MEMBERS ONLY: Every Sperm is Sacred

by Bob Cesca

Earlier this week, the White House signaled its support for a bill that would criminalize all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy because, anti-choice conservatives say, fetuses can feel pain at that stage of development. Science disagrees. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, fetuses are incapable of feeling pain until at least the 27th week. 

Given how pregnancies only last around 40 weeks, a seven week difference is significant. Hell, even if it was two weeks, it wouldn’t matter. Science is science, so who/what should we believe: the experts with specialized advanced educations in fetal biology, or President Trump who’s apparently amazed that Puerto Rico is surrounded by “big water”? 

You’d be surprised by how many Americans are stupidly siding with Trump on this.

Making matters worse, the Trump administration announced on Friday that it’d be rolling back the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act — because nothing prevents abortions quite like restricting access to birth control, right? Nevertheless, you might recall how the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores weakened the contraception rule, making it easier for religious-based corporations to wiggled out of the mandate on spiritual grounds (we’ll explain presently). And now, Trump will weaken it even more as part of his ongoing effort to sabotage the ACA.

The reason that some religious groups object to the mandate is not only because they say contraception is a sin (“Every sperm is sacred,” after all) but also because the mandate requires insurers to cover the morning after pill. Here’s where the zealots are completely disconnected with peer-reviewed science. Corporations like Hobby Lobby claimed that the morning after pills covered in the ACA are abortion-inducing. In other words, they say these pills abort a fertilized egg by preventing it from implanting on the uterine wall.

Only, none of the morning after pills explicitly cited in the ACA are “abortifacients.” The only forms of emergency contraception covered in the law are ones that prevent fertilization of an egg or ovulation itself — the ACA-approved contraceptives prevent conception, therefore the pills can’t possibly induce abortions since there’s no conception in the first place. 

Taking one of these pills after having sex is not — repeat, not, not, not — the same as abortion. If it was the same, the contraception mandate never would’ve been passed since it would’ve violated the Hyde Amendment, restricting the use of government fund for abortion services.

Ever since Hobby Lobby became a thing, you might’ve heard more than a few reactionaries on Fox News and AM talk radio spreading the “abortion pill” myth. They’re lying. Emergency contraception is unequivocally not an abortion pill.

The New York Times (via MMFA):

Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming. […]

By 2007, scientific consensus was building that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In one study using fertilized eggs that would have been discarded from fertility clinics, Dr. Gemzell-Danielsson found that adding Plan B in a dish did not prevent them from attaching to cells that line the uterus.

International Federation Of Gynecology Obstetrics (via MMFA):

Two studies have estimated effectiveness of [emergency contraceptive pills] by confirming the cycle day by hormonal analysis (other studies used women’s self-reported cycle date). In these studies, no pregnancies occurred in the women who took ECPs before ovulation while pregnancies occurred only in women who took ECPs on or after the day of ovulation, providing evidence that ECPs were unable to prevent implantation.

The FDA’s former women’s health assistant commissioner on NPR (via MMFA):

The constant references to Plan B and Ella as abortion-causing pills frustrates, a professor of health policy at George Washington University and a former assistant commissioner for women’s health at the FDA.

“It is not only factually incorrect, it is downright misleading. These products are not abortifacients,” she says. “And their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one.”

Shocker that the Trump administration — a White House that includes religious zealots Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions, among others — doesn’t understand nor do they want to understand the actual science behind what the ACA covers and doesn’t cover. All they need to do is to pivot from the Supreme Court’s horrendous Hobby Lobby decision, allowing them to get away with this madness. 

Despite the proven reality of what the ACA-covered morning after pills do and don’t accomplish, the Court waltzed through Hobby Lobby’s ignorant non-science-based misinterpretation of the covered drugs and decided to allow all closely-held, family-owned corporations, comprising around 90 percent of all U.S. businesses, to be exempt from covering all forms of contraception regardless of type, usage or effect. The justification? It’s a matter of beliefs, and as long as they believe the ACA allows abortifacient contraception to be covered, they can simply opt out. I’m not making this up — this was the Court’s ruling.

When we talk about a war on science, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that much of this war is being waged in order to control women, virtually criminalizing anything having to do with retaining sovereignty over one’s internal organs. But what recourse does anyone have? How do we fight these battles when scientific reality is discarded not only by certain corporations, but now by the office of the president on the heels of the Supreme Court? How many peer-reviewed studies have to exist refuting the faith-based zeal of people like Mike Pence and John Roberts?

There’s no good answers to these questions, other than to once again put out the word that if every woman voted in this country, the strength of the far-right in the realm of reproductive liberty would almost entirely vanish.