Last November, Americans elected a net gain of 23 new pro-choice members to the House and three to the Senate, while voters in three states defeated anti-choice ballot measures, including an outright abortion ban in South Dakota.
Seems to me like a pretty clear call for an end to divisive attacks on women's health and privacy. Even so, eight anti-choice presidential candidates have caved in to the right-wing base and publicly called for the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
That's outrageous, but there's another story the press is missing: most of the same presidential candidates who want to make abortion illegal are also refusing to support prevention programs that make abortions less necessary.
For years now, in addition to our work in defense of safe, legal abortion, NARAL Pro-Choice America has advocated for prevention-related policies. In February 2005, we issued a challenge to President Bush and his anti-choice allies who oppose legal abortion to support efforts to prevent unintended pregnancy through sex education, access to birth control (including emergency contraception), and improved family-planning services. The conversation about reproductive-health care can and has been broadened.
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Even self-described "pro-life" voters see better access to birth control and honest, age-appropriate sex education as the best ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion.
This election cycle provides an opportunity for voters to see the broader implications of how anti-abortion often means anti-birth control, too. Take a look at the following examples of the leading presidential candidates who want Roe overturned:
Sens. Brownback and McCain, and Former Sen. Thompson are all anti-birth control and have never cosponsored or supported legislation to prevent unintended pregnancy or reduce the need for abortion. Former Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed modest proposals that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription and ensured that sexual-assault survivors receive information about, and access to, the medication.
These candidates are part of a yet-to-be written story about the hypocrisy of opposing Roe while also attacking birth control.
Thankfully, it's not all bad news. Check out the statements from leading pro-choice candidates, all of whom reference prevention.
As someone who ran for and held elected office for nearly 20 years, I have seen how some candidates fall victim to short-term tactics like bowing to far-right pressure groups that want to outlaw abortion and block women's access to birth control. They do so at their own risk. Divisive attacks against women's freedom and privacy didn't win in 2006, and they won't win in 2008.
NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to share the candidates' comments about choice with the American public, in order to educate them about the importance of electing a pro-choice president. The organization is adopting a "protect and elect" approach — protect the pro-choice gains made in 2006 and elect more pro-choice candidates, including a pro-choice president, in 2008. The organization recently launched a new online resource featuring presidential candidates' written statements, public comments, and voting records on choice. For more information, please visit www.ProChoiceAmerica.org/elections/.