By Hilary White

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2006 ( – In 2005, 19 women members of Congress pressed US President George Bush on his support for abstinence education, saying that this indicated opposition to contraception and was evidence of a right wing conspiracy against women’s “reproductive rights”. At the time the women wrote a letter to BushÂdemanding to know ifÂhe supported birth control.

One year and four letters later, John O. Agwunobi, Bush’s Assistant Secretary for Health, responded to their inquiry.

“The President has asked that I respond on his behalf,” he began, stating that“This Administration supports the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception.”

Democrat Congressman, Carolyn Maloney, one of the 19 women who originally demanded that Bush clarify his position on birth control, welcomed theÂstatement as Bush asserting his sweepingÂsupport for birth control. “The 98 percent of sexually-active American women who have used contraception will be pleased to know that the president apparently supports birth control,” said Maloney. “Now that he has answered, he should be held to his word.”

In a letter to Bush, responding to Agwunobi, she complained that “the right to contraception is under attack by some pharmacists who have recently refused to fill valid and legal prescriptions for birth control pills and other contraceptives.” She also criticized the FDA’s decision not to allow so-called emergency contraception to be distributed over-the-counter, as well as the removal of “emergency contraception” from a government document detailing how to treat sexual assault survivors.Â

“Although you say you support access to birth control for responsible adults, I am concerned that your administration’s seemingly politically-driven policies are impeding access for this very group in a number of ways,” she wrote, calling on President Bush to ensure the wide availability of emergency contraception.

Maloney, however, apparently missed the vital nuance of Agwunobi’s statement, which only expressed the administration’s supportÂfor “safe and effective products” which “prevent” or “delay” conception.ÂBesides the fact that Bush assiduously avoided using the term “birth control”, Maloney overlooked the fact that so-called “emergency contraception” is also aÂknown abortifacient, often preventing the implanation of an embryo after conception has already occurred, causing the death of the child;Âemergency contraception, therefore, would not qualify as a product which “prevents” or “delays” conception.Â
  In the official letter Agwunobi made a point of adding that, “Additionally, this Administration strongly supports teaching abstinence to young people as the only 100 percent effective means of preventing pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”

Yesterday, Yahoo/AFP news ran a story on the complaints of feminists and other liberal groups who see in Bush’s emphasis on abstinence education a “war on contraception.” They have also cited the introduction of protection of conscience laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to sell abortifacient drugs on religious grounds and the Food and Drug Administration’s decision not to allow the morning after pill to be dispensed without a doctor’s prescription.
  Senator Hillary Clinton, speaking at a June 13 meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said, “Here at home we know it’s not just ‘choice’ that is under attack, it’s contraception which is under attack.”
“We also have to understand that there is a broader agenda at work and it is aimed right at family planning and contraception,” Clinton said.