Thursday, May 18, 2006

American Taliban, Redux





AlterNet



The War On Sex




By Cristina Page, TomPaine.com
Posted on May 18, 2006, Printed on May 18, 2006

http://www.alternet.org/story/36371/



The architects of the South Dakota ban on abortion have a bold plan for
our country. Certainly, they have already given a jolt to the majority
of Americans, or at least the 66 percent who want Roe v. Wade to remain
law of the land. But there's a great deal more the American public
should know about these legislative campaigners. Especially since
there's a lot more of their agenda they hope to realize.

They
have a plan for you, and if you are anything like the 85 percent of
American couples who have sex once a week, you're not going to like it.
The pro-life groups who are the most committed to ending legal abortion
-- and gotten the furthest in their goals -- are also leading campaigns
against the only proven ways to prevent abortion: contraception.
Shocking as it may be, there is not one pro-life organization in the
United States that supports the use of contraception. Instead the
pro-life movement is the constant opponent of every single effort to
provide Americans with the ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

If
the South Dakota ban is upheld and Roe v. Wade is toppled, it's safe to
say the pro-life movement is not going to send out a brigade to furnish
Americans with the most effective contraceptives. In fact, pro-life
groups' most recent activities suggest the exact opposite.

Take
Leslee Unruh, the South Dakota native considered the primary force
behind the near-total ban on abortion in her state. Unruh is, in many
ways, the perfect representative of the modern pro-life movement. She
is lauded in pro-life circles as the president of the Abstinence
Clearinghouse, a group that promotes abstinence-until-marriage. Under
Unruh's leadership, the Abstinence Clearinghouse has spearheaded
campaigns to stop people from using the condom. On the organization's
website, supporters of family planning are derided as the "safe sex
cartel" and "condom-pushers." Her medical advisory board consists of
physicians who pledge not to prescribe contraception to sexually active
teens. The group's new project, "Abstinence Africa," discourages condom
use in African countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho
where, on average, one in three adults is infected with HIV.

Unruh
and her pro-life colleagues have moved beyond attacking the condom,
too. For example, when pharmacists refuse to fill birth control
prescriptions, the pro-life movement has responded with a favorite
tactic: it has moved aggressively to welcome their deeds as acts of
"conscience."

The movement has helped pass laws allowing
pharmacists to refuse on moral or religious grounds to fill birth
control prescriptions in South Dakota -- no surprise there -- as well
as Arkansas and Mississippi. Additionally another 19 states have moved
to protect anyone who decides to stand in the way of a woman getting
birth control; this conceivably includes cashiers who could choose to
refuse to ring up your prescription.

Over the past decade,
pro-choice groups have tried to get contraception covered by health
insurers as a sensible way to stop unintended pregnancies. Nearly every
time, these initiatives have provoked intense battles in state
legislatures. Right to Life chapters in Ohio, Delaware, Illinois,
Oregon, Wisconsin, Nevada and Missouri all fought against state
legislation to get birth control covered. Year after year the Pro-Life
Caucus of Congress defeats federal legislation to require health
insurers to pay for birth control.

President Bush has complied
with almost all the requests of his pro-life, anti-contraception base.
He's attempted to revoke contraception benefits to federal employees,
slashed U.S. foreign aid programs that distribute birth control and
appointed anti-contraception ideologues to the expert panels charged
with approving new contraception methods. He's also appointed an
abstinence-only-until-marriage crusader to direct the Title X program
which delivers contraception to the nation's poor -- the majority of
Title X clients are not married. It should come as no surprise that
Title X's funding has remained flat, while its clientele has swelled.
What's also not surprising is that the abortion rate among the most
indigent in our country has been increasing.

Today, pro-life
groups in the United States are reclassifying the most common
contraception methods, including the birth control pill, the patch, the
IUD, and the Depo-Provera shot, as "abortifacients" by claiming, with
no scientific backing, that they cause abortions.

The American
Life League explained, "We have been working to prove that prescription
contraceptives have nothing to do with woman's health and well-being
but are recreational drugs that prevent fertilization and abort
children."

Some groups will use legal means to put pressure on
candidates to adopt their anti-contraception view. For example,
Northern Kentucky Right to Life will only endorse candidates who
believe the use of the standard birth control pill constitutes abortion.

While
the more extreme side of the pro-life movement hasn't yet advocated
violence against those that distribute birth control, they do agree
with the concept of "contraception=abortion." Most chillingly, Army of
God, a pro-life organization that honors those who murder abortion
providers as "heroes," also classifies birth control as an abortion
method. On the "Birth Control is Evil" section of their website, they
explain, quite threateningly, "Birth control is evil and a sin. Birth
control is anti-baby and anti-child…Why would you stop your own child
from being conceived or born? What kind of human being are you?"

Cloaked
in the heated rhetoric of the abortion debate, an entirely new pro-life
agenda is taking shape. Most Americans don't know about this yet. But
the Right to Life movement, which is now rewriting the country's laws
on abortion -- of which South Dakota is clearly just a first target --
has a broader and, for most of us, a disturbing plan. If this powerful
movement succeeds, Americans will require safe abortion services more
than ever.


Cristina Page is vice president of the Institute for Reproductive
Health Access at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, and the author of 'How the
Pro-Choice Movement Saved America' (Perseus Books, 2006).



© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/36371/



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