Ovaries Unchained

The Obama administration has wisely pulled their collective head from the asses and stopped fighting to put age restrictions on Plan B contraceptives. This has some far-right conservatives who are rabidly anti-choice in a tizzy. Apparently the fact that it is NOT going to end a pregnancy that has already started is not enough for the most stringent anti-choice people, since they believe that because Plan B might prevent implantation means then “it can cause abortions by preventing the zygote, a tiny human in its most vulnerable stage of development” from turning into a pregnancy.

Technically a human zygote is a single, fertilized cell and it is the blastocyst (which happens 5 days after the egg is fertilized) that implants in the lining of the uterus. That’s not really the point, I know, but I have Asperger’s and inaccuracies bug me.

Speaking of points … the point of this post ISN’T the abortion debate. This post is about the current socio-political hysteria focused on teen moms. Recently a public health information campaign was created for New York City called “The Real Cost of Teen Pregnancy”, and it is the very definition of “moral panic” propaganda.

Stanley Cohen defined moral panics as “condensed political struggles to control the means of cultural reproduction” and “successful moral panics owe their appeal to their ability to find points of resonance with wider anxieties.”

The NYC moral panic about teen moms is problematic on many levels.

First, it “features babies and toddlers, primarily children of color, chastising their teenage mothers. Launched at a time when teen pregnancies have actually declined, primarily due to the availability of safe and affordable reproductive health care, the accusatory “shame and blame” narrative of these images is not only out of proportion to the “problem” it seeks to address, but is weighed down by its obvious cultural narratives about teens of color, poverty, gender and sexuality.”

Secondly, as the vice president of education and training for Planned Parenthood pointed out, “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy.”

Finally, this supposedly new attack on teen moms is “yet another narrative about individual choice over systemic change. Placing responsibility on the shoulders of the individual, such campaigns silence more complex conversations about accessible and affordable reproductive health care, anti-poverty campaigns, and gender and social justice work.”

Basically, the whole thing is racist, classist, sexist, disenfranchising bullshit.

What drives me the most crazy is the fact that teen pregnancy has been steadily dropping for DECADES. In fact, most of the modern articles on the low teen birth rates are actually understating the severity of the decline, since the actual peak of births to teen mom’s was in the year 1957. I guess no one wants to open the can of worms that in the 1950’s a high school grad could get a good job in manufacturing with enough salary to marry his sweetheart and provide for their child. Or maybe no one wants to look at the fact that women had very little access to contraception back then and very few career options rather than wife & mother. After all, either of these topics would point out that poverty and contraceptive access has more to do with teen pregnancy than “morals”.

Which brings us back to the topic of contraceptive access. Thanks mostly to better contraceptive use (especially the IUD) and with the additive of social pressure to carry a pregnancy to term, abortions have fallen to an all-time low, as well. Of course, if the anti-choice purists who hate Plan B are correct and “humanity” begins at fertilization, then birth control pills, the IUD, vaginal contraceptive film and other spermicides – all things that can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting successfully on way or another – are just as guilty of terminating human life as an induced abortion. That means abortions are really at an all time high everywhere people are having sex without a condom or diaphragm or other “barrier” method. Even the barrier method is considered a sin by some people, since it prevents divinely ordained conception.

Basically, teens are a “moral threat” if they have sex at all – because they are either giving birth to “undesirable” babies or murdering blastocyst-Americans or offending God. It’s almost like the real motive behind trying to enforce teen abstinence (the only choice left) is to control the autonomy and reproductive freedoms of young women. Hmmm … that would mean that the moral panic over unmarried adult women having “illegitimate” babies, considering that adult women have the same three non-options to prevent pregnancy as teen moms, is also about the social control of the individual's body. Especially bodies that just happen to have a dangerously unfettered uterus inside them.

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