Women's March protest
Credit: Mobilis in Mobili/Flickr

The Overton Window suggests that there is “a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.” Here is how that is represented graphically:

For years now, when it comes to women’s reproductive health, the window has encompassed a discussion about abortion. Whether or not to allow women more or less freedom on that decision is what has fallen between the “acceptable” range of political discourse.

The first hint that the conversation was beginning to move in the direction of less freedom for women was the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. All of the sudden the lines were blurred between abortion and contraception. As I’ve written before, regardless of where you stand on a woman’s right to chose, a majority of Supreme Court Justices affirmed the anti-science position of the plaintiffs, who suggested that certain forms of birth control were actually abortifacients. The evidence is clear, that is a lie.

Following that decision, those who support women’s reproductive health had to once again begin defending their right to access contraception – a question that had fallen outside the confines of the Overton Window for years.

Now the Trump administration is hiring staff who will further codify the idea that the debate now includes questions about the use of birth control.

The leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services is getting an anti-abortion makeover.

Charmaine Yoest, the former head of Americans United for Life, was named assistant secretary of health and human services in charge of public affairs late last week…And Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee, is said to have been chosen for the post of deputy assistant secretary for population affairs.

Ms. Yoest and Ms. Manning are also dismissive of the proof that improving access to birth control reduces abortions. “It’s really a red herring that the abortion lobby likes to bring up by conflating abortion and birth control,” Ms. Yoest said on PBS in 2011. “Because that would be, frankly, carrying water for the other side to allow them to redefine the issue in that way.”

Ms. Manning has been more direct, twisting the logic about birth control. “In fact, the incidence of contraception use and the incidence of abortion go up hand in hand,” she said on NPR in 2003

In particular, Ms. Manning and Ms. Yoest oppose the use of IUDs, the form of birth control that is most effective at preventing pregnancy, according to the C.D.C. They think IUDs effectively cause abortions, even though that, too, runs contrary to the medical consensus.

When challenged about the anti-science on which her claims are based, Ms. Yoest replies that the scientific establishment is “under the control of the abortion lobby.”

Most of us thought that the battle over birth control was settled a long time ago. But conservatives are pushing back and beginning to challenge that assumption. This is how a lot of us old timers feel about that:

Please don’t tell me that fighting back against these developments is divisive because they are simply “cultural issues” or a matter of “identity politics.” As someone who is here today because of birth control prescribed for non-pregnancy related problems as a teenager, I know exactly what the stakes are in this fight. It is literally a matter of life and death for a lot of us. It is conservatives who have pushed this discussion into the realm of what we should all consider “unthinkable.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.