If Birth Control Were a Campaign Issue

January 09, 2012

Unplanned Pregnancy

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Astonishingly, the word "contraception" was spoken aloud THIRTEEN TIMES during a recent GOP presidential debate. Is birth control having its moment in the political sun? Are candidates talking about the importance of birth control and trying to one-up each other on their support for contraception? Not exactly. (The debate actually had no meaningful discussion of contraception whatsoever--rather it was an odd line of questioning in which an imaginary state pursues an outright ban on birth control and whether that would be okay. Confused? So were the candidates.) But imagine if contraception were the darling issue of the primaries. What would that sort of public discourse look like?

Certainly there would be a lot of talk about the economy. We'd be hearing how contraception saves billions in taxpayer money (PDF). The economic discussion would also include impressive numbers about how many women are in the workforce only because they've been able to time their pregnancies. Higher education would get a shout-out too, because contraception makes it a lot easier for women to stay in college (PDF). We'd hear all about the benefits of child-spacing and how that leads to stronger families (PDF) and how stronger families make for a stronger nation. There would be heartfelt testimony from men and women alike about contraception's impact on their lives, and nearly every living American adult would be able to relate because the vast, vast majority of them (PDF) have used some form of contraception too. People far and wide would enthusiastically hail the public health achievement that is contraception and talk about it the same way we talk about other life-saving, life-changing medicine. And since nothing prevents abortion quite as effectively as contraception, there would be a lot of praise on that front too.

The first primary is tomorrow and then 300 more days of campaigning before Election Day. Still time for the candidates--and those who ask the questions--to embrace this important issue.

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