I’ve come across an interesting confluence of articles about pregnancy and family planning today.The first is from Steph Herold at RH Reality Check, and it’s about ambivalence over pregnancy:
[I]t’s not teens that have the highest unintended pregnancy rates, but young adults, those of us ages 18 to 29. A new study by Jenny Higgins, Ronna Popkin, and John Santelli investigates this statistic by going beyond linking unintended pregnancy to demographic factors like poverty and education, and instead asks: what are young men and women’s levels of pregnancy ambivalence?
The researchers define pregnancy ambivalence as “unresolved or contradictory feelings about whether one wants to have a child at a particular moment.” Pregnancy ambivalence is a term that blurs the lines between intended, unintended, and mis-timed pregnancies. Measuring pregnancy ambivalence allows us to capture complex or not fully formed ideas and feelings about pregnancy. Some of our most-often cited statistics in the pro-choice movement use the binary language of “intended” and “unintended” pregnancy. This simply does not fit the complex reality of experiences with and feelings about pregnancy, especially for young women and young men….
The research team looked at questions relating to pregnancy ambivalence and contraceptive use, and their findings are quite startling. About 45 percent of respondents exhibited ambivalence towards pregnancy, and men weresignificantly more likely than women to be ambivalent (53 percent of men compared with 36 percent of women). People who expressed ambivalence about pregnancy were more likely to have used no birth control method in the past month….
The researchers suggest that different types of contraception may be related to how couples express pregnancy ambivalence. For example, couples using condoms may have a different relationship with pregnancy ambivalence than couple using an IUD—one method is “user-dependent,” and could be impacted by the heat of the moment, while another method is “user-independent,” and takes away a couple’s ability to decide if they want to use contraception every time they have sex. The research team also implores others to investigate the context in which pregnancy ambivalence occurs—are socially disadvantaged young women and men more or less likely to experience pregnancy ambivalence than privileged young women and men? Why? How does this impact their contraceptive use? Knowing the answers to these questions can help us have a more robust understanding of pregnancy ambivalence, and move beyond only “intended” or “unintended” pregnancy.
I’ve written before about “intent” being more complicated than is usually acknowledged. I’ve theorized that the availability and use of reliable contraceptives is what enables us to talk about “intent” in the first place. The underlying issue is that many people are actually ambivalent about pregnancy, and inconsistent contraceptive use accompanies this ambivalence. As Herold observes, we need to do a better job engaging young men in family planning, and we need to do a better job helping people clarify their feelings about pregnancy.
Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can “produce unplanned and unintended offspring,” opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.
By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, “substantial advance planning is required,” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans….
The traditional marriage laws “reflect a unique social difficulty with opposite-sex couples that is not present with same-sex couples — namely, the undeniable and distinct tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unplanned and unintended pregnancies,” wrote Clement, a solicitor general under President George W. Bush. “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society.”
“It is plainly reasonable for California to maintain a unique institution [referring to marriage] to address the unique challenges posed by the unique procreative potential of sexual relationships between men and women,” argued Washington attorney Charles J. Cooper, representing the defenders of Proposition 8. Same-sex couples need not be included in the definition of marriage, he said, because they “don’t present a threat of irresponsible procreation.”
So…they’re basically arguing that traditional marriage exists to wrangle heterosexual couples together when they have unintended (or ambivalent) pregnancies, and its purpose is to prevent the resulting babies from becoming afflictions on society. Family values! On the other hand, same-sex couples can’t recklessly procreate, so they shouldn’t benefit from the societal and legal privileges conferred by marriage, which exist as an incentive to toe the line. In a stunning reversal of the argument that gay people are selfish hedonists, they are now deemed too responsible for marriage. Also, that argument is pretty stigmatizing to people who have unintended (or ambivalent) pregnancies, which isn’t very helpful.
Speaking of reckless procreation, Libby Anne’s husband Sean takes on some anti-contraception notions at Love, Joy, Feminism. A writer for the conservative Christian website The Thinking Housewife* contends that contraception is emasculating for men. When a man isn’t allowed to “freely procreate” and is instead “put out to pasture” after a couple of kids, his role as father is “restrained and controlled” and he becomes “weakened” and unable to provide for his family. To which I say: Madam, your husband is not a stud farm. And to which Sean says:
The key idea…holds that a man’s natural role is as a virile, freely procreating man who embraces the responsibility of managing and providing for a large family. We’re all familiar with patriarchal gender roles. In Quiverfull circles, questioning the obligation of mothers to manage, love, and sustain large batches of children is almost passe. From my conversations with Libby, we’re aware – but perhaps don’t discuss it as much, for whatever reason – that Quiverfull also shoehorns men into a particular role, albeit one more congruent with mainstream patriarchal expectations.
I want to question it: Why does my “manliness” (whatever that even is) crucially hinge on not exercising control over the most important set of decisions I will ever make? Why does responsibly gauging and controlling my issue mean that I am no longer capable of bearing responsibility – that I have been infantilized?
No. The ability to control my reproduction does not infantilize me – rather, by putting more under my control, it enables me to be more responsible. It does mean that I have more control over my life – more choice in my role, less drifting on seas of circumstance – but I’m better off that way, not worse off. And so is Libby.
Which brings us back to our previous points about men sharing responsibility and investment in family planning. I find it utterly bizarre that people who emphasize the importance of responsibility in every other arena of life proclaim that family planning is irresponsible. Also, being a good father doesn’t end with impregnating your wife.
But I found this sentence from The Thinking Housewife post downright chilling: “Have women been emboldened, and deep inside do they look down upon men, who allow this manipulation of their progeny?” Manipulation of their progeny? Excuse me, what about my progeny? What about me? I’m not an empty vessel!
Lady, the only men I look down on are those who believes it’s their God-given right to force their wives to endure as many pregnancies as they can take, because they think their masculinity is defined by how many times their sperm successfully fertilized an egg.
*I know some people suspect that The Thinking Housewife is an example of Poe’s Law. I leave it to you to decide.