The Tea Party swept the nation in 2010, when they managed to turn the midterm elections into a battle over the Affordable Care Act. At that point, with years away from people being able to purchase their own insurance plans for far less cost and far more coverage, it was easy to sway voters with talking points about rationing, death panels and the end of health care altogether.
Today, heading into the 2014 elections, we are still dealing with the fallout of the GOP wave. More states are dominated by Republican legislators and governors, entrenched by newly gerrymandered districts and promoting agendas blocking access to abortion, restricting voter rights, blocking Medicaid expansion and decimating public schools. A GOP majority in the House continues to block anything they feel could reflect favorably on Democrats and especially on the President, despite the fact that in the 2012 elections President Barack Obama easily won reelection and the Senate stayed firmly in Democratic control.
Now, a wing of the right has decided they want to make 2014 another referendum year. This time, they say, they want to make this a referendum on contraception. Yes, despite all the claims from the GOP that the War on Women is a myth, there are many urging their candidates to make this vote about birth control.
Writing in the National Catholic Register, Janet Morana, author of the book Recall Abortion and executive director of Priests for Life, urges readers to make 2014 a “pro-life” vote, saying that by 2016 it may be too late to reverse the Affordable Care Act. Despite the fact that Catholics themselves should be promoting better health insurance and medical access for the poor, Morana and her supporters continue to see the ACA as a threat because of its inclusion of no-copay contraception.
Republicans state repeatedly, even those who say they are “pro-life from fertilization to natural death,” that contraception isn’t a part of that battle, and that birth control is a settled issue. Yet as Morana explains, to her and those who follow her belief system, birth control is not settled at all.
“Birth control prevents life in three ways: The hormones in the pill can stop ovulation. If that doesn’t work, the pill also causes cervical mucus to thicken, making it more difficult for the sperm to fertilize the egg,” writes Morana. “If both of those methods have failed — if life finds a way around medical efforts, as it so often does, and conception has occurred — the pill ensures that the lining of the uterus is inhospitable for the fertilized egg, and implantation is prevented. That’s abortion.”
Morana says that the 2014 election needs to be about birth control. I, for one, couldn’t agree more. With the number of “no exceptions” and “fertilization to natural death” candidates in today’s races, it is not an exaggeration to say that access to the ability to prevent pregnancy is an issue that is actually in play when you go to the polling place. Each candidate needs to be asked publicly in at least one debate or by at least one media outlet, “Do you believe life begins at fertilization and that that hormonal contraception, IUDs and other forms of non-barrier pregnancy prevention can potentially cause an abortion based on that belief?” — instead of, ”Do you support or oppose abortion?”
This isn’t just a health care issue, but an issue of economic security. It’s about family values, women’s equality, job creation and education. It is a “woman’s issue,” but it’s also a men’s issue. There is not one person who is not affected if a politician goes into office with the intention of either blocking birth control access, making it more difficult for certain people to get it based on income, age or marital status, or turning its promotion or sale back into the same illegal landscape it was in just 50 years earlier.
It is an important question, and one that any voter needs to clearly understand about a candidate before he or she casts a ballot. So, I agree with Morana — let’s make 2014 be the election about birth control. And above all else, let’s make sure we get straight answers from our politicians.
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