Things that make you go “huh?”

Are the people at the Washington Post bragging that they’re jumping to bogus conclusions to push a political agenda? Or do they think we’re so dim that we won’t notice even when they wave a big sign in front of our faces?

And didn’t there used to be people whose job it was to throw articles like this in the trash before they appeared in print where everybody could see them and laugh at them?

The article seems to make a good start – after the obligatory reference to alarmed experts – by presenting us with an actual data point. This is an interesting data point – the use of contraception among women over 21 seems to have declined lately.

Why? You’ll search in vain for a statement of the reason. In fact, you get a direct admission about halfway down that the writer of the article and the people interviewed don’t really have the first clue as to why this is – “theories” include “gaps in sex education” (you’re kidding, right?), the “cost of birth control” (did it go up? If it’s constant, how would it explain a decline in its use?), “declining insurance coverage”, “fears of possible side effects of contraceptives” and “personal attitudes about childbearing” (!)

That’s right, folks, they can’t even tell us whether the number of people who are trying to conceive has changed! This right there is crucial information in determining whether a decline in birth control use is “alarming” or “completely expected”. And you’ll search in vain for any mention of whether all or part of the population interviewed is married, or whether the proportion of married women in the sample and in the population at large increased.

Here again – “The December report did not tabulate unintended pregnancies, though preliminary information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a slight increase in the birth rate in 2003, most notably in women older than 30.” Are these people trying to confuse us by talking about unintended pregancies (by admitting they don’t have a fricking clue about them), then switching to the overall birth rate to point out an increase there? The quality of the propaganda is disappointing – is this the best they can do?

And yet, given such staggering ignorance, half the article consists of crap about uninsured Americans, abstinence education, ignorance about birth control, and other things that haven’t even been established as having anything at all to do with the purported subject of the article. Paul Blumenthal of Johns Hopkins even pushes the theory that “more women have found the cost of birth control burdensome.”

As compared to what? Having a baby? Are you kidding me? And look at this gem: “It is absolutely unconscionable that women have a co-pay of $20 or $25 [a month] for contraceptives and men are getting off scot-free”. Yes, it’s “unconscionable’ that people are buying birth control with their own frigging money! And the only way that men are getting off “scot-free” is if they’re not married to the woman (otherwise, they’re damn well chipping in for the cost), and in that case, she’s taking an awfully big risk of disease if her pills are the only protection used.

And finally, we see a quote suggesting a “considerable drop” in comprehensive sex education from 1988 to 2000″, followed immediately by “Blumenthal has encountered women who mistakenly believe they are infertile because of age or confusion about a missed period” – as if women who think they’re infertile because of age could have possibly been affected by the considerable drop in comprehensive sex education since 1988! Such women are at most 35 years old!

You know, when I heard about the big bad leftist news media that was going to swing elections 15 points and all that, I expected better propaganda than this. With that kind of pathetic effort, it’s no wonder they went down in flames.

12 thoughts on “Things that make you go “huh?””

  1. The headline and subhead are clear warnings that the article is agenda driven. The first paragraph confirms it: “More adult women are forgoing birth control, a trend that has experts puzzled. . .” This assertion about puzzled “experts” ignores the obvious question of whether these women intend to become pregnant, and so impeaches the entire article. So the answer to your question is, yes, the author and editor think we’re so dim that we’ll miss the slant.

  2. 20-25$ a month for contraceptives? Maybe that’s why guys are often expected to pay at dinner. :-)

    Also, it could be that more women are becoming lesbians and have no need for birth control. Just another thought to throw out there.

  3. My daughter’s boyfriend had sent this article to me, noting its stupidity. Of course, the underlying argument is that having children is a problem and no one could possibly (consciously or unconsciously) desire to reproduce. Shannon mentioned “flipping” history (seeing peace as the exception and war as the norm, for instance); this is a case of “flipping” biology; while her comment gives us insight into history, this gives us an insight into the abysses within the minds at the Washington Post and probably the researchers. If they can’t understand the most fundamental of drives, facts, necessities for society, etc., how can we expect them to understand less crucial ones?

    This seems to me a willful blindness. And if anyone thinks it is merely some kind of religious fanatics out of The Handmaid’s Tale that want to deny their kids sex education, think about someone with the assumptions of those journalists teaching your kids. For one thing, if you don’t recognize the force of the drive to mate and to procreate, then a teenager is likely to be blindsided.

  4. The executive summary of the actual study is available here in pdf

    The paragraph causing the panic seems to be this one from page 2:

    “Women 15-44 who were sexually active and not using contraception: increased from 5.4 percent in 1995 to 7.4 percent in 2002. This is an estimated increase of 1.43 million women between 1995 and 2002, and could raise the rate of unintended pregnancy. The increase did not occur among teens; only among women 20 and older.”

    I think we can safely conclude that none of the negative factors that the article spends most of its time on i.e. changes in sex education and cost of contraception, played any role in the decrease in conception use as teenagers would be more strongly effected by both factors than would adult women. In fact, the study shows on page 2-3 that the use of family planning services increased in the age group where conception use decreased. Information and cost do not seem to be factors.

    I think Ginny is correct. This article results from class and subcultural parochialism wherein the author starts from the assumption that the default option for adult woman is to use birth control and to shun childbearing. Any deviation from that default constitutes a problem that someone must be blamed for. Even the executive summary itself seems to adopt this viewpoint on page four under “Some other surprising or interesting findings”:

    “The number of women who were at risk of pregnancy but not using a method appears to have increased. “

    I find it interesting that pregnancy is a “risk”. The word “risk” might be accurate on a technical level but it does have negative connotations. Nobody ever says that they have a “risk” of winning the lottery. A more neutral phrasing would be something like “The number of women of childbearing years but not using a method appears to have increased.”

  5. Thanks for the link, Shannon. Has it become an accepted norm that whether a child is born in or out of marriage, it is the result of “risky” behavior? I also realy like the observation that these women might be “ambivalent.” Imagine that.

  6. “…they’re damn well chipping in for the cost…” You got that right. But, some of us, even the guys, like children, want to have them, wish we could have more. I’m 41. I do not hear any of my peers worrying about unwanted pregnancies. I do hear a lot of people having trouble conceiving, going to great lengths to try to do so, going to foreign countries to adopt babies, or even older children. Maybe somewhat younger women have seen their sisters who are pushing 40, deciding at last to have a baby, and not being able to, and deciding that the heartache isn’t worth it? You don’t hear much about this stuff in the news media, since it violates the orthodoxy — contraception, abortion, women avoiding motherhood = good; babies, children, women caring for children = backward, primitive, ignorant, unfeminist, “religious”, BAD.

    The usual bigotry.

    Fortunately, the demographic trend is good — blue staters are like Old Europe with declining numbers below replacement; red staters have babies. That is a 40,000 foot picture of the situation, and it is fine by me.

  7. Ginny, you’re right. Are these people so blinded by their hatred (left over from the hate they kept telling us about before the elections in November, perhaps?) that they can’t think or write plausible accusations? Or maybe they still believe that modern science can overcome human nature?

  8. I don’t know. It takes a special sort of blindness for it to not even occur to you that lots of people have babies on purpose, and a special sort of contempt to think that you can “gloss over” that factor and your readers won’t notice.

    (Maybe they were desparate to cut something to make more room for the plight of the oppressed proletarian and the evil machinations of the religious wackos, and they accidentally snipped the part where they mention the breakdown between deliberate attempts to conceive and reckless exposure to “unwanted” pregnancies… yeah, that’s the ticket…)

  9. I just realized that the entire drop in the use of contraceptives could just be an artifact produced by women waiting later and later to start families.

    A woman’s fertility begins to drop by around 10% a year from age 27 which renders most women infertile by their mid-40’s. Fertility is measured by the chances of conceiving over time. A healthy woman of 25 who has sex without birth control once a week or more will statistically become pregnant within something like 14 months. However, a 35 year old woman can take up to 3 years and of course some at that age never conceive.

    This means there are more women out there taking longer to conceive and as a result removing themselves longer from the pool of women of childbearing years who take birth control. In the past these women would have already borne their children and would now be taking birth control or sterilized themselves (which the study treats as the same as taking birth control).

    The perceived uptick in women not taking birth control is so small that effect could easily explain it.

  10. Another theory: since us guys are supposed to wear condoms to prevent the spread of STDs, maybe the ladies no longer see a need to be on the pill.

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