About 10 years ago I met ‘Mrs. Bendu’. Mrs. Bendu was American-born, but her family was Liberian. She grew up in Liberia and had a long career as a midwife before retiring in the US. Mrs. Bendu traveled all over, caring for women and infants in the city and in the countryside. “Women would see my uniform,” she said, “and they would beg me to come to their village, to help.”
She told me that a midwife not only delivered babies, but provided education. She would tell her patients about immunizations, nutrition for mother and baby, what they needed to know for healthy families. “I tell them, space your children.” she said very earnestly.
Too early, or too frequent childbearing can lead to preventable complications for mother and child. Experts recommend 2-3 years between pregnancies. Even in the US, where we have better access to nutrition and medical care than much of the world, family planning is important. Good health and the right circumstances are advantages.
When a woman is pregnant, the importance of pre-natal care is generally accepted. Even the stingiest states have programs for expectant mothers. But why is pre-pre-natal care a badge of shame? Why is family planning a bad thing? Why is a prescription for birth control carved out from all other prescription benefits and labelled an offense to conscience? And we’re not talking about the conscience of the woman– it’s an offense to her boss, or her pharmacist, or representative in Congress– all of whose opinions take precedence. Why is contraception put in a special category, and why are women not trusted to make decisions about birth control?
Is it the fear of sex? Wanton women having fun without punishment?
Maybe you’re heard that Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee suggested that insurance coverage for birth control is something no American woman wants– unless she’s a moocher who can’t control her sex drive.
The infamous comment came in a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting last month.
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be,” he said.
Somehow the debate has gone from birth control as a responsible measure by an adult who does not want a pregnancy, to a libido problem. If only we could all be celibate, what a wonderful world it would be.
Although that would probably put more of us on antidepressants, with all those side effects, so probably not a net gain in public health.
Sisters, rise up. Tell these fools that birth control is none of their business. The government should not be engineering women into unwanted pregnancies.
We pay taxes. Enough with carving out all the insurance benefits that apply to women. This is just an excuse for politicians to get attention talking about sex, when we all know darn well that most women of all persuasions use birth control at one time or another. This is basic health and survival. And Mike Huckabee’s coded language suggesting the slutty welfare queen looking to ‘Uncle Sugar’ is a naked attempt at divide and conquer. We don’t need to control our libido, we need to control our vote in 2014.
Image from DreamsTime.com