Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Pastor Ken Swanson, The Birth Control Debate, and Why I'm Seeing Red

It's been a while since I did a post on intellectual disability and women's health issues (specifically, women's sexual health). I haven't been deliberately avoiding the subject ...Lord knows that sexual health issues in general raise concerns unique to people with intellectual disabilities, particularly around sexual safety, consent, and abuse, about which there needs to be discussion. But it's birth control that's on my mind today, due to an article that I read yesterday about radio host Pastor Ken Swanson that had me seeing red. Perhaps you saw it as well.

Difficult Conversations

I clearly remember the first time I ever had the "the talk" with a teenager. Not with my child (I'm not a mother). Not with a child in my family (my one niece is only 18 months old). It was with a teen with an intellectual disability who wanted to know about having sex with her boyfriend. Since then, I've talked with many people with intellectual disabilities, both teens and adults, about sex, birth control and why it's important, what rape is and whether or not it happened to them, sexual abuse and what they need to do if it happens to them, pregnancy and how you know if you're pregnant, and what to do when your partner wants to have sex and you don't.

Thank God that there are more resources available now to help agency staff like me give accurate information about these things than there were when I was a teenager - public health nurses, sexual health centres, crisis centres when that has been necessary. I made good use of these resources. I wanted to be sure that the people I supported were getting accurate information.

Many of the people that I supported to had heard a lot of myths and been given a lot of misinformation. Not a huge surprise. I think that we picked up some erroneous information along the way.

But there's erroneous information, and then there's outright lies to support an agenda. I call bullshit on that. Pastor Ken Swanson, I'm talking to you.

Pastor Ken Swanson's Stance on Birth Control

"The surgery" presumably refers to a hysterectomy.

Swanson is a radio show host. Here's what he's told his listeners in his clip that's got me so riled up:

  • "...they have found with women who are on the birth control pill that there are these little, tiny fetuses, these little babies, embedded in the womb...they're just like dead babies on the inside of the womb...and that the wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill have effectively become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies."

  • "It would seem that there's a tremendous risk in the use of it {the birth control pill} for the life of children."

Well, thank you very much, Pastor Ken Swanson. You've potentially made a lot of difficult conversations infinitely harder with your lies.

Why This *Really* Annoys Me

I've been just as annoyed as anyone by the "science" being touted behind "legitimate rape" and conception and the other recent examples of how people who claim to be experts about female conception have stepped in it with an unsupportable claim about why women get/don't get pregnant. But Pastor Ken Swanson's comments strike me as particularly...vile, quite frankly, because:

  • Anyone with a basic understanding of conception and menstruation knows that he's wrong. I have a hard time believing that Pastor Ken Swanson doesn't know that he's wrong.

  • The language that Pastor Ken Swanson uses is extremely emotionally manipulative.

Let me tell you something, Pastor Ken Swanson. It's difficult enough to explain to women with intellectual disabilities what their sexual health care options are and the positives and negatives of each form of birth control. I know that some of the women that I supported would not have considered the birth control pill (and would have been suspicious of other forms of birth control as well) if they'd heard from a pastor, someone that our culture gives authority, that the birth control pill leaves dead babies in a woman's uterus and is a "tremendous risk" to the life of children.

Hell, that would have made me give it a second thought if I'd heard it from a Pastor when I was a teenager and a Christian. And there were periods in high school when I wasn't particularly mentally healthy, either - if I'd been on the birth control pill and heard from someone whose opinion that I trusted and valued (a Pastor would have been on that list at that time in my life) that I was taking something that was creating a baby graveyard in my uterus, there would have been times when that might have triggered some major difficulty for me.

First Amendment...Pastor Ken Swanson can say whatever he wants on his radio show. But it was my understanding that pastors are supposed to help people. I truly question where he intended to help with this, or whether he's just pushing his own agenda onto an audience with which he has no further involvement after his show is done, leaving other people to deal with the fall-out.

Actually, I wonder how Pastor Ken Swanson sleeps at night.


  1. This is not ignorance, it's wilful misinformation.. And it stems ffrom such a deep hatred of women. Thanks for sharing this. I do wish some people of faith were not so gullible.

  2. Sarah, how do I put this nicely,,,Pastor Swanson is a misogynist and an ass, You see red justifiably! He should see black and blue, justifiably! Why is it that men feel like they have any business in women's wombs and that creating a tangle of lies is somehow god's will. Save us all....

  3. Pastor Ken Swanson seems absolutely dreadful.

  4. Yes. Misogyny like this makes you wonder what these men are so afraid of...

  5. I don't know why womens' reproductive organs have become such a battleground, but it makes me sad as well as angry. I just hope that things will be better by the time my niece grows up.