If the Pill Kills Babies, Why Aren’t You Protesting CVS and Walgreens?
Today was the anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, a Supreme Court case that had the effect of making it legal for married women to obtain contraception. In protest of this anniversary, the American Life League (a Catholic group) planned to protest Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. This group claims that oral contraceptives “kill babies” by causing “chemical abortions.”
Their argument is that oral contraceptive could potentially prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. This has been acknowledged as a remote but hypothetical possibility, but oral contraceptives are known to typically work by preventing ovulation/thickening the cervical mucous as a barrier to sperm. Those of you with a basic biological education don’t need the human development lecture. For the rest of you, we’re not talking about medically recognized pregnancy here. There are no organs. This argument is what physicians would call “medically inaccurate,” given that pregnancy is biologically defined by a successful implantation and a good portion (some guesses are around 50%) of fertilized eggs are silently discarded by women’s bodies all the time without their having been considered “pregnant.”
I find it interesting that ALL has chosen specifically to protest Planned Parenthood clinics. Their own website asks potential protesters to “witness outside of clinics that distribute this killing poison.” And yet, I do not see them asking for the protest of free-standing and hospital pharmacies, or of county public health departments. Perhaps they reason that Planned Parenthood does nothing but “kill babies” (making them the obvious target). This is also plainly untrue, and suggests a privileged viewpoint that ignores the need of lower income women to use Planned Parenthood for a range of women’s health services, such as pap tests for cervical cancer screening, or even pre-natal care. It ignores the non-contraceptive uses of the pill. It also ignores, if providing oral contraceptives is a universal evil of its own to be widely combatted, the vast number of corporate entities through which the drugs are available. I suspect that holding signs outside of CVS and Walgreens isn’t as politically attention-getting – there’s no knee-jerk “Walgreens is evil” public perception, and there are certainly many more of these corner chains to protest than there are Planned Parenthood locations. “We’re going to be protesting Planned Parenthood,” is an easy coverage-getter, despite the lack of thoroughness of the approach.
I completely respect an individual’s decision to make a personal health and reproductive choice based on his or her personal religious values and upbringing. However, when that opinion is shared publicly through protest and organized campaigning, I believe it opens itself to response and criticism. I’m unenthused about counting every menstrual cycle as a potential but unknowable “pregnancy.” I don’t personally appreciate a campaign that presents a religious view of pregnancy that is not generally accepted as medical fact in order to influence and restrict women and families (and medical professionals) who do not share this specific religious view. I’m unimpressed by an approach that solely targets Planned Parenthood despite a core belief about oral contraceptives that should demand wider action if it has or is to have independent validity and integrity.