Just when you thought Indiana governor and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s views on reproductive health couldn’t be any more of a bummer, Buzzfeed uncovered a 2002 interview in which Pence asserted that condoms provide “very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.” (To be clear, this is very, very false.)
It’s a claim he shared with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after then Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an MTV forum that he believes young people should use condoms to protect themselves. “Condoms are a way to prevent infection, and therefore, I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active,” Powell said.
But Pence argued that Powell’s (reasonable! evidence-based!) stance was, in fact, newfangled hogwash:
The problem is it was too modern of an answer, Wolf. It was ― it truly was a modern, liberal answer to a problem that parents like me are facing all over America, and frankly, all over the world.
That assertion might be delicious in its absurdity if Pence wasn’t a politician who has an appallingly bad track record on reproductive rights ― both before 2002 and since then. This is, after all, the man spearheaded the first bill to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, an organization that prevents more than half a million unwanted pregnancies a year thanks in large part to ― wait for it ― providing women with contraception. He also cut Planned Parenthood funding in Indiana, which worsened an HIV outbreak in rural Scott County.
So just in case Mike Pence is still confused about how “modern” condoms are, we’ve put together a little primer for him:
Condoms have been around since FOREVER.
Like, for centuries. Some claim they were first depicted in cave paintings around 11000 B.C.; others place the first documentation at roughly 3000 B.C. when they were used by King Minos of Crete. Sure, a “condom” back then consisted of putting a goat’s bladder into a woman’s vagina to help protect her against disease, but the core concept was there. A barrier that helps keep both partners safe.
As for more “modern” iterations, the first rubber condom for men was produced in 1855, which, as a point of reference, was about 30 years before Karl Benz patented the first three-wheeled motor car. Soooooo modern! So new!!
They’re very effective in preventing against disease and pregnancy.
If male condoms are used perfectly, they’re 98 percent effective against preventing pregnancy. With typical use, they’re closer to 82 percent effective against preventing pregnancy. Is that as good as, say, an IUD? No. Does that mean they’re ineffective? Nope.
As far as Pence’s claim that they’re “very poor” at protecting against STDs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagrees. “Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV,” the CDC says. “In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including diseases transmitted by genital secretions, and to a lesser degree, genital ulcer diseases. Condom use may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases, e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer.”
They’re not a “liberal” answer to preventing STDs; they’re a people-with-basic-common-sense answer.
Who says people who have sex should have access to condoms in order to help reduce the risk of transmitting STDs? The CDC. The World Health Organization. UNAIDs. Hell, even Ted Cruz has said that the GOP has been mis-categorized as the “condom police,” which is hardly all-out endorsement of the method, but still. When the WHO, Ted Cruz and King Minos of Crete are all on board, it’s time for you to hop on the train as well, Mike Pence. It is time.