A thoughtful, informative elaboration on a kick-in-the-gut campaign

In a previous thread, in response to Bud suggesting that there’s not as much hyperbolic pandering on the left as on the right, I cited the ridiculous rhetoric about a supposed “war on women,” and such other things as the billboard I’d seen near 5 Points that said, “contraceptives could become contraband.”

Over the weekend, I saw the above, which is evidently part of the same campaign as the other one, and doubled back and got a picture. This one was on 378 between West Columbia and Lexington.

Rather than just fulminate, I thought I’d pose some questions, which the above website helped me do. Under the headline, “OK, I’ve just got to ask,” I sent the following email to the organization:

Who on Earth are these lawmakers who supposedly want to “outlaw birth control?” And could you please cite a bill that would do that?

Even though it was Saturday, I got this quick response:

Hi Brad~

Thank you for emailing me with your question (and for the photograph).

Every year for the past 15 years, legislation has been introduced in South Carolina that would outlaw birth control. Currently, there are 4 bills that would do that through establishing personhood (aka defining life at conception). The sponsors listed on these bills are Senators Bright, Verdin, Fair, Cromer, S. Martin, Reese, Bryant and Grooms. Currently, the bills in the South Carolina legislature are S. 165: Life Beginning at Conception Act, S. 245: Life Beginning at Conception Act, S. 616: Personhood Act of South Carolina, and H. 3945: Personhood Act of South Carolina (I know it looks like I’m repeating myself, but they are all named similarly).

“Pregnancy” is established when a fertilized egg has been implanted in the wall of a woman’s uterus. Hormonal contraceptives (“The pill” is the most common form of hormonal contraception, but newer options of hormonal contraception include “the patch” and “the ring” – both of which provide a combination of hormones to control ovulation) act before implantation and prevent pregnancy. Nonetheless, a movement emerged in the U.S. during the decade of the 1990s that seeks to outlaw all hormonal contraceptives on the grounds that these forms of birth control may interfere with a woman’s ovulation, may prevent fertilization of a woman’s egg by a sperm, or may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in a woman’s uterus. Members of this movement consider any form of hormonal birth control to be the equivalent of an abortion in spite of medical evidence to the contrary. They lobby aggressively in state legislatures, including South Carolina’s General Assembly, and they are behind “personhood” ballot initiatives, most recently in Mississippi.

Any legislator, at any level of government, that supports personhood or defining life beginning at conception rather than implantation supports outlawing hormonal birth control. Similar bills have been introduced and failed to pass in numerous states, including Mississippi (ballot initiative), Virginia, and Oklahoma. All of the current Republican nominees for President have pledged their support for establishing life beginning at conception (Mitt Romney did so during an interview with Mike Huckabee; Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have all signed the Personhood Pledge).

I have attached our Personhood legislative fact sheet to give you more information about Personhood bills and how they would affect South Carolina. I hope that this answers you questions, but I would be more than happy to speak with you about this further. Please feel free to email me back with any further questions or comments.


Emma Davidson

Tell Them Program Manager

Imposing further on Ms. Davidson’s patience, I responded thusly:

… you don’t think calling that “outlawing birth control” a bit of a stretch? Because they would outlaw one small subset of what some people would call “birth control?”

Do you not think that when most folks say “birth control,” they’re talking about the Pill (and not the “morning after” pill, but the one that’s been around for 50 years), condoms, foam, diaphragms and the like?
In any case, for the statement, “Some lawmakers want to outlaw birth control” to be remotely true, they would have to be outlawing all forms of it — not just one relatively small subset of the category. I don’t see how a reasonable person could possibly read it any other way.

Ms. Davidson hasn’t gotten back to me yet. And that’s cool; I very much appreciate the time she took to answer me so thoroughly the first time, especially on a weekend. (When she does respond, I’ll share it here.)

But really — when you’re driving down the road and see the statement “Some lawmakers want to outlaw birth control,” do you read it as meaning “some very specific and limited forms of birth control”? Because I don’t. And that’s what bugged me about the billboard to start with.

Too bad Ms. Davidson’s very specific and informative email won’t fit on a billboard (actually, it would fit, but you couldn’t read it safely). I wouldn’t have a beef with that, because that would be very clear about what it was the organization opposes, and I could make an informed response to it. But as things are, I hope I can be forgiven for believing the group is looking for a kick-in-the-gut, emotional response from the average motorist.

Which brings up the fact that maybe, with such powerfully loaded issues, it would be better to conduct the debate in a manner somewhat more extensive and specific than the billboard/bumper sticker level.

12 thoughts on “A thoughtful, informative elaboration on a kick-in-the-gut campaign

  1. bud

    Brad, technically you may be correct but really I thought Ms. Davidson’s response addressed the issue very clearly. These bills do seem to be extremely dangerous in attempting to ban a common birth control method that has existed for 50+ years. Isn’t that pretty scary? Parsing words really doesn’t minimize the serious nature of these bills.

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    None of the other forms of birth control you cite are nearly as effective as hormonal methods, nor do they offer the health benefits. The other highly reliable reversible method, the IUD has the same issues regarding “personhood” [disdain intended] as hormonal methods–indeed more, and is not suitable for women who have never had children and others.

  3. Mark Stewart


    You are still being obtuse on this issue.

    And what is Cromer doing sponsoring such waste of time bills? Fair, Bright, Grooms et al I get. They dwell is this dreck. But Cromer?

  4. Brad

    Actually, Mark, I’m not being obtuse. Not a bit of it.

    “Obtuse” would be if I thought tellthem.org really believes that someone is trying to outlaw all birth control. I don’t believe that.

    What I DO believe is that the organization is happy for other people to get that impression.

    You can’t do everything in a billboard, but there’s room for “some types of” to be added. But then it would lack the punch, wouldn’t it?

  5. bud

    Brad, does this mean you would be in favor of banning the hormonal birth control methods? I don’t recall you ever coming out against such a ban.

  6. Brad

    But set that aside. I have another point to make.

    I very seriously mean it when I say that I appreciate Ms. Davidson’s good-faith effort to inform me. More importantly, I appreciate that she ENGAGED me on the issue, period.

    That’s an important thing to do in a civil society. It makes a huge difference. This is something I urge people to do as a PR consultant (and which I always urged them to do when I was a newspaper editor).

    When you engage with someone, he or she will usually speak or write of you more favorably. For instance, I started out writing this post on Saturday, in the heat of irritation over the billboard. I was in “pet peeve” mode (actually, more like “WTF” when I saw it), and my original headline was “More routine nonsense in the culture wars.” No, wait. Originally I called it a “lie.” Then I dialed it back to “routine nonsense.” Then I paused to contact Ms. Davidson, and got her detailed response, and set it aside to think about it. (In other words, this is a rare case when I DID stop and think about a blog post, rather than going with stream-of-consciousness).

    And where I ended up was that yep, the organization is trying to have a kick-in-the-gut impact. But I truly appreciated the thoughtful, informative response, and made sure to express that.

  7. Mark Stewart

    Brad, I agree with you that billboard politics is beyond shallow. This form is almost always used to be misleading.

    Obtuse is missing the point, because maybe you do agree with the logical progression; that when legislation is proposed banning the “pill” it is likely to end up rolling up all other (or most other) forms of birth control. If the pill bothers someone because it doesn’t permit an egg to fertilize or attach, then what of IUD’s which certainly keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus – or even condoms/foam as they prohibit fertilization? It is no leap at all to say that some legislators want to restrict all forms of birth control, if they want to restrict the “pil”.

  8. Kathleen

    As a general rule, “hyperbolic pandering” iritates me beyond belief. However, if more American women truly believed the threat to hormonal methods of birth control was real I suspect they would make England’s suffrage movement look tame. I think the threat implied by the personhood bills is real, my daughters don’t. A bit of hyperbole on this issue may not be inappropriate.

  9. tired old man

    I think you use the old copy desk rule regarding headlines.

    Is it factual. Is it true. Does it convey the story.

    Some Lawmakers (true)


    birth control (they are definitely taking aim at one aspect of birth control, and if that is the one you and your partner are using, well that would put me in total agreement with the headline.)

    Point is — what loving, willing, happy, comfortable folks do to remain loving, willing, happy, comfortable ought to be neither government’s or the church’s business. Let alone one’s in-laws and neighbors.

  10. bud

    yep, the organization is trying to have a kick-in-the-gut impact.

    Good for them. It’s high time liberals started to fight back against the mendacity and greed of the conservative movement. They are just so good at it. Just check out some of the presidential ads by the GOP candidates. Santorum’s utterly dispicable ad showing the USA of Obama in 2014 if re-elected. He even compares him to Iran Pres Okmidinijad. Romney is no better suggesting the Iranians will have a nuclear bomb if Obama is re-elected. So what is his solution? Basically his talking points are virtually identical to what the POTUS is already doing.

    While I can appreciate the idea of good, civil debate among people who disagree it is crystal clear that the conservatives have engaged in chicanery and dishonesty going back to the days of Watergate, Willy Horton and the disinformation of Karl Rove. So while I may prefer a more civil approach it’s time to fight the evil GOP liars with a hard-hitting campaign that makes the points that need to be made. This banning birth control billboard is a great start.

  11. djangosChef

    Actually regular old, traditional “the pill” also works in part via post-fertilization effects (in the event of “break-through” ovulation), so could also be affected by such laws. There are lawmakers who have, in fact, come out publicly against birth-control, so I’m not sure why you “don’t believe that”.

  12. Kaye Koonce

    Brad, for several days I have been pondering your comments on the language of the billboard and what seemed to be your dismissiveness toward what some of us do see as a war on women. I was struck by what seemed to be your limited and uninformed perspective. However, I do appreciate your reaching out to the TELLTHEMSC advocacy organization for more info. I was not surprised by the quick response and detailed answer—TELLTHEMSC staff work hard and smart. I hope you’ll take the time to read more of the information on these issues—like on the “Learn Facts” section of the TELL THEM SC website at http://www.tellthemsc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=new_learn_facts
    I also encourage you to look more intently into the issues and every day occurrences faced by women in SC—as reported by Corey Hutchins in the article linked below. Yes, many women consider over 10 years worth of such legislation and such heavy handed decisions like the one by the pharmacist in the article as very “war-like” toward us, our sisters, mothers and our daughters. I think you could add “wives” to that list-and female legislators. Maybe that is why a bit of hyperbole-or “gut kicking” –seems necessary to get the point across sufficiently to cause voters, and bloggers, to think about these issues and then to speak up.

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