Republicans want you to forget they hate birth control

While the public outcry over abortion access is showing signs of waning in 2024, the Democrats’ sweep of off-year elections, built on that issue, still has plenty of Republicans freaking out. But the GOP’s solution for defusing the abortion issue—pivoting to talk about the party’s support for birth control—could put them in a deeper hole. Republicans’ denials that they want to take away our birth control will remind voters that it is an actual threat, but only because Republicans made it one.

One Senate Republican, J.D. Vance of Ohio, brushes off the recent warning and advice from Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway, lobbyist Susan Hirschmann, and Independent Women’s Voice CEO Heather Higgins to GOP lawmakers on birth control. He told The Daily Beast that there’s really nothing to see here. None of the Republicans he knows are talking about getting rid of that right and he doesn’t think it’s enough of an issue to sway voters.

“I am somewhat skeptical there’s, like, some great political victory to be taken out of that issue,” Vance said.

Vance needs to reconsider, and he could start by looking at the 195 House Republicans who voted against codifying this basic right to privacy—access to birth control—in 2022. The excuse offered by some of those Republicans at the time, including supposed moderate Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, was that it was a fake issue ginned up by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an election year.

“I don’t know any Republican personally who wants to restrict contraception,” Bacon said. But that vote proved that the vast majority of Republicans wouldn’t even confirm they want to protect contraception access with a simple vote.

Just a few months ago, those GOP lawmakers unanimously elected a new speaker who has amassed a long anti-contraception record, equating birth control with abortion.

Speaker Mike Johnson is allied with groups like Students for Life, which deems emergency contraception, birth control pills, and IUDs—in other words, any hormonal method of contraception—as abortifacients. As a lawyer, Johnson represented Louisiana College, a small school now known as Louisiana Christian University, when it successfully sued the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that required employers to provide contraceptive coverage in health care plans. He argued that the school was being forced to provide “so-called ‘emergency contraceptives’” that they claimed “cause early abortions.”  

The House GOP also recently stripped out funding for clinics in the 50-year-old Title X Family Planning Program—the program that provides free and subsidized contraception and health care for millions of low-income Americans—from their appropriations bill for the Health and Human Services Department.

Need more proof that your right to plan your family is in the GOP’s crosshairs? Look no further than the fascist agenda the Heritage Foundation has cooked up for Donald Trump or whichever Republican might occupy the White House in 2025. It’s not just about setting up a dictatorship that will exact revenge on Trump’s enemies: The Project 2025 agenda includes ending universal access to birth control under the ACA, stating that the “contraceptive mandate issued under Obamacare has been the source of years of egregious attacks on many Americans’ religious and moral beliefs.”

Then there’s conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He’s the guy who really kicked this off, writing in his concurring opinion to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned federal abortion protections, that the court should be aiming for Americans’ bedrooms.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote.

That’s, in order: Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 decision that married couples have a right to privacy (including on decisions about contraception); Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision striking down a Texas law banning sexual acts between people of the same sex; and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

For a party that doesn’t want to take effective birth control away, Republicans sure spend a lot of time plotting about how to do it.

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