The anti-choice campaign 40 Days for Life began its series of nationwide protests yesterday, with demonstrations scheduled to take place in more than 200 cities in 45 states and 5 Canadian provinces. While investigating the anti-choice movement in anticipation of this campaign, RH Reality Check reporter Hunter Stewart found that some protestors are expanding their demonstrations to include family planning clinics that provide only contraception, not abortion.
According to Stewart's report, for two years anti-choice protestors have picketed two family planning clinics in central Wisconsin that do not provide abortions, abortion referrals or abortion counseling. The protestors object to the clinics' distribution of contraception, including condoms, birth control pills and emergency contraception. While displaying slogans against both abortion and contraception, the protestors interviewed by Stewart said they believe birth control pills and emergency contraception are "forms of murder," while condoms "encourage women to be used" and men to have "sex without repercussions."
Lon Newman, executive director of Family Planning Health Services in Wisconsin, told Stewart he's puzzled by the protestors targeting his clinic, pointing out that contraceptive use actually correlates with lower abortion rates. "I'm very proud of the results we've had in preventing probably a hundred abortions a year, maybe more, and probably 200 unintended pregnancies a year. This is life-changing, this is why we're here," Newman said. He also expressed the view that family planning is a matter of women's rights, saying, "women can't fully participate as citizens if they are not able to determine for themselves whether and when to have children."
Anti-choice sentiment against contraception has been increasingly evident recently in the form of "personhood initiatives" that abortion opponents seek to pass into state law. These measures declare that a fertilized egg is a "person" who enjoys "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law." They would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research. In the 2008 elections, Colorado's Amendment 48 failed by 73 to 27 percent. In addition to failing in Montana, petition drives for similar initiatives ultimately failed in Georgia, Oregon, and Mississippi for the 2008 elections. Currently, similar petition drives are underway in Florida, Colorado and Montana.
Media Resources: RH Reality Check 9/24/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 9/14/09