A Woman's Womb: America's New Sports Arena
In advance, I apologize to my grown kids for what might be, for them, an embarrassing discussion about their mother’s sex life and contraception.
However, dear children, I do want to point out that in the battleground state of Ohio — where you were born and raised — your mother has been hearing far more lately from Rick Santorum than you. This may be contributing to my mood.
It seems that recent polls have inspired Santorum to ramp up his efforts to alienate every thinking woman in America.
Consider, for example, Santorum’s stand on free prenatal testing: “It saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.”
As it has for millions of mothers, prenatal testing saved my life — and my yet-to-be-born daughter’s life, too. The only time I’ve had high blood pressure was during my pregnancy. I spent most of my third trimester lying on my left side to keep myself and my baby alive. My only outings were for regular ultrasound exams to make sure she was not in distress. I’m as pro-choice as they come. In 1987, I chose to become Caitlin’s mommy.
Here’s Santorum on contraception: “It’s not OK, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage; they’re supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal but also (inaudible) but also procreative. And that’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. (If) we take any part of that out, we diminish the act.”
I think that during the inaudible part, he was saying “really, really fun.” Just a guess, of course.
When I was a freshman in college, I went to Planned Parenthood to go on the pill. I was 19. In retrospect, I wish I’d waited longer to become sexually active, but that regret doesn’t take up much room in my head. I’m grateful that Planned Parenthood made it possible for me to make mature decisions about my health even as I made immature choices in men.
Ten years later, I was the mother of a newborn and regularly in the emergency room with full-blown asthma attacks. Imagine trying to breathe through a straw. Now imagine you’re responsible for an infant, and you understand why I was terrified.
My doctor put me on the pill, and the attacks evaporated. I stayed on the pill for more than 20 years, which studies show may dramatically reduce my risk for ovarian cancer.
I always have thought my birth control was a whole lot of nobody’s business. However, Santorum and that all-male panel of pontificates at the recent congressional hearing make clear that silence is not an option. Not if I — not if we — want subsequent generations of women to live long, healthy lives.
Outrage works. The Virginia Legislature was about to pass a bill that required women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal ultrasound probe. Those of us paying attention in Ohio will remember legislators chuckling over that gadget during a hearing on the so-called heartbeat bill. Thanks in large part to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s reporting, the bill became the object of national ridicule. Now Virginia’s governor is balking.
I wonder whether there’s an easier way to snip in the bud this manly urge to control women’s bodies. What if — and I’m just brainstorming here — we required every man seeking that little pill for erectile dysfunction to watch a Viagra video.
Have you seen that list of that drug’s potential side effects? Yowsa. Headache, face flushes, upset stomach. Maybe blurred vision, too. That’s not even the whammo list of rare side effects: heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeats and death.
I can’t help but think we could deter a lot of this unnecessary sex with a mandatory Viagra video. Red-faced guys grabbing their chests in a swirl of Vera Wang sheets. Guys dangling their heads over the side of the bed to hurl. At the end, the camera slowly zooms in on the way-too-young girlfriend, her long tresses blowing in the wind as she sobs at graveside.
Surely, this additional information would inspire men across America to swear off sex and take up mah-jongg.
Just as surely, I would become Queen Constancia, empress ruler of Freedonia.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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