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For some in GOP, contraception restrictions aren’t off the table

For many years, contraception simply wasn’t a major political issue in the United States. There are plenty of reasons to believe that may soon change.


It was around this time 10 years ago when Republicans targeted the Affordable Care Act in an unexpected way. The Democrats’ landmark health care reform package expanded access to contraception, and as regular readers may recall, a surprising number of GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill had a problem with that.

In fact, in March 2012, the Senate narrowly defeated a proposal, known as the Blunt Amendment, intended to allow all U.S. employers to deny contraception coverage to employees as part of the businesses’ health plans.

A decade later, the issue is back with a vengeance.

After Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling leaked last week, it quickly became clear that Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court were likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. The initial focus, naturally, focused on the expected demise of American women’s constitutional right to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

But it wasn’t long before many, including President Joe Biden, started wondering aloud about related effects. If, for example, the right to privacy upon which much of Roe was based no longer exists, what’s to come of marriage equality? And court rulings protecting interracial marriages? And access to birth control?

It was against this backdrop that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves faced some good questions yesterday. The Washington Post reported:

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Sunday refused to rule out the possibility that his state would ban certain forms of contraception, sidestepping questions about what would happen next if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

The Republican governor specifically told CNN’s Jake Tapper that limiting access to contraceptives isn’t what Mississippi policymakers are focused on “at this time.”

Also yesterday, the Mississippi governor talked to NBC News’ Chuck Todd, and the “Meet the Press” host further pressed Reeves on the issue. Todd asked, “You’ve just said that you believe life begins at conception. If there is legislation brought to you to ban contraception, would you sign it?” The governor replied, “Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen in Mississippi.”

The problem for proponents of reproductive health, of course, is that these evasive answers left open the possibility that GOP officials in Mississippi might very well focus on contraception access in the not-too-distant future. The governor could’ve taken the issue off the table, but Reeves didn’t — and by all appearances, he didn’t want to.

The Magnolia State is hardly the only state where this is an issue:

  • Republican legislators in Louisiana are working on an abortion ban that would “arguably criminalize in vitro fertilization and forms of birth control.”
  • Republican legislators in Idaho are currently weighing new restrictions on some forms of contraception.
  • Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee recently denounced Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 case that struck down a state law that restricted married couples’ access to birth control.
  • Each of the Republican candidates running for state attorney general in Michigan also denounced the Griswold precedent.
  • Blake Masters, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, not only denounced the Griswold precedent, he’s told voters that he’ll only vote to confirm judges who agree with him.

For many years, contraception simply wasn’t a major political issue in the United States. There are plenty of reasons to believe that may soon change.