In discussions with anti-choice activists, one thing that never fails to shock and confuse me is their views of sexual education and contraception. While abortion is the main target of their attacks, in recent years attacks on contraception has become more acceptable as well, perhaps fueled by the coverage mandates of the Affordable Care Act. More than anything else, attacks on contraception, and education as well, expose the lie told by those on the anti-choice side: that they are fighting against abortion.
While some groups on the right try to paint Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights supporters as gleeful fetus eradicators, hell bent on insuring multiple abortions for every woman, the reality of the situation is that no one is a fan of abortion. Sexual health workers and women’s rights activists both want a world where abortion is safe, legal, and exceedingly rare, and they try to bring this world about by concentrating on proven methods to reduce abortion. To reduce abortion, you must reduce unwanted pregnancy. To reduce unwanted pregnancy, you work to insure everyone has adequate sexual education as well as access to contraception.
For many on the anti-choice side, this is not an acceptable option, because for them it isn’t about abortion at all. Abortion is nothing more than a divisive face they can put on the larger issue, which is the sexual immorality of women. Sure, they want to stop abortion. But they also want to stop women from having the ability to remove pregnancy from the list of consequences of premarital sexual relations. If it was truly just about abortion, they would be right there with us, insisting on education and access to contraception.
In a perfect world, people would wait until adulthood to become sexually active. They would use contraception when they did decide to become sexually active, and they would use it correctly. As I am sure everyone realizes, this is not that world. Teens, awash in a tsunami of hormones, have always had sex. Access to contraception is not universal. Teens who had the misfortune to receive an “abstinence only” education program, a policy supported by many on the so-called “pro-life” side, may believe that certain forms of contraception do not even work.
The law allows teenagers access to Plan B contraception in the event of unprotected sexual contact, a law fought against by many on the anti-abortion side. But the law does not mandate the drug be stocked in pharmacies. And in spite of the law, pharmacists, buoyed by anti-choice activists pressing religious belief exemptions, may feel it is their right to impose their morality on those they deem sinners.