In recent months, Matt DePerno has become one of this year’s more controversial candidates for statewide office. The GOP’s nominee for attorney general in Michigan has been accused of helping orchestrate a clumsy scheme involving voting machine breaches after the 2020 elections.
Despite the fact that the lawyer is facing the prospect of a special prosecutor investigation, Michigan Republicans nominated him anyway.
But DePerno is also considered a provocative candidate because of his platform and political beliefs. The Detroit Free Press reported yesterday on remarks the GOP candidate made in which he seemed to endorse a ban on Plan B contraception.
Heartland Signal, a progressive digital reporting site based out of Chicago, reported earlier Tuesday it had obtained a recording of DePerno at an event in Texas last month. On the tape, DePerno initially seemed confused about the nature of Plan B — also known as the morning-after pill — but then said, “You’ve got to figure out how to ban the pill from the state.”
According to the recording, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, someone at the event asked DePerno how Plan B could be banned. The Republican responded, “You have to stop it at the border. It would be no different than fentanyl.”
Late yesterday, the Michigan candidate did an interview with MLive and confirmed that he doesn’t consider Plan B contraception to be contraception. DePerno added that as far as he’s concerned, the morning-after pill would be banned under Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law — which was recently blocked by a judge from being enforced.
At this point, I could spend a few paragraphs explaining why Plan B contraception really is contraception. I could also take the time to explore how bizarre it is for a state attorney general candidate to equate the morning-after pill with, of all things, fentanyl.
But assuming readers already know this, let’s instead consider the political implications of such rhetoric.
The Michigan Republican’s comments, for example, apparently came to the attention of the White House.
“Another week and another extreme and backwards proposal from Republican officials that will strip women of their rights,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement provided first to the Free Press. “Make no mistake: These proposals from Republican officials expand far beyond a women’s right to choose; there are Republican officials [who] want to ban contraception.”
The claim was hardly outlandish. Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was just a few months ago when Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly condemned the outcome of Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 case that struck down a state law that restricted married couples’ access to birth control. A variety of Republican senators and candidates have also eagerly rejected the Griswold precedent in recent months.
A month after Thomas made his argument in a concurring opinion, a prominent GOP lawmaker in Ohio said she’d consider a contraception ban, and soon after, Mississippi’s Republican governor was asked whether his state might ban certain forms of contraception. He didn’t say no.
Though the bill ultimately died, Republican legislators in Louisiana also explored an abortion ban this year that would’ve criminalized forms of birth control.
It’s against this backdrop that a Trump-backed state attorney general candidate in one of the nation’s biggest battleground states not only compared the morning-after pill to fentanyl, he also talked up the idea of banning Plan B contraception.
Democrats are eager to paint Republicans as radical on social issues, and it’s striking to see some GOP candidates bolster the Democratic claims.