Birth control attack must be stopped

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I just checked my Droid and it says this is March of 2012. Why are we debating access to contraception? I thought we nailed down that issue four decades ago.

It’s interesting to watch this debate unfold. Conservatives have been arguing for decades that liberals were dead wrong in claiming that once conservatives succeeded in banning abortion, they would come after birth control. They haven’t succeeded in banning abortion quite yet, although they have limited access to it.

Regardless, today’s debate about contraceptives pierces the conservative veil of prevarication on this point. Liberals were right all along and that is now obvious. The result is a liberal backlash the size of a tsunami.

To be fair, there is argotic spin on both sides of the debate, although more on the right than on the left. The conservative claim that First Amendment rights are violated by health care reform requiring church-owned institutions such as hospitals and schools to dispense but not pay for birth control is risibly exaggerated.

On the left, its claim is not entirely true that denying insurance coverage for the cost of birth control is tantamount to denying access. It does deny access to women who can’t afford birth control without financial assistance. The truth is that single, younger women (students, minimum-wage workers and those just starting their careers) who tend, on average, to have lower incomes, all fit into that category. Liberals could score more points by making that distinction, pointing out to the public that conservatives only want to deny access to poor women.

Today’s ground-shattering earthquake over contraceptives may be just the jolt progressives need to turn the momentum around. Conservative pundits and politicians just can’t seem to let it go, even though opposition to contraception is a dead-bang loser of an issue for most voters.

Progressives must find a way to keep this issue alive through November. Remember playwright William Congreve’s most enduring line: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. Email: bonnie.scrippshoward@gmail.com.