, why do we need to hand these things out in schools? It would seem to me that ‘parental notification for abortion’ would, if anything, encourage them to use condoms. But of course, what would really encourage the use of condoms [assuming they don’t abstain altogether] would be a society where the prospect of fatherhood was one where the boy faced the shotgun wedding, or at least a long peonage to support his child.
And, in regard to the recent fracas with the Catholic Church, does contraception have to be given out free? Condoms aren’t that expensive. I think the method of choice, however, is probably The Pill, which probably is expensive. But there should be at least a noticeable co-pay. And if you want to work for a Catholic Church related organization, what do you expect? There is another aspect of Catholic social teaching by which, Catholic organizations practice what they preach, they pay a ‘living wage,’ and if that’s the case the employees thereof should have enough cash that they should be able to buy their own contraception for cash. It’s not as if they were paying for an emergency appendectomy, after all. Maybe, since I am neither a woman nor poor, and have never been on The Pill myself, I’m asking the equivalent of “But why don’t they eat cake?” But I really don’t know why they “don’t eat cake.” I don’t mind women speaking to this issue. At least on abortion, women don’t tilt more pro-choice than men; gender gaps seem to have more to do with welfare issues.
In response to: “Melinda Gates’ New Crusade: Investing Billions in Women’s Health” by Michelle Goldberg at TheDailyBeast.com