Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. For most Americans, the protracted battle appears never-ending, and for that matter, never-changing. The abortion debate has become political white noise, something you hear and tune out simultaneously. But while we've been half listening, the conflict has changed; it has broadened. Roe v. Wade is no longer just about abortion rights. Those set on overturning Roe have their eyes on a larger prize: banning contraception. And they've got the support of at least one leading presidential contender.
Today, Governor Mike Huckabee is scheduled to travel to Georgia to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. There he plans to join Georgia Right to Life to lend his support, as well as the focus of the national media, to HR 536. This legislation, also called the Human Life Amendment, is a state constitutional amendment that reclassifies the most effective and popular forms of contraception as abortion. The goal of the amendment is to create a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade while also defining life as beginning at fertilization. The anti-abortion movement believes that hormonal contraception (the pill, the patch, the depo shot, the nuva ring, the IUD) can destroy a fertilized egg. By setting in law the assertion -- the unproveable assertion -- that life begins at the moment of fertilization, the most common forms of contraception become abortion.
James Bopp, a leading anti-abortion attorney, in a memo to pro-life activists, explained what the practical applications of HR 536 would be. Establishing in law that life begins at the moment of fertilization could lead to, he writes, "enforcement of homicide laws against pregnant women, restricting the activities of pregnant women, outlawing contraception and so on." He continues, "The big picture is that the Human Life Amendment creates uncertainty in the law leaving it up to future legislatures to establish implementing laws and up to enforcement officials and courts to sort out what the law might mean in various applications." In other words, let's leave your right to use contraception up to your local assemblymember, district attorney and sheriff.
Huckabee appears comfortable with the implications of defining the most commonly used forms of contraception as abortion. In an April 2007 interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, Huckabee explained his position this way, "There are some forms of birth control that really are the destruction of a fertilized egg." One of the editors offered a follow-up question, "Should the government ban that sort of birth control?" Huckabee replied, "Yeah, I personally think there are better ways to deal with contraception than destroying a human life. So, again I'm going to say that I'm always going to make my position on the side of protecting human life."
That's why, for many pro-life leaders, Huckabee's support of their anti-contraception campaigns makes him the real deal. Randy Alcorn, author of Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? (Alcorn's answer: yes) earned a spot on Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition beside others who are deeply opposed to contraception.
Huckabee is not the only candidate wooing the anti-contraception base. Mitt Romney, as Governor of Massachussetts, vetoed a contraception bill claiming the emergency contraception was an "abortive" drug. The McCain campaign boasts he has always opposed funding of family planning programs. Neither of these two frontrunners have embraced the anti-contraception rhethoric and strategy as fully as Huckabee, however. When Huckabee describes himself as "consistently pro-life" this is what he means. If only the majority of pro-life voters who overwhelmingly support contraception understood that.
For breaking news on threats to birth control access and information visit birthcontrolwatch.org