SALINA, Kan. - I will never understand why the women of Kansas (and sympathetic men) don't simply revolt -- or at least vote smarter.
When a drumbeat of letters to the editor oppose abortion. When most of those letter-writers are men. When women's private lives seem incessantly dragged into the public square. Why no revolt?
A more direct manifestation of men's apparent urge to control women's lives is seen in this year's tsunami of anti-abortion legislation.
A 72% male legislature (Kansas now has 46 women among 165 lawmakers, or 28 percent, down from 50 before our last election.), cheered on by a male anti-choice governor, thus has diverted attention from a wholesale gutting of public education and infrastructure. Of course, gender does not automatically predict attitude, but such statistics at least indicate a strong trend line.
The last I heard, no one has sought an abortion who wasn't a woman, and pregnant.
And as far as I'm aware, scriptural precedent or not, no virgin births were among them, indicating that most likely, a man was involved in every case.
So here's a heartening note for those men so apparently frustrated with women's having sole responsibility for those unwanted pregnancies: Safe, effective male birth control. Or in other words, personal responsibility, not a Talibanesque mentality shaped into woman-hostile public policy.
The new male-responsibility option is described by a woman, Helen Cordes, in a magazine called Herizons.
As Cordes says, fifty years ago The Pill Revolution afforded women some control of their reproductive lives. Fifty years later, it turns out that "male reproductive processes are just as easy [or sometimes easier] to manipulate than women's."
Any leery male readers should know it won't mess with your hormones. The most long-lasting method uses an injectible substance which inhibits sperm (by coating the vas deferentia) for seven years. If a man changes his mind -- and he should have equal rights to a woman's -- it is reversible. A second injection will flush the tubes and restore fertility. Its name, appropriately, is RISUG, or reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance.
As an option, there's heat and ultrasound. Ultrasound warms the testes in a "comfortable, quick method," says Cordes. A ten to fifteen-minute treatment renders primates infertile for up to six months.
Canada's top vasectomy doctor calls RISUG "the most significant breakthrough in contraception since the birth-control pill." India has it in the third stage of testing before final approval. The U.S., in this case, is not Number One. Why have we not seriously examined this male-responsibility option? Why is abortion in the headlines, and RISUG not at all?
For one thing, pharmaceutical giants own a 7-billion-dollar-a-year female contraceptive market and are reluctant to give up their cash cow.
On a grander money scale, it's all about diversion. Thinking citizens don't need Thomas Frank to tell them what's the matter with Kansas. Look at the Koch-and-large-corporation-funded appointments to state government, and you see the errand-boy landscape dictating economic choices, while smoke-screening with "moral" issues.
Money, not morals, determines present government priorities. We all want a moral universe in which all life is sacred, where abortions don't occur, and there is no unwanted pregnancy--nor poverty, nor homelessness, nor unsatisfying jobs, nor unemployment, nor petty to criminal behavior. We want so badly to believe that checking "bad" behavior will result in a happy, close, familial society where people live together in harmony.
As Dr. Phil would ask, "How's that working for you?"
In a mad dash toward our impossible dream, our attention is diverted from an impoverished social-policy ethic whose no-new-taxes, service-slashing result is victoriously trumpeted as a $50-million-dollar 'cushion.' A cushion, we might ask, that protects us from what?
Not, as Kansas Rep. Annie Kuether pointed out, second-class citizenship for women.
Here's a legislative initiative to ponder: How about a law requiring the Governor, his extended family, all male legislators who just voted for this year's tsunami of anti-choice legislation, and all males from any anti-abortion legislator's extended family, to submit to the male-contraceptive treatment of their choice for ten years, as a test?
If it worked well in that control group, while promoting a higher consciousness among our leaders, we might extend that same law to the entire male population.
I know, that would be too intrusive. But haven't we already established the precedent?