Today’s Guttmacher Institute report on abortion in the lives of America’s women punctures many of the false fronts willfully created by opponents of reproductive health.
First, the report demonstrates conclusively the promise of prevention. Access and the means for contraception make a critical difference in the number of unintended pregnancy. Once again for those on the right who can’t seem to get it—if the United States and the world is to reduce the need for recourse to abortion, prevention—not protests or restrictive laws—is paramount. This means comprehensive sexuality education; public support for contraceptive and other reproductive health services (through Title X and Medicaid in the U.S.); mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives; Plan B and all of the other empirically demonstrated means of reducing unplanned pregnancies.
The division of America into red states and blue states misleadingly suggests that states are split into two camps, but along most dimensions, like political orientation, states are on a continuum. By historical standards, the number of swing states is not particularly low, and America’s cultural divisions are not increasing. But despite the flaws of the red state/blue state framework, it does contain two profound truths. First, the heterogeneity of beliefs and attitudes across the United States is enormous and has always been so. Second, political divisions are becoming increasingly religious and cultural. The rise of religious politics is not without precedent, but rather returns us to the pre-New Deal norm. Religious political divisions are so common because religious groups provide politicians the opportunity to send targeted messages that excite their base.
Unfortunately the issues outlined in her report underscore the problem with people burying their heads in the sand as the far right would have us do, ignoring the very real world in which people live. By denying comprehensive sex education, acknowledging a range of sexual expression and valuing every life— conservatives reinforce stereotypes that most progressives long ago let go of, understanding that oppression against any leads to oppression against all.
“While American women cannot normally obtain emergency contraception without a prescription (by which time the optimal 24-hour window has often passed), it is available without a prescription in much of the rest of the world, from Albania to Tunisia, from Belgium to Britain.
One thought that paralyzes the Bush administration is that American teenage girls might get easy access to emergency contraception and turn into shameless hussies. But contraception generally doesn’t cause sex, any more than umbrellas cause rain.“
Last week, Jo Maney, spokesperson for the House Rules Committee, issued the following statement:
“Lobbying is a First Amendment right and we would not want to in any way chill the desire to petition the government or lobby the government.”
No doubt Ms. Maney is unaware that this is precisely what the Bush Administration has done with respect to international family planning programs, with encouragement from the Republican-controlled Congress. President Bush’s expansive version of the global gag rule denies funding to organizations that use their own, private, non-federal money in provision of counseling or advocacy related to abortion. The pureness of the quote above is a reminder of just how outrageous the global gag rule is, why it would be unconstitutional if applied to U.S. organizations, and how hypocritical this policy is coming from an Administration that preaches the virtues of democracy and freedom.
“Wanted Dead, NOT Alive” was clearly the intended message promoted by anti-choice protesters as they literally targeted doctors who provided women with abortion services, through their dissemination of Wild West type “Wanted Posters.”