The Anti-Abortion Movement Targets Birth Control Post-Dobbs

Formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America

Birth Control Memo

The Anti-Abortion Movement Targets Birth Control in a Post-Dobbs America

To: Interested Parties
From: NARAL Pro-Choice America Research Team
Date: June 1, 2023

The anti-abortion movement’s mounting attacks on birth control make clear that its agenda has never been limited to banning abortion care—it wants to rollback access to all the reproductive care people need to decide if, how, and when they want to build their families. Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision calling to reconsider the right to contraception both laid bare and emboldened anti-abortion extremists’ opposition to birth control. Post-Dobbs, anti-abortion activists have recycled tactics from their playbook on abortion to target contraception and justify restrictions: amplifying medical disinformation about contraception, concealing their extreme endgame, and disguising their fearmongering as efforts to “protect women.” It’s undeniable: anti-abortion extremists are coming for contraception.

Disinformation Sets the Stage for Restrictions

The anti-abortion movement fabricates and promotes disinformation about contraceptive care to manufacture a crisis and justify restrictions on birth control. Their plot to build a case against birth control knows no bounds:

  • Anti-abortion activists use cloaked science—ideology masquerading as legitimate scientific research—to manipulate the public with jargon and deceptive studies.
  • They fearmonger about the risks and side effects of contraception—inaccurately claiming that birth control makes people sick and causes blood clotscancerstrokesdepression, and ectopic pregnancies. Pushing a false correlation between contraception and these health issues is the height of hypocrisy—the real threats to people’s health are abortion bans and the chilling impacts they have on the provision of essential care.
  • They falsely assert that “the abortion industry” uses birth control to profiteer in order to undermine public confidence in contraceptive care and the motives of the reproductive freedom movement.
  • They cherry-pick and manipulate data to cast doubt on the efficacy of birth control and misguide the public about its function—baselessly asserting that birth control gives people a “false sense of security” and causes an abortion.

Birth Control Next on the Chopping Block 

Anti-abortion extremists intentionally elevate medical disinformation conflating abortion and contraception in order to lay the groundwork for prohibiting certain birth control methods under abortion bans. In spite of the science proving that emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices (IUDs) prevent ovulation and/or fertilization, anti-abortion activists promote falsehoods alleging that emergency contraceptives and IUDs interfere with implantation and end a pregnancy. Students for Life of America wrongly claims that all hormonal methods of birth control are “abortifacients.”

These tactics are designed to provide grounds for their Republican political allies to ban contraceptives under “personhood” laws. Right-wing legislators have been scheming to lock anti-abortion ideology into law by defining life as beginning at fertilization, as seen in the federal “Life at Conception Act” and in ArkansasSouth CarolinaKentucky, and Texas in this year’s legislative sessions. Conservatives could use these measures not only to outlaw abortion but also—based purely on this disinformation campaign—some forms of birth control.

Republicans are increasingly saying the quiet part loud and letting slip that they are ultimately seeking to ban birth control. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has suggested that he is open to banning contraception and reporting from ProPublica revealed that anti-abortion groups floated “the possibility of regulating contraception and in vitro fertilization” during a discussion with state lawmakers in Tennessee. To mislead the public about their extreme goals, some anti-abortion actors falsely claim that Republicans are committed to expanding birth control access. However, GOP bills at the federal level fail to protect against state laws that attempt to restrict access to contraception and do not explicitly protect emergency contraception. Republicans’ middling initiatives on birth control in Congress and in state legislatures are nothing more than a smokescreen for anti-abortion extremists to profess to champion (cisgender) women’s health

Fake Feminism as a Cover-up

Anti-abortion extremists trump up objections to contraceptive care under the guise of protecting (cisgender) women and their fertility—downplaying their pronatalist extremism and efforts to maintain white, patriarchal power. Their leaders falsely claim that birth control use leads to infertilitydisrupts natural hormone functions, and transmits “synthetic hormones.” They outrageously contend that the provision of contraceptive care is “misogynistic” because of these alleged harms and that people are not given the information they need to make an “informed choice” about birth control. Furthermore, they seek to sow fear about declining birth rates and depopulation. Despite these attempts to feign concern for (cisgender) women’s health and fertility, the anti-abortion movement’s legacy of misogyny and white reproductive nationalism is well-documented.

Anti-abortion extremists also oppose accessible birth control under the false pretense that sexual assailants use it to cover up their abuse. In response to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee’s unanimous vote to recommend OPILL—a birth control pill option—be made available over the counter, anti-abortion groups alleged that birth control “puts the power in the hands of abusers and sex traffickers.” In keeping with anti-abortion activists’ regressive record of claiming that birth control use “tarnishes” people, “Pro-Family Women” stigmatized birth control to promote “abstinence-only” ideals in public testimony during the FDA hearings on the over-the-counter birth control pill application. These are the most recent, but hardly the last, attempts from the anti-abortion movement to push ideological dogma, undermine birth control access, and control people’s reproductive freedom.

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