Editor’s note: This pregdemic guest post is written by the beloved middle grade novelist Jen Swann Downey.
Coffee in the Time of a Pregdemic
By Jen Swann Downey
Special to www.JenniferMargulis.net
Potential Customer: Are you still open?
Coffee Shop Employee: Yes, but you’ll need to put a bag over your head to come in.
Employee: Because of the current worldwide epidemic of unwanted pregnancies. It’s a Pregdemic. Don’t you watch the news?
Customer: I just want to dash in and buy an overpriced coffee.
Employee: Not without a headbag. You could end up conceiving an unwanted pregnancy here.
Customer: Just randomly? While waiting in line for a Grande?
Employee: You’d be in relatively close proximity to other customers. There could be flirting. You might be tempted to smile at someone, and you know where that COULD lead.
Customer: To a pleasant conversation?
Employee: The bathroom. And an unwanted pregnancy.
Customer: That does not sound at all likely.
Employee: But it could happen.
Employee: We can’t let you take that risk. We take seriously our responsibility to keep our customers safe. We’re all in this pregdemic together.
Customer: We are not in this together. It’s my responsibility to decide what steps to take to prevent me from experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. Do you want a written release from liability?
Employee: Just put the bag over your head. Is that so much to ask?
Customer: I don’t like being coerced into doing irrational things.
Employee: Women die in pregnancy you know!
Customer: The vast majority of pregnancies do not end in death.
Employee: If you won’t wear a bag on your head to save your own life, do it to save someone else’s.
Customer: How exactly could that possibly work?
Employee: If an unwanted pregnancy is conceived in our bathroom, there’ll be a father, and a father in an unwanted pregnancy situation might commit suicide. You can’t just go around radiating attractiveness during a Pregdemic. It’s irresponsible.
Customer: I’m not even ovulating!
Employee: You don’t think you’re ovulating.
Customer: Do you have statistics on the added risk to me of becoming impregnated in an unwanted manner that will lead to my death in childbirth or the suicide of the sperm-contributing person while purchasing coffee in your store with as compared to without a bag on my head?
Employee: We haven’t had ONE unwanted pregnancy result from a visit to our bathroom since we instituted the headbag policy.
Customer: Correlation does not equal—
Employee: Look at it this way. What’s the harm?
Customer: Um. The infringement of our rights aside … doesn’t the world NEED people to be able to see one another and exchange smiles and pheromones? Don’t humans need opportunities to feel attraction in order to find partners for any WANTED pregnancies to happen?
Employee: Pregnancies can end in death. Therefore all pregnancies must be prevented. Therefore headbags must be worn at all times by all people.
Customer: Making toast can end in death! Risk is part of life.
Customer: Here. Look at this website: Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Pregnancy Decision-Making.
Employee: They sound like experts! I love experts!
Customer: In August, 2020, the government of Ireland asked Carl Heneghan, its director, to present the evidence on the effectiveness of the universal wearing of headbags for lowering unwanted pregnancy rates. Want to know what he said?
Employee: I’m torn. What if his answer makes me feel stupid. I’m not sure I want to feel stupid.
Customer: We all end up feeling stupid sometimes. Don’t worry about it. As Upton Sinclair said:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Employee: Catchy. I should follow him. Does he blog?
Customer: You ready? Here it is. The answer from Carl Heneghan, the director of the CENTER for EVIDENCE-BASED PREGNANCY DECISION-MAKING, on video. It’s two minutes long.
Employee: He was talking about MASKS in a PANDEMIC, not HEADBAGS in a PREGDEMIC. TOTALLY different things.
Customer: Are they?
Note from Jen Swann Downey: Carl Heneghan is a very real person. He has no connection with the Center for Evidence-based Pregnancy Decision-Making, not least because it does not exist. However, I’m very glad he exists.
Carl Heneghan “is a clinical epidemiologist with expertise in evidence-based medicine, research methods, and evidence synthesis. He is Director of the NIHR SPCR Evidence Synthesis Working Group a collaboration of nine primary care departments across UK universities. He set up and directs the Oxford COVID Evidence Service at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, has over 400 peer-reviewed publications (current H Index 67); published 95 systematic reviews. He is Editor in Chief of BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, and Editor of the Catalogue of Bias.”