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Ponnada: American women and Uncle Sugar

BY SRI PONNADA | FEBRUARY 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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Late last month, former (and potentially future) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had some pretty uplifting remarks to make about women at the annual meeting of the Republican National Committee.

According to former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee, the Democrats are insulting women by telling them “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.” “Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth-control medication,” Huckabee said.

I would love to meet these women because pretty much every woman I know is more than happy to have access to affordable birth control.

A lot of women I don’t know are happy, too. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 99 percent of sexually active women have used some form of contraception, and 4 of 5 have used birth-control pills. With majority of sexually active women using contraceptives, exactly how many women does Huckabee know who are furious for getting free or cheap birth control?

Despite these conservative rhetorical tricks, no one’s doing women a favor by restricting their access to contraception. Just look at what can happen when young women don’t have access to birth control.

According to a study published in 2011, more than 4 of 5 pregnancies among women ages 19 years or younger were unintended. The proportion of unintended pregnancies was highest — 98 percent — among teens younger than age 15 years, and recent data from the National Survey of Family Growth show that women were more likely to have unintended pregnancies if they were unmarried, black, or with less education or income.

And some babies born out of unintended pregnancies won’t be treated that well, either.

Women who have an unintended pregnancy are also at risk for unintended childbearing. This is associated with a number of harmful maternal behaviors and child-health outcomes such as inadequate or delayed initiation of prenatal care, smoking and drinking during pregnancy, premature birth, and lack of breastfeeding, along with negative physical and mental health effects on children.

In addition to all this, a new study from the Guttmacher Institute shows that abortion rates in America are now the lowest that they’ve been since 1973 — when the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal in all states. The institute attributes this drop to the growing use of contraception.
So, when it’s obvious that there’s nothing to gain from taking away affordable birth control, why do it?

Is it going to boost sexual “morality”?

Women were using birth control even when “Uncle Sugar” — as Huckabee fondly refers to the government — didn’t hand them prescriptions every month.

Furthermore, not all women use birth control to avoid the repercussions of their savage sexual desires. Some women use it for other health purposes — such as regulating their periods.

Ultimately, I don’t know any women being outraged by having access to birth control, but I do know women who are infuriated by Huckabee’s comments. The things he said make it seem like as if the collective group he’s trying to appeal to — women in America — is just a set of cattle to be herded by the government.

I mean, what does he think “women” are, anyway?

Are we just a bunch of mindless sex drones who lack sexual morality and restraint? Or are we intelligent human beings who have been fighting for centuries to have some control over our bodies and who won’t be fooled by a disingenuous display of concern?


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