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Cynthia Kounaris Headshot

Contraception -- It's 2012 and Men Still Decide?

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The House panel on women's health issues that had not one woman on it got a lot of well-deserved attention in conversations and in media the past few days. The main reason why this so universally resonated was because it defied logic. Even if, for some reason, it seems okay to you that only men should discuss women's health and reproductive issues, did no one have enough sense to say "Well, personally, I think this is perfectly logical, but maybe it won't look so great.". Obviously not.

But this whole topic and the ensuing conversations sparked a lot of "where's the logic?" questions for me.

In this day and age, why would it be okay to have ANY panel on ANY topic that included only men? Note that I am not saying that a panel on women's issues should have only women on it. There are probably men who could provide knowledge and insight on that topic, as on any topic. But why would there be a panel of only men -- on women's issues or religious issues or any issue? Where is the logic in that?

Women outnumber men in the U.S. Women college graduates outnumber male college graduates. More women than men voted in 2008. Where we don't outnumber men is in the Congress, in C-level jobs and on Fortune 500 boards.

And as for contraception, while I support a woman's right to choose, I don't view (nor should we view) contraception as JUST a woman's issue. Yes, women are the ones who have to bear the physical burden of pregnancy -- and, all too often, the financial and emotional burden of pregnancy and raising the child, if the father does not step up and share those responsibilities. But wouldn't fathers want their teenage sons to use contraception? Wouldn't fathers want their daughters to use contraception?

And contraception is a family issue. Don't husbands support the use of contraceptives to plan their families? Do men want every sexual encounter to end in a pregnancy -- their own or those of their daughters, their sons, their wives... or their mistresses? That seems very illogical to me. So, I have to draw the conclusion that there are many, many men who are for contraception. It is not just women who need to take care to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

It's fascinating to me how contraception or abstinence still seems to be seen as a female responsibility. Apparently, we have to "hold an aspirin between our knees" (don't get me started on that!) to avoid all the penises that are wildly flying around in our direction, looking for entry. Men have no responsibility to practice safe sex? To abstain? They are incapable of controlling themselves? That seems like antiquated and false logic.

So is the opposing argument that the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is abstinence? Does that mean that men would be happy to not have sex with their wives in order to not have more children than they want, can handle or can afford? That seems unlikely. And not to bring up the mistresses again, but given politicians' sex lives, are we saying they would be happy to have their mistresses get pregnant? THAT defies logic.

A Congresswoman whose name I didn't catch mentioned vasectomies. Excellent point! Are not vasectomies a form of contraception? And don't insurance companies cover that? Where is all the uproar from churches on that topic? So male contraception procedures are good and can be paid for but female contraceptive methods are bad and cannot be paid for? That's okay? Fair? Where's the logic??

Another logic problem. If they want to legislate against contraception and against a woman's right to choose and they don't want government dollars allocated to help support unwanted children or to help single mothers, what is happening to those children who are the result of unwanted pregnancies?

Or is it that they unrealistically expect everyone to practice abstinence? To underscore how unrealistic that is, we only have to look at the philanderers in Congress or, on the other end of the spectrum, Bristol Palin. I have nothing against Bristol Palin. She seems like a nice young woman and a good mother. But if Bristol, an educated girl living in a loving and religious two-parent home and in a family that is in the public eye -- if she cannot be abstinent, how would the far right expect more from any other girl (or guy!)?

Where's the logic?