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Don't Let the Fight Over Contraception Distract Us from Access to Abortion

Written by Amanda Marcotte for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Late last week, Rachel Maddow asked a very serious question on her program in light of the recent attacks on funding for contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screening: What about abortion?  The main form of the defense of Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that have been under attack has been to point out, until we’re blue in the face, that the funding in question does not go to abortion and that this isn’t about abortion.  I’ve been running myself ragged personally criticizing any media organization that picks up fallacious conservative talking points about “abortion funding”---as the funding in question is not abortion funding, it should not be referred to as abortion funding, full stop.

Still, Rachel is right that in focusing all our attention on contraception access, we may be ceding ground on the equally important right to abortion.  You saw this in the interview she did with Cecile Richards, with Richards elegantly dodging repeated questions about abortion, and speaking only about non-abortion reproductive health care.  That may be the best strategy in winning on the short term goal of protecting the funding for non-abortion care, but as a long term strategy, it absolutely threatens abortion access.

After all, Republicans are claiming, however facetiously, that this is about abortion.  That Planned Parenthood performs abortion is used as an excuse to attack Planned Parenthood’s other services.  Highlighting that abortion is a very small part of Planned Parenthood’s services--- about 3% annually---demonstrates the absurdity of the claims being wielded to attack Planned Parenthood.  It makes overwrought anti-choicers like Jon Kyl look like asses.  But the problem is that by attacking contraception, conservatives have made the anti-abortion position seem more reasonable in comparison. ... Read more