Anti-abortion groups routinely—yet selectively and strategically—conflate contraception and abortion as part of more wide-reaching agenda to curtail reproductive rights overall, according to a new policy analysis by Joerg Dreweke for the New York-based Guttmacher Institute.
The article, “Contraception Is Not Abortion: The Strategic Campaign of Antiabortion Groups to Persuade the Public Otherwise” (pdf) appears in the fall issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review, issued quarterly by the research and public education firm.
The analysis suggests that a coordinated misinformation campaign, spearheaded by conservative groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Heritage Foundation, is part of an underlying right-wing attempt to chip away at access to commonly used contraceptives such as Plan B or IUDs.
“The campaign to conflate contraception with abortion is based on the assertion that certain methods of contraception actually end—rather than prevent—pregnancy,” Dreweke writes.
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Of course, such assertions are bunk. But that matters little, Dreweke says, to those organizations spreading bad science: “The antiabortion movement has a long history of strategically using outdated information and outright junk science to restrict access to reproductive health care, from the supposed mental health impact of abortion to discredited assertions that abortion causes breast cancer.”
The anti-choice movement recognizes that its attempts to define human personhood, with all its attendant legal rights, as starting at fertilization is a “political non-starter,” Dreweke notes. Still, in objecting to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage guarantee, for example, the movement has essentially embraced the core of the personhood argument—that pregnancy begins at fertilization.
And it applies this standard in a “wildly inconsistent and cynical” manner, Dreweke adds, pursuing such claims only when politically expedient. While groups that oppose women’s rights maintain that emergency contraceptives and IUDs constitute abortion in the context of the healthcare debate, they “simply pretend in other contexts that they hold no such views,” he writes.
“Contraception is not abortion,” Dreweke concludes. “But when antiabortion groups assert otherwise, then the media, reproductive health and rights advocates and the public should take their position seriously. Doing so will quickly expose just how extreme they truly are. Tens of millions of American women and couples use contraceptives to prevent a pregnancy, not end it. Those who claim IUDs and emergency contraception constitute abortion are well outside the American mainstream, which is why they are cynically hiding their anti-birth control agenda by conflating contraception with abortion.”
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