Uterus Watch: The Anti-Choice Movement

When I first read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I was chilled by Atwoods's depiction of a monotheocratic government that forced fertile women to procreate for the good of society. Though the book was written as a cautionary tale, I felt at the time that such a dystopian scenario could not possibly happen in the US. After reading an article from today's Salon on the current anti-choice movement, however, I'm not so sure.

The article gives readers a scary glimpse into organizations that are not only against abortion rights, but contraception as well. "The anti-choice movement," says Gloria Feldt, the former president of Planned Parenthood, "completely ignoring scientific fact, is attempting to redefine pregnancy as the moment of conception, the moment when sperm and egg meet. At the root of that is the attempt to get the fertilized egg more status than a woman."

While abortion continues to be a controversial topic, birth control has mainstream acceptance. Even 80% of people who are pro-life use birth control. What's disturbing is that a minority of well-organized people are influencing state and federal legislation that go against the majority:

- 5 states (South Dakota, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi) allow pharmacists to use "conscience clauses" to deny women emergency contraception and birth control.

- 15 states have legislation pending that would not only uphold the rights of pharmacists who deny women contraception, but the right of cashiers not to ring up the prescriptions.

- 14 states allow religious employers to deny coverage for prescription contraceptives for their employees.

- The proposed Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act would allow insurers to ignore state laws mandating contraceptive coverage.

The anti-choice movement is exemplified by individuals like Mary Worthington, who uses her Website No Room for Contraception to suggest that birth control is not only immoral on religious grounds, but is harmful to women's health AND rights. Using feminist rhetoric, Worthington argues that the Pill leads to male "abuse" of women because men are forcing them to take contraception that could decrease sex drive.

Sadly, the anti-choice movement is nothing new. As Feldt points out, "If you go back and look at the rhetoric against birth control from 1916, it's exactly the same as the rhetoric now."

It is distressing that in 2006, attitudes from 90 years ago are gaining prevalence again. While these groups are clearly against the will of the mainstream, they are effecting legislative changes that impose their views on the majority. We can't go back to 1916, nor can we allow these anti-choice zealots shape our future in the mold of Atwood's book.

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