Could Abortion Opponents Embrace Contraception?

What Women Really Think
Oct. 15 2009 2:36 PM

Could Abortion Opponents Embrace Contraception?

Andrew Sullivan careens very close to revelation about the anti-choice movement today, asking, "What are the odds that the Christianists are prepared to do the one thing that would actually reduce abortions dramatically: guarantee free contraception as part of a public option." Answer: somewhere between zilch and nada. The Christianist movement that brought you abstinence-only education doesn't feel much better about contraception than they do abortion.

Dan Savage is right ; the organized anti-choice movement is motivated by the desire to punish what they consider deviant sexuality much more than they are motivated by any love of fetal life. It's been well-observed by pro-choice activists for a long time that anti-choice activists, given the choice between punishing sex and reducing the abortion rate, will choose the former every time. The anti-choice movement's hostility towards contraception is an open secret; most people on both sides of the debate know about it, but anti-choice activists also know better than to flaunt their hatred of contraception when trying to woo people on the issue of abortion. As I discovered when an anti-choice handbook fell into my hands , activists are instructed to dodge questions about their hostility to contraception early in conversations, and put a great deal of work into softening targets up before hitting them with appeals against not just abortion, but contraception.

Advertisement

But for anyone who cares to know, the anti-choice movement's larger anti-birth control agenda isn't that hard to figure out. Some groups take a "moderate" stance of refusing to take an official stance on contraception, while quietly promoting misinformation about it . Some groups openly flaunt their desire to ban contraception; the American Life League holds annual protests against legal contraception on the anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut , the 1965 Supreme Court decision that legalized contraception for married couples. Abstinence-only programs instigated by the religious right are rife with flagrant misinformation about contraception straight out of anti-choice mythology. If there's any angle prominent anti-choice activists can use to take potshots at contraception, they will . Knowing as we do that access to contraception reduces the abortion rate (duh), the only honest conclusion is that the "pro-life" movement doesn't care about the abortion rate so much as they care that women can get abortions without fear of punishment.

Incidentally, this is one reason I prefer the term "anti-choice" to "pro-life". In the public at large, "pro-life" is a feel-good term adopted by people who have no knowledge of the radical anti-sex bent of the anti-choice movement. In fact, many people who self-identify as "pro-life" oppose banning abortion, and many have abortions themselves. Calling yourself "pro-life" has as much weight in the real world as going on the record as believing that divorce is sad; you may want to be on the record as pro-marriage, but you'd get a divorce if you needed one. We need to distinguish between those attracted to the feel-good "pro-life" term, and activists out to ban abortion and severely restrict contraception access.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 12:36 PM Krispy Kreme Stuffed Half a Million Calories Into One Box of Doughnuts
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.