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The 1990s Roots of the Contraception Battle

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In January 1998, in the run-up to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton held a meeting in the Map Room of the White House with leaders of women’s groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to the National Women’s Law Center. The meeting took place in the aftermath of the painful and polarizing debate on late-term abortion—a debate in which conservatives capitalized on a seemingly extreme abortion position in order to bludgeon progressive leaders. In that meeting (I was there, as a staffer for the First Lady), Clinton pushed the groups to develop a proactive agenda around women’s health, one that would shift the debate away from a rarely used procedure and back toward the reproductive health needs of women. And if that debate took place in a way that demonstrated the extremes of the anti-choice position—so be it. Over the course of the discussion, Clinton and the leaders in the room hit on the issue of contraception: specifically, promoting contraceptive coverage in health care plans.

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This article was originally published in The New Republic.

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