A federal judge has ordered drug stores to make the morning after pill available, over the counter, to people of any age. Because that’s a decision one dude in a robe with a gavel should be able to make on behalf of every state, store, and business owner in the country.
Obviously I’m ecstatic to see another hard fought civil rights victory for pharmaceutical companies. Yet, still, I hear much of the “analysis” about this ruling and much of the discussion about the problem of “unplanned pregnancy”, and I can’t help but notice how incredibly eager many people are to miss the point entirely.
When discussing “unwanted” pregnancies, contraception, and morning after pills, here are a few points that are rarely brought up (get ready to take everything I say here personally, and then tell me how horribly backwards and judgmental I am):
1) Pregnancy is not leukemia. It is not a disease. People talk about “reducing pregnancy” like they’re discussing reducing syphilis infections. It’s also not a mystery. Aside from rape, you become pregnant through a deliberate act. That’s why the term “unplanned” pregnancy is misleading. Maybe conception wasn’t purposeful but there is only one activity that can result in conception, and you purposefully engaged in it. The way people talk about it, you’d think someone could be walking down the street, trip over a pebble, and fall into a puddle of pregnant.
2) Maybe we should stop thinking in terms of reducing pregnancy. Every plan I’ve heard or seen has either been horribly ineffective or just horrible in general. Some say we should teach kids about abstinence, some say we should starting throwing condoms at little Johnny when he’s still wearing Velcro sneakers and eating Lunchables. Yes, over the years teen pregnancy rates have gone down, but: A) Abortions aren’t factored into that statistic, which is a bit like when the government doesn’t factor welfare into unemployment figures and B) Out of wedlock births have skyrocketed. I imagine if you go back to any time prior to the mid 20th century, “teen pregnancy” rates were probably at damn near 100 percent. So why has the phenomenon only recently become a problem? Because people used to get pregnant early, and MARRIED even earlier. I’m not saying 16 year olds should start getting hitched — even though that system worked just fine for thousands of years and we’re the only society stupid enough to screw it up — but I am saying that instead of treating pregnancy as the problem, maybe we should look at the CONTEXT of the pregnancy. Maybe we shouldn’t get married as young as all of our ancestors did, but this new strategy of encouraging the young to wait until their midlife crisis to tie the knot — perhaps not the best idea after all. We tell kids to put off the major commitments and decisions of adulthood, and then find ourselves flabbergasted when they instead choose the fun parts of being a grown up (sexual relationships) and indefinitely delay the hard, challenging, mature parts (marriage). The goal, I believe, is to get folks to combine the two.
3) In the end, this is an issue that will not be totally solved with drugs and latex. One way or another, we are going to have to deal with the fact that our behavior needs to change. Trying to stop STDs and teen pregnancy with nothing but condoms and birth control pills is like trying to stop your drunk friend from being killed behind the wheel by covering him in bubble wrap. You may save his life in the short term, but in the long term you’ve only made his self destruction slightly less destructive, which, logically, will encourage him to act like an even bigger idiot, more often and to a greater extreme.
I wish we could all be reasonable about this. But I also wish a unicorn would come to my house and poop a million gold coins in my yard. I think the latter is more likely to happen than the former.