By all means read the Nation story about Dr. David Hager. Read about how this evangelical Christian, in the years before he got the FDA to withdraw its approval of over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B (and subsequently praised God for the turnaround), apparently forced anal and oral sex on his wife against her will and sexually assaulted her in her sleep (as she states in divorce papers and a subsequent interview).
Yeah, read it, and read the Washington Post follow-up -- but realize that this is the kind of thing that tends to blow up in our faces. The next sound you'll hear is a hundred right-wing apologists snidely asking, "But don't liberals approve of anal and oral sex -- when they're engaged in by two guys in a bar who are whacked out on crystal meth and don't know each other's names, or by the president of the United States and an intern in the Oval Office?" The sound you'll hear after that is Chris Matthews guffawing while nodding in agreement.
Sorry, folks, our politics is a scrum in a pig trough. If this story gets traction, it's just going to lead to lots and lots of shouting. Fine distinctions, like the one between forced and consensual sex, will get lost as the mud flies. The more "reasonable" pundits will say this is just a nasty divorce, he said/she said, yada yada ... and then, I suppose, will blame Bill Clinton for the fact that a story like this could get into the press at all.
Me, I'd just like to talk about emergency contraception and when human life becomes human. We're going to argue forever about abortion and whether a fetus is a person, but it's maddening that the religious right wants to ascribe full personhood to an embryo that's a couple of days old. On Tuesday The New York Times ran a profile of Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, director of Dartmouth's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and (bafflingly, given his religiously incorrect opinions) a member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics. In talking about stem cells, he made a few points that are germane to this argument about contraception immediately after intercourse:
Dr. Gazzaniga ... argues that stem cell policy makers should take brain death as their model. After brain death, surgeons routinely remove organs for transplants. Stem cell research should, therefore, be acceptable on embryos in which the structures that will develop into the brain have not yet emerged - before 14 days postfertilization.
The actual biology of embryos doesn't conform to notions of unique human potential in early embryos, Dr. Gazzaniga argued. A single fertilized egg can split into twins - turning one supposedly unique human being into two. What's more, twins can then sometimes fuse back together into a single embryo, known as a chimera. "So we had one person, and then we had two people, and then we have one person again," he said. "So what's that all about?"
The Post article tells us that
Emergency contraception generally works if it is used within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
That's three days. How can you regard an embryo as a person that early?