"...The country is deeply divided on abortion, but not on contraception; the vast majority of American women have used it, and access hasn’t been a front-burner political issue since the Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965.
But then Rick Santorum said states ought to have the right to outlaw the sale of contraception.
...And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops teed off on President Barack Obama’s contraception policy.
And House Republicans invited a panel of five men — and no women — to debate the issue.
...Republicans are beginning to insert the religious freedom argument into some Senate races, particularly those where at least one candidate is a woman...
...Democratic strategist Celinda Lake says it’s enough to “really irritate” independent suburban moms and “re-engage” young, single women who haven’t tuned into the campaign so far.
...“I feel like the world is spinning backwards,” said former Rep. Patricia Schroeder, who has often related the troubles she has as a young married law student getting her birth control prescriptions filled in the early 1960s. “If you had told me when I was in law school that this would be a debate in 2012, I would have thought you were nuts … And everyone I talk to thinks so, too.”
Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, also sees the chance of a huge female backlash if the Republicans overreach.
...How it plays out between now and November may depend on how long the debate lasts — and whether the contraception-access or religious-freedom frame prevails.
...“That’s about as fundamentally American as any principle I’m aware of,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters this week. Blunt is sponsoring legislation that would allow any employer to refuse to cover any health benefit on moral grounds — not just birth control or abortion, and not just employers like a school or hospital that have a formal religious affiliation.
...Many states require contraceptive coverage as a benefit, and federal employees plans have included it since 1998.
...four out five large employers covered birth control in 2010, and nearly two out of three smaller businesses did.
...The trend toward greater birth control coverage for women was also given a jolt after Viagra became widely available and covered under health plans in the late 1990s. Women demanded pill parity.
...several recent opinion polls found considerable support, even among Catholics, for Obama’s policy to require employers to cover contraceptives as a preventive health care benefit while allowing exemptions for religious employers.
...many people pay, directly or through tax dollars, for policies they disagree with.
Public programs like Medicaid finance contraception, as do federally funded clinics.
Federal tax breaks go to all qualified employee health plans, no matter what women’s health provisions they include.
And people pay for all sorts of policies they disagree with, whether it’s a war or an environmental regulation.