Open letter to Trump’s HHS nominee Tom Price about birth control misses the point

As abortion apologists continue to incite hysteria over Donald Trump’s choice of pro-life Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services, they invariably reveal more about themselves than about their target. At Refinery29, NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman pens an open letter to Price, the thesis of which is revealingly boiled down by the headline Refinery29 decided to run with for Twitter:

Naturally, the responses to that “logic” practically wrote themselves (hat tip to Twitchy):

The content of the actual article isn’t much better (but then, reality-based commentary may be too much to expect from an author who claims “anti-abortion policy” is “deeply rooted in racism and classism and xenophobia”):

And in 2012, you doubted the very existence of people who have a difficult time affording birth control. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” you told a ThinkProgress reporter at the time. “Bring me one. There’s not one.”

Well, Rep. Price, I am one of those women.

When I was 19 years old, I struggled to afford birth control and became pregnant because of it. At the time, I was working a retail job earning just above minimum wage while I attended college. Though I was still living at home, my parents taught me about personal responsibility, and I paid for most things on my own — gas in my car, meals, and my birth control co-pays. This was before the Affordable Care Act made birth control available without a co-pay. That meant I had to spend $120 every three months…. At one point, I didn’t have the money to pick up another pack — the cost would have been most of my paycheck. So, I thought I’d wait until the next pay period and use the little money I had to get to work.

First, Sherman was most likely nineteen somewhere around 2003, so it’s not as if she’s talking about some dark, dystopian era where birth control was hidden away; in fact, even without Obamacare’s magical, no co-pay utopia, a monthly supply of birth control could be had for as low as $9 (or free without much effort). Second, “my parents taught me about personal responsibility” rings a little hollow when the lessons apparently didn’t include the concept of delaying gratification if you know you’re unprepared. It’s bad enough to rail against the very concept of waiting for sex over the long term, but now waiting a single pay period (probably anywhere from two weeks to a month) is too much to expect of people?

By her own telling, she could afford the pill—just not at the precise moment she wanted (not “needed”) it. There’s a word for not always being able to buy all the things you want when you want them: “adulthood.”

Ah, but you see, that brings us to another reason it totally wasn’t Sherman’s fault she got pregnant—she didn’t get the proper sex education:

At the time, I didn’t realize that I could get pregnant if I missed a week or two of pills. In my high school sex-ed classes, the teacher preached about his kids and their purity vows and showed us slides of STDs, rather than giving us helpful information about sex and family planning. Like most teens, I turned to my friends to fill in the gaps, asking them the questions that I didn’t feel comfortable asking my parents, or looking for answers I didn’t get in class. One of the myths my friends told me was that if I’d been on birth control for a long time, it would build up in my system and I couldn’t get pregnant (definitely false, as I later learned). And, like many teens, I didn’t know how to negotiate consent or condom use in my relationship, which later turned abusive. Eventually, I became pregnant.

Oh, where to begin? First, if a puritanical teacher misinforming her is the real culprit now, then her story doesn’t have anything to do with Tom Price, HHS, Obamacare, or affordability after all. Nice work, Refinery29!

Second, I have a hard time believing that how-to information on birth control was particularly hard to come by at Evanston Township High School (Sherman’s school, according to her LinkedIn), considering that this is the kind of place that started giving kids condoms and birth-control prescriptions all the way back in 1998.

Third, kids not “feeling comfortable” talking to their parents about sex is a cultural problem, not something government can fix (and certainly not by forcing other people to finance contraceptives or distributing them without Mom and Dad’s input, which only widens divides between parent and child).

Fourth, as tragic as an abusive boyfriend is, it’s a separate question from the policy case Sherman’s making. How is “negotiating consent or condom use”—a straightforward matter of saying “I don’t want to” and/or “we’re only doing this if you use one”—some sort of murky, complex negotiation?

Fifth, everything we’ve talked about so far sounds like a lot of headache, hardship, and confusion could have been entirely—entirely!—avoided by simply taking sex off the table until (at least) adulthood. Just ponder the misery we’re inflicting on our kids in the name of “sexual liberation,” and ask yourself how freeing or empowering it really sounds.

I knew I wasn’t ready to become a parent. So I made an appointment at the abortion clinic, and maxed out my first credit card, which had a $500 limit that was supposed to only be used in emergencies. This was an emergency. I was relieved, and to this day, the decision to have an abortion is still one of the best I have ever made.

And yet, Baby Sherman lost his or her life because of that decision. 

Research has shown that we [black women] are significantly more likely to experience symptoms related to uterine fibroids, which can make periods unbearable. Contraception serves as relief from excruciating pain until we can afford surgery if our doctors recommend it.

This is a particularly nonsensical red herring—can Sherman name one pro-lifer who thinks using contraception to potentially kill offspring is at all the same as using it to treat different conditions? (Recall that when Sandra Fluke kicked off her contraception crusade, the university she targeted actually did cover birth control prescriptions for separate medical conditions.) 

Black women know what’s best for our bodies. Trust us, Rep. Price.

Very well. In that case, I’ll defer to Alveda King, Star Parker, Mia Love, Deneen Borelli, Crystal Wright, and Stacey Dash, and let those pro-life black women explain to you how you’re actually asking to be able to destroy someone else’s body, not your own.

You’ve spent your career trying to make abortion illegal — everything from 20-week bans based on bunk medical advice to voting for legislation that bans abortion based on racist and sexist reasons. You’re even a member of a professional medical group that claims an abortion causes breast cancer, though there’s no medical evidence supporting it; and that advocates for personhood at conception, rather than the medically accurate implantation.

Wrong on all counts—see here for the truth about fetal pain, here for the insanity of claiming it’s racist and sexist to ban racist or sexist abortions, here for the medical evidence on the abortion-breast cancer link, and here for the real accuracy of conception vs. implantation.

At the core of this is a deep level of hypocrisy. You believe that the Affordable Care Act is government intrusion on health care, yet religiously vote to insert the government in between people seeking abortions and their providers. So, which is it? Do you want the government guiding the speculum, or a doctor?

Perhaps you shouldn’t participate in any debate on an issue unless you can accurately state what your opponent’s position actually is. Abortion kills human beings. Government’s most basic job is to stop people from killing each other. “Insert[ing] the government between people seeking abortions and their providers” is no different than “inserting the government” between any other victim and perpetrator.

You’ve been nominated for an important role, and it’s imperative that you, as your new boss President-elect Trump has promised, represent all Americans, which includes the 7 in 10 who believe abortion should remain legal and accessible.

Ah, the infernal “7 in 10 pro-choice majority”: a shining example of the #FakeNews everybody’s talking about these days, a notorious bogus statement that pro-aborts have been peddling for years. It wasn’t true then, then, then, then, or then, and it’s not true now. If 70% really supported keeping elective abortion legal, you’d think Gallup would have gotten that result at least once over twenty years.

Sherman closes with the line, “Together we can truly make America, and abortion access, great again.” But the truth is (as famously immortalized in a quote popularly yet incorrectly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville), America’s greatness is ultimately derived from her decency.

To accept that we must sacrifice our children en masse will not make America greater; it will only deepen our degradation.

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