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Political Animal

No Sex, Please

By Brian Morton | Posted 3/29/2006

Back in 2003, before the invasion of Iraq, a senior Bush administration official told Newsweek, “Anybody can go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” The phrase summed up chickenhawk conservatives’ overweening bravado when it came to remaking the world in the image they wished, sort of like the comment from another senior Bushie, as told to journalist Ron Suskind: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

In terms of women’s reproductive rights, the viewpoint from the Right must be: “Anybody can overturn Roe v. Wade. Real men want to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut.”

By now you’ve probably heard that South Dakota is making a concerted effort to be the state that overturns Roe, the 33-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But it’s becoming clear that many of the anti-choice warriors on the Right don’t want to stop there—now it looks like they’re pushing to find ways to make contraception as difficult as possible as well.

As usual, the battle begins in an intolerant Midwestern state with a strong fundamentalist streak; in this case, Missouri, the state that gave us Rush Limbaugh and John Ashcroft. On March 15, the Missouri House of Representatives voted to ban using state money for contraceptives for low-income women, and, on top of that, the measure would prohibit state-funded programs from referring women to other sources that might provide contraceptives.

A year ago we learned that many pharmacists were flat-out refusing to fill birth control prescriptions or to issue “morning after” pills by claiming that, by filling those orders, their moral or religious beliefs were being violated.

We here at Animal Control remember reading about this at the time and thinking, There’s a simple answer to this: DON’T WORK THERE. If you want to be in control of other creatures’ reproductive systems, don’t decide you want to be a pharmacist when you grow up—maybe you should become a veterinarian.

A March 28, 2005, story in The Washington Post quotes Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues:

    There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she’s married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone . . . There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won’t even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence.

Lately, the arguments have centered over emergency contraception such as Plan B and RU-486. The religious-right groups pushing the anti-contraception agenda, such as the National Right to Life Committee and Concerned Women for America, deliberately muddy the waters when it comes to both of the drugs, and the Concerned Women for America is very clear about its anti-contraception stance.

The battle over Plan B has even reached the U.S. Senate in the form of a hold placed on the new Bush pick to be the head of the Food and Drug Administration. In 2003 the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health recommended making Plan B an over-the-counter medication. The FDA since then has stalled on the matter. When Bush nominated Lester Crawford to head the FDA in February 2005, senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington blocked the nomination, saying they would do so until the FDA made a decision on the issue. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, whose cabinet agency oversees the FDA, told the senators that the FDA would make the decision by last September, and so Clinton and Murray released the hold—after which Leavitt and Crawford reopened the Plan B debate for further public comment, thus creating yet another delay.

Now, after Crawford’s resignation back in September, President Bush nominated Andrew von Eschenbach, director of the National Cancer Institute and acting FDA commissioner since September, to be the permanent FDA head. And, steaming over the last trick pulled on them, Clinton and Murray have once again blocked the nomination.

The sad thing is, despite an overwhelming percentage of Americans who favor access to contraceptives, such a small yet powerful lobby is slowly and steadily eroding access to them. The basis of Roe v. Wade was built on the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which first established the “penumbras” in the Bill of Rights that established a right to privacy, forming the core of the decision in Roe. At the time, Connecticut had laws that would fine doctors who issued or even counseled the use of contraceptives.

So remember, while it’s disgusting to think of what has happened to women’s right to choose what they can do with their own bodies in the state of South Dakota, for some that’s just a way station on a trip back to Connecticut in 1964.

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Political Animal archives

More from Brian Morton

The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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