Is birth control next on the anti-abortion hit list? - TAI News
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Birth control pills. (Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition / Unsplash)

As the nation closes in on the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that ended the constitutional right to abortion across the country, reproductive rights advocates say contraception is next on anti-abortion activists’ hit list. 

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers and advocates for reproductive justice, who have been battling Republican lawmakers in the state, so far without success, to codify a right to birth control, point out that opponents of abortion never intended to stop there.  

“I don’t think this was ever only about abortion,” Michelle Velasquez, director of advocacy and services for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin Independent. “When I think of all of these things, and what is encompassed in this right to bodily autonomy, that’s everything. That is birth control, that is [in vitro fertilization]. That is abortion, this full spectrum of reproductive health care, which is really the full spectrum of people’s ability to choose and make decisions for their own lives.”

According to KFF, 90% of women aged 18 to 64 have used birth control during the years they can become pregnant. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Guttmacher Institute published the results of surveys of women between the ages of 18 and 44 conducted beforehand in 2021 and afterward in 2022 in Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Jersey. The institute found that in the first three states, women said they were encountering more barriers to accessing contraception. 

Under the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, now Title X of the Public Health Service Act, which funds low-cost family planning services for those who qualify, adolescents have the right to obtain birth control. Congress amended the program in 1978 to add “a special emphasis on preventing unwanted pregnancies among sexually active adolescents.”

Abortion rights activists say that a lawsuit filed in 2020 by a Texas father named Alexander Deanda is a bellwether case for future legal efforts against birth control and signals a new strategy of advancing the anti-contraception agenda through misleading definitions of its use and parental notification rights.

Deanda v. Becerra argued that Title X violated state law and Deanda’s constitutional right to raise his children. The suit said that Deanda was raising his children according to his religious beliefs, which prioritize abstinence, and that he wanted to be informed if they sought out contraceptives.

In March, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Deanda and said that a Texas law requiring that parental consent be obtained before medical or dental treatment of minors is not preempted by Title X. 

Republican attacks on birth control aren’t just happening in Texas. In 2022, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and 194 of her GOP House colleagues voted against the Right to Contraception Act, which would have protected access to contraception. Every Wisconsin Senate Republican voted against it. The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act was passed by the House in June 2021 by a bipartisan 245 to 181 vote, but it died in the Senate. It was reintroduced in February 2023 by California Democratic state Rep. Julia Brownley. 

When asked about restrictions on birth control on May 21, former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president in November, said, “We’re looking at that, and I’m going to have a policy on that very shortly, and I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting.” Hours later, he posted that he wouldn’t support restrictions on birth control and that he never had supported a ban.

Velasquez said she understands why parents would want to know if their children are using birth control, but that not all minors have the option of discussing it with a parent or guardian

“If their child was, for whatever reason, uncomfortable, unable, scared to have a conversation with their parent in order to get health care, would they still want them to be able to get that health care?” she said. “My thought is that most parents would say, Yes, I would still want my child to get services and to be safe.”

Anti-abortion advocates have also been making a concerted effort to conflate contraception with abortion by redefining birth control, including intrauterine devices or IUDs, as abortifacients, drugs that induce an abortion. 

According to Pro-Life Wisconsin, contraceptives such as Plan B pills, Ortho Evra patches, and Depo-Provera injections are all considered “chemical abortifacients.” 

“That’s an intentional conflation so that parents may think, Oh, well if my child would have an IUD, that is actually them having an abortion, or, If my child uses contraception, that’s an abortion,” she said. “That is a way that the policymakers and lawmakers are creating legislation to restrict the types of birth control people can access.”

Jessica Waters, an assistant professor in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminality at American University, told the Wisconsin Independent that the goal of anti-abortion activists is to undermine access with scare tactics about birth control and the need for parental consent. 

“The information being peddled is medically false. People should be able to make the decisions that are right for them, but they should be able to do so based on accurate medical information,” Waters said. “And these scare tactics — I hope people are paying attention.”

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The Wisconsin Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.