What Some Candidates Don’t Want You to Mention

98 percent of American women have done it.

37 million Americans are currently doing it.

Most of the GOP candidates oppose it.

What is it?

If you said "sex," you were close. The answer is "use contraception." In recent weeks, the GOP candidates have been asked a lot about their views on abortion but not one has been asked his position on contraception (or even prevention in general). Really big oversight. Maybe its because everyone just assumes they all support contraception. After all, who doesn't?

If their statements and actions are indicators, most of the GOP candidates oppose contraception. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, and Fred Thompson all define life as beginning at conception or fertilization, in other words when sperm meets egg. (It's worth noting that there's no medical way of knowing when sperm meets egg. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a fertilized egg isn't even considered a pregnancy.) This "life at fertilization" assertion is what is called in the business "dog whistle" politics: a political message only a specific constituency can hear. The reason, of course, to keep the message on one frequency, is that in most cases the issue is deeply unpopular with most of the American people. The candidate's whistle, in this case, is a pledge to support the anti-abortion movement's campaigns to roll back access to contraception.

If a candidate pledges to define life as beginning at fertilization, then anything that prevents implantation will end a life. And pro-lifers insist the pill does that. Birth control then becomes abortion, and as we know, abortion gets banned. Why hasn't the media sunk its teeth into this little curiosity? At the very least, it would make for some really great TV. Someone needs to ask any of the GOP candidates (except Guiliani) whether he supports access to birth control. 91 percent of the American public (the majority of the pro-life public included) does so strongly.

Along with pledging to give a fertilized egg full constitutional rights candidates prove their anti-contraception credentials in other ways. McCain boasts that he has consistently voted against funding pregnancy prevention for poor women. Romney vetoed an emergency contraception bill, calling it an 'abortion' drug. Ron Paul opposes federal funding for any contraceptive service.

These guys may try to outdo each other on anti-abortion rhetoric and explain, unflinchingly, how doctors will be thrown in jail when Roe fails (an inevitability in their minds). But it's the contraception question that really scares them. Because once the presidential debate focuses on how the candidates plan to alter the average American's sex life (made possible thanks to family planning) it is lifted from the pink ghetto of "woman's issues" and becomes a concern of male voters too.

Study after study proves that contraceptive use is the only way to prevent abortion; the places on earth contraception is most available are also where abortion is most rare. According to Save the Children, the countries where infant and maternal mortality are the lowest is where contraception is used the most (because planned pregnancies are healthier pregnancies.) Using abortion rates, maternal and infant death rates, as measures, it's undeniable: the most pro-life thing a president can do is support the right to use contraception and make it widely available. The public knows this. And sometime before the primaries the candidates must be made to state openly whether they support contraception. Because the candidates know those professional pro-life dogs are still listening for the right whistle.

This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post.

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  • invalid-0

    Contrary to your claim, most pro-lifers do not belief that the pill prevents implantation of a fertilized egg. Rather, it prevents ovulation, and when ovulation occurs it does prevent some additional potential pregnancies by thickening the mucous and impeding sperm. There are some pro-lifers who believe that prevention of implantation is also a factor. But that is hardly one of the major issues in the movement, which is concerned almost exclusively with abortion and almost not at all contraception. And I certainly doubt that any of the candidates you listed intended their language to be a clue that they want to use the powers of the federal government to prevent women from using the pill.

  • http://www.noroomforcontraception.com invalid-0

    >>Study after study proves that contraceptive use is the only way to prevent abortion;

    Please provide the names and authors of these studies.

    I’ve read quite a few studies on this subject, but haven’t yet come across one peer reviewed study to back the assertation that contraceptive use is the *only* way to prevent abortion.

  • invalid-0

    (not necessarily my beliefs)

    • Personally: Life begins at conception.
    • Politically: Abortion is not and should not be a federal issue. Murder isn’t, so why abortion? Each State should handle it their own way.


    • Personally: No idea
    • Politically: Free markets. Fine with it as it does not take a life.

    He recently stated on the View that just about everyone is against abortion, as it is just a matter of when abortion is defined as murder. Very few would say that abortions can be performed 8 months into a pregnancy. Where is the line? That is really the only debate. Some say before conception (Catholic Church), some say at conception, some say 1 week, some say 1 month, some say 3 months, and some say 6 months.

    He is an OBGYN, so he’s quite knowledgeable on the subject scientifically.

  • invalid-0

    I did see an interview with Mitt Romney in which he touted his “Anti-Abortion” record by stating he veto’d a bill that would help provide the morning after pill to certain women. If I had to guess, I would say that Mitt is misinformed about the morning after pill, rather than a statement against contraception.

    As for Ron Paul, it’s no suprise that he voted against federal funding for contraception as he votes against federal funding for just about everything. There’s nowhere in the constitution that provides for the government distributing birth control, so I doubt you’re ever going to see Ron Paul voting for something like that. Again, I don’t think he is against contraception, but against the federal government funding it.

    After a little looking, I haven’t seen much on Ron Paul’s stance about contraception, so I can’t say one way or the other, but if I had to guess, I’d say he isn’t against it.

  • emily-douglas

    Ruben, Cristina links to the Guttmacher study.

    While there may be other ways to forestall, prevent or avoid a single instance of an abortion, widespread access to contraception is the only intervention proven to lower abortion rates nationwide.

  • scott-swenson

    You can also see in our Fact v. Fiction section many studies that address a range of issues around contraception, implantation, fertilization ….

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • http://www.condomman.com invalid-0

    That’s an awesome phrase because it’s so true. Politicians have learned the art of communication so well that they’re able to literally speak out of both sides of their mouth. Take the term “Strict Constructionist Judges” which is a carryover from the last two presidential elections. Thankfully it’s now become clear to most everyone what that actually means, but for a long time Bush got away with saying that he would only elect strict constructionists without people really understanding what that meant.

  • invalid-0

    are expensive and will run into some serious money over the course of a year. Poor (wether married, divorced, widowed, or single)women don’t have money to throw around willy-nilly. They need to pay rent, and utilities, feed,clothe and shelter the kids they already have. If the government won’t help them get contraception, they may end up having another baby they can’t afford to care for.

  • invalid-0

    Mitt Romney was once as pro-choice and socially liberal as any other Massachusetts Republican.

    Either Romney is really pro-choice and is lying to primary voters or Romney is really anti-choice and was lying to the people of Massachusetts or Romney doesn’t care one way or the other, but will say anything to get elected.

    The Romney v. Romney debate on abortion should be interesting.

  • invalid-0

    Making abortion illegal does not make it stop. When it was illegal, abortions still took place, but with coathangers, poisons, and staircases instead of in a safe, controlled environment. A recent study that I’m sure you’ve seen shows that abortion rates compare worldwide, regardless of legality.

    The only way to keep abortions from happening is to keep unwanted pregnancy from happening. That is what contraception does. (And no, abstinence-only sex education has not been proven to make any difference in peoples’ sexual habits other than making them less likely to use contraception when they do have sex.)

  • invalid-0

    You are correct in saying that most people who identify as “pro-life” are not opposed to contraception. However, most pro-life organizations do say that contraception, especially emergency contraception, is abortion. Those groups are who the republicans are trying to woo.

  • invalid-0

    As a citizen of MA I can tell you, ole Mitt “Utah” Romney only came to my fine state so he could have it on his resume and perhaps he was even hoping Democratic MA might vote for him since he was our governor. The problem there is he was a bad governor who took more vacation time than other other MA governor before him. Then he stuck us with this get mandatory health insurance or get a massive tax penalty bit right before moving on. I know I don’t speak for all of MA but most of us hate him!