Archive for the ‘contraception’ Category

Poll Respondents: WHAT War on Religion?

March 16, 2012

The religious right insists that faith is under siege in America. Far-right leaders and pressure groups have pushed the “war on religion” trope for years now. Texas Gov. Rick Perry even used it during his doomed presidential campaign last December. Most recently, the right has argued that the Obama administration’s policy on insurance coverage for contraception is part of this mythical “war.”

But a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most Americans aren’t buying it. According to that poll, Americans by a 56%-39% margin say they don’t think religious liberty is under threat in America today. Of those who do believe religious freedom is threatened, only 6 percent mentioned the current debate over health insurance coverage for birth control. Others mentioned “hostility towards Christians/religion” (10 percent), “removing religion from the public square” (23 percent) and “general government interference in religion” (20 percent).

David Barton, president of Texas-based WallBuilders, plays especially on such fears. You can see that in Barton’s recent essay absurdly claiming that Barack Obama has been “the most Biblically hostile” American president.

The PRRI poll also shows that a majority of Americans support requiring that employers, including religiously affiliated employers other than churches and other places of worship, include coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. And 52 percent of Americans (including 59 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of white mainline Protestants) support the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

So the next time you hear folks on the right shrieking about a “war on religion” in America, just remember that most Americans know better.

You can read more about the poll on the PRRI’s website here.


Rally in Austin Against the War on Women

March 13, 2012

For decades the religious right has tried to turn back the clock on women’s access to family planning services. That misguided crusade is now putting even basic health care like pap smears and breast exams at risk for low-income, uninsured women. Tonight supporters of women’s family planning and other health services will rally in Austin to push back against the right’s backward agenda.

Cecile Richards, who founded the Texas Freedom Network and now leads the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will speak at the rally in front of the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress. The rally is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information about the rally, which is part of a Planned Parenthood bus tour with stops in 16 Texas cities across the state.

It’s stunning that we’re still having to fight for basic family planning information and access to contraception for women in the 21st century. Abstinence-only extremists, for example, still insist that public schools keep teens ignorant about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention. Now state and federal lawmakers want to use government to impose their personal religious beliefs about contraception on women of all ages. In fact, one Texas legislator last year openly acknowledged that he and his colleagues are engaged in an all-out “war on birth control.” Now we know that he wasn’t exaggerating.

In addition to attending tonight’s rally in Austin, you can support responsible, evidence-based sex education by signing the Education Works petition here. TFN can also give you the tools and support you need to change sex education policies in your local community by joining a School Health Advisory Council.

Culture War Casualty: Women’s Health Care

March 1, 2012

The religious right’s crusade to restrict women’s access to birth control and reproductive health care services is increasingly fueled by falsehoods and distortions. A press release yesterday from The Heidi Group, a Round Rock-based anti-abortion organization, is a classic demonstration of the problem.

The press release actually praises a measure passed by the Texas Legislature last year that could end the Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program. That program provides services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and STD prevention for 130,000 low-income and uninsured women across the state. Nearly half of those women get such services through Planned Parenthood clinics. But the new law bars providing any Medicaid money to doctors or clinics that are affiliated with organizations that provide abortions — a ban targeting Planned Parenthood even though that organization’s clinics offering services through the Women’s Health Program are legally and financially separate from facilities that offer abortion services.


Rush Limbaugh: She’s a Birth Control Slut!

February 29, 2012

You just knew that right-wingers have been wanting to say something like this since the controversy over birth control erupted a few weeks ago.

Last week Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke told a congressional panel why she believes health insurance plans  should cover birth control, even for women working at religiously affiliated institutions. Today Rush Limbaugh made it pretty clear that the right’s opposition to such a policy isn’t really about religious freedom:

What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns — no! We’re not the johns. Well — yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word.

OK, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.

So that’s what Limbaugh and other extremists on the right think about women, instead of their employers, making decisions about their own bodies and their own reproductive health.

A War on Modern Medical Care?

February 20, 2012

Does the religious right want to limit pregnant women’s access to modern medical care? It’s beginning to look that way.

This past weekend Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum — endorsed by religious-right leaders meeting at a Texas ranch in January — came out in opposition to requiring that health insurance cover prenatal testing at no cost to the patient:

Earlier in the day on Saturday, Santorum had also said that health insurance plans shouldn’t be required to cover prenatal testing, because that testing results in more abortions….

“Free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society,” Santorum told the Ohio Christian Alliance conference.

Asked by [CBS News’ Bob] Schieffer about his claims that prenatal testing leads to more abortions, Santorum insisted that this was “a fact.”

“We’re talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies of a child in the womb. And in many cases — and in fact in most cases — most physicians recommend, if there is a problem, they recommend abortion,” Santorum said.

Santorum had said that because of this trend, health insurance providers should not be forced to make the procedures available free of charge.

Here’s how the U.S. Department of Health and Human services describes the importance of prenatal testing, which is a standard part of modern medical care:

“Medical checkups and screening tests help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. This is called prenatal care. It also involves education and counseling about how to handle different aspects of your pregnancy.”

But Santorum argues that President Obama simply wants to see more disabled fetuses aborted:

“That, too, is part of Obamacare, another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country,” Santorum said.

As repellent as such statements are, they’re hardly surprising anymore coming from Santorum.

We have noted the religious right’s hostility to women controlling their own reproductive health. One Texas lawmaker, for example, openly acknowledged last year that he and his right-wing colleagues in the state Legislature were engaged in a “war on birth control.” Santorum, who thinks birth control is a “license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” has said that states should be able to ban access to contraception altogether. He also opposes a requirement that health insurance cover birth control.

We think religious-right leaders backing Santorum should now explain whether they also support limiting access by pregnant women to modern medical care like prenatal testing.

Texas RR Groups Push War on Contraception

February 14, 2012

UPDATE: A CBS News/New York Times poll released yesterday shows that a large majority of Americans — including 61 percent of Catholics — appear to support the new rule requiring insurance plans to cover contraception even for women working at religiously affiliated institutions.


Some religious-right groups in Texas are eagerly entering the war on women’s access to contraception and reproductive health care. As usual, truth is an early casualty.

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, goes so far as to claim that the Obama administration is “mandating that Catholic institutions and other religious organizations must provide abortifacents and birth control in violation of their own teachings and consciences.” Of course, that’s not true. The policy would require that insurance companies provide, if religious institutions do not, coverage for contraceptive services for women.

Texans for Life Coalition, an anti-abortion and anti-sex education group based in Irving near Dallas, is also denouncing the new federal policy. The organization’s blog even argues that birth control is bad for women’s health:

“I am so sick of people lumping abortion and birth control together and calling it ‘women’s health.’ Neither one of these two things are necessary for women to be healthy. In fact, you can make a pretty solid argument that both of these things are damaging to women’s health, emotionally and physically.”

This new eruption in the culture wars follows a 2011 legislative session in which Texas lawmakers passed a number of measures limiting women’s access to contraceptive and health services. One legislator even acknowledged that he and his political allies were engaged in a “war on birth control.”

Rick Santorum’s War on Contraception

February 10, 2012

It’s no surprise that Rick Santorum, who returned to Texas this week to campaign with pastors at a McKinney church near Dallas, is opposed to a federal requirement that employer health insurance plans cover contraception. But the Republican presidential candidate went even further on Friday:

“This has nothing to do with access. This is having someone pay for it, pay for something that shouldn’t even be in an insurance plan anyway because it is not, really an insurable item. This is something that is affordable, available. You don’t need insurance for these types of relatively small expenditures. This is simply someone trying to impose their values on somebody else, with the arm of the government doing so. That should offend everybody, people of faith and no faith that the government could get on a roll that is that aggressive.”

Let’s leave aside for now the issue of who is trying to impose their values on whom here. What really startled us was Santorum’s claim that contraception shouldn’t be covered by any insurance because people can afford it on their own.

The cost of contraception varies by method and insurance coverage, of course. But birth control pills cost from about $160 to $600 a year. Maybe that’s affordable for people in Santorum’s income bracket, but many low- and middle-income families might find it difficult to squeeze that expense into their tight budgets.

Of course, Santorum thinks government should be able to ban contraception anyway. We imagine that pleases the religious-right leaders who endorsed Santorum at their emergency summit meeting in Texas last month.

‘War on Birth Control’ Marches On

January 3, 2012

Religious-right leaders say they want to limit government’s authority — except when it comes to regulating private decisions they don’t like. On Monday, for example, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said states should be able to ban birth control. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down such laws as violations of a right to privacy for consenting adults. Santorum doesn’t like that:

“The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have. That is the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court, they are creating rights, and they should be left up to the people to decide.”

Such a rationale might please someone like Texas state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who last year declared that he and other social conservatives in the state Legislature were engaged in a “war on birth control.”

They want government “off our back,” but they think it has legitimate business intruding into your bedroom.

2011 in Quotes: Women’s Health

December 29, 2011

The right in 2011 continued to pursue a dangerous political agenda that undermines women’s health and reproductive rights. Even access to contraception has become a political battleground. Read more quotes from the far right in 2011 here.

“Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.””

– Texas state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, discussing his support for a raft of legislation in Texas this year limiting access by women to reproductive health services. TFN Insider, May 29, 2011 (Video clip from Texas Tribune; full video here)

“We’ve had a lot of input from our constituents about the budget this time, about the number of cuts that we’re doing. So I’m going to have to draw the line at this point and say no more cuts.”

– Texas state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, making a joke in his argument against an amendment to a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram and a doctor to describe the image of the  fetus to the woman.  The amendment would have allowed a woman who decided against an abortion, after getting the required sonogram, to seek a court order mandating a vasectomy on the unmarried man who got her pregnant. El Paso Times, March 4, 2011

“Well, I’m not so sure. Here I am in the middle of the debate and I’m not so sure. I’ve been told that 98 percent of the services they offer to pregnant women are abortion-related services. I’m not sure, but I think we ought to find out.


I actually went on Planned Parenthood’s website yesterday to try and see if I could get some good info, and I came up empty.”

— Texas Senator John Cornyn, doubling down on a Senate colleague’s absurd exaggeration of how much of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortion-related. American Independent, April 18, 2011

“The good news is through the blood of Jesus Christ he forgives, and women who have aborted children need to know that message … I believe this can be the beginning of the end of 75,000 abortions we have every year in Texas.”

— Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at the signing of the abortion sonogram bill, responding to remarks by someone in the audience talking about women who have abortions being guilty of killing their children. Texas Tribune, May 24, 2011

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

— Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, on his pledge to repeal all federal funding for contraception were he elected president. Think Progress, October 19, 2011

Move Over, Gov. Perry

October 24, 2011

We’ve chronicled Gov. Rick Perry‘s support for abstinence-only policies on sex education, including his odd statements on the topic in an interview with the Texas Tribune a while back.

Now, as he runs for the White House, Gov. Perry seems to have been outdone, beaten in a battle of extremists by one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Pennsylvania senator and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently gave us an idea of what he thinks sex education should be like in this country. Indeed, if he had anything to do about it, sex education likely wouldn’t include a shred of information about contraception:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

So would a President Santorum seek a return to the days when government could bar the use of contraception, even for consenting adults and among married couples? Sure sounds like it.

‘Of Course It’s a War on Birth Control’

May 29, 2011

Wayne Christian lets the truth slip in an interview with the Texas Tribune:

Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.

This wasn’t a momentary slip of the tongue. Christian is just saying out loud what many Texas lawmakers believe — and many more supported with their votes this session. The ideology underlying all the attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood is fundamentally anti-birth control and anti-family planning. And as so many others have pointed out, it is ultimately self-defeating, as depriving Texas women of birth control is one sure-fire way to increase the number of abortions in this state.

Progress on Sex Ed

September 14, 2010

We are seeing more evidence every day that policy-makers are finally waking up from the nightmare that is abstinence-only sex education. The latest case-in-point: Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst will deliver the keynote address at the Oct. 26 state conference for the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. This is significant because the Texas Campaign is a leading proponent of evidence-based, comprehensive sex education (i.e. teaching students more than just abstinence). It’s right on the group’s homepage:

  • The most effective health and sexuality education is abstinence-first, age-appropriate and comprehensive.
  • The use of evidenced-based, effective curricula and programs reduce teen pregnancy.


Kissing Abstinence-Only Goodbye

July 22, 2010

It looks like Texas schools are growing tired of waiting around for state law-makers to reverse the state’s addiction to failed abstinence-only programs. They are taking matters into their own hands.

Earlier this week San Marcos CISD became the latest in a rapidly expanding list of Texas districts — including schools in the Dallas-area , Austin-area, and San Antonio-area, to name but a few — to adopt a common-sense approach to sex education in their schools. On Monday the San Marcos school board voted to abandon abstinence-only sex education in favor of an abstinence-plus approach (which recommends abstinence first, but also provides basic information about contraception).

On one level this is unsurprising, since a May poll sponsored by TFNEF shows that 80 percent of likely voters in Texas agree that high school classes on sex education should teach “about contraception, such as condoms and other birth control, along with abstinence.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, teaching accurate and comprehensive sex education is NOT controversial in Texas.

But getting nervous school boards to overcome their reluctance and actually take action can be a daunting task. That’s why TFN launched an initiative last fall to support activists in local communities like San Marcos who wish to change their schools’ sex education policy. Almost a year into this program, we are starting to see some real results.

In school districts around the state, a familiar script is playing out again and again: (more…)

The Right’s ‘Busybody State’

June 24, 2010

At the end of the day, what they really want is control. Far-right groups complain loudly about intrusive government, of course, but don’t believe it. Those same groups are often fine with “big government” — especially when they want to control the private lives of other people. As the contraceptive pill marks its 50-year anniversary, yesterday’s press release from the Pro-Life Action League offers another clear example of our point.