Sex Without Pregnancy Is A Human Right
The right to have an active sex life unencumbered by unintended pregnancy is a healthcare issue, but it is so much more than that as well.
Gloria Feldt is the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.
She is a frequent public speaker, lecturing at universities, civic and professional organizations, and national and international conferences on women, feminism, politics, leadership,media, and health. In addition to speaking on these topics, she tours with an intergenerational feminist panel, WomenGirlsLadies. She is a professor of practice at Arizona State University, where she teaches a course called “Women, Power, and Leadership.”
Feldt currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Media Center and the Jewish Women’s Archive, and on the Our Bodies, Ourselves advisory board.
The right to have an active sex life unencumbered by unintended pregnancy is a healthcare issue, but it is so much more than that as well and it’s important to understand that a lot of the underlying opposition to contraception comes from a worldview about sex, which says that it’s only for procreative purposes or primarily for procreative purposes.
That view is not held by most people anymore if it ever was and actually it’s never been held by women who throughout history since before they knew what caused pregnancy had recipes for ways to prevent pregnancy when they didn’t feel that they were ready to have a child as part of their life and not just for health reasons, but as part of their life, as part of their life goals.
I actually think that advocates of contraceptive coverage right now are making a big strategic mistake by reducing it to a healthcare issue because in truth the ability to control your own fertility, the ability to plan and space your child bearing that separation of one’s ability to think forward about our own lives from the biology is what enables women to have any kind of equality in this world.
So I see it as a human rights issue, a civil rights issue. I mean it is the most fundamental human and civil right that exists. If you don’t have the security of your own body and ability to decide for yourself whether and when you’re going to be a parent you really don’t have the ability to determine anything else about your future.
I will tell you that for me as a mother of three at age 20 the birth control pill saved my life and it saved my health, but it also saved my life in the sense of I was able then to start to college. I was able to eventually have a career for myself and I could do that thoughtfully rather than be subject to the constant fear of pregnancy, which is what most women had to deal with prior to the ability to have really good, reliable contraception. So 99% of Americans use contraception at some point in their lives. That means men as well as women and I think men really ought to think about what it would mean for their sex lives if women didn’t have the ability to separate sex from procreation.
So absolutely, it’s a health issue. It’s a social issue. It’s a moral issue in the sense of I think it’s better to have children when you know you can take care of them. So you can tell I'm very passionate about that and I think that the ability to control our fertility is at the source, at the base of women’s power to do anything else in their lives and I just want to say that I think this whole issue of women’s relationship with power is very fascinating. I’d love for people to come talk to me about it on my website, which is GloriaFeldt.com.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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