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If the Pill Kills Babies, Why Aren’t You Protesting CVS and Walgreens?

June 7, 2008

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.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    June 8, 2008 9:37 am

    If the American Life League considers each female egg a potential preggnancy that needs to be protected as life, then how exactly do they view male sperm, the other half of the needed ingredient for life? A man ejaculates millions and millions of sperm every day, and several times at that. Aren’t men then more guilty of destroying potential life? And, under the thinking of the ALL, should not each man be held accountable for the destruction of that potential life?

    Don’t put all of this on women and their eggs. Women only carry half the ingredient, but all the burden.

  2. June 8, 2008 9:54 am

    Well, they’re actually focusing on non-implanted fertilized eggs.

  3. June 10, 2008 5:18 pm

    People like that really make me mad. They don’t want women to use contraceptives, but they aren’t willing to support the children of women who can’t get birth control. I say put your money where your mouth is, ALL, and think about supporting all of those unwanted results of a lack of birth control that you are so ready to push on women.

  4. June 11, 2008 2:03 pm

    Thanks, excellent point. I had thought of all of the physiology angles, and had only a fleeting thought about Planned Parenthood just being an easy target for them. Good point, though, about how ubiquitous birth control dispensing is. Are they going to protest the VA? Hospitals? Drug stores? Walmart? Indeed!

  5. Surprise permalink
    February 18, 2012 1:51 pm

    The Pill Kills: Death Penalty for Pill Takers and Makers

    Here’s an email I sent to one of the “The Pill Kills” campaign organizers:

    It’s good of you to promote the Pill Kills Campaign, to make certain that women, their hormonal birth control manaufacturers, their gynecologists, and their pharmacists, are aware that if a woman takes the Pill, there’s a small chance that a blastocyst “person” may die due to the inhospitality of her womb.

    For if a blastocyst “person” is a human being, equal in worth to and having the same rights as a new born baby, then those that knowingly take, prescribe, manufacture, or dispense the Pill may be guilty of anything from manslaughter to 1st degree murder.

    In the U.S., manslaughter often carries a 1 year to 10 year prison term; 1st degree murder often carries a life without parole or death sentence.

    I foresee a “The Pill Kills: Death Penalty for Pill Takers and Makers” follow-up campaign.

    It’s simply the logical conclusion once you assume that a blastocyst equals a person.



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