A logical person might think that politicians who oppose abortion rights would want to do as much as they can to prevent unplanned pregnancies that often lead to abortion. A logical person might also assume that those politicians would support, say, access to contraception, which makes pregnancy far less likely.
They would be wrong.
Because when the U.S. House passed a bill last week that would protect access to contraception, just eight Republicans voted in favor of it. None of them were from North Carolina.
The Right to Contraception Act was introduced by Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from North Carolina. It codifies into federal law the right to obtain and use a wide range of contraceptives, including condoms, the birth control pill, emergency contraceptives and IUDs.
The right to contraception was first addressed in 1965 by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, and for decades most Americans have considered it settled law. But when the court chose in June to abandon nearly half a century of precedent in overturning Roe v. Wade, people began to worry that other rights could be in jeopardy, too.
Adding to that worry is the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas signaled in his concurring opinion that the court should reconsider other cases, including Griswold v. Connecticut, that similarly rest on the assumption that our Constitution guarantees a right to privacy.
Republicans have downplayed these concerns, accusing Democrats of playing political games by calling frivolous votes on unnecessary legislation. The right to contraception is safe, they say. It’s not going anywhere. They said the same about abortion, however, and if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that our rights aren’t quite as inalienable as we thought.
It’s hard to pin down the exact reason Republicans voted against the contraception bill, though, because they offered little by way of explanation. Some argued, bizarrely, that the bill was a “Trojan horse for more abortions,” in part because they claim contraceptives like IUDs and Plan B are somehow tantamount to abortion. (They’re not.)
Such a position, of course, could very likely be rooted in religion. The Catholic Church, for example, has historically been both anti-abortion and anti-contraception, believing it prevents the natural creation of new life, while some conservative evangelicals also object to some or all forms of contraception, particularly the morning-after pill and IUDs.
But, as with abortion, a person’s decision to use contraception is theirs and theirs alone. It’s cruel enough to deny a person the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy. It’s even crueler to simultaneously deny them the ability to prevent that pregnancy in the first place.
Abortion is health care, and so is contraception. Some 75% of voters think Congress should codify birth control access, according to a new poll, including 87% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans. That’s an overwhelming consensus, at least outside of Congress.
Keeping contraception accessible and affordable is the simplest way to prevent abortions, even in blue states where abortion remains legal. Millions of unintended pregnancies occur every year, and more than 40% of them result in abortion. Study after study has shown that access to birth control, particularly at free or reduced cost, reduces abortion rates.
Still, those who oppose abortion often argue that people just shouldn’t have sex if they aren’t willing to fully assume the risk of getting pregnant. To them, there only seem to be two options: abstinence and procreation, even as modern medicine has allowed for possibilities that exist outside of that dichotomy. Anti-abortion advocates don’t like it when people liken abortion restrictions to forced birth, but it’s difficult to conclude otherwise when many of them also oppose other measures that give people a choice in the matter.
Of course, this should not be an either/or situation. All reproductive decisions, from birth control to abortion, are a personal matter, and the law should treat them as such. But to be both anti-abortion and anti-contraception is hypocritical. If abortion is the problem, then contraception should be at least part of the solution.
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