Anti-Abortion Activists Gather to Plot Fight Against Contraceptives

While anti-abortion activists are looking to a referendum on a total abortion ban in South Dakota as a turning point in their movement, the Chicago Tribune reports on a faction of the Right that is one step ahead – attacking access to contraception. At the same time as this weekend’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, Pro-Life Action held a rally in Chicago called “Contraception Is Not the Answer.”

“Contraception is more the root cause of abortion than anything else,” Joseph Scheidler, an anti-abortion veteran whose Pro-Life Action League sponsored the conference, said in an interview.

No one knows how many supporters Scheidler and his colleagues have, but conservative leaders are watching to see if the anti-contraception rhetoric gains traction. …

What’s … likely, experts suggest, is an ongoing “chipping away” at access to contraceptive services. This could entail cuts to federal programs that pay for birth control. Likely it also would involve a state-by-state push to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions for reasons of “conscience.”

Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, opened Saturday’s session with a clear tactical agenda for the budding movement: “It’s time to get serious about denying Planned Parenthood funding for birth control or sex education and abortion. We need to hold them accountable for this contraceptive welfare. We have to work very carefully to keep that sword away from Planned Parenthood.”

Euteneuer believes a single argument holds the greatest potential for changing how the anti-abortion community thinks about birth control. “Chemical contraception doesn’t prevent abortions, it causes abortion,” he said in an interview. “If we believe life begins at the moment of conception, we have to defend it against [this] chemical attack.” Euteneuer was referring to the possibility that hormonal birth control, including the pill, the patch, injections and some IUDs, might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a womb. Scientific evidence suggests that this occurs infrequently, if at all, and that birth control works primarily by preventing a woman from ovulating.

There is some hesitation to embrace this strategy quite yet, reports the Tribune:

Dr. John Willke, who heads the International Right to Life Federation and the Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati, sees peril in the attempt to shift the movement’s strategy. “I’m here to stop abortions… and we’re coming close to winning on this issue,” he said. “If we take up an anti-contraception agenda, we won’t win the abortion fight in the foreseeable future.”

But Scheidler is anxious to take advantage of the anti-abortion movement’s successes. “We’ve been trained to steer clear of discussing contraception, as if it were a distraction,” he said. “I’m tired of this `Don’t get off the subject’ mentality. Contraception is the subject.”