Don’t Assume Candidates Support Your Access to Contraception

The Centers for Disease Control is not the
first place one looks for ideas on conflict resolution but, with
one issue that has divided America, it should be. A recent CDC
study revealed that between 1990 and 2004, abortion rates plummeted
by 50 percent in the U.S. The researchers suggest one common-sense
policy approach is most responsible: access to contraception.

As political campaigns around the country
take very different stands on the abortion issue, this argument
will intensify. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. The next
president, if history is any measure, is likely to appoint two
Supreme Court justices. Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision
legalizing abortion nationwide, currently stands by one vote. The
next election will likely decide whether Roe v. Wade remains the
law of the land.

Against this political backdrop, another,
potentially more important, reproductive rights conflict may get
lost. In fact, the issue many candidates don’t want voters to think
about is not abortion, but contraception — and the media hasn’t
called them on it.

Access to contraception is the only proven
way to reduce unwanted pregnancy rates. It’s no wonder that
Americans on both sides of the abortion debate overwhelmingly
support contraception. Yet few know that more and more candidates
vying for their vote don’t. Across the U.S., anti-abortion
organizations have added anti-contraception activities to their
agenda and expect those they help get elected to office to join in
these efforts. Since this issue isn’t on most voters’ radar, most
complacently comply.

North Kentucky Right to Life, for instance,
will not endorse a candidate unless he or she states that the
standard birth control pill is an abortion method (a widely held,
but scientifically unfounded, belief within the anti-abortion
establishment). Pro-Life Wisconsin asked legislators to ban
emergency contraception from state university campuses and opposed
efforts to provide rape victims with pregnancy prevention, too.

Missouri Right to Life convinced its allies
in the state Legislature to completely discontinue the state’s
family planning program. Georgia Right to Life organized its
favorite legislators to support a bill that would reclassify all
hormonal methods of birth control as abortion. In Virginia,
pro-life legislators, taking marching orders from their local
anti-contraception groups, successfully defeated legislation that
clarified, using scientific evidence, that contraception is not

In the last eight years, on the federal
level, anti-abortion organizations have used their political
leverage to undermine the nation’s contraception program, Title X.
They have appointed anti-contraception ideologues to oversee the
program. Not surprisingly, they have under-budgeted it while the
number of Americans relying on Title X has swelled.

Anti-contraception groups have gummed up the
gears of the Food and Drug Administration with like-minded
ideologues and have successfully obstructed Americans from gaining
greater access to the most effective contraception methods. They
were the brains behind the recently leaked Health and Human
Services proposal that sought to reclassify the most commonly used
forms of contraception as abortion.

The questions being posed to candidates on
all other critical issues facing the nation today demand cogent and
solution-oriented answers. A candidate isn’t considered serious
about the economy without answers on how to create new jobs. Who
would be labeled pro-environment without a position on fighting
noxious emissions? No discussion of escalating gas prices is
complete without a candidate explaining his or her position on
energy alternatives too. But, oddly, no anti-abortion candidates
are ever asked about their position on contraception despite the
fact that their views on the matter often differ dramatically from
what the public wants and what works.

As we teeter on the precipice of reversing
Roe v. Wade, candidates’ positions on contraception and pregnancy
prevention are more important than ever.

What’s most frightening in light of the
precariousness of the right to choose, is how closely tethered it
is to the right to contraception. A candidate’s position and,
whenever possible, legislative record on ensuring contraceptive
access should be closely examined in elections at every level.

Candidates should be asked plainly, "Do you
support contraception?" And, "If so, what have you done and what
will you do to ensure access to it?"

In 2006, soon after South Dakota passed a
near total ban on abortion, I was scheduled to debate Jim Sedlak,
vice president of the American Life League.

Before we took the stage I asked if he was
disappointed by how "limited" the near total abortion ban was. He
replied without irony, "Was it the perfect law? No. Would we have
liked it to ban contraception? Yes." It’s not that those opposed to
contraception are unwilling to answer the question, it’s simply
that no one ever thinks to ask.

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  • invalid-0

    The day America overturns Roe vs Wade is the day that America shows it is coming to its senses and stands for something.

  • invalid-0

    Way to completely miss the point of the article. But thanks for playing.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Which might explain why you don’t appear to have read the article.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for this insightful look into the complex realm of electoral politics. It is a realm that is truly two sides of the same coin… that is, a coin that represents ongoing repression of sexuality, control over women’s bodies, and exploitation of reproduction. Not even a H. Clinton presidency (that which right-wing pundits denounced as a would-be “feminist” presidency) would change that. Clinton et al exist within that system, not apart from it.

    The only way we can ensure ownership over our own bodies (which includes the right TO parent as well as the right NOT to parent) is through grassroots activism, continued independent action, and never taking a step back just because it seems like a progressive candidate might take the White House this November.

    No compromises, no apologies! :)

  • invalid-0

    Yes, Amanda, I did have a bit of trouble reading the article, as I found it hard to navigate thru all the half-truths and illogical mutterings. So after wading thru it all I thought it might be best to just make a general statement.

    • invalid-0

      I find it odd that someone such as yourself could find the article difficult and illogical. In my Health classes, my students (10th grade) all understood the writing of the article. They identified the logical reasoning, checked for fallacies in reasoning, and identified basic assumptions and emotional beliefs. The class debate was interesting, lively, and productive. No student felt the need to shut down the debate with a blanket (ie, “general”) statement.

      • invalid-0

        What is the point of getting 10th graders to “identify logical reasoning, check for fallacies in reasoning, identify assumptions and emotional beliefs” etc if a five year old can recognize that a plastic model of an embryo or a fetus represents an unborn or pre-born baby and that a baby should be loved and protected and that pro-abortion advocates have a “problem” grasping this?

  • invalid-0

    Land of the free my ass. As a woman we get the choice to what? Have a jillion babies and stay home all day carin’ for the younguns’, be frigid with our husbands, or use protection. There is nothing ‘abortion’ about preventing a sperm and egg from ever meeting. That way, every time you didnt get pregnant bacause you didnt have sex and had your period, you killed a baby. There was no fertilization, there was no baby.
    America is supposed to be land of the free, blah blah blah. When we take away reproductive rights, we become the type of controlling government we claim to hate. Its no ones business what you do to your own uterus. If you want an abortion, I dont have to like it, but I cant say’ too bad so sad be a mom now 11 year old girl who was raped by her uncle Ben.’
    Let people alone.