Know why nothing gets done in Congress, why children shoot up their schools and why half of marriages end in divorce? Birth control. Before legalization of the pill, women felt the true weight of having sex – hefting it around for a good nine months before shoving it out from between their legs. But these days, women are free of the screaming, drooling consequences that nature once bequeathed them and can have all the sex they like. And oh, how they do. Hard-working men like the boys up in Washington can’t do their jobs because they are too exhausted from trying to please their wives’ and girlfriends’ insatiable desire for sex. With the total abandonment of sexual restraint among women, we have loosened the tethers on all sorts of immoral behavior. Our children see sex on television and shoot their friends, and marriage never stands a chance when men are forced to marry deflowered women.

Sarah Royce

Or at least that’s what it seems Wisconsin Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R) must be thinking in his anachronistic assault on women’s reproductive rights. Arguing against birth control made sense – in the 1950s – when a woman’s place was under her husband, patiently waiting for it to be over. Since then, women have taken control of their bodies, and you know what? History has since disproved all those fears about rampant promiscuity and the end of American values that LeMahieu has managed to retain. Why has this become an issue again?

This is the guy who erroneously declared emergency contraception to be “chemical abortion” and asserted that birth control and emergency contraception encourage promiscuity among women. By sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the University of Wisconsin or anyone on university property from “advertising, prescribing or dispensing” birth control, LeMahieu has taken on the burden of ensuring that parents can send their daughters off to college with the confidence that public universities keep them safe from the weaknesses of the flesh. No birth control, no sex. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

Unbelievably enough, a majority of the Wisconsin state Assembly actually listened to LeMahieu, and the bill passed last June with a 49-41 vote. The legislation specifically targets emergency contraception, but months before it passed, Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager made it quite clear that the language is vague enough to be extended to “cover other forms of oral and hormonal contraception.” Fortunately, the legislation poses little direct threat to the women of Wisconsin’s universities – even if the bill survives the state Senate, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) has promised to veto it. What is frightening, however, is how the bill opens up new avenues to restrict women’s rights and rekindles a debate supposedly settled decades ago, halting any progress toward reducing gender inequality.

When we read about some states making EC available over the counter, it would seem that women are making progress. But that’s only if we ignore the heaps of legislation that are doing just the opposite. Take Wisconsin, for instance: There’s the bill approved by the state Assembly last June that allows doctors to withhold information about treatments they morally oppose, even if it endangers the life of a patient. Tomorrow, state legislators will hear a bill allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control based on moral objections. And don’t forget legislation proposed by Wisconsin state Sen. Neal Kedzie (R) that allows a doctor to lie about prenatal test results if he suspects it will lead to an abortion. For women, these are scary times.

Wisconsin is hardly alone. Moral opposition to contraception throughout the United States is emerging with a fervor that belongs to our grandparents’ generation. Hippocratic oath-violating “conscience clauses” are popping up nationwide, and four states have already passed laws to allow pharmacists to deny women perfectly legal prescription medication on moral grounds.

Despite LeMahieu’s underestimation of the female population’s ability to keep its pants buttoned, the legalization of the pill and introduction of emergency contraception didn’t induce women to start opening their legs for any man that came their way. Instead, birth control gave women the opportunity to pursue their own interests, even careers, before settling down and starting a family. Empowered with their innocuous pack of pills, the playing field has become just a little more even for women, and birth control has proven to be a pretty good way to reduce abortion rates and to prevent, not promote, teen pregnancy.

The Wisconsin bill should be seen exactly for what it is – a direct attack on women’s rights. Whether it is pharmacists, doctors or universities denying women access to birth control, such denial is blatant discrimination against women. Although our own generation has no memory of a time before the pill or Roe vs. Wade, lawmakers armed with inflammatory cries of forsaken morality are threatening to change that. Conservative legislators like LeMahieu have exposed one more place to chip away at women’s rights, one that we once thought safe. But then again, who are we to complain? They’re only trying to protect us.

Beam can be reached at

ebeam@umich.edu.

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