Another horrible world

Read this interview of Dr Jen Gunter by Maggie Koerth-Baker on the consequences of illegal abortions. The nightmare of blood and death for women is what religious conservatives want, apparently.

But there’s hope, and it’s so simple and easy — we could make everyone happy with one solution.

Study after study after study shows that when women have access to long-acting contraception like IUDs, and when they don’t have financial or access barriers, their risk of abortion just plummets. The irony is that this is all just posturing. Because the answer is right there. If you actually wanted to make abortion very rare, the answer is there. It’s long-acting, reversible contraception.

The only catch is that the religious right also hates contraception.


  1. badgersdaughter says

    I have an IUD. Holy fuck, that thing was a mess to get used to in the first few months. But I cannot take hormonal contraception, and I already had one unwanted pregnancy from using the condom plus the old sponge thing, back when I was young and idealistic and believed God would take care of me for doing “the right thing” (ugh I know). If I had teenage daughters, they’d be on the non-hormonal IUD even if I had to take out a loan to pay for it.

    But I had a good look at the tiny thing before they installed it. The doctor was amused that I was curious. It’s just a little bit of plastic with a copper wire wrapped around it. It looked like something he removed from his desk telephone. I’ll spare you my review of the recovery process, but mine was worse than average. Despite that, I’d gladly get it done every other Saturday and twice on the new moon rather than risk another pregnancy as a newlywed 45-year-old with medical risk factors.

    The cost of the IUD would be mostly in training and testing, I think. You have to make sure there is not already a pregnancy in place. The person doing the procedure has to poke the installing tube through the cervix and into the uterus. The conservatives weep and wail about the IUD preventing a fertilized ovum from implanting, but I think that’s a red herring and possibly not even true. The real issue may be that anyone trained to poke things through the cervix safely could potentially be well enough trained to do an abortion… no, I take that back, the real issue is that women might be in control of their own bodies, of course. But you know what I mean.

    If I had the slightest inclination to go poking around in people’s bodies and the slightest aptitude for dealing with the sick, I might look into such training myself. But I don’t, and I don’t, and the only way I’d be fit for that duty is if nobody else would do it. But I’d gladly support an organized effort to make IUDs available to everyone who asked for one.

  2. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    Exactly what Ibis3 said; I did some fairly simple research recently and found out that preventing ALL human-induced abortions would lead to a tiny number of extra embryos developing into babies, compared to preventing spontaneous, or God-induced, abortions. And contraception effectively prevents both.

    Since the fanatics aren’t handing out free contraceptives, picketing churches, or funding research into early pregnancy loss, let alone reaching into their pockets to ameliorate the poverty that is often the cause of high infant mortality, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they don’t actually want to save embryos or babies at all. The only reason that they claim to be pro-embryo or pro-baby is that it makes them sound nicer than telling the truth about being anti-woman and anti-sex. The statistics show that they have at least as high a rate of elective abortion as other people. They don’t love humans from the moment of conception. They don’t even like humanity very much. They just like to feel holier than the rest.

    Pregnancy several jolly good attempts at killing me (breech births, post-partum hæmorrhage, pre-eclampsia). Thanks to modern medical science, I survived; and so did maybe half the embryos that I know I conceived (there are likely many, many more that didn’t make it as far as implantation).

    If you count human life as beginning at conception, the death rate from pregnancies that are wanted and supported is so high that human-induced abortions are, at most, an irrelevence. You’d think God had higher priorities.

  3. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    That should read: “Pregnancy made several jolly good attempts at killing me…”

  4. otrame says

    Religious opposition to contraception research has slowed progress there enormously. It is long past time to start spending serious money on that. Cheap, safe, reversible contraception is by far the best way to prevent abortions.

  5. David Marjanović says

    If I had teenage daughters, they’d be on the non-hormonal IUD even if I had to take out a loan to pay for it.

    Why the non-hormonal one?

    Religious opposition to contraception research has slowed progress there enormously. It is long past time to start spending serious money on that.


  6. garnetstar says

    Here’s a study that shows that providing free contraception dropped the abortion rate by 68 – 72%.

    But we know how far data will go with people who actually don’t care how many abortions there are, but merely want to enforce rigid governtment control over women.

  7. Pjay Pender says

    I third Ibis3. It’s not about preventing abortions, or even saving babies. They actually say it’s about pregnancy being a “consequence” for sex. A consequence their god saw fit to only foist upon women.

  8. badgersdaughter says

    David, I suspect that giving hormones to teenage girls who are are still in developing bodies with developing minds is a bad idea, as estrogen and progesterone can and do affect more in the body than reproduction… the effects I’m thinking of are metabolic and psychological specifically, and the risk factors run in my family. Obviously if another girl and her parents and doctors think differently, it isn’t my place to object.

  9. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Badgersdaughter: I know some people love their hormonal IUDs, but there’s a reason both are available. And when I got my tubes tied (thereby meaning I am very unlikely to ever need an abortion, and I am using two other types of birth control for non-BC uses still) I asked to see the little titanium clips too. :) Little wee things but so awesome. My recovery was amazing. I’ve had worse colds in terms of discomfort, with around 15 minutes of pain once the next day and that was it.

    The antis are entirely clear that their agenda is all about women suffering and maybe dying for having sex. Their opposition to safe, effective birth control is just one of the more obvious signs.

  10. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says


    Why the non-hormonal one?

    Safer. Less risk of complications, both short term and long term.

    Also, the non-hormonal ones can be left in for up to 10 years, while the hormonal ones must be replaced every 5.

  11. Michael says

    I tried to get a debate going in my high school science class by proposing the following scenario: Suppose the government put something in drinking water that prevented conception. If you wanted to have a baby, you had to apply to become parents, and if successful you would be given the antidote. Discuss.

    I was a bit surprised that there was little debate. The students thought this was a great this idea, and didn’t seem to care about the government judging whether they would be suitable parents or not.

    On a related note, a colleague commented that she felt that it should be mandatory for anyone on welfare to be given an IUD, both for the problem of affording a child while on welfare, and for those that abuse the system and keep having children to keep the welfare cheques coming in.

  12. badgersdaughter says

    Michael, your colleague should consider that if transvaginal ultrasounds are like rape, then how much more would be forcing a woman (including children who have begin to menstruate) to submit to an invasive vaginal outpatient procedure that is not painless, can have complications that the welfare recipient is unlikely to be able to afford to manage (I won’t go into mine, but I had three, which resolved after appropriate care that I could afford), requires maintenance (periodically checking the strings are in place), and can potentially be removed by the woman or her partner (I’ve read stories about people pulling them out, which is dangerous).

    The drinking water scenario is a good thought experiment but could hardly be practical. Think about cooking with the stuff, how it might react to plumbing, side effects in the population, the fact that it wouldn’t work the same way for everyone (if at all), the danger to pregnant women and babies, and so forth. Imagine having an unwanted baby because you relied on it and it did not work for you. Even worse, imagine how your frozen daiquiris would taste.

  13. says

    The only catch is that the religious right also hates contraception.

    Yes, but they aren’t the major barrier when it comes to IUDs – doctors are the problem there. I’ve written many times before about what a difficult time I had getting a doctor to consent to inserting an IUD, and so have many other women. Why? Our age. Oh, also, that we’re flighty creatures who couldn’t possibly know our own mind, and of course we’ll want children, you’ll see, you’ll change your mind! And a host of other nonsense.

    In most cases, if a woman isn’t over 35 with several children, she’s not going to get an IUD without a fight. The younger you are, the worse it is, because there’s a risk with fertility when you go with an IUD (I finally got to stop looking for a doc to sterilise me, thanks to my Copper-7.) The assumption still stands that all women are going to want to breed, no matter what they might say, so it can take a long time and extended fight to get one in the first place.

  14. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Michael: I always am amazed at the people who claim that women on public assistance have babies for the fat wads of money the government gives for each so baffling. Like, do they not realize that babies are absolute money pits? And in the US, the cost of necessary medical stuff alone… yeah, no.

  15. WharGarbl says


    The drinking water scenario is a good thought experiment but could hardly be practical.

    Or do what China did. Mandatory abortion for unlicensed pregnancy.
    To be a bit more benign:
    1. Your choice of contraception(s) for free.
    To be a bit more effective but… more inhumane:
    1. Mandatory execution of child from unlicensed pregnancy.
    The drinking water scenario is just a way of saying:
    “If there’s a comparatively non-intrusive way of controlling pregnancy, should it be ethical for government to utilize it?”
    In the few portion of that discussion I remembered having in college, it segued into discussion about over-population. Namely, if we reached/approached the carrying capacity of Earth, would forced birth control be a more ethical solution compared to alternatives?

  16. dianne says

    I’m guessing that the drinking water scenario involved a hypothetical form of birth control that worked perfectly and had no side effects. Because if we’re talking about the currently available hormonal contraceptives AAAAIIIII!! NOOOOOOOO! I’d go on, but that’s all you really need to know about how bad an idea putting them in the water supply is.

  17. WharGarbl says

    Hm… you know, China’s One Child Policy might fit the bill.
    It’s a currently existing birth control that worked perfectly with next to no side effects (or less physical side effects than continuing the pregnancy).

  18. stevem says

    re contraception in the water:

    Assuming such a contraceptive existed; that was 100% effective with no “side effects” etc, etc. Can you even imagine the outcry that would result from all those people who would say government shouldn’t put “stuff” in our water, even if the government thinks it is for “our own good”? Even today, look at the controversy that even now, still arises over fluoridating water (looking at you, Portland). No matter how beneficial, people will say, “If it’s so good, people would do it themselves. Keep government out of it. We don’t want no ‘nanny-state’. (It’s a secret plot to sterilize us all, … )”
    Not surprised there was little debate in your class. Students are usually much more open to “new ideas”, than those “hard and fast” “libertarians”.

  19. Sufficiently Decayed says

    Hi. First comment, here, though I’ve lurked for many moons.

    Contraception is a matter dear to my heart. From the age of five, I knew already that I didn’t want kids of my own. Then when I started to be sexually active, I was exceedingly lucky to be living right in the middle of the 70s, when contraception for young women was seen — at least where I lived — as almost a right.

    Planned Parenthood had an office/clinic just a bus ride away. They counselled me for an hour with options, then I made an appointment for an IUD. I’d just turned 17 and no questions were asked. The procedure went ahead a few days later in the clinic (not fun, but tolerable), with no need to involve my parents (who weren’t in the picture anyway, so that was good) and at no cost to me (even better).

    I feel such frustration and heartache that contraception for women 30 years younger than me is so much less affordable and available. Who are we trying to help by cutting back services like PP? Not women, certainly.

    My IUD wasn’t ideal and a few years later, when I was 24, I got my tubes tied. The trick to this was to tell my doctor that my husband and I had separated and he’d already had a vasectomy. That was true, by the way, but it might not have been. After that, at least he stopped grilling me like I was an empty-headed dolly girl.

    “Oh. OK then” was his total response, making a surgical appointment.

    Now I’m 51 with zero pregnancies and zero abortions, ever, but lots and lots of fun sex in the meantime.

    That’s what the religious types wanted, right? [crickets] Right?

  20. says

    Michael @ 12 and HappiestSadist @ 15: Re: “welfare queens”

    Unfortunately I have to go to work and don’t have time to look it up, but they pretty much debunked the myth of the welfare queen with that family cap study. I think it was in New Jersey. When they penalized women for having kids on welfare (while leaving some districts to go the old way), it didn’t actually do a damn thing to the birth rates.

    I find it astounding that there are still people who want to believe that women on welfare are living in the lap of luxury by having kids on welfare. I guess it beats not having someone to look down on, right?

    “I’m getting $100 for each kid and they’re costing me $110!” –Bender

  21. says

    Oh, maybe “penalized” wasn’t the word. I think they just cut off any extra money over, say, two kids or something. Still didn’t stop women on welfare from having kids past that in any way. Perhaps the real problem is that a lot of women in poverty haven’t had access to decent educations, decent sex education, or access to affordable contraception–also, sex is a free form of entertainment (at least at the point where you’re having it) and is a way that some people make themselves feel loved and worthwhile, which is perhaps something someone on welfare, being hated by everyone and blamed for everything, might have a strong desire for?

    Naw, that couldn’t possibly be it! They’re clearly just whores abusing the system!

  22. moarscienceplz says

    The only catch is that the religious right also hates contraception sex.


  23. says

    I was exceedingly lucky to be living right in the middle of the 70s, when contraception for young women was seen — at least where I lived — as almost a right.

    I got my IUD at 17, from PP in SoCal, in 1975. All that said, I had to fight tooth and nail to get it. The doctor kept me in the room, arguing with me over birth control pills for two fucking hours before she’d agree to insert the Copper-7. This was arguing for the pill, even though it was contraindicated for me. There was no great and wonderful attitude back then, you either got lucky or you didn’t.

  24. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    The only catch is that the religious right also hates contraception sex committed by the “wrong” kind of people.


    Srsly, now it is accurate.

  25. dianne says

    Oddly enough, I’ve never had an OB argue with me about my choice in birth control. I’ve used barrier methods since I’ve been sexually active and all anyone’s said is “OCP could help regulate your periods” to which I replied “I’m ok with them being irregular” and got back, “long as what you’re doing is working for you.”

    I wonder what it is about me that triggers the “eh, whatever” response that way (even before I went into medicine). If I could figure it out maybe I could give others hints on how to not get harassed about birth control choices…

  26. moarscienceplz says

    I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that most of them god-botherers are embarrassed even when they are shtupping their legal spouses. If babies really could be found in cabbage patches, they’d rush to their legislators to get ALL sex declared illegal. (Of course they’d still have affairs, but they can always get jeebus to forgive them when they get caught.)

  27. janewhite says

    About 10 years ago, I was living in NY, fresh out of school and scraping a living at odd jobs, some of them very odd indeed. I went to Planned Parenthood to get oral contraceptives and discovered an amazing thing: NY state provided basic reproductive health care (including contraceptives and STD treatment) for free to all low-income residents, and their definition of low-income wasn’t all that strict. The program was technically part of Medicaid, I think, but way easier to get. I brought my tax return to PP, they did the paperwork, and I got annual exams and pills without ever paying a penny.

    Not having to pay $50 per month for pills really helped me make ends meet at that time, and thanks in large part to contraception in the bad old days, I’m currently awaiting the birth of my first child sitting in my own comfortable house, with the partner of my choosing, both of us employed at steady, well paying, meaningful jobs. What radical life goals I had, eh?

  28. loopyj says

    Outlawing abortion really is all about enforcing pregnancy and punishing women for having sex.

    For the zealots who aren’t opposed to contraception, the answer to preventing abortions is 100% effective, long-term birth control for men and a legal mandate requiring all men of reproductive age to take or use it, regardless of the health implications it might have for them. Women who want to have children can then apply for a permit that allows their male partner to not take/use the contraception during the period of time when she wants to conceive. In this way, MRAs can’t bitch and moan about being held responsible for babies that they didn’t want to make, because men will finally be in complete control of their own fertility. And it would be much easier to catch rapists who impregnate their victims because you could just check the fertility registry and see which men had fertility permits at the time. Problem sorted! (It would be absolutely adorable to watch anti-abortion crusaders rail against this idea because it impinges on civil rights, bodily autonomy and freedom.)

  29. DLC says

    I have a solution. Each male at age 13 shall have a reversible vasectomy, with the permission to reverse the procedure granted to his mother. Upon marriage, the permission to reverse the vasectomy would then be transferred to the wife, who could cause the vasectomy to be reversed over the male’s objections, compelling him to father children. If the offending male impregnated someone anyway, they would of course be charged with a crime. It’s not biblical, but it sounds fair to me. After all, we’ve been doing the analog of that to women for decades.
    On a more serious note: re: welfare queens . It’s a Reagan-era myth promulgated by Reagan’s 1980 campaign team. There never has been a problem of women having more babies just to get more welfare income.
    (whoops. let this sit for 3 hours before posting. probably my second point has been made by now.)

  30. says

    I think the motive behind the anti-choice legislation is forced birth. The point is not simply to prevent abortion but to force women to become and stay pregnant. All the talk about improving safety for women through these anti-abortion measures is sickening, since obviously forced pregnancy actually increases health risks for women. It is far more dangerous to carry a pregnancy full term and undergo childbirth than it is to have an abortion before 16 weeks gestation. Certainly the right wing hates for women to exercise free sexual choice, but I don’;t think they hate sex itself particularly. Sex for men is a god-given right! (that’s why Viagra is covered by health insurance!) Only when women who can prevent pregnancy have sex is it problematic. I don;t think they care about women having unprotected sex or being used for sex (rape, incest,e tc) – as long as pregnancy is a highly likely outcome. Not so much for punishment – I don’t think the right thinks about women as human beings enough to want to punish – but as a proper use of the female animals, so to speak. Women must not be allowed to control their own fertility – they must always be kept available to produce offspring.

  31. dianne says

    the answer to preventing abortions is 100% effective, long-term birth control for men and a legal mandate requiring all men of reproductive age to take or use it,

    This could actually be done with very little risk to the man’s health. At adolescence, men donate sperm which is then frozen. They then have a vasectomy and if they and their partners want children they go get some of their stored sperm and inseminate away. That way you don’t have to worry about the man claiming to still be fixed and going and impregnating someone without their permission or being accused of same falsely or any acts of mutual stupidity resulting in unwanted pregnancies and/or children. For the exceptional cases where the sperm didn’t freeze well or there was some other technical problem, vasectomy reversal would still be possible, but only under extraordinary conditions.

  32. Thumper; Atheist mate says


    It would be absolutely adorable to watch anti-abortion crusaders rail against this idea because it impinges on civil rights, bodily autonomy and freedom.

    Since I’d rather not end up protesting on the side of the Anti-choicers, can we keep ideas that do impinge on civil rights, bodily autonomy and freedom to a minimum?

  33. Lyle says

    @Happiestsadist #15

    I’m particularly amused by the claim that social welfare programs like WIC and SNAP encourage people to have children that they can’t afford. Because WIC and SNAP really provide a wealth of food to the person receiving benefits…

  34. Lyle says

    Also, @PZ

    The only catch is that the religious right also hates contraception women and anything that helps them live lives independently of men.

  35. ButchKitties says

    Is anyone familiar with why approval for RISUG/Vaselgel seems to have stalled out in the US? It seems like an ideal solution.