The Federalist Wants To Be Part Of A Rhythm Method Nation
Now that abortion will almost certainly soon be illegal in many parts of the country, the war on birth control can truly begin in earnest. "What?," you say. "I thought they just loved fetuses! If they love fetuses, shouldn't they really love birth control?" LOL NO.
As such, The Federalist published an essay extolling the virtues of the family planning method most likely to lead to an unintended pregnancy — the rhythm method! Of course, they don't really call it that anymore, probably because of how it is famously ineffective. Now they are calling it "fertility awareness." The article's title, in fact, is "The Birth Control Industry Is Neither Liberating Nor Pro-Woman, But Fertility Awareness Is Both."
Except for how it is not.
The article's author, Grace Emily Stark — the editor of something called Natural Womanhood, which we can safely assume is not an Aretha Franklin fanzine — tries to make the argument that the real Girl Boss Empowerment Liberation comes not from being able to control our reproductive futures, but from crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
In all of the furor surrounding the (likely) imminent demise of Roe v. Wade, it has become clear to me that women have been made to fear and resent their biology for far too long. Too many women have bought the lie that they have no options but to rely on hormonal contraceptives and, if that fails, abortion. But the broad dependence on these methods — making women responsible to manage their own and men’s fertility — is actually patriarchal and anti-women.
Look, lady, they're coming out with a birth control for men, and that's great, but the reason we are the ones who take birth control (or have abortions) is because we are the ones who get pregnant. The stakes are a lot higher for us. Also I don't think you know what "patriarchal" means, just that you know it's something we think is bad.
I truly believe that the more women come to understand and love their bodies and their cycles (instead of being taught to hate, fear, and suppress them), the more they will realize we’ve been sold a bill of goods on contraception and abortion — two things we’re told “liberate” us, while suppressing the very thing that makes us women.
The ability to get pregnant is not what makes someone a woman, and the rest of that is stupid, too. People don't take birth control or have abortions because they hate their bodies or their cycles (although I was initially prescribed birth control to help with debilitating cramps when I was a teenager, a far saner option than the Vicodin the first doctor prescribed me), they do it because they are responsible and do not want to have children or give birth.
As a fertility awareness educator, I hope more women finally discover the truth that pregnancy isn’t something that simply “happens” to someone, but something that can be avoided with a simple understanding of how their female bodies work. Most importantly, I hope many will discover that the way female fertility functions is truly good, and truly beautiful — and that both parties bear responsibility for the consequences of sex, which is intrinsically tied to babies, even if each act of intercourse doesn’t result in conception.
In other words, there’s hope yet that feminists may discover natural family planning (NFP) — and it will blow them away when they do.
Stark then goes on to talk about the rhythm method and how the only reason everyone doesn't do it this way is because they don't "understand" their their bodies and their cycles and what ovulation is.
In truth, "fertility awareness" is about 76 too 88 percent effective — but only when it's done perfectly and the person doing it has an extremely regular menstrual cycle. But that also means 12 to 24 percent of those who practice it absolutely perfectly and never have sex on the days they're not supposed to will end up pregnant. It is statistically less effective than every other birth control method out there, with the exception of spermicide alone, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.
So it's not a very good method for family planning, and trying to wrap it up in a Rah Rah Girl Power, Love Your Body package does not change that.
There’s also another realization: “If I’m only fertile a few days a month, but my partner is fertile all the time, why am I the one who has to suppress my fertility all month long via contraception?” (And, when that fails, the one who could be encouraged to seek out an abortion, forcing her into a decision that no one ever truly wants to make?)
Because your partner isn't the one who gets pregnant?
Importantly, fertility awareness also hammers home the truth that both the man and the woman bear equal responsibility for the creation of a new life. If a woman is tracking her cycle and knows that she’s fertile, and shares that information with her partner, yet he insists on having sex then anyway, there can be no fingers pointed about missed pills: They both engaged in sex knowing full well the potential consequences.
Consequences that only one of them will have to suffer. And just for the record, if a woman says she doesn't want to have sex for any reason, including that she's ovulating and he "insists on having sex then anyway," that's not two people engaging in sex, that's rape.
Stark says straight out that the reason she thinks fertility awareness is a good method of family planning is because it does not work and there is still a significant risk of getting pregnant while practicing it.
In other words, fertility awareness forces us to confront the reality that sex and babies go together. That’s lost wisdom in a contraceptive culture that pushes so many young girls onto birth control before they can even drive a car by themselves.
Again, the whole point is to be able to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant, so that "sex and babies" don't have to go together if one doesn't want. Risking that is not a good idea, especially for young girls who can't drive a car by themselves. Because if they can't drive a car, how the hell are they going to take care of a baby?
Finally, she caps off this very compelling essay with just a dash of transphobia.
Perhaps most importantly (and to paraphrase Fulton Sheen), women who know their worth will demand men who respect it. In other words, NFP could also help in saving our culture’s crumbling understanding of men, women, and the differences and complements inherent in each of them.
The fact is, it was never really about the precious fetuses. It's always been wanting to reverse the sexual revolution, which is why the Right will be coming for birth control and Griswold next.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse