Lauren Hale gives a historical look at the political debate on birth control, and offers her opinion on the issue based on what she sees.
Sandra Fluke sat behind a table to share stories of college women denied access by their student health care policy to contraceptives they desperately needed for obstetrical reasons. She did so at a press conference called by Nancy Pelosi after Representative Issa did not allow her to testify at hearings earlier this week regarding Obama’s proposed contraceptive rule. There are two videos available on the web, one pushed by Oversight Dems and the C-SPAN video of the Fluke/Pelosi press conference.
A fellow Georgetown student, Angela Morabito, publishes in The College Conservative, an opinion piece claiming “Sandra Fluke Does Not Speak for Me,” which portrays Fluke as a loose woman desiring “her sex life to be subsidized by other students at a Jesuit school.” Rush Limbaugh reads Angela’s blog post and makes some lascivious comments of his own based on Angela’s blog post. The word heard round the Social Media world: “Slut.” Not Rush’s word originally, but Angela’s. Rush runs with it though, saying he wants something for his money, a video, perhaps.
Apalled Democrats call for Rush to be “repudiated as a person.” Santorum speaks out against Rush’s actions while Romney merely offers “not language I would use.” Awash in disgust at the words sent to an apparently innocent Georgetown Law student from a harsh and outspoken Conservative, the world at large declares we must #BoycottRush.
To understand how we arrived here, we must look back nearly 140 years.
July 2, 1872 - Victoria Woodhull, via her publication, Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly, publishes a scandalous account of an affair Mr. Henry Ward Beecher (minister at Plymouth Church) held with Mrs. Tillotson, one which resulted in miscarriage. For publication of these details, Woodhull was arrested shortly after by Anthony Comstock for moral misconduct.
1873 – Comstock Act passes–designed to stop trade in “obscene literature and immoral articles.” It targeted information specifically related to birth control devices, STD’s, human sexuality, and abortion.
1902 – Brokered by J.P. Morgan in 1902, McCormick Harvesting Machine, Deering Harvester Company, and three smaller agricultural companies merge to form International Harvester. One of the heirs to this fortune is Stanley McCormick, son of Cyrus McCormick and husband to Katherine McCormick, an impassioned suffragist.
1916 – Sanger is arrested for violating the Comstock Act by providing birth control information and devices to women (smuggled in from Europe) and sentenced to 30 days in a workhouse after a brief trial.
1928 – National Committee for Federal Legislationon Birth Control formed by Sanger. Involved in pushing at least 10 Senate bills relating to birth control, one of which passed but was immediately struck down.
1936 – United States vs. One Package, in which Ms. Sanger had a package of pessaries, ie, birth control items (diaphragms most likely) directly shipped to her in the US from a physician in Japan. The resulting decision that the federal government could not interfere with doctors providing contraception to their patients. Decision overturns portion of Comstock Act. Sanger immediately shutters the NCFLBC in the resulting celebration, largely ignoring the overall legislative failure of the organization.
1942 – Abraham Stone serves as Medical Director and Vice-President of Planned Parenthood at this time. Through Stone, Sanger meets Gregory Pincus, a researcher already working on hormonal contraceptive research at Worcester Hospital. Pincus receives an initial grant from Planned Parenthood through Stone to fund his work toward a contraceptive for women.
1950’s, early – Sanger meets Katherine McCormick, a fellow suffragist and interested in the development of birth control as her husband, Stanley, suffers from Schizophrenia and she does not desire to have children with him, believing, like Sanger, women deserve to hold their reproductive rights in their own hands.
Katherine, with a fortune behind her, dives into philanthropy and pushes a great deal of her money toward the development of The Pill through her friendship with Sanger. McCormick is introduced to Pincus at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. Extremely interested in the work of Gregory Pincus, McCormick funds his hormonal contraceptive research fully. She also fully funds the initial human trials of the new Pill.
Frank Colton, a researcher at G.D. Searle discovers how to synthesize the progestin for use in hormonal contraceptive. Recruited by Pincus and shunned by Searle, he joined in the efforts to develop the first version of The Pill.
JohnRock, an infertility specialist in Brookline, Massachusetts, joins the team as they ready for human trial. Rock tests The Pill on his already infertile patients. It tests well but thanks to the Comstock Act, they run into issues with dispensing The Pill legally to their test subjects inside the United States. The trial moves to Puerto Rico and is supervised in 67 clinics for low-income women by EdrisRice-Wray.
Time from human trial initiation to FDA approval of use of The Pill for “menstrual disorders” in 1957 is only 14 months. Three years later, an addendum is approved to add “contraceptive” to the use for The Pill.
By 1961, reports begin to surface of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms in women using the pill. Other side effects also include cardiovascular disease and a slight increase in incidence of breast cancer is suspected. The Pill continues to rise in popularity despite these risks, touted as a success in woman’s choice, finally placing her reproductive control in her hands.
In 1965, Sanger is involved in a court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, which overturns part of the Comstock Laws. The Supreme Court rules married couples have a constitutional right to use contraceptives. Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 would extend this same right to single women.
In 1969, Barbara Seaman authors The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill. In 1970, Senator Nelson Gaylord arranges hearings regarding contraceptive choices, known now as The Nelson Pill Hearings. The panel was all men with all male witnesses testifying about female contraceptive issues. (Sound familiar?)
Alice Wolfson, a well known political feminist, storms the Hill during the Nelson Hearings. Her actions net the Patient Pamphlet Information enclosures in Birth Control packets, warning women of the risks involved. After the Nelson Pill Hearings, Seaman and Wolfson team up to form the National Women’s Health Network, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the reproductive rights and sexual education of women.
The Catholic Church also rose up and fought against the development of birth control for women, which is where Georgetown University’s student health policy comes into play and we arrive back at Sandra Fluke. In choosing to attend Georgetown University, Ms. Fluke did not feel she should have to compromise her education over her birth control choices. In fact, Ms. Fluke specifically chose Georgetown with the expressed intent to overturn the current University policy regarding birth control availability through student health care options
Just as Ms. Woodhull, Ms. Sanger, Mrs. McCormick, Ms. Seaman, and Ms. Wolfson before her, Sandra Fluke is no a stranger to advocacy for women’s reproductive rights as she has spent her years at Georgetown doing just that. She is not an innocent deserving of a comforting call from the President of our country as a result of the behaviour of a harsh critic. Sandra Fluke knew exactly what she was doing as she attempted to speak at the Issa hearing about Contraceptives. The Democrats and Pelosi knew what they were doing and for that matter, so did Issa.
Politics is nothing more than a show and we are all players. Our outrage, our disdain for each other as we finally speak up because a Georgetown Law Student was called a Slut by another Georgetown student, yet via a well known conservative radio show host, is sickening. Why? Because we are buying into the game. I am not a fan of my reproductive health bandied about in the public media any more than the next woman. But a line must be drawn. For me, I draw that line at a grown woman, executing a calculated political move, gleefully accepting the commendation and compassion of our Commander in Chief. Let us not forget Obamacare violates the First Amendment and violates our rights as Americans. To argue for this law is to argue against the very essence of everything our Forefathers put down on paper so many years ago.
The fight for Women’s Reproductive Rights has never been about liberating women. It has been about control, finances, and forcing our gender further into poverty and inserting a wedge between the genders in the workplace. It is a fight well-funded and orchestrated on both sides, the extreme left through communist and socialistic organizations and the politicized Church on the right. To leave our reproductive welfare completely in either of their hands is egregiously naive and should be avoided at all costs.
Do I have a solution? No. If I did, believe me, I would be on the phone with Pelosi, Issa, Obama, and the Pope scheduling a summit instead of writing this article.
I do believe this–my uterus, my body, my choice, my responsibility. No one else is responsible for my choice to be sexually active but me. No one else should have to fund my extra-curricular activities or the consequences thereof.
Do low-income women deserve support? Yes. They also deserve reproductive education and so do the men in their lives. Reproduction does not happen with just one gender present, as Sandra Fluke made abundantly clear when she spoke of her gay friend in need of The Pill for ovarian cysts. Should birth control be provided if proven medically necessary? Absolutely, because it’s not birth control then, it’s medication to treat a medical issue, which is why The Pill was initially approved by the FDA in 1957.
I have a small dream here–what if we all sat down and really listened to each other about this–instead of jumping to conclusions as someone with an opposing viewpoint spoke? What if we bothered to research the issue and understand the back story in order to clear a forward path? We might just get somewhere instead of turning the clock back over 40 years as we have so clearly done this past week. That, readers, would truly be progress.