The silent war on women


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I get it. We are deep into the political season, so we repeatedly hear the worn-out accusations about how one political party cares about women and wants to protect them, and the other party hates women and wants to do them harm. Heck, we’ve got actual examples in front of us right now on both sides of the aisle.

To set the record straight and to preempt any attacks that will state that I hate women and want to do them harm, I will offer evidence to the contrary. My wife and I celebrated our 31st anniversary this week. That is quite an accomplishment in our culture these days. The best part, however, is that I can tell you that I am more in love with my wife today than the day we were married. I love my daughters; I love my two daughters-in-law; I love my granddaughter. I care about families in New Hampshire, and am uncomfortable using an entire segment of the population as a pawn in a political chess match.

Have we reached a new low in political pandering?

We heard this week of one campaign giving away condoms on a college campus. It was a promotional gimmick to highlight legislative efforts to get the FDA to make contraception available over the counter. The opposing campaign did not take issue with the giveaway. In a bizarre type of one-upmanship, the opposing campaign claimed that they would make birth control even more available.

There are several topics that don’t ever get mentioned in this race to make birth control more readily available to women. Like the fact that certain forms of birth control create increased health risks for women.

For one: cancer. The American Cancer Society reports on its website: “Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them.” And, “there is evidence that taking oral contraceptives (OCs) for a long time increases the risk of cancer of the cervix.”

A quick read of the FDA warning label from one of the more popular birth control pills does not provide reassurance.

Secondly, depression. In a newly released study at the University of Copenhagen: “Researchers found that women taking the combined oral contraceptive were 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression and those using progestin-only pills (also known as ‘the mini-pill’) were 34 percent more likely. Teens were at the greatest risk of depression, with an 80 percent increase when taking the combined pill, and that risk is twofold with the progestin-only pill. In addition, other hormone-based methods commonly offered to women seeking an alternative to the pill – such as the hormonal IUS/coil, the patch and the ring – were shown to increase depression at a rate much higher than either kind of oral contraceptives.”

Why would I want my daughters exposed to such health risks? Why would anyone?

But perhaps the most inherent risk involved in this highly politicized issue is the risk of pregnancy. This risk is present whenever a couple chooses to engage in sexual activity. It is present, but not always accounted for. Last time I checked, it takes two to tango, but there is an underlying message communicated to women – and men – in this race to the bottom: It is that pregnancy is the woman’s problem. We are told that “she” must take responsibility for birth control. This is an unfair burden placed on women.

Why are men given a “pass” at responsibility?

Men don’t need an excuse to shirk responsibility. That comes naturally. What we need is to be held accountable for our actions. The CDC reports that 40.2 percent of births are to unmarried women. Seriously men? Let’s step up our game.

Holly Grigg-Spall states the problem well in her article about the University of Copenhagen study: “Considering that women are fertile just six days per menstrual cycle and men are fertile every single day, that the burden of avoiding unwanted pregnancy falls to us, regardless of the burden that might have on our health and well-being, is nothing short of sexism.”

It is this type of sexism that is promoted when political campaigns pander for the young female vote by handing out contraception on a college campus. This kind of stunt objectifies women and places sex as their highest priority, not the pressing public policy issues facing our country. Women are co-equal contributors to our society. Let’s afford them the respect they deserve

Republican Frank Edelblut is a state representative from Wilton.

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