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Birth Control Debate: New Hampshire Lawmaker Urges Married Couples To Practice Abstinence

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A New Hampshire lawmaker with a history of surprising statements suggested on Thursday that married couples who want to use contraception should practice abstinence instead of using birth control pills.

State Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker (R-Concord) made the claim -- noting that abstinence is available "over the counter" along with condoms -- during a legislative committee hearing on a resolution urging the Obama administration to drop the birth control requirement for religious organizations. Blankenbeker was trying to explain her position on why the administration's requirement to provide insurance coverage for birth control should be overturned.

"People with or without insurance have two affordable choices, one being abstinence and the other being condoms, both of which you can get over the counter," she said.

The comments came at the same hearing where state Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack) claimed that birth control pills lead to prostate cancer. In an interview with Merrimack Patch, Notter said that she was referring to studies discussing potentially high levels of estrogen in the environment through birth control pills and a connection to prostate cancer.

Blankenbeker was engaged in a dialogue with Sylvia Kennedy, a New Hampshire doctor, who was testifying in support of Obama's plan. Kennedy urged the coverage of birth control and responded to Blankenbeker that condoms are not a foolproof means of contraception, and also suggested that abstinence does not work all the time, a notion Blankenbeker disagreed with.

"Abstinence works 100 percent of the time," she said.

Blankenbeker also asserted that condoms and abstinence offer married couples a wider range of family planning options than oral contraceptives.

"If you decide you want to get pregnant you can refrain from abstinence," she said.

Blankenbeker declined a request to comment.

The resolution was introduced last week in the Tea Party-controlled New Hampshire House by Majority Leader D.J. Betencourt (R-Salem) with the goal of urging the Obama administration to reverse course on the contraception coverage mandate. Betencourt's resolution came the same day that Obama changed the original mandate for religious groups to provide birth control coverage to employees, shifting policy to make insurance companies provide the coverage for employees of religious groups.

Blankenbeker's comments have gained attention before, including a statement she made last year claiming that Osama bin Laden was not dead and a suggestion that she use her military training to shoot at unions.

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