At Religion Dispatches , Sarah Morice-Brubacker traced the emergence of a new right-wing anti-contraception meme, “pregnancy is not a disease” which has recently been deployed in response to the recent announcement that insurance plans in the US will be required to cover contraception without co-pay. Morice-Brubacker quotes rightwinger Bob Laird,”a fellow at Human Life International and a board member for the Couple to Couple League, an organization that promotes Natural Family Planning based on Roman Catholic principles,” giving a quote that seems fairly indicative of the new ostensibly pro-woman right-wing meme.
Contraception does not fall within the category of preventative health services. These drugs, devices, and procedures prevent the bringing of children into the world. Contraception only prevents disease or serious illness if one considers pregnancy to be a disease or serious illness. Pregnancy is not an illness or disease, nor are children the side effect or the unintended by-product of disease.
While Maurice-Brubacker’s piece ably traces the roots of this meme and why it appears to work, I felt it was a bit lacking in terms of political strategy. So in lieu of a well-written post response to this piece, I present the following conversation thread from Facebook (“now with less Farmville”), with the amazing Arwyn from Raising My Boychick:
Emily: I see your ARGH and raise you a BLURG
Arwyn: ”Some women get sick(er) in pregnancy” is no more a support for “pregnancy is a disease” than “some people get sick(er) eating bread” is an argument for “gluten is a poison”. I wanna see feminists PISSED THE FUCK OFF that right wing folk are using “pregnancy is not a disease” to deny contraceptive coverage, not, therefore, argue that it IS a disease. How about “women have the right to control our bodies”? How about challenging the idea that we have to prove a “disease” in order to get appropriate medical care in the first place (and yes, this absolutely related directly to transness and the tools of transitioning)? How about we push back at the concept of “normal” that positions only an able, cis, male body as “healthy”, and any variations as “unhealthy” requiring “treatment”? WHY ARE WE GIVING IN ON THE FUNDAMENTAL PREMISES OF THE CONVERSATION?
*wanders away grumbling and ranting*
Emily: Yeah, to respond to right-wing framings is in some ways to accept it – and this was definitely NOT a strong political response (My Little Pony reference aside). There’s this quote attributed to Gilles Deleuze: “If you’re trapped in the dream of the other, you’re fucked.”
Arwyn: All around me I see people arguing positions I want to see succeed try to argue within the other side’s delusion, and it sends me around the bend. Why are we so damn bad at reclaiming the conversation? Why do we let right wingers be so damn GOOD at it?
Emily: I’ve been thinking about that for a long time and I’m still not sure I have the answer. I think that the Left is terrible at strategy and some of the reason is that we don’t attack ourselves.
When the last anti-abortion bill was defeated here in La the group fighting it were like, ok time for a rest. And I was like NO, time to attack! Time to think about ways to create systemic change, to aim to achieve something rather than prevent (so what do we want? state-sponsored contraception, or more funding for PP, or something - and preferably something really big). Stop playing defense. And they were like wow, we never thought of that.
At worst you take away the energy of the Right, at best you succeed – it’s win/win. There’s very people on the Left that do this consistently… whereas I think the Right does this constantly, they launch a million bloody REALLY AMBITIOUS bills and sooner or later some of them hit the target.
Arwyn: That’s not even attacking, that’s just doing something. Acting, rather than reacting.
Emily: Right. Widespread inertia, hugely diminished expectations. I think part of it is related in a broader sense to the collapse of the Communist alternative – the Left no longer has that as a threat to achieve the compromises needed for a functioning social democracy.
*later, discussing posting this*
Emily: do you have anything you wish to add to this conversation after my thing about the Communist alternative?
Arwyn: I dunno, that’s getting too into the political realm for me to feel I can speak coherently.
Emily: I would accept “let’s get tacos.”
Arwyn: “In Communist Russia, baby births YOU. And tacos.”
I dunno, my mind is going off into how as long as we’re allowing the right to control the conversation, we’ll be caught in double binds. Pregnancy is not a disease = don’t cover contraception which strips uterus bearers of autonomy. Pregnancy is a disease = you must submit yourself to hospital procedures which strip you of all autonomy. Until we center women’s autonomy — in contraceptives, in pregnancy and birth, in transitioning — we’re going to lose, because kyriarchy (commonly but not exclusively via “the Right”) will always twist the message to one that serves them. Instead of serving us tacos, as they should.
There, add that whole exchange. Including the tacos.