10 Facts About Contraception Everyone Should Know
1 year ago
How Contraception Affects Everything, from Poverty to Literacy
A few years ago at a book signing with fellow Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared an anecdote about the sometimes strange experience of being a woman in the still predominantly man’s world known as Congress. She recalled how early in her career she and another female elected official found themselves as the only women regularly dining at a table full of male elected officials. The men rarely acknowledged their female counterparts, or asked their opinion on any political or policy issue. But one day the subject turned to childbirth. Being that she and the other female official were the only two real authorities on the subject (since they were the only two at the table who had actually given birth), Pelosi presumed this would present an opportunity for their voices to be heard and valued by their male colleagues. Imagine her surprise when two of the men began speaking over one another to share their stories of “being there” for the birth of their children, before moving on to another topic before the women ever had a chance to speak.
I remember chuckling — along with the other women in the room — at how silly men in power used to behave and being relieved that things have changed so much.
Apparently we laughed too soon.
Not only has the fight over access to contraception been led entirely by men (President Obama on one side, Sen. Marco Rubio and House Speaker John Boehner on the other), but a recent report has confirmed that the voices that have dominated this debate in media have been overwhelmingly male as well. By a nearly 2 to 1 margin male guests and commentators outnumbered females in discussions of the contraception controversy on news programs. Sen. Rick Santorum’s inaccurate remarks regarding the cost of contraception served as a powerful reminder of the severe handicap to our political discourse when women are not permitted to speak for themselves on the issues that directly affect them.
Before contraception was widely available, there were far fewer women able to do just that because of the physical, emotional and financial demands that giving birth to and raising sometimes more than a dozen children (something my great-grandmother did) required. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe some of these elected officials fighting so hard to make contraception as inaccessible as possible want to return to the good old days when contraception was illegal, and therefore men were able to rule the world and more importantly their households. Men were able to enjoy absolute power in the legal system and in domestic life without fear that a woman could carve out some semblance of financial and political independence enabling her to engage in such scandalous behavior as running for office or leaving an abusive relationship. Because after all, where would a woman with six, or seven, or eight small children to care for really go, even if she had a good reason to?
With that in mind below is a list of the most powerful ways contraception has impacted and continues to impact the world, particularly America. I’m sure there are more than ten so please feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.
1. In countries with the highest fertility rates women have the shortest life expectancies.
Women in Sierra Leone live half as long as women in developed countries and ten years less than their African counterparts in some African countries, and no this is not merely due to the history of civil unrest. One in eight Sierra Leonean women die in childbirth. In other countries like Chad, where women are likely to give birth to six or more children, women are lucky to live to age 55.
2. In countries with the highest fertility rates women have the fewest rights.
In countries like Niger and Mali, both of which fall in the top ten for countries with greatest number of births per woman, women and young girls can still be forced into marriages. A recent case in Niger documented a 9-year-old girl forced to “marry” a 50 year-old man.
3. Country’s with low contraception usage have the lowest number of women who can read.
In Afghanistan, which continues to have one of the highest fertility rates in the world, and where contraception knowledge and access remains limited (and women give birth to an average of six children) 87% of women cannot read. In Sierra Leone the number is 71%.