October 1, 2006 in Nation/World

Abortion foes rally against contraception

Judith Graham Chicago Tribune
 

Public opinion

•98 percent of women 15 to 44 who have had sex report using at least one method of contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

•91 percent of Americans agreed that couples should “have access to birth-control options” in a new Harris Interactive poll of 1,001 likely voters, conducted in July.

CHICAGO – Emboldened by the anti-abortion movement’s success in restricting access to abortion, an increasingly vocal group of Christian conservatives is arguing that it’s time to mount a concerted attack on contraception.

Their voices were raised in Rosemont, Ill., last week at an unusual anti-abortion meeting that drew 250 people from around the nation to condemn artificial birth control. Experts at the gathering assailed contraception on the grounds that it devalues children, harms relationships between men and women, promotes sexual promiscuity and leads to falling birth rates, among social ills.

“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.

Of special interest is how closely evangelical Christians are willing to align themselves with traditional Catholics on the issue. The Catholic Church long has opposed contraception, but evangelicals generally embraced its use – until recently, some argue.

“It is clear there is a major rethinking going on among evangelicals on this issue, especially among young people” disenchanted with the sexual revolution, said the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “There is a real push back against the contraceptive culture now.”

Whether or not Mohler is right about young people, the sympathetic sentiments of a key leader in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination adds fuel to the debate.

“I think it’s great that more pro-life people are finally speaking up about it,” said Helen Mazur, 27, who flew in from Philadelphia with her husband for the conference, called “Contraception is Not the Answer.”

“It’s always been a touchy subject, but you have to stand strong on your beliefs. Contraception is the root cause of the explosion of the amount of abortions in the world,” Mazur said.

“It’s new to some aspects of the pro-life world, and it’s old news in other parts of the pro-life world. It’s just beginning to be embraced more fully by the whole pro-life world,” said Mary Turner, 42, of La Crosse, Wis.

That possibility alarms abortion-rights advocates, who warn that birth control, taken for granted by millions of women, could become a battleground.

“You would think that the pro-life community would agree that the best way to reduce abortion is to reduce unintended pregnancies, and the best way to do that is make sure contraception is widely available,” said Larry Finer of the Guttmacher Institute, a public policy group.

“But clearly, that is not the case. Instead, we see groups extending their traditional position on abortion into the realm of contraception.”

Ted Miller of the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America thinks a series of legislative battles lie ahead.

“The same strategy that anti-choice groups have used to undermine the right to abortion, they’re going to use to try to restrict access to birth control,” he said. “But this time I think they’re over-reaching. The public isn’t going to buy this.”


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