Fox Guards Henhouse

Via Egalia comes news that “The Department of Health and Human Services appointed Susan Orr — who has spoken out against contraception — to a post responsible for U.S. contraception programs.

You know, we sat here saying to people “It’s not just about abortion, it’s about the ability to plan your reproductive life as you see fit.  Who decides how many children you have–you or the government?”  And the people were all like “No it’s not.  Why would conservatives have any problem with contraception?  We need to be able to plan our pregnancies and control how many kids we have.  Plus, everybody does it.”

We all sit around and gasp in horror whenever we talk about China’s one-child-per-family policy.  But we sit around in this country and act like it’s no big deal that one of the major parties in this country has a not-so-secret platform of insisting that some women (poor women, especially of color) should not be allowed to have any children and some women (middle class married white women) should not be allowed to not have children; in fact they should keep popping out babies until their bodies give out, while some women (women with money) can do whatever they damn well please, same as always. 

Like that’s not also horrific.

22 thoughts on “Fox Guards Henhouse

  1. Well, the vague use of language in the quoted statement gives me pause. What form of contraception did she speak out against, and of what form is she in charge?

    I’m all for some kinds of contraception and not a fan of other kinds. For instance, take all the pills you want, but I think IUDs are violent and potentially dangerous.

    Oh, and I’ve often said that BCPs should have more careful monitoring from prescribing physicians. There are too many potential complications to see them prescribed like aspirin. That doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be available.

    In Orr’s case, it appears the contraception about which she has spoken out against is actually NOT “contraception” but FEDERALLY SUBSIDISED contraception.

    In 2001, she was quoted in the Washington Post favoring a Bush administration plan to drop a requirement that health insurance plans for federal employees cover a broad range of birth control.

    “We’re quite pleased because fertility is not a disease,” she said at the time. “It’s not a medical necessity that you have it.”

    To say that she is “against contraception” is like saying I’m against feeding the hungry. Just because you don’t believe the Federal Government should pay for it doesn’t mean you disapprove of the underlying concept.

  2. Kat, she’ll be in charge of Title X family planning activities – “The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low- income families.” In addition to applauding efforts to exclude contraceptive coverage from federal employees’ health insurance, and urged the withdrawal of approval for RU-486. She also worked for the Family Research Council, which is very anti-contraception. As you well know, contraceptives sometimes are a medical necessity due to non-fertility-related issues, aside from the issue of not treating women like baby-makers and recognizing that it’s more expensive to pay for birth and children’s health than for contraception.

  3. s you well know, contraceptives sometimes are a medical necessity due to non-fertility-related issues,

    I don’t know about the Federal insurance plans, but my insurance has always covered contraceptives when prescribed for non-contraceptive health care reasons, regardless of whether or not they cover them for fertility reasons.

  4. Kat, I’m sorry, I’m just not going to get into this right now because I feel too strongly about contraception as a basic component of healthcare, and am too furious to make coherent points.

  5. “…my insurance has always covered contraceptives when prescribed for non-contraceptive health care reasons, regardless of whether or not they cover them for fertility reasons.”

    That’s impressive. I’ve not always been so lucky.

  6. My sister has taken birth control for 20+ years in order to force some regularity to her cycle. The fights she’s had with her insurance company have been epic in proportion. Add that to the pharmacies that wouldn’t even sell her the pills… I mean, jeez.

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  8. Yes, but Kat, why would one appoint someone who opposes*federally funded contraception* to take over a program providing federal funding for contraception?

    Moreover, why would someone who works for advocacy groups that oppose contraception wish to take leadership of a program that has as its charge providing “access to contraceptive services, supplies, and information” to all comers? What kind of services, supplies and info is she likely to want to provide? And to whom?

    If we were all libertarians and agreed that the fed had no role to play here or if this was an upstart program, I guess I wouldn’t be concerned. But Title X is nearly 40 years old, put into place by a duly elected legislative body who passed the Public Health Service Act in 1970. Each year since 2003, there’s been a fight on the House floor to put back the money into its operation to keep this program funded and the current offices operating; each year, its operating budget (as a percentage of the total federal budget) continues to shrink and now 1/4 of Americans have no local access to Title X services.

    To me, I see this appointment as another way that the executive branch — through the person of Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt — is attempting to undo the work of the legislative branch by appointing inappropriate people who do not intend to abide by the spirit of the authorizing act.

  9. Chances are she will occupy that slot for only the next 14-15 months or so, right? I mean, not ideal, but at least it isn’t the start of a long tenure or anything….

  10. How can anyone possibly defend this appointment? This woman will now be in charge of what she opposes.
    Thanks again, Bush administration bastards.

  11. Yes, but Kat, why would one appoint someone who opposes*federally funded contraception* to take over a program providing federal funding for contraception?

    To put it plain and simply–because that’s who won the election.

    I don’t mean that as glibly as it sounds. I’m just stating the obvious…this is why people care about presidential elections. This is one of the spoils which go to the victor. They get to appoint who they want.

    And in this case, “who they want” is someone with a clear anti-federalist bent.

    To me, I see this appointment as another way that the executive branch — through the person of Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt — is attempting to undo the work of the legislative branch by appointing inappropriate people who do not intend to abide by the spirit of the authorizing act.

    And you’d be right.

    Chances are she will occupy that slot for only the next 14-15 months or so, right? I mean, not ideal, but at least it isn’t the start of a long tenure or anything….

    That’s my point (one of them.) It’s not ideal, but it’s not forever. And if you want to win an election for the liberal side, these are the kinds of things which bear discussion in the broader forum.

    Those of us who are libertarians, though, obviously don’t have a problem with the government spending less of our money.

    now 1/4 of Americans have no local access to Title X services.

    Which is why I support Planned Parenthood. I’d just as soon a non-governmental entity do the job Title X was doing.

    And may I also point out that if you support the right to choice, Title X is NOT your best friend:

    By law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.

    Kat, I’m sorry, I’m just not going to get into this right now because I feel too strongly about contraception as a basic component of healthcare, and am too furious to make coherent points.

    Completely understandable. Ironically, I, too, feel strongly about contraception as a basic component of healthcare. I think our quibble may be with the method and/or mode of delivery as opposed to contraception itself. But either way, I understand fully your choice.

  12. I’m all for some kinds of contraception and not a fan of other kinds. For instance, take all the pills you want, but I think IUDs are violent and potentially dangerous.

    That’s interesting. And, this is largely off-topic, but… why do you think IUDs are violent? I have a Mirena IUS, and while I personally have not had the world’s best experience with it, I’d much rather have it than not. (And, at the moment, aside from Implanon, whose tenure in the US is rather short for my tastes, the Mirena is currently the best option for me.)

    I would love to see more attention paid to the medical issues surrounding birth control. I’ve known friends who couldn’t use the Pill because it gave them extreme heart palpitations (at the age of 22!), but who could safely use other kinds of contraception. I personally have gone through a number of different birth control methods (Depo Provera, the Ortho Evra patch, the Nuva Ring, and now my Mirena), and the different medical issues surrounding each one are kind of astounding. Bone loss, clot problems, sudden expulsion, perforation … and that’s not even counting things like the myriad problems people who had Norplant implants done, and the varying issues with copper IUDs.

    So yes, more attention would be good. Birth control isn’t a one-size fits all thing.

    But … that’s kind of the point, for me. Some people need pills. Other people work better with patches, or shots, or rings or transdermal implants or IUDs. The hormone blend in each one (and from pill set to pill set) varies enough that you can react really well to one kind (I loovvvveed Depo. I just want to keep my bones intact.) and really poorly to another (whatever’s in this Mirena just doesn’t do it for me. I miss my clear skin.). It strikes me as a little weird to classify them as pills good, other things bad. (Which, I know, is a bit of an oversimplification of what you said.)

    And me being me, I think that contraception should be absolutely available, whenever it’s needed, to whoever needs it, period. Which, for me, means that I support government intervention, third parties like Planned Parenthood, and some goddamned sense on the part of private insurers. Not just one road to wellness, but all roads. I don’t think it should be that either you get it from the government or you wait for Planned Parenthood or you cross your fingers and try to get it through your insurance* … all of those things should be available.

    Which, I guess, brings me back to the issue of this woman’s appointment. While I understand the mechanistic reasoning, it fails to satisfy me. If you don’t believe that what your agency/department/group does is important, you should not be in charge. Period. It’s not so much a matter of ‘well, she’s against this kind of thing and not that kind of thing’ as a matter of, well, she doesn’t support the work she’s supposed to be heading. If a private company had a CEO that thought that companies were stupid and the government should be making whatever widget they produced instead, that would be a bad choice. This is a bad choice for the same reason.

    * Even with insurance, I have always paid the full price for every single birth control method I’ve tried, except for the Mirena which I had installed at a Planned Parenthood for free, since I was a young brown woman with no job at the time. And Depo is about $70/shot, while the Nuva Ring and Patch were both closer to $20 each.

  13. Despite the fact that I am usually 100% in agreement with you on the majority of your positions, B, I must demur on your reaction to China’s One Child policy.

    As a confirmed and committed lefty, I stand agape and in awe of that policy and wish more countries would wake up and impose it.

    With very few exceptions, most of the planet-wide problems we face right now can be traced back to “too many humans chasing too few resources”.

    My wife and I made a very conscious choice to have only two children so as not to add any more humans to an already overburdened planet.

    The sooner the human race realizes that it’s only chance for survival is to stop proliferating, the better off our future generations will be.

  14. And who would bear the brunt of that policy? Who would be fined, imprisoned, sanctioned, whatever? Particularly in our current reproductive climate, that has the potential to be a spectacularly bad idea.

    That’s not saying anything about the larger merits of population reduction and whatnot… I personally believe that it’s a big issue, but when I said I wanted the everyone else out of my uterus, I meant it. My vision of choice includes the choice to get pregnant, to carry that pregnancy to term, and be cared for during and after that pregnancy, without pressure from anybody else. But I can see grand philosophical arguments for policies that encourage fewer children.

    However. The policy as implemented in China sucks, not least because it’s causing a disporportionate number of female babies to be abandoned, aborted, or killed to comply with the policies. Given the absolutely idiotic reproductive climate of this country and its increasingly unstable class landscape, any policy along those lines implemented here would be (even more of) a disaster for poor brown people. I couldn’t support that at all.

  15. Ideally, the unwanted Chinese female babies who are abandoned would be adopted by caring American families who can’t adopt in America for whatever reasons; I mean by the thousand.

    And in a generation or two, when China has a surplus of adult males looking to get married and no one to marry, it might make for some interesting international relations …

  16. Mag, good point. I guess from my naive, overly-trusting perspective I just instinctively assumed that everyone would see the wisdom of the policy and comply. But we can always hope!

  17. Burbank Fox, I cannot put my position on the matter any clearer than what Mag has said. And, actually, my understanding is that the same is actually true in China. Someone who knows more about it will have to speak more directly to it, but I’m under the impression that the one baby rule only applies to certain ethnic groups within China and that other ethnic groups are allowed to have as many children as they want.

    It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to imagine how that might be misused here in the US.

    Far better is for folks to be informed about the impact of our rising population and to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives themselves.

    We see over and over again that women who know how their bodies work, who have economic and social freedom and access to birth control, have smaller families.

    We don’t need public policy restricting women in order to achieve smaller families. We need real freedom for women and women will make the decisions we make, most of which will be the right ones for us.

  18. Mag, good point. I guess from my naive, overly-trusting perspective I just instinctively assumed that everyone would see the wisdom of the policy and comply. But we can always hope!

    I’d just as soon get everyone educated, make sure they’ve got access to healthcare (including but not limited to reproductive healthcare and mental health care), a reasonable chance of getting out of poverty, and substantial socio-structural supports for born children, really. In places where that’s the case, the birth rate has dropped fairly dramatically and people report higher standards of living. It’s not perfect, obviously, and it would take a lot more time than just putting in a one-child act would.. but I think we’d all be better off in the long run.

    And I figured you were probably coming at it from that standpoint. In a perfect world, most people probably would. But as it stands right now, most people aren’t even able to comply, whether they would want to or not. It’s hard to get access to contraception, it’s hard to get an abortion, and between stupid cultural stuff surrounding sex and consent and actual incidences of sexual assault, it’s pretty easy to find yourself in a position where you need to do one or more of those things. Which is why I favor the vast societal change method, rather than the quick ‘n dirty legislation method.

  19. B, will you please fish my comment out of Akismet? It thinks I’m Magni. And I had only one lousy little link in it, too.

  20. B, The “We need real freedom for women and women will make the decisions we make, most of which will be the right ones for us.” point is one of those areas where I agree 100% with you. I guess I don’t see this as taking away a choice from women (which of course it obviously is, technically) so much as taking away a choice from everyone – not discriminating solely against women. Perhaps, to ameliorate the impact on women, we could impose any penalty for breach on the impregnator, rather than the impregnatee.

    Mag, the consent and assault issues are pervasive and thorny and I have no solution to that. As far the education vs. legislation argument goes – I also would have that as my preferred method of resolution.

    What I’m arguing is that there is also a time constraint involved. The educational approach is noble and preferable, but also very time consuming. I believe we’ve pushed this planet so close to the brink that this is only one arena in which we may be forced into facing a list of solutions that no one really wants, but have no other options from which to choose.

    The metaphors are numerous but how about: bear has my leg in his mouth, my are options are [in order of preference] 1) Teach the bear to live in harmony with mankind and therefore not want to eat me, 2) shoot the bear, 3) cut off my leg and hope to hop away fast enough. Chances are I won’t have time to implement option 1. I may have to go to a less desirable option for now, in order to live to fight another day and implement a more desirable option.

    Whether or not we are actually at that point of desperation will be argued by many, as evidenced by the right’s unfathomable reaction to Gore’s global warming warnings.

  21. I guess my thing is that a one-child policy seems more like option 3 than option 2. If people don’t have good sex ed, they’re poorly equipped to avoid pregnancy, whether they want to have a kid or not. And we’re slipping behind on that every day. If women don’t have access to contraception, they’re poorly equipped to avoid pregnancy, whether they want to have a kid or not. And we’re slipping behind on that every day. Same thing with abortion. And that’s before you get to all the interpersonal stuff.

    Which I guess brings me back to the case under discussion. Regardless of whether one thinks that the government should or should not be involved, or what other solutions may suggest themselves in the future, the immediate impact of this woman’s appointment will be to lessen access to contraception for a number of people. Which will mean more babies and more abortions. It won’t help the planet, it won’t help our country, it certainly won’t help the women in question… and since, as has been pointed out earlier, it’s relatively short, it won’t even help any long-term political goals.

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