If pro-choicers and the media draw the public into this fight, pro-lifers will be in deep trouble. The most universally compelling petitioners for abortion rights are rape victims. Even by conservative standards, you can't say they deserve pregnancy as a "consequence for sex"—as a New Hampshire politician did three weeks ago during a fight over the morning-after pill—since they didn't choose sex in the first place. Such politicians look insensitive to crime victims, a deadly problem for a Republican in a general election. Already pro-choicers are working this angle, promoting the pill as post-rape treatment and spotlighting cases in which women turned away by pharmacists claim to be victims of sexual assault.
The other danger for pro-lifers is that the wall they've erected between abortion and contraception will collapse. Morning-after pills can prevent conception or implantation; in any given case, it's practically impossible to know which. If pro-lifers appear to oppose contraception, rather than abortion, they risk antagonizing and alarming most Americans. Five months ago, a CBS/New York Times poll asked, "Should pharmacists who personally oppose birth control for religious reasons be able to refuse to sell birth control pills to women who have a prescription for them, or shouldn't pharmacists be able to refuse to sell birth control pills?" Only 16 percent of respondents said yes. Seventy-eight percent said no.
Already pro-lifers are straying across this line. The president of Pharmacists for Life reportedly doesn't stock any contraceptives in her store. Three weeks ago, in a high-profile appeal to Gov. Blagojevich, a Catholic bishop protested that the Illinois regulation requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills violated the Catholic doctrine "that artificial contraception is morally wrong." Against this view, pro-choicers argue that a woman who requests a morning-after pill is trying, responsibly, to prevent a pregnancy so she won't have to abort it. If pro-lifers start to look like they care more about resisting contraception than avoiding abortions, look out.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.