The fight over contraception access isn’t going especially well for Republicans, with polls showing the American mainstream consistently siding with the Obama administration on the issue. As the debate deteriorates, some have begun spinning wild tales to explain how and why this entire fiasco has been an elaborate Democratic setup.
Joan Walsh asked, “Did crafty Dems make contraception a campaign issue?” The answer, as Joan explained, is no.
Did you know the GOP doesn’t want to be talking about contraception? That it’s an issue ginned up by opportunistic Democrats? Rush Limbaugh made that case last week (while also insisting Republicans would win an election decided on culture war issues, so I’m not sure what his problem was). But Wednesday it made its way to the Washington Post’s women’s blog, in a piece by Melinda Henneberger headlined: “It’s Democrats who are putting focus on birth control.”
Limbaugh thinks this is part of a plot against Rick Santorum. Some on Fox News believe it’s a scheme hatched by liberals who hate the poor. A surprisingly large group of conservatives is convinced that ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos is tied to the conspiracy.
Let’s pause for a moment to note how we got to this point.
In August, the Obama administration announced some good news: thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and following the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, contraception would be covered by insurance plans as preventive care.
The health care reform law already requires insurers to cover “preventive health services” for free, but the announcement was part of a regulatory process that defines what those services will include. In January, administration officials said churches would be exempt, and in February, the White House tried to end the discussion altogether by saying religiously-affiliated employers wouldn’t have to pay directly for contraception coverage.
Neither the White House nor Democrats in general showed any interest in making a fuss about this. Indeed, the news was largely overlooked by the media and the larger political world for months – this was an obscure regulatory process, and it wasn’t especially controversial.
It wasn’t until this month that Republicans, eager for a culture-war fight, latched onto contraception access as a top priority.
“It’s Democrats who are putting the focus on birth control”? That’s backwards. It wasn’t the Democrats’ idea to introduce the odious Blunt Amendment; it wasn’t the Democrats’ idea for Darrell Issa to hold a hearing on contraception with an all-male panel of witnesses; it wasn’t Democrats’ idea for Rick Santorum to say on camera that contraception is “not okay”; it wasn’t Democrats who encouraged Republicans to pursue “Personhood” amendments; and it wasn’t the Democrats’ idea for the Republican presidential candidates to spend 15 minutes on the subject in last night’s debate.
Joan Walsh added, “[H]onestly, I find it stunning that anyone is arguing that it’s Democrats who are ‘putting focus’ on this issue and then profiting from it, politically or financially.” When the right is losing, conservatives’ desperation leads them to some pretty strange arguments.