Archive for Sunday, January 22, 2012

Even contraception now controversial

January 22, 2012


— Maybe Siri was being an alarmist. When I asked my BFF, the talking virtual assistant behind my new iPhone 4S, where I could find birth control, she answered, “I didn’t find any birth control clinics.”

This response wasn’t nearly as chilling as the one she uttered last fall when Siri was asked to find an abortion clinic and pointed to an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center.” Nevertheless in this charged atmosphere, she gave me a digital pause.

Today marks the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that supported a woman’s right to abortion. On Monday, the usual anti-Roe marchers will assemble in Washington, D.C., where they will calibrate their momentum.

But the big news this year is that we’ve run the reel right back past the 1973 Roe decision on abortion. Next up for debate is the 1965 decision of Griswold v. Connecticut. This ruling made contraception legal by overturning laws that could send you to prison for giving birth control to married couples.

Remember when the right edge of the Republican spectrum was Barry Goldwater, a Planned Parenthood supporter, even a fanboy? Now the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the right-to-life movement with the last men standing for president outbidding each other in promises to smack down Roe. And they’re even getting a little squishy on birth control.

I used to think that leaders for reproductive rights were either hyperbolic or hyperventilating when they claimed that pro-life politics were targeting contraception. It was only the frayed fringe of the movement who equated birth control — The Pill Kills — with abortion or with sex run amok. But an attack that was once, um, inconceivable, is now gestating in the public square.

In politics, Rick Santorum was the test-tube candidate for this anxiety. Last October, the would-be president said, “Many in the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK, contraception is OK. It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” For this, he won over folks like the Duggar family, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting.”

In Iowa, nearly all the candidates pledged to support the “personhood amendment” that would undermine IUDs, emergency contraception and the pill. Mitt Romney stopped one waffle short of agreeing. In New Hampshire, the ABC News debate featured candidates weaseling away from talking about the right to privacy that undergirds Griswold. And, by the way, Romney’s platform boasts that he’ll eliminate Title X family planning programs.

Without Title X, the Guttmacher Institute’s research says that the number of abortions would be one-third higher. Question to Siri: “Are these people crazy?” Answer: “I don’t know what you mean by ‘Are these people crazy?’”

Right-wing politics is one thing, but the idea that contraception is now controversial has crept into the mainstream and even its once-liberal rivulets. Consider what happened in health care reform. There was a knock-down argument last summer about making insurers cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Despite the Fox News commentator who compared covering contraception with covering pedicures, the administration made this mandatory. The uterus was recognized as a legitimate piece of anatomy.

But in short order, the White House got embroiled in an issue over a “conscience clause.” Could religious institutions — including colleges, nonprofits, even hospitals — get an exemption from paying for birth control for their employees on moral grounds? If a corporation is a person, is a hospital a worshipper? About 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use contraception, but it was only after months of handwringing that the Obama administration said that religious employers are not exempt.

Meanwhile, the FDA said it was safe to sell emergency contraception — the “morning-after pill” — without age restrictions over the counter. But the administration overruled it on the grounds that some imaginary 11-year-old might not read the directions correctly. The White House redefined a socially conservative choice: Contraception as controversy.

No one is reaching into your medicine cabinet tonight to confiscate the pill case. You don’t attack this head on. You follow the 39-year-old pro-life script: Chip away at access, hack away at funding, raise anxiety about sexual morals, argue about the legal precedent, and make politicians more afraid of the angry minority than the incredulous majority. Step by step you make a certainty — family planning — into a subject for debate. What happens next?

Question for my virtual assistant: “Siri, am I paranoid?” Answer: “I would prefer not to say.” Thanks, hon. And let’s keep in touch.

— Ellen Goodman is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. Her email address is


Getaroom 6 years, 4 months ago

One can only imagine that he has a low spe.... count - fortunately.

Praises go to the LJW for having Ellen Goodwin back in this paper again!!! Cut her more checks and fewer to the former baseball writer(Will), The Krauthammer and Cal Thomas - please!!!!!

Well, we know historically what has happened to Catholic dominated poorer countries where birth control is frowned upon. Breeding like rabbits is common and encouraged. And on another note, just imagine if China had not had the one child rule and not allowed abortion, where we would all be today? There would not have been enough 1%ers to buy all those children out of overpopulated poverty. Counting on abstinence and saying No to contraception, is like saying YES to an unregulated Capitalist Free Market. What a free-for-all indeed! If the Tea Partiers want to make this country into their own image, then let them do it somewhere else, like Mexico perhaps. Years ago the Mormons found it more to their liking while practicing Big Love and then breeding their way back into the USA welfare system with the intent of bleeding it dry. Romney is proud of his heritage from way back then. The more the merrier right? And you know the Mormons have no compunction about selling to others the things they deny themselves and consider sinful. It's_just _math after all. The pious fundamentalists, if given enough time and power will drive the world into ruin. Now that is false hope no change, at least for the betterment of humankind.

tomatogrower 6 years, 4 months ago

To be fair, I think Ellen Goodman is semi-retired. I wish she would come back too.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

"Now the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the right-to-life movement with the last men standing for president outbidding each other in promises to smack down Roe. And they’re even getting a little squishy on birth control."

Not really. The GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the .01%. But they don't have enough votes to win elections, so they allow GOP candidates to mouth words of support for social conservative causes in order to get these folks to vote against their own self-interests (as in their access to employment, education, healthcare, etc.)

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 4 months ago

This is proof that it is the total agenda of the facist Repubican right to control every aspect of our lives. They preach about "freedom" and "getting the government off our backs" but in truth, are working for exactly the opposite. Study what happened in Germany in the 1930's when the extreme right National Socialist Party wrenched control of the Weimar Republic from the hands of the people. And do not respond to this post with any of your crap about the whachamacallit effect or whatever about comparing current events, it happened in Nazi Germany and no "effect" can change history. Those who fail to remember the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. Remember when you can no longer get planned parent hood assistance or birth control becaue the facists have dictated that they will control every axpect of your lives.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

Maybe a touch of hyperbole? Just a little? Maybe?

Confrontation 6 years, 4 months ago

Every single Catholic female that I know under that age of 40 has used some sort of contraception. Mostly birth control, but also tubal ligation. The problem is that too many of these women and their men continue to support a church that wants to take away their right to use contraception. Time to stop being fake, and leave the church you obviously don't believe in.

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