WashPost Portrays Conservatives As Eager to 'Turn Back the Clock' On Contraception

"Birth control has ­become a surprise ­obsession among the GOP presidential can­didates this year."

That's the misleading teaser headline on page A1 of the February 21 Washington Post. After all, it was a liberal Democratic Congress that passed and a liberal Democratic president who is enforcing provisions of ObamaCare that will force religious institutions to provide contraceptive coverage in insurance plans, even if doing so violates religious conscience. Yet to the liberal media, it's social conservatives who are waging "culture wars."


The bias continues on page C1, the front of the Style section, with the headline for Ann Gerhart's article grousing, "Pill fight pops up again." "40 years after bipartisan agreement on birth control, it's suddenly controversial," lamented the subheadline.*

Gerhart jumped out of the gate with the Left's predictable boilerplate "turn the clock back" rhetoric:

Who says you can’t turn the clock back?

Decades ago, near the end of the Age of Aquarius, a Republican congressman from Texas argued passionately that the federal government should pay for birth control for poor women.

“We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone,” said George H.W. Bush. “If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

Title X, the law he sponsored that still funds family planning for the poor, passed the House by a vote of 298 to 32. It passed the Senate unanimously. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, enthusiastically signed it.

That was 1970.

This is now: The issue of birth control has suddenly become an obsession of the 2012 presidential campaign. To many observers, it seems that the clock has indeed been turned back.

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To her credit, albeit deep into the article, Gerhart did get around to letting conservatives explain their real complaints, namely taxpayer funding of birth control and forcing religious entities to violate conscience by paying for it:

On the surface, this battle seems to have been joined by liberals and conservatives over President Obama’s insistence that all employers, including religious institutions, who provide health insurance include birth control at no cost.

This expansion of reproductive rights has thrilled liberals and dismayed conservatives, who see it as a violation of the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution.

Catholic bishops have been most opposed to the policy directive, because doctrine holds that any birth control except natural family planning is a sin against God. And the bishops have gained allies among those eager to overturn the entire health-care act. Repealing Obamacare, as Republicans call it, is a central pledge of all the men who want to be the Republican presidential nominee.

[...]

As is often the case in these matters, a variety of seemingly disparate issues get all tangled up — the Commerce Clause and Catholic doctrine, religious freedom and the right to privacy, feminism and liberty and conscience — at a time of economic uncertainty and vast demographic and societal transition.

[...]

Listen to Dianne Schram, who expresses a deeper sense of unease in a letter that appeared Saturday in the Detroit Free Press:

“It is a sad day in America when you have to compromise your religious rights. This disagreement has nothing to do with birth control, sterilization or abortion; it is the right given to us in the First Amendment, separation of church and state.

“Our freedoms of choice are slowly disappearing. The government is telling us what light bulbs to use, what kind of cars to drive, what to eat and what kind of health care is required.”

Also accompanying the print version is a photo on page C1 of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards with a caption that notes she "supports broad access to birth control," as if to suggest that conservatives oppose private access to contraception and not simply forcing Americans to pay for it through tax dollars or forcing religious institutions to pay for it through insurance benefits.

*The online version's headline reads, "Birth control as election issue? Why?"

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters