Birth Control Issue Blurred

The commentary by Grace Sparks (Back Page, Feb. 19), reaffirmed a point illustrated in my Style interview ("Party of One," Feb. 12).

The 2003 session of the General Assembly has illustrated that women's reproductive rights are a growing target in Virginia. Much press has been given to the unprecedented amount of anti-abortion legislation passing both the House and Senate this year, but of equal or greater concern is the beginning of an assault on a woman's ability to even plan when to have a family.

Many of our state political leaders are either 1) confused about the difference between contraception and abortion, or 2) fully cognizant of the difference, but intent on eliminating both. The first step in the plan to eradicate birth control seems to be the blurring of the distinction between abortion and contraception.

Even colleagues in my own party are doing so, as Sen. Phillip Puckett demonstrated in Style when he responded to my legislation promoting a wider availability of emergency contraception (HJ 611) by saying, "I'm pro-life." In fact, greater access to prevention would reduce the rate of abortion that so many of the gentlemen — and a very few of the gentlewomen — of the General Assembly are concerned about.

For the third year in a row, I introduced legislation to address the wider availability of emergency contraceptive pills to prevent unintended pregnancies. Emergency contraception pills, often called "morning after" pills, are ordinary birth control pills that can prevent a pregnancy after sex. They are contraceptive, not abortifacient, because they act before implantation of the egg in uterus. But this year again, those definitions have been ignored, and the tide of anti-abortion sentiment swept even simple reproductive rights issues into committees to be squelched by intended inaction.

Regardless of where one stands in the abortion debate, family planning is a different issue. Please start paying attention to what your legislator is saying about birth control.

Viola O. Baskerville

Delegate, 71st District


In a story about state Secretary of Technology George Newstrom ("High Wire," Jan. 29), we incorrectly reported that it was not yet possible to search for DMV personalized plates online.

In a calendar listing ("Night & Day, Feb. 12), we should have attributed an award won by bluegrass musician James King to the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music. Style regrets the errors.



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