Who really wants to debate the morning-after pill?

Science, technology, and life.
April 26 2005 12:27 AM

False Pregnancy

Who really wants to debate the morning-after pill?

(Continued from Page 1)

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.

Advertisement

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.

  Slate Plus
Slate Archives
Nov. 26 2014 12:36 PM Slate Voice: “If It Happened There,” Thanksgiving Edition Josh Keating reads his piece on America’s annual festival pilgrimage.