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Thank you, Rick Santorum, for clarifying what it means today to be “anti-choice.” Historically that label has been applied to those who would deny women the right to an abortion. Now the whole world knows that an increasing number of social conservatives are not just anti-abortion; they are avidly anti-contraception as well.
For years, even decades now, many social conservatives have justified their opposition to family planning by linking it to abortion, but within the past year it’s been increasingly clear that they are also opposed to contraception.
When Rick Santorum said last week that he thought states should have the power to ban family planning, he wasn’t saying anything new. He had been saying it all along; most of us just weren’t listening. Apparently, he has always believed in the “dangers of contraception.”
If the polls can be believed, Rick Santorum’s political ascendancy is about to crash, but “pro-choice” advocates should be forever thankful to him for putting the religious right’s hostility toward contraception into full public view.
When social conservatives last year tried to shut down any federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, they did so under the pretense of trying to stop abortions, even though federal dollars can only pay for abortions in the case of rape or incest. In reality, many were also hoping to cut off federal support for contraceptives, even if that also meant eliminating the other preventive health services that family planning clinics routinely provide to women.
When Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign last summer, he proudly trumpeted the fact that Texas had slashed state support for family planning clinics by two-thirds. Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney said he would eliminate funding for Title X, which helps to provides low-income women with access to family planning and reproductive health services.
But after Santorum got kicked around in New Hampshire for suggesting that states should have the power to ban contraception, Mitt Romney quickly back pedaled. When challenged in a weekend debate to make clear his position on giving states the authority to ban family planning, he conveniently forgot about his support for a “personhood” amendment that would effectively ban many forms of modern contraceptives, and insisted that no governor or legislator would want to do such a thing.
The question that should be posed to Romney is simply this: What would you do as president that would have the effect of denying women access to contraceptives? The honest answer, of course, is “a lot.” You cannot wipe out Title X and Planned Parenthood clinics without denying a lot of women access to contraceptives. You cannot pass a “personhood” amendment without limiting reproductive choice.
Romney and many other social conservatives do not want to make public their opposition to contraception, but Rick Santorum’s candid admission is forcing their views into the public spotlight.
Thank you, Rick.
This op-ed by Population Institute President Robert Walker originally ran on January 9, 2012 on Care2.