Like lawn ornaments in summer, protesters outside the local abortion clinic are fixtures in many places.
Their presence and message have long been so predictable that, without looking or listening, people believe they understand the point. So you might not notice that the protest taking place outside your local clinic has fundamentally changed.
It is no longer about abortion. Saturday, June 7, is the anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision that granted married people the right to use contraception. To mark the day, anti-abortion groups will take to their normal posts outside clinic entrances not to convince Americans to oppose abortion but rather to stop using contraception.
The national campaign is called "Protest the Pill Day 08" and it is organized by several leading anti-choice groups including the American Life League and Pharmacists for Life. The groups' Web site is full of unscientific, medically inaccurate information.
Anti-contraception activism has been working its way up the priority list of the anti-choice movement in the U.S. in recent years and Saturday's campaign will be one of the most organized and visible displays of this broadening agenda.
There is not one pro-life organization in the U.S. that supports contraception. In fact, the multi-pronged attack against the right to use contraception is led entirely by anti-abortion groups. Their initiatives include opposing health insurance coverage of contraception; urging pharmacists to deny women's birth control prescriptions; and attempting (with no scientific rationale) to reclassify the birth control pill, and all other hormonal forms of contraception, as abortion methods with the goal of banning them. This represents an important and frightening shift in focus by the anti-abortion movement.
Despite the fact that contraception is the only proven way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce abortion rates, anti-choice groups would forgo these benefits, and even risk dramatically increasing abortion rates, in favor of a larger, more insidious goal: changing Americans' sex lives.
As the American Life League, the nation's largest pro-life educational organization, explains in its materials, "The American Life League denies the moral acceptability of artificial birth control and encourages each individual to trust in God, to surrender to his will, and to be predisposed to welcoming children."
Buoyed by their success in rolling back abortion rights, these groups seek nothing less than a complete American lifestyle makeover: Sex can't ever exclude the possibility of procreation.
The right to use contraception is relatively new: The Griswold decision was rendered in 1965 and the Supreme Court granted single people the right to use contraception as recently as 1972. But the changes these decisions set in motion now form a list of what Americans won't live without. The typical American female is fertile for about 30 years of her life. For about 23 of those years she is trying not to get pregnant. Much of our lifestyle, and the architecture of our most intimate relationships, is rooted in family planning. And we should be grateful for this.
In the 1950s, when there was no sex education, no birth control, no legal abortion (the exact legislative agenda of today's pro-life movement!), teen birth rates were high and have not been equaled since. Today, the rate of teen motherhood, not coincidentally, has been reduced by more than half.
The right to plan your family to the size you want and can support is a cherished, and frequently exercised, American family value. So the next time you pass by the protest outside your local clinic, listen carefully: Their real target is your way of life.
Cristina Page is the author of "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex" and spokesperson for BirthControlWatch.org. This column was provided via the American Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 6/08