Column: It takes only one to tango? The revolutionary clarity of the ‘Ejaculate Responsibly’ movement
This week, the investigative website ProPublica posted a fascinating story based on the leaked recording of a National Right to Life webinar designed to persuade Republican Tennessee legislators not to soften the state’s abortion ban, one of the most restrictive in the country.
In Tennessee, all abortions are illegal.
If the procedure is deemed medically necessary to save the life of the mother, her doctor has to prove it. Imagine. A woman must be at death’s door, facing organ failure, in order for her physician to legally intervene to save her life. And then, the onus is on the doctor to prove that his patient’s death was imminent.
As the law stands, a doctor who performs an abortion can be charged with a felony. If he can’t prove his judgment was correct, a conviction could result in up to 15 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
As ProPublica reported, some GOP legislators in Tennessee said they originally supported the law as a symbolic gesture because it couldn’t go into effect while abortion was a constitutional right. But, of course, in June the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and its own 50-year precedent. The six conservative justices had no qualms about removing a woman’s agency and handing over deeply personal decisions about a pregnancy to state legislators.
The ProPublica story focused on Tennessee Republican state Sen. Richard Briggs, a heart surgeon, and his desire to see the draconian abortion ban amended to make “clear exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal anomalies and cases where the pregnant patient’s life or health are at risk.”
The pushback from abortion foes was ferocious, as the leaked recording revealed. Any softening of the law would amount to retreat. Instead, the antiabortion lobbyists urged legislators to focus on promoting the stories of women who gave birth after rape or incest.
“9 months after the enactment of this law, can we organize with the crisis pregnancy centers to see some of these babies?” asked one legislator in the webinar chat box.
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“Yes!” responded a man identified by ProPublica as “the state’s most influential anti-abortion lobbyist.”
Good heavens, what would that look like? A picture of a mother and infant with a disclaimer: “I was raped by my father, I had the baby and I am so glad I did!”?
At no time during the hourlong webinar did legislators or abortion foes even come close to discussing how to prevent unwanted pregnancies (they talked hopefully about the prospect of regulating contraceptives), or the pivotal role men play.
I would love for each and every one of them to receive a copy of the book “Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion,” a modest but extensively footnoted little book that places blame for unwanted pregnancies squarely on men.
The book, published last month, is based on a viral 2018 Twitter thread by the popular blogger Gabrielle Blair, a Mormon mother of six who said she was appalled by men “grandstanding” about abortion during the Senate confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.
She concluded that men have the power to stop all unwanted pregnancies and simply choose not to.
“ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men,” she wrote in her thread. “Period.”
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Her argument is deceptively simplistic, but it makes sense. If sperm does not meet egg, pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, cannot occur.
Women, obviously, cannot control where their eggs are at any given moment in their fertility cycles. But men can control exactly where their sperm goes and can always prevent it from creating a pregnancy.
“Ovulation is involuntary,” writes Blair. “Ejaculation is voluntary.”
Blair argues persuasively that men’s pleasure and health have always taken priority over women’s pleasure and health.
Women mainly bear the brunt of contraception. Blair’s book includes statistics that show women are responsible for most purchases in the $8-billion birth control market. And almost all forms of birth control for women, with the exception of abstinence, can be expensive, risky or painful. And usually require prescriptions.
“The list of side effects for the Pill/Patch/Ring/Shot is long and serious,” Blair writes, “including depression, fatigue, headache, insomnia, mood swings, nausea, breast pain, vomiting, weight gain, acne, bloating, blood clots, heart attack, high blood pressure, liver cancer and stroke.”
In 2016, Blair writes, the World Health Organization conducted a trial for a form of male birth control. It was a hormonal injection that would lower sperm count. “The results were very promising, showing a 96% effectiveness rate at preventing pregnancy.”
But the trial was cut short after men complained about the shot’s most common side effects: acne and weight gain. Also, of the 320 participants, one became depressed and another suicidal.
The pair who posed as biomedical professionals in a failed effort to entrap Planned Parenthood will pay a hefty price for their illegal acts.
At this point, writes Blair, “men have two options for birth control — condoms and vasectomies. Both are easier, cheaper, more convenient and safer than birth control options for women.”
A condom, almost 100% effective, is inexpensive, safe and takes little effort to use. Either partner can provide one.
But there is a huge cultural barrier to universal condom use. Men claim, with little evidence, that a condom mutes their pleasure, or that it is uncomfortable or they are allergic to sheepskin. With a bit of experimentation, Blair writes, any condom-averse man can find a brand that works for him.
As for vasectomies, which have spiked in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe, the procedure is fast, virtually painless and highly reversible. A man can also bank his sperm beforehand if he thinks he may change his mind about fatherhood.
Listen, I know that if abortion foes, basking in the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling, were serious about ending abortion, they would be serious about ending unwanted pregnancies.
But they aren’t.
They will never surrender the idea that women who have sex for pleasure must be punished by forced birth.
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