Abortion is a form of birth control.
If I have to explain the obviousness of that statement, then we both have a problem... and a good explanation of the wild politics of the past week.
Nothing was stranger, and yet more American, than all the men - and it was almost always a man - who said, piously, that the discussion we were having "was not about contraception" as if it were true. It's about freedom of religiion, it's about government coercion, it's about the rights of the Catholic Church...
Most obviously, this debate is all about contraception, and the fact that abortion is a form of contraception.
Lots of people said this "controversy" - and it's not "controversial" when the vast majority of women, Catholics and, in fact, most Americans favor coverage for contraception - started last November, but the seeds of this debate go back to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Remember when they tried to strip provisions to cover abortion out of the bill? That was the warning shot for this. And then, as now, a big problem is the muddle of euphemistic words like "pro-choice" and "women's health" when we discuss contraception, and more pointedly, abortion.
Liberals often seem confused by anti-abortion, pro-life rhetoric; I think part of the mistake is that many of the "reasonable", pro-choice people see two separate issues: a dispute over abortion, that may also extend to contraceptives. The truth, I think, is that many people have it backwards: truly Pro-lifers oppose contraception, birth "control" of any kind. Abortion is just the most extreme example.
Morning after pills, "Plan B", tubal ligation, the pill, IUD... there's scientifically little difference to what these approaches do to prevent pregnancy. And it's problematic to try and separate them, to try and draw some sort of "contraceptive line" where some of these are better/different/more reasonable than others. Yet, that's the "muddy middle" of the pro-choice moderates, the ones who say "safe legal and rare" and genuinely mean that abortion shouldn't really happen all that much. If at all.
There's a tacit agreement among many professional Democrats that abortion politics are in fact too loaded to touch; that while pro-life conservatives are wrong on the specifics, they're right on the emotional impact of opposing abortion and calling it baby killing. It's safer to talk about "women's health" (as if we don't know that the main differential here is... pregnancy), it's safer to try and set artificial distinctions for liberals than to take on the whole stupid, brutal underlying argument: that, at heart, conservative pro-lifers don't want women to exert control over the sexual reproductive process.
This issue - the one where we try, at a very basic level, to do something based on common sense that helps women - is a "loser" for the left because the left is terrified about being seen as favoring infanticide. And basically, my point is, we can't turn this around until liberals are willing to try harder and own it. That is, until someone can stand up and make the basic point that the breadth of contraception, from condoms to abortions, are all on a continuum, all practical and all useful, we're kind of doomed. We wind up wilting the closer conservatives get to calling us baby killers.
In that context, I'm not surprised that the President - and his men - invented a fig leaf of compromise that might, maybe, survive close scrutiny: most women will be able to get coverage for contraception. Those who work for certain charitable organizations will also get coverage, just as a paid add-on absorbed by the insurer.
The real news here, though, is probably that the thin shreds of obfuscation that the euphemisms provide really broke down this week; as with Susan Komen and Planned Parenthood, the real action here was how many women, especially younger professional women, made it clear that the euphemisms were silly and that access to conraception, women's health care, and, yes, abortion, is not up for grabs. Or up for debate. That, in itself, is a big step towards reframing the discussion of women and pregnancy and who decides to be not pregnant, and when. But the problematic math remains: as long as conservatives are more comfortable linking abortion to other methods of contraception, as a way to stop all of them, lefties are in the weaker position. We can't win defending half a position, no matter how artfully we try to word it.