Why Did Contraception Stop Being Common Ground In The Abortion Wars?

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Carole Joffe - Huffingtonpost

Many Americans are puzzled by the all-out attacks by the Trump administration on contraceptive services: the administration has signaled its intention to take contraception out of the list of no co-pay preventive services authorized by Obamacare; it has made clear its eagerness to defund Planned Parenthood; and it has appointed longtime ideological opponents of contraception to positions of power in the federal bureaucracy, including direct oversight of family planning programs. The question becomes, why is an administration firmly opposed to abortion taking steps that will only assure more unintended pregnancies, some of which in turn will lead to an increased demand for abortions? What became of that short-lived moment in American politics when contraception was viewed as the main point of “common ground” between supporters and opponents of abortion? The answer, simply put, lies in the ascendancy of the religious right as a dominant force in the Republican party.

A look at three generations of the Bush political dynasty is telling about the fate of support for contraception among Republican politicians, and the end of such common ground. In the 1940s, Prescott Bush, a senator from Connecticut, served as national treasurer of the recently founded Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1970, his son, George H.W. Bush, then a Congressman from Texas, was the Republican sponsor of a bipartisan bill, Title X of the Public Health Act, the first legislation that authorized federal spending to make family planning services available to low income women (and later, to teenagers as well). Title X, it bears mentioning, was signed by a Republican president, Richard Nixon. As for Congressman Bush, he was such an avid promoter of contraception that his nickname in the House was “Rubbers.” Neither Bush nor some others who voted for Title X supported the legalization of abortion that would occur shortly, but they all agreed on the desirability of preventing unwanted pregnancy.

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