GOP: Be careful what you wish for when restricting contraception.


The 451 GOP bills attacking women on birth control and abortion in state legislatures are inspiring a few Democratic lawmakers to raise bills focusing on men’s access to contraception with similar restrictions. So far, bills on the use of Viagra and vasectomies have been raised in Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas.

The Ohio bill requires “physicians take specific actions before prescribing such drugs, including giving a cardiac stress test and making a referral to a sex therapist for confirmation that “the patient’s symptoms are not solely attributable to one or more psychological conditions.”” The Missouri bill “would allow vasectomies only to protect a man from serious injury or death.” In Virginia, “state Senator Janet Howell sought an amendment requiring doctors to perform a rectal exam and stress test before prescribing erectile-dysfunction drugs.” [....] In Illinois, “State Rep. Kelly Cassidy proposed requiring men seeking Viagra to watch a video showing the treatment for persistent erections, an occasional side effect of the little blue pill. As she explained, “It’s not a pretty procedure to watch.” [....]

As expected, no one is taking these bills seriously. I believe they have a place at the table. So let’s talk seriously. Republicans are quick to include in their conversation about women the need to protect the sanctity of marriage, the need to be gender-biased, the need to define a family as a man and a woman with children (and no planning). Regardless of what we aspire to or what we believe in when it comes to love, marriage and family, we cannot have a meaningful conversation about any of it, in my opinion, and then isolate the issue of contraception to the realm of women only.

Of all the conservatives who are either in office or running for office, I find Rick Santorum to be the one person, and in this case, the one Republican presidential candidate who best expresses his views on contraception, women and family, albeit radical and from some parallel universe that only he visits. In a recent interview, he said, “it [birth control] goes down the line of being able to do whatever you want to do without having any responsibility for it … its harmful to women, harmful to our society.” [Video] I have a strong desire to argue the lack of merit on many levels of Santorum’s statement. Instead, I am focusing on his comments about responsibility and contraception.

Santorum implies a broader shared responsibility wherein men and women have a significant role to play. Following his belief that contraception is harmful to women and society, its only natural then that men share equal responsibility for contraception. And that means adding restricting access for men to condoms since they are a form of contraception.

Condoms, one of the oldest forms of contraception, were initially allowed to be sold legally in this country as a measure to prevent disease by default. “In 1918 … an American court overturned a conviction against Margaret Sanger. [T]he judge ruled that condoms could be legally advertised and sold for the prevention of disease.” [....] Today, condoms are used primarily as “a barrier device … during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy.” [....] Moreover:

Condoms have been used for at least 400 years. Since the 19th century, they have been one of the most popular methods of contraception in the world. While widely accepted in modern times, condoms have generated some controversy, primarily over what role they should play in sex education classes. They are considered unacceptable in almost all situations by certain religions, notably the Catholic church. [....]

Lawmakers might consider adding language that prohibits condoms from being sold without a prescription, or language that requires a parents consent if the male is a minor, or requires a consent form from the male’s wife. Lawmakers might also consider drafting a bill that reaches back to before the 1920s and restricts the sale of condoms outside of pharmaceutical establishments. A host of issues would bubble up to vast to deal with.

On the other hand some of the suggestions above could have a negative impact on the economy and health care, and Republicans just might entertain restricting condoms for that reason, at least until they needed one, seriously.

Clearly, no one is willing to add condoms to the mix because restricting access could have a devastating impact in terms of health and safe sex. But Santorum’s quest for eliminating contraceptives to save women and our society has given us another chance to call out Republicans for being biased against women.

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