While discussing women's reproductive health and the government's role in administering health care, a Republican state senator said he believes birth control is used by people "who don't necessarily want to act responsibly." State Sen. Pete Kelly is pushing for a state-wide effort to combat and prevent fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska by placing state-funded pregnancy test in bars, restaurants and private businesses. But when asked if he would offer the same resources for birth control, Kelly said he does not believe in increasing access to contraception because "the thinking is a little opposite."
Even conservative policymakers who oppose birth control are reluctant to say so, at least in the 21st century. The American mainstream made up its mind on contraception quite a while ago, and for the vast majority, there's simply nothing offensive about it.
So when Republicans and other conservative voices talk about restricting Americans' access to contraception, they almost always avoid moral arguments about whether birth control is "good" or "bad," and instead focus on questions about "religious liberty," insurance coverage, and finances.
Once in a while, though, GOP officials will forget to keep up the facade -- it may be the 21st century, but they just don't like contraception (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the tip).
The state Senate Republican told the Anchorage Daily News, "Birth control is for people who don't necessary want to act responsibly." Asked specifically whether using birth control itself was a responsible act, he added, "Maybe, maybe not. That's a level of social engineering we don't want to get into."
One wonders if Kelly has fully thought this one through.
Under his proposal, Alaska would pay to put pregnancy tests in bars -- the idea being, the state could help prevent fetal-alcohol syndrome by making it easier for women in bars to know if they're pregnant.
This, by Pete Kelly's reasoning, is not "social engineering."
But making contraception publicly available -- thereby preventing unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and instances of fetal-alcohol syndrome -- is unacceptable, the argument goes, because birth control is the sort of thing people "who don't necessarily want to act responsibly" rely on. After all, expanding access to effective birth control would be "social engineering."
Shannyn Moore wrote an item over the weekend in the Anchorage Daily News responded appropriately to the state senator's bizarre assertions: "Republicans in Juneau don't understand a great way to end abortion is to prevent pregnancy. And a great way to end FASD is to make sure women who are binging have education and access to affordable prevention and treatment."