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Birth control issues roll around the globe

Bryan Edwards

The issue of birth control takes on many facets. Some people argue that any form of birth control is wrong, others that abortion is wrong, others that abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances and yet others that (subject only to limited constraints on the nature and timing of abortion) it should be freely available. Pharmaceutical technology has reached the point where the line between prevention of pregnancy and abortion are blurred. There are psychological, societal, medical, philosophical and, of course, religious dimensions to most of the debates where the word "rights" is bandied about by everyone with an opinion to express.

It might be the land of the free, but the USA is about as far as it gets from freedom when it comes to sexual health, wellbeing and issues relating to pregnancy.

For example, yesterday, in a US Federal Court, in the case of State of California, et al v. Alex Azar, II, et al, nineteen groups filed "amicus briefs" supporting the State of California's challenge to a decision in October last year by, as California's Attorney-General Xavier Becarra calls it, the Trump-Pence Administration "issued its illegal birth control rules on 6 October, 2017, and made them effective immediately without any transparency or input from the public. The rules allowed virtually any employer to deny women the cost-free birth control guaranteed by the ACA."

The ACA, in this context, is the Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare. (sic) which has been a frequent target for Trump's ire and determination to expunge Obama's legacy. Becarra obtained, in December 2017 in that case, a preliminary injunction on the basis that the Federal Government "failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act, which all federal agencies must abide by when issuing rules."

The debate as framed draws battle lines between various groups but the broadly fall into two camps: those who advocate a full range of birth control measures including abortion on demand and those who argue that all birth control (including in some cases abstention) is fundamentally wrong and that abortion is murder.

Fifteen states have supported California. They are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington and the District of Columbia (which is not a state despite frequent efforts by some to make it so).

The so-called bible-belt states are notable by their absence - and so is New York.

This being America, pressure groups are out in force ranging from the anti-almost-everything American Civil Liberties Union to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a raft of "reproductive justice groups." of far more importance (but obviously with, in some ways, a vested financial interest) are medical groups including "American Nurses Association, American Academy of Nursing, American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Health, American Academy of Paediatrics, California Medical Association."