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Keith Negley

Straight is the new gay.

I don't mean in the sense that we heteros have become a race of fanatically groomed, eyebrow-plucking, Diesel-jeans-wearing androgynes. I mean that while the gays were out winning the culture wars, we straights started taking our hetero entitlements for granted. And while we were taking them for granted, the American Taliban started taking them away.

Consider: In the last year, Ohio lawmakers held hearings on a bill that would ban abortion in all cases, including to save the life of the mother. The federal Centers for Disease Control adopted new guidelines that advise all women capable of conceiving a baby to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant." (From now on, according to the federal government, I'm living for two: myself, and my pre-baby.) At least 31 states have sex-ed policies that emphasize abstinence for (pre-married) straights. Thirty-six states have full or partial bans on abortion. Twenty-four states make women wait at least a day after "abortion counseling" (counseling is required by 32 states and includes, in some cases, information about the purported "link" between abortion and breast cancer, and, occasionally, an offer of anesthesia—for the fetus). Forty-three states allow health-care institutions to refuse to provide abortions. Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C., allow health-care providers to deny women reproductive services or information of some kind.

Need more? It isn't enough for the American Taliban to oppose our right to have abortions, or even premarital sex. They're against our right to have any sex at all—except the kind that has devastating consequences. Want to use emergency contraception (EC) the morning after you have unprotected sex? Sorry—it's against your pharmacist's religious beliefs. (Eight states have adopted restrictions on EC, which prevents a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus; fundies believe EC causes an abortion, because it works after an egg has been fertilized—just like IUDs, and breastfeeding, and ordinary birth control.) Want to take regular birth control? Nope—if you want to have sex, you have to pay the consequences. (Thirteen states allow health-care providers to deny women access to contraception.) Want a vaccine for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer? Sorry, slut: You had sex, you deserve to die. (Conservatives argue that the HPV vaccine that was just approved by the FDA will lead to premarital promiscuity, and advocates are bracing for a state-by-state battle on vaccine bans. Meanwhile, 80 percent of American women have the virus by age 50.)

Here's what the American Taliban has to say about our right to have sex, in their own words:

• According to the website of a group called No Room for Contraception, the wide availability of birth control puts women at a “competitive disadvantage” if they choose not to “give in to their boyfriends’ entreaties for sex.” If you follow their logic, birth control leads to divorce, too, because women can no longer hold the threat of pregnancy over their husbands’ heads, allowing men to more easily abandon the relationship. (And forget about the idea that women might want to have sex: We can only “give in” and grudgingly do our unpleasant duty to our husbands.)

• Bridget Maher, spokeswoman for the conservative Family Research Council, argues that “giving the HPV vaccine to young women,” when it is dramatically more effective, “could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”

• Patrick McCrystal, a “researcher” for Pharmacists for Life International, says, “There is a high degree of certainty that tiny human embryos die during contraceptive drug use… Given the dignity and preciousness of all human life at all stages of existence, the abortifacient nature of contraceptive drugs poses serious ethical and moral problems for all doctors and pharmacists involved in their promotion.”

It's time for straights to speak up and say we have rights too. The gays should be a model for all of us: We can organize, we can form coalitions with one another despite our differences, and we can prevent the fundamentalist minority from imposing their antisex agenda on all of us. The American Taliban may have the ear of the Bush administration, but they don't control the country—yet. If heteros stay complacent and refuse to speak out about their rights, they will.

barnett@thestranger.com