Politics & Policy

Poison Pill

Fish out of water.

Editor’s note: This column is available exclusively through United Media. For permission to reprint or excerpt this copyrighted material, please contact: Carmen Puello at cpuello@unitedmedia.com.

You’ve already heard about the pregnant man. But what about the she-man fish? “Intersex” freshwater fish are all the rage. But unlike the pregnant man, they didn’t ask to take on the sexual characteristics of both sexes: Man is doing it to them. (Where’s the freedom to choose?!) And the reason these fish are doubling up could set bonfires of scrapbooks from the sexual revolution.

Estrogen pollution from contraceptive and abortion pills is the culprit. And thus the two holiest of holies for the Left may be on a collision course. It promises to be quite the show.

In 2004, in the Potomac River, for example, large-mouth, largely male bass were found with eggs in their sex organs. The deformity usually makes reproduction impossible, ultimately hurting the fish population. The cause of the problem is believed to be pollution in the water, especially from hormones. In his book The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You to Know About–Because They Helped Cause Them (Regnery, 2008), Iain Murray writes: “Why don’t we have more outcries about hormones, and campaigns to save the fish populations? Why aren’t environmentalists lobbying on Capitol Hill to keep these chemicals from being dumped into our rivers?” He answers his own question: “Maybe because the source of these chemicals is not some corporate polluter, but something a little more dear to the Left: human birth-control pills, morning-after pills, and abortion pills.”

The contraceptive pill has fundamentally changed American life, making sex more casual, women looser, husbands and wives more distant. It’s messed with women’s fertility. In short, it’s been huge, in some fundamental and not-so-good ways. And because its introduction came 40 years ago, at a time when American culture was about Woodstock and feminism and more casual sex and looser women, prescient warnings and cautions–most notably from Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae in the summer of 1968–weren’t heeded.

But the cavalier embrace could soon be thought better of. For the first time, mainstream culture and the Left may be forced to take a look at the health side effects of the pill. Never mind the women, of course. Never mind the men and children affected in various emotional and other ways. The fish! Have mercy on the fish!

The turnaround won’t come, however, without some whiplash. Ironically, the environmental groups have long been on the same page as the abortion-industry groups, embracing anything that keeps us from worries of overpopulation (no longer a worry, as Western countries, particularly in Europe, face plummeting birth rates and underpopulation). “The protection of the quality of our environment is impossible in the face of the present rate of population growth,” and therefore, “Laws, policies, and attitudes that foster population growth or big families, or that restrict abortion and contraception . . . should be abandoned; [and] comprehensive and realistic birth control programs should be available to every member of our society.” That’s not from Planned Parenthood; it’s a Sierra Club resolution from 1970.

This is from Planned Parenthood: “Prominent women in the global environmental movement . . . believe there are strong links between the health of the environment, the ability of women to engage and lead their communities, and their ability to exercise their inherent reproductive rights. Women have a stake in a clean environment because they are often the main providers of food and water, and their reproductive health can be adversely affected by environmental degradation.”

But, Murray writes, “By any standard typically used by environmentalists, the pill is a pollutant. It does the same thing, just worse, as other chemicals they call pollutants.”

So what does that mean for us and the fish? Nothing straight away, Murray tells me. There’s more than pollution at stake here for the left, so, expect “outright denial at there being a problem, obfuscation of the science when strong arguments are presented, attempts to deflect attention onto much rarer and less harmful industrial estrogen, and ad hominem accusations, in this case an allegation of religious zealotry/being in the pay of the ‘very well-funded pro-life industry’ I imagine. The effort will be based on making it unacceptable to bring up the issue in polite conversation, such that anyone who does so will end up stigmatized (astonishing how often the Left resorts to shame, rather than thinking about guilt). Some radical greens may actually be honest enough to admit there is a problem. They will be marginalized by the environmental-industrial-entertainment complex (to paraphrase Fox Mulder).”

With the science out there, Murray argues solving the problem wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if we could all be adult about it. “The EPA and FDA [ought] to have the courage to do what their counterparts in the U.K. had the courage to do and label the pill as the pollutant it is.”

Choice needs to be based on information; it should always be the result of thoughtful deliberation. When you interfere with a natural process, there are consequences, not all of them good — and you should be mindful of them. It’s not just fish that end up getting hurt.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

© 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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