What does Bush really think about birth control?

If responsible adults want to prevent conception, well, then it's OK.

Published June 23, 2006 5:49PM (EDT)

Almost a year ago 19 members of Congress, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sent a letter to President Bush asking him if he supports birth control. The letter was inspired after a White House spokesperson offered only a "no comment" on the subject.

Five letters to the president later, the White House finally replied, in the form of a statement from a Department of Health and Human Services official affirming that the president supports "the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception."

Apparently, irresponsible adults do not need contraception, much less -- horrors! -- teenagers. Notice how the stilted wording is careful not to mention pregnancy, birth control or contraception. As for teenagers, the president recommends abstinence all the way: "Additionally, this Administration strongly supports teaching abstinence to young people as the only 100 percent effective means of preventing pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)."

Still, Rep. Maloney was galvanized by finally getting a response. She replied with another letter to the president noting three different instances in which the administration has hindered access to birth control, although the president now professes to support it. First, there's that 141-page document from the Justice Department on how to treat sexual assault survivors that does not mention emergency contraception. Then, the Food and Drug Administration has been endlessly stalling on making Plan B available over the counter. Finally, the administration has failed to intervene as pharmacists and doctors around the country refuse to provide or fill prescriptions for Plan B.

We'll keep you posted on any reply Rep. Maloney gets from President Bush, although it may take 12 more months.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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