No Sex Please, We’re American – The Passion for Cutting International Family Planning Funds

By Alexander Sanger, Chair, International Planned Parenthood Council

Somewhere in the universe, I am sure there is a planet where its inhabitants don’t use sex to reproduce, using instead artificial insemination, or cloning. We are not that planet.

On this planet, there are innumerable species where the female goes into heat at certain times of the year and the males and females have sex only to reproduce. We humans are not among those species.

On such other planets and among such other species, every pregnancy is intentional and every offspring wanted, and there is no need for contraception or induced abortion. Not so with humans.

We humans have evolved, or been created―take your pick―to employ sex not only to get pregnant and to mix the genes of two parents to create sturdier offspring, but also for other purposes like: having fun, creating and maintaining emotional ties, expressing love, and bonding a couple together for the long haul to raise children. This is why humans have sex when they can’t get pregnant (for example, when the woman is already pregnant or is between cycles or post-menopausal). There is a human benefit to have sex without risk of reproduction. Hence, humans invented contraception and induced abortion to insure we didn’t reproduce when we didn’t intend to (many animals use spontaneous abortion to limit their offspring, but that’s another story).

If sex is often a random, if purposeful, event, so too is human reproduction. Given that it takes two to tango and that the music is playing all year long, that there are health risks to females in pregnancy and childbirth, and that raising a child takes decades, women, especially, employ reproductive strategies, whereby they choose their mates and then plan, time and space their pregnancies in order to give their offspring the maximum chance to be born healthy, survive to adulthood and, in turn, reproduce. Men, too, have their own reproductive strategies for the same outcomes, even if they are not the ones bearing the children. Human males, almost uniquely, help raise children. Male and female strategies can differ and be at cross purposes―hence the Battle of the Sexes.

Among the strategies used by males and females is the use of contraception at inopportune times for reproduction. The man and woman, before intercourse, evaluate their lives, their futures and the future of the child they might bear, as well as the futures of the children they may already have. This is the poignant reproductive point: women and families, and men, are not infinitely elastic. The realities of family finances, work demands, burdens of caring for younger children or aging parents, or caring for a disabled member of the family―all these impact a couple’s decision to have a child, or to add another child to a family. The reality is that bearing a child, even if no adverse health consequences to the woman, may have an adverse impact on the children the couple already has.

At times, and too often, contraception is not used by couples not desiring another child, because they cannot afford it. Traditional methods, like withdrawal and avoiding intercourse on days of supposed ovulation, do not (the human female does not know or signal when she is ovulating). They also don’t work very well. Pills, condoms, IUDs, injections and implants cost. But for those who lack access to modern family planning, because of poverty or lack of access to a clinic, US foreign aid can reduce the unintended pregnancy rate and the resulting abortion rate.

We have a real life experience that proves this. Just look at Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where contraceptives until the early 1990’s were largely unavailable. Now they are. Abortion was then the primary method of birth control. Now it is less so. In Kazakhstan the contraceptive prevalence rate went up by 50% and the abortion rate dropped by over 50% in a six year period in the 1990s. There are similar figures for Kyrzygstan, Romania and Russia.

But, why should the American taxpayer pay for an IUD for poor women in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa or Eastern Europe? Why, instead, can’t they just stop having non-reproductive sex? You might as well ask them to stop being human.

One might think that sex is a private matter. Copulation is, normally, but its consequences surely aren’t. The global consequences of sex include: population growth, and its impact on the environment, an imbalance of males and females in some societies, dying or unhealthy children and mothers, and transmission of diseases. If we have learned anything from the AIDS crisis, it is this―that private sex has public consequences, and that these consequences have a price tag. We can pay a small amount now or a larger amount later. Prevention costs less than cures, and there is no cure for many of the consequences of a larger global population, women demeaned, sick children and dying men. So, pay for the modern contraception for those who can’t afford it. It makes sense. Sex isn’t going away. It’s human.

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