Scary headlines

If you’re of childbearing age, and you’ve been paying attention, you’re no doubt aware of some of the creepier things that have been happening on the reproductive-rights front since George W. Bush has been in office. It seems religious conservatives are still in a tizzy about the fact that some of us have sex for fun, and not to produce children.

Not content preaching to their choirs about it, or waiting for the Supreme Court to swing things their way, they’re working hard to undermine access to abortion and contraception where they can. Like with Missouri’s Senate Bill 609, which would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense or provide referrals for any medication that they believe could “contribute to the death of a human being by abortion or otherwise.” Or the new South Dakota law that makes it a felony to provide an abortion to a patient, even in cases of rape or incest, unless the life of the mother is at stake. Some moral crusaders aren’t even bothering with laws, as in the case of a Pennsylvania woman whose gynecologist told her last fall that she would no longer renew the woman’s prescription for the pill.

These aren’t just isolated incidents in faraway states, either: 87 percent of the federally funded “crisis pregnancy centers” a congressional investigation division contacted in 2004 turned out to be misleading clients about the health effects of abortion. And just a few months ago, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a message for the whole nation that seemed, to many of us, like something straight out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In case you missed it, the CDC decreed that all females of menstrual age should consider themselves “pre-pregnant” and treat their bodies accordingly—by quitting smoking and taking folic-acid supplements and the like—whether or not they intend to get pregnant.

With all the scary headlines on women-oriented blogs like Feministing and Broadsheet lately, it’s hard to believe free-thinking people are safe from other people’s religious values anywhere—even in progressive California. And, as Chrisanne Beckner discovered in this week’s cover story, “Birth control battle,” even Californians have some cause for concern.