The XX Factor

The War on Contraception Is Only Beginning

Even though social conservatives lost the fight to destroy federal subsidies for contraception, STD testing, and cancern screening, as Politico reports today , the fight to make sure basic reproductive health care is a luxury only for those who can pay out of pocket is only beginning. Carrie Budoff Brown at Politico also claims Democrats couldn’t be happier that Republicans have decided to make war on birth control pills and Pap smears, and under most circumstances, they’d be in the right. Unfortunatley, they have one big factor against them: STD testing, Pap smears, birth control pills, condoms and even safe childbirth kits to keep women and infants from dying are now all being called “abortion” in the mainstream media.  The word “abortion” keeps coming up, even though the funding in dispute was not for abortion and couldn’t be used for abortion. The right-wing frame where any health care provided for women who are sexually active is called “abortion” has been adopted wholesale, giving the Junior Anti-Sex League a major P.R. advantage.

This Politico story is just one example.  The opponents of funding for safe childbirth kits, birth control pills, penicillin, HPV vaccines, and condom distribution are routinely described as “abortion opponents,” even though this fight had nothing to do with abortion funding, and in fact their opposition to contraception funding is likely to increase the abortion rate, making them effectively pro-abortion.  The words “contraception,” “cancer,” and even “sex” never show up once in this entire article, and the headline misleading characterizes those trying to defund Planned Parenthood and the UNFPA as “abortion opponents.”  But considering that one of the UNFPA’s goals is, to quote them directly, “Prevention of abortion and management of its consequences”-something that Planned Parenthood also tries to do with contraception distribution-it’s simply inaccurate to describe the opposition to funding in this case with an abortion lens.  They may not like abortion, but that’s only part of the bigger picture.  The larger theme of what they oppose is any government funding for health care for sexually active women, and as the attempts to defund the UNFPA demonstrate, this includes halting the funds going to stop women and babies from dying in childbirth.

Unfortunatley, as long as the mainstream press continues to adopt the right-wing tendency to characterize safe childbirth kits, HIV medications, cancer screenings, condoms, pencillin, and birth control pills as “abortion,” the public will probably be less incensed than they should be.  Most people don’t do thorough background research on these issues.  When mainstream media publications call the funding of contraception, STD treatment, and childbirth care as “abortion funding,” most people are going to assume the funding is going to abortion. Even though it’s not.

With this kind of factual inaccuracy working as the wind in their sails, no wonder the opponents of contraception and STD subsidies feel emboldened to keep moving forward.