The divisive debate over abortion has gained considerable attention recently, with each side engaged in an embittered battle over public awareness. A breakfast meeting organized by the Women Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association was held at Madison’s Monona Terrace Jan. 19, marking the launch of an emergency-contraception campaign supported by a number of prominent elected officials and organizations.
The campaign hopes to raise public consciousness of emergency contraception and make the drug “more readily available to Wisconsin women,” according to Sue Kettner, public relations coordinator of WFPRHA. In addition, there is a toll-free hotline women may call in order to be connected with convenient and prompt access to emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception, namely “the morning-after pill,” is currently available to women. However, many are not aware of its availability.
The ultimate goal of the campaign is to “have this pill available to women in their own medicine cabinets,” according to Wisconsin Women’s Network Vice Chair Sharyn Wisniewski.
In addition, Kettner also points to emergency contraception’s significance to sexually assaulted women and furthermore identifies the drug as “another option and choice when there is a [contraceptive] method failure.”
While those who gathered for the breakfast meeting look optimistically toward the promise of emergency contraception, many others see this campaign as damaging, even downright dangerous.
“Pro-Life Wisconsin believes that this campaign is reckless and absolutely counter-conscious [of health] for today’s young women,” Peggy Hamill, the organization’s state director, asserted.
She added if emergency contraception is produced over-the-counter, “we’ll see an increase in the already out-of-control STD epidemic.”
Instead of viewing emergency contraception as a beneficial tool for rape victims, Hamill identifies the drug as an actual facilitator of sexual assault.
“Putting EC in every woman’s medicine cabinet will only be a green light for perpetrators of rape,” Hamill said.
Moreover, pro-life advocates ominously point to the threats lying beyond the scope of immediacy, which threaten to infect human values.
One such advocate, Sarah Schellinger, a member of the campus organization Students Defending Life, said “emergency contraception is extremely harmful to society.”
“Society pressures women into believing that EC is a ‘quick fix’ for an unwanted pregnancy, but denies them the opportunity to take the time to consider other alternatives,” Schellinger said.
The emergency-contraceptive campaign advocates the inclusion of the drugs among taxpayer-funded drugs such as birth control. However, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s goal is to prevent this from occurring.
Pro-Life Wisconsin plans to counter the emergency-contraceptive campaign by implementing educational projects and “inspiring young people to live chaste lives,” according to Hamill. It is the organization’s goal to “help women of all ages to be productive, healthy citizens within society.”
Conversely, supporters of the emergency-contraceptive campaign see the drug as a way to empower women. State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who attended the Monona Terrace breakfast meeting, regards this issue as a matter of women’s choice.
“I believe in a woman’s right to choose, period,” Taylor said. “People are able to determine for themselves … what their morals are. But your moral beliefs should not dictate someone else’s life.”
WFPRHA plans to employ the use of billboards along with print, television and radio advertisements to promote its cause.