Oh no, not more about ECs

I read a couple of good posts about emergency contraceptives recently and thought to myself: Here is an issue I don’t know anything about and never think about, I think I’ll post about it. This is mainly in response to the responses to the first link above. Here goes.

It seems to me there is a confusion of categories covered under the word “society” here. Does “society” = federal law? or is “society” the sum total of what we all as individuals or as parts of groups decide to do? Because something is legal under federal law is not equivalent to society’s approving of it—why? because we don’t legislate morality in this country, or at least we try not to. It’s not actually possible to make laws without reference to some code of morality–laws against murder have a practical element to them, but without some kind of basic moral judgement about the dignity of human life, the number of potential exceptions would make such laws completely impotent.
The intent of federal law is not to establish some comprehensive statement of our society’s moral code, rather, it is to make the rules by which we can live together as a society while allowing individuals to practise their own beliefs, whatever they may be. Hence, the law can’t be seen as restricting a doctor’s or pharmacist’s freedom of religion or conscience.
This is similar to a common misapprehension about what “censorship” is. Blockbuster not stocking x-rated videos is not “censorship,” but the federal government outlawing x-rated videos would be. Just because something is legal does not mean a private citizen—a dr. or a pharmacy or business owner–can be required to provide it to you. If it were, freedom of religion, of expression, and of conscience would be utterly meaningless.
Referring to a “small group” of people as “gatekeepers” is another rhetorical strategy. Doctors and to a lesser extent pharmacists are gatekeepers, in a sense, they limit access to potentially dangerous prescription drugs. This seems like a pretty good thing, by and large. If all doctors and pharmacists had entered into some kind of conspiracy to prevent anyone from getting ECs or anything else, you might have a point; but this is far from the case. As far as I know, even those who oppose ECs haven’t established this as some kind of common goal. And, at least 50% of the people in this country believe abortion should be legal, I’m guessing those who approve of ECs is even higher. Thus, there must be an awful lot of doctors and pharmacists who prescribe ECs around. And there are planned parenthood locations all over the place. While I don’t doubt the word of anyone who says they couldn’t get ECs when they wanted them, I find it extremely hard to believe that they are that difficult to get, in general; and as always when only hearing one side of something, wonder if there might be more to the story in at least some cases.
I think one problem with this debate is that both sides are so easy to belittle from the opposite point of view. Not to pick on Brit, but he mentions “moral grounds” as if it were a mere preference, like pizza toppings. The dr. is being asked to do what s/he considers to be killing someone—which is against the Hippocratic oath they have to take as dr.s, aside from being one of the more basic moral beliefs. Just because not everyone agrees that it is killing somebody does not detract from the seriousness of the moral belief. Infant exposure was a common method of birth control in ancient times, let’s say that it becomes legal today—does that mean you or I would have to carry the baby out yourself and leave it in a field? If a parent can’t find a single person who is willing to ensure the death of his or her baby, is he or she being discriminated against? It’s easy to dismiss the beliefs of people who don’t believe in ECs if you yourself don’t share the belief, but apply it to one of your own deeply-held beliefs, and it’s a different matter.
On the other hand, as Kim notes, pregnancy is more than just an “inconvience.” In discussing this issue, Andy and I both agreed that it would be pretty terrifying if I got pregnant when we weren’t expecting it, and we’re married, reasonably financially stable, and actually want children. There’s so much to consider: a career to rearrange, financial matters to work out, potential health problems to be considered; and if it were me, I’d immediately start worrying about what medications I’d been taking–even aspirin!–and what I’d been eating, drinking, and doing that might already have harmed the baby.
Pregnancy takes a huge toll on a woman’s body, not to mention raising a child; and it’s all very well to suggest adoption to an unexpectedly pregnant teen, but what about an adult with a career? And ECs are not all that different in function from birth control pills, so I can see how it would seem outrageous and arbitrary for an adult human being not to be allowed to make that decision.
Ultimately, I agree with Andy’s main points: I don’t believe that individuals deciding according to their beliefs and conscience not to prescribe or sell ECs amounts to limiting women’s rights according to some patriarchal value system, any more than I think my decision not to sell the Satanic Bible while working at a bookstore that carried it amounted to censorship. And, I think that if people are morally fine with ECs and plan to use them if their primary method of BC fails, they need to take into account the fact that ECs aren’t okay with everybody and to make a plan beforehand how they are going to get them. In other words, I think people should be more respectful of each others beliefs and situations: don’t dismiss other peoples’ beliefs as illegitimate, and don’t underestimate the problems an unexpectedly pregnant woman is facing.
The end, of my input on this issue.

Leave a Reply