Bussed Off

    This month, a series of controversial advertisements will go up on buses in New York, Chicago, and Seattle. The subject of the ads is women's reproductive health. And for once that phrase is used in the service of truth. Since the early 1970s, the expression "reproductive health" has been a euphemism for abortion. But these ads aren't about that at all. They're about the effects of aging on fertility. The ads are sponsored by the American Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The central image in them is an upside-down baby bottle shaped like an hourglass. The message is straightforward: "women in their twenties and early thirties are most likely to conceive." The longer a woman postpones having children, the less likely she is to ever have them. This may seem obvious, but, as Newsweek puts it, infertility specialists were "alarmed" at what they saw as a "widespread lack of understanding" about the relationship between and aging and infertility. They were concerned about "the false sense of security about what science can do" that they found in their patients. As Pamela Madsen, executive director of the American Infertility Association, told Newsweek, American women have bought into a myth. The feminist myth says that "they are in complete control of their reproductive lives and they can do it all . . ." But believing what Madsen calls a "fairy tale" doesn't change the facts of life. So, along with the bus ads, her group is distributing thousands of pamphlets to doctors' offices. The hope of the campaign, called "Protect Your Fertility," is to replace myths and fairy tales with facts. The problem is that many people aren't interested in facts, especially inconvenient ones. The association had trouble finding an ad agency to help them with the campaign. Then there was the reaction to the ads. Individual women, raised to believe that they "can have it all," resented the reminder of their biological limitations. Some of them characterized the ads as coercive and even "sick." This sentiment was shared by the National Organization for Women. Their president, Kim Gandy, considers the idea that a woman should choose childbirth at an earlier age "ludicrous." No, Ms. Gandy, what's ludicrous is chiding doctors for wanting to spare American women the pain and expense associated with infertility. What's ludicrous is calling abortion -- the opposite of reproduction - - "reproductive health." What's also ludicrous is acting as if American women are wrong to want children earlier. And who is pro- choice in all of this? The right to choose to have a child, just like postponing childbirth, is a choice - - a choice that reflects our values and priorities. This controversy exposes how dishonest the extreme feminists have been. They treat children not as ends in themselves, much less sacred charges, but as lifestyle enhancements. Childbirth, to the feminists, is an afterthought -- it's what women do after they've done everything else they wanted to do. But a woman's biological makeup is under no obligation to accommodate the feminist agenda. And this agenda has consequences, as crowded fertility clinics reveal. But instead of heeding the true message, many prefer, as Newsweek reminds us, to attack the messenger. And that may be the most ludicrous thing of all.   "Should You Have Your Baby Now?" [cover section], Newsweek, August 13, 2001. American Infertility Association: American Society for Reproductive Medicine:


Chuck Colson


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