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Birth control pills (Bloomberg News )
February 10, 2012|By Georgia Garvey | RedEye

Imagine something that made it onto so many dinner tables it was just called "the food," or a fashion brand worn so often it was referred to merely as "the clothes."

The idea underscores the far-reaching impact of "the pill," the hormonal birth control drug that's been around for more than 50 years in something very close to its current form. But events during the last two weeks have again put birth control in the national spotlight, embroiling those on all points of the political spectrum in a debate about women's rights, religious freedom and the role of government in health care.

Catholic bishops this week vowed to fight new health care rules going into effect this year that would require hospital and university employers to offer health insurance that would cover birth control 100 percent  --  even if those hospitals and universities are religiously affiliated. The resulting controversy has drawn comments from political candidates, lawmakers and media pundits about whether that rule violates employers' religious freedom.

This comes just days after Susan G. Komen's  decision to defund breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics caused a national debate. Though that flap centered mostly on the abortion debate, Planned Parenthood is a major provider of contraceptive services in the U.S.

Add to that attention from a huge birth control pill recall last week and you have a country seemingly obsessed with the topic.

With contraception under the microscope this month, RedEye unearthed some of the many digits, quotes and factoids surrounding its complex past and future.

Quotes [source: The New York Times]
"This is not a women's rights issue... This is a religious liberty issue." -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire)

"We stand here ready to oppose any attack that is being launched against women's rights and women's health." -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).

"We want to work with all these (religious) organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible." -- White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Poll Position
A poll released Feb. 7 by the Public Religion Research Institute showed attitudes on medical coverage of birth control varies across gender, religious and age lines. Here is a small sampling.

55 percent of people surveyed who said employers should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.

65 percent of people of those 18-29 who said employers' health plans should have to include free birth control, but only 40 percent of those 65 or older agreed with them.

62 percent of women who said employers should have to offer health care plans that cover birth control.

47 percent of men who said employers should have to offer health care plans that cover birth control. | @gcgarvey

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