Jessica Valenti

Republicans Won’t Stop at Abortion

Eventually, they’ll go after birth control, too

Louisiana became the latest state to pass a near-total ban on abortion this week, joining the cascade of state-level legislation that seeks to criminalize the procedure and challenge Roe v. Wade. As extreme as these laws are, they’re just the beginning.

As abortion rights are chipped away, anti-abortion activists and legislators will start to target the morning-after pill and IUDs; even birth control pills will be at risk. Contraception will once again be up for debate, access to it eroded with the same methodical approach the GOP took with abortion.

This isn’t catastrophic thinking or, as women have been told for so long, an overreaction. It’s simply a clear-eyed understanding of the groundwork conservatives have been establishing for years — namely, claiming that the most popular forms of birth control are actually abortifacients.

In 2014, for example, arts store behemoth Hobby Lobby went to the Supreme Court because it didn’t want to cover employees’ birth control — in part because the company’s religious founder believed certain contraception causes abortions. At the time, major mainstream anti-abortion organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life supported Hobby Lobby and this false claim. The Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor — a huge win for the anti-abortion movement.

In 2015, Republican lawmakers tried to hold up a wildly successful program in Colorado that provided free IUDs because they claimed the device caused abortions.

Any talk of “compromise” on abortion isn’t based in reality; the end game is far more radical than most Americans understand.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that the morning-after pill and IUDs “kill embryos,” as has the Heritage Foundation. And the March for Life Education and Defense Fund — the organization that runs the nation’s biggest anti-abortion protest — has argued that the birth control pill and vaginal contraceptive rings are abortifacients.

If abortion is illegal, and birth control is classified as abortion, what do you think happens next? Their agenda is hiding in plain sight. This is why any talk of “compromise” on abortion isn’t based in reality; the end game is far more radical than most Americans understand.

Just this week, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas likened birth control to eugenics, and the State Department established a new commission that it says “will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law.” We should be very concerned about what this administration believes constitutes “natural law” as it pertains to women.

The truth is that conservative interest in women’s reproductive rights has never been about curbing unwanted pregnancies or “life,” but a return to traditional gender roles, and a time when women had no choice about if and when they got pregnant.

For years, feminists have issued warnings about this kind of future, urging Americans to connect the dots. We were called hysterical when we said anti-abortion legislation would lead to jailing women; now the idea of punishing women who end their pregnancies has become a given. Pro-choice activists warned that the slow erosion of abortion rights across the states would mean an end to access with or without Roe, and that prediction, too, has proven true.

So please, believe us when we say: You are not nearly worried enough.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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