Roundup: McCain Is Party to Secret War on Contraception

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Roundup: McCain Is Party to Secret War on Contraception

Brady Swenson

McCain would likely continue the Bush administration's quiet war on contraception; Pro-life pharmacy opens in Virginia, will not dispense birth control; Catholics group explains why they think Obama is the real "pro-life" candidate; Outlook bleak for abortion rights in Northern Ireland; The myth of non-activist justices.

McCain Is Party to Secret War on Contraception

Abortion is high on the political radar this campaign season. But less obvious, says Roberta Riley of Women’s eNews, is the Bush administration’s secret war on contraception, which a McCain-Palin administration can be counted on to press ahead. Two recent federal court cases decided by Bush-appointed justices are worrisome:

In March 2007, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against
female workers who simply wanted their health plan to cover
contraception on the same terms it covered other preventive care as
well as Viagra and Rogaine for men. (Note: Viagra and Rogaine are not
preventive care.)

A second ruling, issued in late 2007 by a lower court and now on
appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, allows people who run
pharmacies to refuse to dispense birth control based on their belief it
kills the unborn. Since then "pro-life pharmacies" have been cropping
up all over the country. Today, for example, in parts of Montana, women
must drive 80 miles to find a pharmacy willing to sell contraception.

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But combine those anti-contraception decisions with explicit efforts made by the Bush administration and it is clear that the Bush administration has launched a quiet war on contraception:

Before he leaves office, President Bush has signalled he will use
his rule-making power
to boost this cause and undo state laws requiring
all hospitals, including Catholic institutions, to offer emergency
contraception to rape survivors. The process is already underway.

All this comes on top of Bush’s steady attacks against contraception during the past eight years.

On his first day in office, he stammered his revulsion of abortion,
as he signed the so-called global gag rule, which forbids U.S.
assistance to foreign groups that use funding from any other source to
perform abortions, discuss abortion with their patients or lobby to
change their nations’ abortion laws. In reality, he took contraception
away from the world’s poorest women.

In his first budget proposal he silently tried to ax contraception
out of health benefits for federal workers. He relented under pressure
when the Office of Personnel Management reported contraceptive coverage
added no cost to premiums.

In 2002 he appointed Dr. W. David Hager, a staunch opponent of birth
control, to an FDA panel where Hager blocked over-the-counter approval
of emergency contraception despite overwhelming scientific evidence of
its safety and efficacy.

In 2006 he hired Dr. Eric Keroack, who believes contraception
"demeans women," to run Title X, the program that once made birth
control and cancer screening affordable for millions of uninsured
women. Those federal dollars now flow to groups that preach "abstinence
only," which is code for "don’t tell young people about condoms."

He appointed over 300 federal judges, including the fellows who
issued the recent rulings that threaten your access to contraception.

So, where was McCain while all this was going on?  He was voting in lock-step with Bush:

Over his long career, McCain voted against women’s health 125 times.
At each and every opportunity, he voted against insurance coverage for
contraception, against family planning programs and against medically
accurate sex education. Not only did he approve all of Bush’s judicial
picks, he promises to fill future court vacancies with "clones of Alito
and Roberts," the ultra-conservatives Bush put on the Supreme Court.
Federal judges, whom presidents appoint for life, will play a key role
in the outcome of this war.

As we compare the candidates’ plans for health care, bear in mind
the Catholic Church owns a substantial portion of hospitals in the
current system and has a long history of lobbying against access to
birth control. Under McCain’s plan, churches and insurance companies
will control even more of our health care.

And if that is not enough to convince you that a McCain administration would pursue four, perhaps eight, more years of a war on contraception, the selection of Palin for Vice President makes it clear that McCain is committed to continue degrading women’s access to birth control:

McCain’s running mate selection sends the most coded message of all in this war.

Gov. Sarah Palin belongs to Feminists For Life, a group that tries
to deter women from taking Plan B, which is the best type of emergency
contraception now available. In two easy links from Feminists for
Life’s home page, one finds volumes of misleading information designed
to scare women and convince them the drug induces abortion. (It does

There are two kinds of Feminists for Life members: those who oppose
all contraceptives and those who oppose the methods they consider
"abortifacients," a scientific-sounding term the group will not define.
It is code for all of the most popular and effective hormonal methods.

Palin is free to believe anything. But can she separate her personal
views from her public duties? As mayor of Wasilla, she cut funds for
rape kits. The evidence indicates she did it to make sure women didn’t
receive emergency contraception.

She even hedged when Katie Couric asked if she condones or condemns
Plan B. "Personally I would not choose to participate in that form of
contraception," she said about the drug, which is simply a high dose of
regular birth control pills and the safe, proven treatment for rape
survivors and women who experience birth control failures.

By sheer force of logic, if Palin rejects "that form," she also
disapproves of the pill, IUD, Depo Provera, Nuva rings and patches that
millions of U.S. women rely on.

Which is precisely why she hedged.

You might remember that earlier this summer McCain was asked directly about that Eighth Circuit court case that ruled against women seeking the same insurance coverage for birth control that is given for Viagra and Rogaine.  But you might remember McCain’s answer, or lack of one, so here’s a timely reminder:


Pro-Life Pharmacy Opens in Virginia, Refuses to Dispense Birth Control

Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy opened its doors in a strp mall in Chantilly, Virgina this week. The drug store is the seventh in the country to be certified as not
prescribing birth control
by Pharmacists for Life International. The
anti-choice group estimates that perhaps hundreds of other pharmacies
have similar policies, though they have not been certified. 


Catholics for Obama

A group called Catholic Democrats has launched a new web site,, that attempts to explain why a "pro-life" Catholic should vote for Obama.  The group’s president gives the short explanation: 

"I feel that every Catholic can vote for Obama in good conscience,"
said Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats.
"I think Barack Obama is the first Democratic presidential candidate
who has come out and said he plans constructive measures to reduce the
number of abortions in the United States."

He believes some will come to see Obama as he does: a person who may
not mesh with the faith in all regards, but whose "life parallels the
central messages of Catholic social teaching."

"I think that from a Christian standpoint, and Catholics in particular,
the ethos is about inviting people to the moral life and working on
constructive measures to reduce abortions," Whelan said. "And I
honestly believe that Obama has helped this country turn a corner on
this issue." 

For more also see Cristina Page’s post "The Real Pro-life Candidate."


Running out the Clock on Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland

British MPs are due to debate an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill soon which would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.  But time is running out to make that extension to Northern Ireland’s women as authority on matters of criminal justice will soon be ‘devolved’ to the Northern Ireland assembly and thus will be out of the hands of British MPs in London.  And anti-choice interests are working to make sure time runs out before a vote can be made on the amendment.  All abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, is illegal in Northern Ireland.  The failure of the UK’s government to pass these laws further protecting a woman’s right to choose causes some activists to worry that it may trigger a regression for the right to choose across the EU.


On the Supreme Court There are no Originalists only Activists of Different Stripes

A Los Angeles Times editorial highlights recent writings of two prominent conservative judges asserting that Justice Antonin Scalia was guilty of judicial activism in his opinion on the gun control case, District of Columbia vs. Heller.  Scalia is held up by conservatives as an example of a "strict constructionist," or an "originalist," a justice who purports to adhere strictly to the original framer’s intent of the Constitution. 

What’s more enlightening about these critiques, however, is that they
demonstrate that there are no real originalists, only activists of
different stripes. And that’s OK. It is essential to recognize that one
original intent of the Constitution’s framers was to create an elastic
document, adjustable for the ages. So the task for the court is not to
determine whether the framers kept rifles under their beds but whether
owning a gun today serves the social function the Constitution created
for it, namely, the preservation of militias.

Miranda is rightly thought of as the work of an activist court — its
warnings to suspects are not to be found anywhere in the Constitution.
The Constitution is similarly silent on the significance of trimesters
in considering the right of the government to make decisions about a
woman’s body. Those rulings nevertheless have settled well into our
lives — they provide clarity for police and protection for women. It’s
too soon to say whether Heller will wear as well. What is clear is that
it springs from the same judicial impulse, whether Scalia likes to
admit it or not.