Birth control is the next right Republicans plan to eliminate
U.S. House debate on a contraception access bill recently fell along party lines, with Democrats arguing it’s necessary to ensure Americans won’t lose another constitutional right at the hands of conservative Supreme Court justices. (Photo: Getty Images)
Many Americans hoped that Roe v. Wade’s reversal and the subsequent criminalization of medical abortion in over half the nation would satisfy the “pro-fetus” extremists driving today’s Republican Party.
Sadly, that is not to be. In Republican-dominated states, lawmakers are already searching for ways to prevent women from obtaining out-of-state abortions. The Thomas More Society, a conservative Catholic legal organization, is drafting model legislation for state lawmakers that would allow a private citizen to sue anyone who helps a resident of a state which has banned abortion from terminating a pregnancy outside of that state.
Medication abortion, which constitutes more than half of all abortions, is under attack as is surgical abortion and Tennessee is among the states seeking to prevent patients from obtaining medications that cause abortions.
Despite federal regulation which allows mailing pills directly to patients, Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill effective Jan. 1, 2023, making the mailing of medical abortion pills illegal and requiring that they be personally dispensed by a medical clinician.
For doctors, the fact that terminating a pregnancy is now considered an illegal act with few exceptions raises serious practical, legal and ethical concerns. These concerns could endanger the lives of their pregnant patients should critical medical care be needed which runs afoul of anti-abortion laws.
Ultimately, outlawing abortion nationwide appears to be the primary goal in a calculated campaign to create a dystopian reality akin to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale where women become wards of the state and maternity is mandatory.
Advancing this Republican agenda to subjugate women includes limiting easy and affordable access to contraceptives. In six red states, pharmacists can legally refuse to fill somebody’s prescriptions — including emergency contraceptives — based on moral or religious objections.
That’s not the case in Tennessee, which has more general medical refusal protections, but Walgreen customers are claiming that they are being denied the ability to purchase birth control and condoms. CVS has a similar policy to Walgreens which allows pharmacists to deny the sale of birth control products.
Amid concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn a decades-old ruling which prohibits states from banning contraceptives, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently passed legislative protections to federally codify the right to contraception. The house voted 228 to 195 to pass the Right to Contraception Act, which would make it a federal right for Americans to obtain and use birth control pills, condoms, IUDs and other contraceptives.
The legislation would also codify health care providers’ rights to provide contraceptives and allow the U.S. Justice Department to take those who infringe on the right to court. All but eight of the 195 House Republicans voted against the bill, including Tennessee’s seven Republican congressmen.
This bill still awaits passage by the U.S. Senate. If Tennessee voters want to see the legislation passed, they can call Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to demand that they vote to protect birth control as a vital part of reproductive health care and basic family planning.
It’s also worth noting that all of Tennessee’s nine congressmen are up for re-election on November 8. This is an opportunity for Tennessee voters to replace them with those who support birth control as essential to preventing unwanted pregnancy.
Of particular interest is 4th Congressional District Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who has been a source of ongoing controversy and embarrassment based on his anti-abortion pronouncements — while privately urging his mistress to have an abortion and his ex-wife to have abortions.
Now more than ever, the protection of reproductive freedom of choice depends on utilizing birth control by whatever means possible; be it vasectomy, tubal ligation, or long-term contraception.
Currently, a nonprofit, grant-funded organization called A Step Ahead is providing free long-acting contraceptives of choice for Middle Tennessee residents at medical clinics in Smyrna, Lebanon, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis.
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