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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The contraceptive ideology

From the blog of Jemy Gatdula:

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday (July 27-28, 201 -- CAP) issue of BusinessWorld:

Last June, the Department of Health issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 2012-0009. The declared goal of the AO was to reduce the “unmet need for modern family planning,” specifically the minimization of “maternal mortality.” But the same raises more questions than the answers it attempted to provide. Where is the need to control our population when it’s already unquestioned that it’s precisely that which gives the Philippines superior competitive advantage? Reduce maternal deaths? Then why not provide better medical facilities and services rather than contraception?

The entire thing smacks of mere ideological bias. I don’t think anybody reasonably believes anymore today that the push for contraception is due to economics or female health. Unfortunately, such bias runs on several deeply flawed assumptions. The first is that religious objections find no basis in reason. The second is that institutions are male-imposed creations. The third is that the empowerment of women requires detaching responsibility from sex. The first two are nonsense. It’s the third we shall focus on, not because it has any merit but rather due to the peculiar emotional attraction that underlies it. I would even go so far to say that the only reason this contraception issue has the support it allegedly has is simply because of this myth.

Because in the end, it’s just a myth. Its overall idea seems to be is that if only women can be allowed, through contraception, unencumbered, no-fear, responsibility-free sex, then their economic, political, and social rights consequently will achieve absolute fulfillment. The sense that is conveyed is that family and children (never mind the husbands) are shackles or burdens that weigh women down. Take away the problem of babies and the need for marriage, and women will be happier and more accomplished.

The argument, at least in its most intelligent form, was expressed by author Hanna Rosin (in an article for the Wall Street Journal): “the sexual revolution has deepened into a more permanent kind of power for women. Young women in their sexual prime -- that is, their 20s and early 30s -- are generally better off than young men. They are better educated and earn more money on average. What made this possible is the sexual revolution -- the ability to have temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career. Or to put it more simply, to have sex without getting married.”

However, the popularity of wedding planners has never been adequately explained. Furthermore, as Mary Eberstadt (also for the WSJ) wrote, the sexual revolution wasn’t actually good for women: “What of the fact, widely reported earlier this week, that 26% of American women are on some kind of mental-health medication for anxiety and depression and related problems? Or how about what is known in sociology as ‘the paradox of declining female happiness’? Using 35 years of data from the General Social Survey, two Wharton School economists, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, made the case in 2009 that women’s happiness appeared to be declining over time despite their advances in the work force and education.”

Thus Helen Alvaré, associate professor at George Mason University School of Law, points out: the US sexual revolution has had “four to five decades to prove itself. There has been a massive expansion of ‘sexual liberty’ on a nationwide scale. Consequently, by this time, observers (and policy makers) with an objective bone in their bodies who believe in the scientific method, would now be searching for a net improvement in the reported happiness and freedom of women.” And yet, “women are less happy than they were 50 years ago, but less happy relative to men, as well over the same time period. Were increases in sexual liberty for women a key determinant of happiness (sufficiently key to raise birth control above even life-saving medicines for federal favor), a simple time-series graph correlating the percentage of women using contraception in the United States with the percentage of women reporting themselves as ‘happy’ would show a direct relationship. Instead, we have more women accessing birth control but less female happiness as described above.”

This was corroborated by Arthur Brooks of the New York Times: “Marriage and happiness go together. If two people are demographically the same but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely to say he or she is very happy than the unmarried person.” Incidentally, Brooks also mentions that the “story on religion is much the same. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, conservatives who practice a faith outnumber religious liberals in America nearly four to one. And the link to happiness? You guessed it. Religious participants are nearly twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives as are secularists (43% to 23%).”

So can we just please stop it already with this juvenile contraception thing? Common sense, reason, and sanity already demand that we do.

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