But What About the Base, Mr. President? Maloney Gets Answer on Adminstration’s Support for Birth Control

It took more than a year and was done in such a way as to garner as little attention as possible, but President Bush finally gave a clear answer to a simple question ... does he favor birth control? Rep. Carolyn Maloney asked that question, along with Congressional colleagues, and reporters in the White House Press Corps, and our friends at Birth Control Watch, for more than one year. The response?

Andrea’s Internet Hall of Fame: Nine Remarkable Women on Reproductive Justice

Given the comprehensive assault on women’s reproductive rights currently unfolding in the U.S.—pharmacists refusing to fill women’s prescriptions for birth control pills; the FDA unconscionably dragging its feet on approving EC for over-the-counter use; governors from Louisiana, South Dakota, and Mississippi all recently signing or pledging to sign abortion bans; the new Supreme Court agreeing to review the multiply overturned 2003 federal abortion ban—sometimes it’s hard to know where the progressive response should begin.

Some longtime supporters of reproductive rights have responded by narrowing their agenda—suggesting, for example, that we rally under the common goal of reducing abortions as a means to expose right-wing extremity on the widely-supported issues of contraception and sex ed. Others, however, have decided that it’s high time to connect the dots, and instead of narrowing their agenda, they are gathering under the broad banner of reproductive justice.

The One Percent Doctrine and Reproductive Health

Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine, has made a few waves in the media and blogosphere, and rightly so. Check out this section from it, as quoted by Maureen Dowd in yesterday’s NYT:

Mr. Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' ... Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply." (emphasis added)

I’m sure Vice President Cheney was referring to security issues, but it is amazing how similar that sounds to some Bush Administration behaviors in other areas. Consider the following as some examples.

While it might be legal, is it moral?

Because you have probably been asked that so many times before, I bet you thought I was talking about that age-old abortion question. But, I'm not. For me, this question is about the role churches and other religious institutions are playing in politics, and more specifically, anti-abortion churches. As an activist, I have always viewed the issue through a political lens. Yet recent comments from a leading Catholic Bishop and the IRS suggest that there is also a lens of legality and morality that can be used when examining the issue.

Deliberate Distortion on HIV

Greetings from England, where a woman named Sarah Jane Porter has just been sentenced to over two and a half years in prison for “deliberately” infecting her lover with HIV. The backstory is clearly more complex than the media coverage has allowed, but, in a nutshell: Porter knew she was HIV-positive, and in possession of this knowledge, she “encouraged” her boyfriend, as well as some other men, to have unprotected sex with her. Her boyfriend is now HIV-positive.

I’m not particularly interested in adding my judgment of Porter to the pile—plenty of others are taking care of that. But I have been ruminating on the story quite a bit, and on the issues of “deliberate” infection that it raises, particularly in light of another article that made its way into my inbox this month. That article, entitled “Breaking the HIV/AIDS spell in Africa,” was by Salma Maoulidi of Sahiba Sisters Foundation, based in Tanzania. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

Numbers to Think About

89% believe that information about birth control should be more accessible

81% believe that providing access to birth control is a good way to prevent abortions

73% believe that a person's access to birth control should not be limited by someone's ability to pay for it

58% believe that emergency contraception should be easily available in all pharmacies

46% believe teens should be allowed access to contraception without their parents' knowledge

33% approve of the job President Bush is doing.

All numbers but the last one from Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive, (2,689 adults surveyed) the final from CBS News via The Polling Report.

The Bush Policy of Jailing Doctors

Jailing doctors who work within the law is a recurring theme in the Bush Administration. So far their efforts in this regard have wasted tax payer's time and money on these crusades, and put some compassionate doctors in jail disrupting their families, professions and their patient's care. Karl Zinsmeister, newly appointed Chief of Domestic Policy to President Bush, said last week that he supported policies that would throw doctors who preform abortions in jail, as reported on The Raw Story and originally on PBS.

Its no surprise that the Bush Adminstration would go to such extremes, they have a clearly stated policy opposing safe and legal abortions and have chosen prohibition as the path, as opposed to prevention.

Judicial Activism Bush Style

Time and again, the battle cry of “judicial activism” has rallied the conservative troops. These words have been used to motivate the right-wing base to turn out for votes, and they have been used to demean an entire branch of government. President Bush and his staff have often raised concerns about “activist courts”.

Meanwhile, in some alternate universe... The new make up of the Supreme Court had led the Bush Administration to push for some judicial activism of its own. The Administration doesn’t like an earlier Supreme Court decision – or the decisions from two different appeals courts – on cases related to what they call “partial-birth abortion” (though that term has no medical definition…but that is another story for another time). In the past the Supreme Court said that women have a right to have an abortion to protect their own health. But now that the Administration has gotten some of its own nominees on the Supreme Court, it seems that the time is ripe for one more attempt to get their kind of judicial activism – that is, to overturn a precedent.

The Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act(ions)

We just posted a new Policy Watch piece on the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Our hope is that that article and others in our Policy Watch archive can be helpful references for tracking Congressional activity and understanding what is happening on reproductive health issues in government.

The Unintended Pregnancy Prevention act, introduced a month ago, would expand Medicaid coverage for contraception and family planning services. It represents a trend in Sen. Clinton’s policymaking and messaging of late.

Overcoming Religiophobia

The Rev. Debra W. Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

I went into the ministry following a 25-year career as a sexologist. People are often surprised when I introduce myself as a minister and as a sexologist. But I believe that our sexuality and our spirituality are intimately connected, and that at its foundation, my work in the sexual and reproductive health field, and now my work as a minister, share a common moral vision - to teach people how to treat each other with love, dignity, and respect.

People in the SRH field come to work each day because of our values and because we want to make a difference. In theological terms, we are called to tikkun olam, to save the world - to heal the brokenness that so many suffer around unintended pregnancies, coerced and exploitive sexual experiences, attacks on bodily integrity, soul-numbing denial of one's sexual or gender identity, violence against women and sexual minorities, and children who are not loved or wanted. We believe that injustice and suffering in the world are intolerable and that the work we do empowering people to make and live healthy decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health makes a difference.