skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Roundtable: Battle Over Birth Control

Evening Edition

Andrew Donohue, editor, and Alisa Joyce Barba, senior editor at Fronteras, talk with Joanne Faryon about the battle over contraception.

Aired 3/9/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests: Katie Orr, KPBS News Metro Reporter

Andrew Donohue, Editor,

Alisa Joyce Barba, Senior Editor, Fronteras Changing America Desk


San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa stirred up a hornet's nest when, as chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, he scheduled a hearing on the federal healthcare mandate that all employers offer contraception with no copay.

Issa’s panel on whether the mandate infringed on religious employers' faith was made up of all men.

But the debate went a step further when Rush Limbaugh attacked a Georgetown University law student who wanted to testify on the panel.

While opposition to the birth control mandate was expected, Limbaugh “took it to a whole different level,” Alisa Joyce Barba, senior editor at Fronteras Changing America Desk, told KPBS Television’s “Evening Edition.”

“What has been interesting is the Republican campaigners for the Republican nomination for president haven’t denounced him,” she said. “They basically didn’t like the way he put it, but they went along with him for criticizing her for her so-called sexual promiscuity. I think that has been very shocking to a lot of women.”

“The idea that by practicing birth control, that you’re suddenly a slut or a whore, or sexually promiscuous, does not track for most American women,” she added. “I think there’s a shock factor that she’s being attacked and that people are not coming down on Rush Limbaugh like a ton of bricks.”

Andrew Donohue, editor of, said the people controlling discussions about birth control are all men. He added that the Republican presidential candidates’ support for Limbaugh is telling.

“It really shows you how socially conservative the Republican party is right now,” he said. “And how much that’s actually driving the Republican presidential race. It was shocking to me that we were talking about these social issues a lot of people thought we’d moved past.”

Barba added that women in her generation and the younger generation take these issues for granted.

“I think what’s going on right now is a fabulous wakeup call,” she said. “If somebody like Rick Santorum becomes president and begins to restrict access to birth control, which is very possible in this world, I think you’ll see a lot more women in the streets.”

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'DG'

DG | March 9, 2012 at 1:07 p.m. ― 5 years ago

I just finished listening to the contraception talk and was a bit taken aback that no-one brought up the issue of medical decisions being made for individuals by their employers. (My boss is not my doctor!) Standard medical practices should be set by medical professionals and medical choices should be made by individuals. How are these principles getting lost in this discussion? If the government supplies funds for &/or regulates medical insurance practices, its actions should be based on standard medical best practices and current law. What if I worked for an organization that believed people should avoid doctors altogether and pray their way back to health? There are institutions in this country that support that position. Should their employees therefore be denied medical insurance and care?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | March 9, 2012 at 1:41 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Thanks, DG. Valid point. Sometimes we can't get to everything. What was most interesting to me sitting in the booth is that we got maybe a dozen calls, only one of which was a woman. Most of the men calling concentrated on the issue of religious freedom.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Studying_Nomad'

Studying_Nomad | March 9, 2012 at 2:09 p.m. ― 5 years ago

I felt short changed with this conversation today. I understand the conflict of religious freedom, but where do we draw the line? Could I be the owner of any company/shareholder of a corporation and claim a religious conflict in providing certain types of health care to employees? What about hospitals that have religious backing? How do we avoid this argument becoming a loop-hole to avoid providing coverage to employees?
Do people realize that birth control is used for more than family planning? I remember a girl from school that had some kind of ovary condition that she took birth control for. If a woman is looking to be sexually active with multiple partners (RL’s perception) then birth control wouldn’t make much sense, considering it does not keep one safe from STDs.
It is interesting that Viagra never caused so much controversy in its automatic coverage by insurance providers.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | March 9, 2012 at 2:25 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Studying_Nomad: All good questions, more than can be handled in an 18-minute segment on the Roundtable. If the controversy keeps going or changes in some way, we'll continue to devote more time to it on Midday Edition.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 10, 2012 at 6 p.m. ― 5 years ago

**This has nothing to do with "religious freedom".**


Churches that exist in our country must adhere to our government's laws and policies, **not** the other way around.

If churches don't like the policies of our government, they have the **freedom** not to take money from our government.

End of Story.

Can we get back to talking about the future of our planet now?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'etri'

etri | March 10, 2012 at 9:13 p.m. ― 5 years ago

@Peking_Duck_SD: Very well said. Agree 100%.
It is shocking how a nation wastes their time on things like this when the NEAR future of the whole human race is in danger due to huge environmental problems

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Nechuma'

Nechuma | March 11, 2012 at 7:43 p.m. ― 5 years ago

It is discouraging to a baby boomer woman like me to hear Republican nominees to call the matter of contraception a religious freedom concern. Rush Limbaugh has brought a new low vulgarity to the debate by calling a woman a slut who wanted to comment on the right of women to have access to contraception an individual right.

The matter of men having drugs to combat erectile dysfunction routinely covered by all medical insurance is not brought up. Republican conservatives and the Catholic church should continue their own reasoning and pronounce the erectile dysfunction drugs can only be covered to produce children. The only way to insure this is to monitor all sexual intercourse events and make sure the end result is a child. Otherwise these drugs should be paid out of pocket by the user, just like contraception.

Of course these "wonder" drugs for men are a top money maker for drug companies.

The ugly head of sexism rises again.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Phredup'

Phredup | March 13, 2012 at 9:04 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Ms. Barba complains that none of the Republican Candidates have denounced Rush Limbaugh for his comments, yet I have not heard President Obama or any member of the Democratic Party denounce Bill Maher for his regular attacks on the Catholic Church. After all Maher is a major contributer to the Democratic Party and to the Super PACs. Both Maher and Limbaugh are entertainers/commentators where is the ourtrage on the Democratic side of the asile?

Also, in this discussion Ms. Barba made the statement that Rick Santorum advocates the Rhythm Method for birth control. Does she have any proof for that? Yes, I beleive he does promote Natural Family Planning, but this is not the Rhythm Method.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Alisa Barba'

Alisa Barba | March 13, 2012 at 12:24 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Thanks so much for your comment. Your observation that Bill Maher doesn't receive condemnation from the Democrats is well-noted.

As for your comment on whether Rick Santorum advocates the Rhythm Method or Natural Family Planning, my understanding is that he is an advocate of birth control methods approved by the Catholic Church. Natural Family Planning involves avoiding sexual intercourse during times of fertility and that is synonymous with the Rhythm Method. The Rhythm Method is one form of Natural Family Planning. That's my understanding.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Phredup'

Phredup | March 13, 2012 at 3:39 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Ms Barba: I would suggest that no professional in the appropriate health field would consider the rhythm method as synonymous with NFP. That is like suggesting the use if ether is synonymous with modern anesthesia techniques. That is why it is not good to make general statements about particular issues.

You acknowledge that the rhythm method is one form of NFP therefore it is not synonymous with it

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 14, 2012 at 10:14 a.m. ― 5 years ago

@STUDYING-NOMAD, AND Depo shots prevent women from taking certain medication as well. So it goes BOTH WAYS.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 14, 2012 at 10:19 a.m. ― 5 years ago

@PHREDUP, actually the current THENATION.COM has an articile critical of Bill Maher--although it criticizes Maher for saying that as despicable as it was, LIMBO has a a right to voice such labels.

I think Maher is just smart enough to understand that only other way, he would be called a hypocrite. Anyway, both men have a ton of baggage and I personally dismiss both of them.

( | suggest removal )