We have extensively covered the war on women’s health that has been waged by the Boehner House ever since the Republicans took office of the House of Representatives following the 2010 midterm election. Pandering to an extreme right wing Tea Party – despite their claims their organisation only focuses on job creation and deficit reduction – GOP representatives have done their hardest to cut the women’s health sections out of the Affordable Care Act. First chasing after a fictitious federal fund for abortion through Planned Parenthood, they decided they would financially dry them out entirely. Now, they are after birth control. 

Steve King (copyright Washington Post)

“Steve King (…) is failing to understand the very basic concepts of medicine, the reproductive system, (and) women’s health”

Beginning next year, the federal government will require, under current provisions of the Affordable Care Act, that insurance companies cover entirely the cost of birth control as a preventive treatment. As often in legislature, the wording is everything: no one raised an objection until Kathleen Sebelius publicly approved of the following recommendation by the Institute of Medicine. The moment Sebelius declared her enthusiasm as a scientifically endorsed lawmaking project that would curb the rise in unplanned pregnancies, Iowa’s Steve King took the floor to voice his discontent with an argument we can only qualify as paranoid, the way only a Philip K. Dick novel could fathom in such short notice.

“Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not — that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.”

Granted, 2011 has been the year of all sorts of apocalyptic predictions. From Harold Camping’s calculations leading to a Judgement Day on May 21 and the rising fear over the end of the Mayan Calendar planned for December 2012, we are not short of any sort of dying civilization stories. However, preventive health care for women was not in any of the theologists’ books. It was, however, a very recurrent nightmare for Steve King who is failing to understand the very basic concepts of medicine, the reproductive system, women’s health, and, on a bigger scale, his role as an elected representative to bring an all-encompassing piece of legislature that will help his own nation leap forward into modernism, equality, and the rising costs of living.

It seems to me that what triggered Steve King’s extreme paranoid reaction is the use of the word “preventive”, that birth control is exlusively made to stop something from happening. Which is true, in a way; it is also true that birth control methods, which is based on the release of certain hormones into the bloodstream at certain key moments of a woman’s reproductive cycle, also helps with a lot of symptoms associated with dysfunctioning ovaries or anormal hormone levels. This is a fundamental part of the “preventive” part of birth control use. Putting this point aside, Steve King is worried that easy and affordable access to birth control will annihilate America.

Let’s use numbers.

There are currently 312 million people living in the United States. A projected 439 million will be reached by 2050: this represents a steady 4.2% growth over 30 years, which is hardly what one would call extinction. (1) Out of those 312 million, 152 million are female, 74% of which have reportedly used birth control at some point in their lives – and that number has been steadily rising from 1995 to 2002. This is no shocker to anyone who has ever been in the vicinity of a woman. It is a complete and utter trauma for Steve King who believes that a constant rise in population and a constant rise in birth control means a constant rise in deaths not replaced by births. Granted, I have never been good at math. But King’s conclusion is completely mind-boggling.

“In short, he believes women on birth control (…) are selfish, individualistic, self-centered, small-minded, and more importantly, spoiled”

What Steve King wants is for us all potential baby-bearers to take the high road, to consider a bigger plan, to step outside of our own personal frame. He basically wants us to consider pregnancy as an outside willingness, to see ourselves as a temporary vessel, to place ourselves within a larger community. In short, he believes women on birth control – and by extension, obviously, the godless heathens who have or will book an abortion – are selfish, individualistic, self-centered, small-minded, and more importantly, spoiled; that birth control has given us the gift of choice, and that we are undeserving of it. This is no longer a question of opinion, or even of a question of sexism: this is mysogyny disguised under a thick coat of pseudo-concern and so-called political consciousness. It’s hypocrisy taken to the degree of rolling decades and decades backwards in preventive medicine, women’s health, and the very concept, more than necessary, paramount ideology of family planning.

The rape of the Sabines, by Pietro da Cortona

Four out of ten pregnancies are unplanned, which is a massive amount in a western, modern country that should educate its children in the matters of sex, relationships, and reproduction. An unplanned pregnancy may not necessarily result in a complicated one, a traumatic birth, or a psychologically disturbed upbringing. A planned pregnancy, however, massively helps bringing all those factors into the successful bringing of a new life into the world. Birth control can also be used to space several pregnancies over time, reducing the risk of complications, ensuring a proper communication within the existing family, and adding a new factor to the mix: the financial cost of pregnancy and child rearing. Lest we forget we are going through a recession.

It would be easy to dump Steve King’s inconsistencies to sheer ignorance. It is however hard to go through life without encountering a woman who is pregnant or has already had children. The faces of birth control are as varied as women themselves; and reducing them to a sole purpose, free from all the purposes, dreams, aspirations, and complexities of everyday life in one specific context is an atrocity that has plagued women up until birth control was made readily available. The next step forward that has been taken by the Affordable Care Act is one which importance should never be underestimated. The words and beliefs of Steve King should effectively cost him office. Beware of writing women off the map, Representative.

(1) all numbers are 2010 data, provided by the Census Bureau (census.gov)

Read more: Robert Walker’s excellent op-ed on The Huffington Post