Is emergency contraception at risk?

Is emergency contraception at risk?

On Jun 5, 2024 The Right to Contraception Act was blocked by Senate Republicans for the third time in 3 years. The bill needed 60 votes to pass, and failed in a vote of 51-39. Instead, Republican Senators introduced their own bill, “Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act.” Why? Well, THIS bill does not protect emergency contraception (such as the morning-after pill).

While we believe that the right to comprehensive reproductive healthcare (including abortion) is intrinsically pro-life, it’s important to understand the differences between contraception and abortion. They are not one and the same. Contraception, of any kind, does not end a pregnancy - it prevents pregnancy. 

What is emergency contraception?
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills, (also called the morning-after pill and known by brand name Plan B). The first are pills that contain levonorgestrel like Restart™, Plan B One-Step, My Way, and AfterPill. These pills are available without a prescription online and over-the-counter. The second kind of pill contains ulipristal acetate. This pill, ella, is only available with a prescription. Additionally, the copper IUD can be used as emergency contraception. 

How does emergency contraception work?
Emergency contraception, including the morning-after pill, works to delay ovulation so that there is no egg to fertilize after unprotected sex and can prevent fertilization. When taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it reduces the likelihood of getting pregnant if you are at a place in your cycle where you have not yet ovulated, or an egg has not been released from your ovary. Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy before it starts. 

Recently, social media has been abuzz with the spread of misinformation about birth control. Tik Tokers disguised as hormone specialists and  are claiming that birth control can harm your future fertility, change your body composition, and oh btw it may give you a personality transplant. None of this is true. 

The controversy around contraception didn’t appear out of nowhere. In 2022, after Roe was overturned, the National Women’s Law Center warned us that birth control was at risk. There was already a precedent for making it less accessible. Look at the 2014 Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. The Supreme Court ruled against birth control access and sided with the company who had argued that they didn’t need to provide employees coverage for contraception because IUDs and the morning after-pill actually ended pregnancy. False.

“In the nearly two years since the Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen extreme MAGA Republicans across the country work to roll back health care and tear reproductive freedom away from Americans—which has cruelly put birth control, plan B, IUDs and other forms of contraception under threat,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Members of the GOP have been spreading lies about birth control since before the overturn of Roe. Politicians including Texas Senator, Ted Cruz, have claimed that birth control is “abortion-inducing.” In 2021, Republicans in the Missouri legislature attempted to prevent Medicaid from covering IUDs and the morning-after pill. 

Birth control is the single most important factor in garnering women financial independence and a role in public life. Just last year, the FDA just cleared an over-the-counter birth control pill, available to anyone. Birth control offers a resource for women to choose when they want to be mothers, if ever. With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, this is more important now than ever. If we want to limit abortions, it is only logical to be making contraception more accessible than ever. 

Studies show that access to birth control decreases the odds of intimate partner violence, facilitates higher education and career advancement and improves the lives of children a person already has.” Ninety-nine percent of women in the US will use birth control at some point in their lives. 

Refusing to protect access to contraception does nothing to protect life, so it feels much more about controlling women and their lives. A reminder that this news is coming off the tail end of news that Texas GOP members are open to the death penalty for abortion patients and providers. How very “pro-life” of them.

So will emergency contraceptives be banned?
On Wednesday, Republican Senators issued a statement saying, “There is no threat to access to contraception, which is legal in every state and required by law to be offered at no cost by health insurers, and it's disgusting that Democrats are fear mongering on this important issue to score cheap political points. This bill infringes on the parental rights and religious liberties of some Americans and lets the federal government force religious institutions and schools, even public elementary schools, to offer contraception like condoms to little kids. It's just another way for Democrats to use activist attorneys and our courts to advance their radical agenda and that is why we oppose this bill.” 

To reiterate a fact, for any Senators who need it, the morning-after pill does not cause abortion and cannot terminate an existing pregnancy. 

Once again, the irony is that contraception, including emergency contraception, prevents abortion by stopping unplanned and unwanted pregnancy before it happens. A group that is so adamantly opposed to abortion should be not just protecting, but championing birth control (and sex education) – not banning them. As of today, emergency contraception is still legal and available in all 50 states. You can buy the morning-after pill online, at any drug store, grocery store, or mass retailer. 

The House first passed the Right to Contraception Act in July of 2022. Since then it has failed in the Senate three times. It is still possible to vote on the bill again and pass it! It is also important to note that women in the US have had access to birth control for decades without said access being codified by the government. Just this year, over-the-counter birth control pills made their way onto shelves, nationwide. It is our hope that strides will continue to be made to protect access to all contraceptives for all people.

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