You know what people love? Birth control! That’s why today’s World Contraception Day, the annual commemoration of the power and benefits of contraception, is reason to unite. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or who represents your legislative district, people agree that contraception is non-controversial, essential healthcare. And as the backlash from Supreme Court overreach continues, there has been a concerted, political effort to realign with the middle and prioritize good ideas.
A recent poll of Republican primary voters conducted by Remington Research Group affirmed what we already knew: regardless of ideology or political party, support for birth control runs deep and wide. Seventy-four percent of Republican voters said all people should have access to birth control and 52% said the state constitution should be amended to prohibit the state from interfering with the right to contraception, which includes 38% of “very conservative” ideology.
Another poll conducted by The Right Time initiative found 72% of respondents – including 74% of Republicans, 85% of Democrats, and 87% of Independents – believe the state legislature should enact laws making birth control more affordable and accessible. But half of respondents – including 44% of Republicans and 48% of Independents – are concerned legislators are going to roll back access to contraception.
Those who scoff, saying threats to contraception are just a “leftist talking point bogeyman” must have short or selective memories. Just two years ago, the legislature put the entire state budget and all of its operations on the line in an attempt to eliminate IUDs and emergency contraception from the state Medicaid program. Thereafter, one member of the legislature explicitly declared only some methods of birth control should be allowable, warning that when it comes to rollbacks, “anything’s on the table.”
And just because no legislator has filed any legislation to outlaw contraception yet, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, especially given the fact that the federal reimbursement allowance (FRA) fiasco of 2021 came in the form of a late-night amendment, not a standalone piece of legislation. With the grandstanding and political theatrics to come, there’s no telling what some may try in order to set themselves apart, even if from the reasonable.
The threat isn’t imagined. It’s real.
And the U.S. Supreme Court, by way of Justice Thomas, expressly invited it.
However, on the ground, birth control is universally revered. Ninety-nine percent of people who can become pregnant will use some form of contraception during their reproductive lives – 99%. And they do so for thirty years, in order to have only two children. It’s safer than Tylenol and allows people to decide if, when, and under which circumstances to parent. It’s basically a prescription for freedom.
That’s precisely why almost identical amounts of Missourians as those who want the legislature to increase access to contraception also believe policymakers who oppose abortion should support greater access to birth control, including 75% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats, and 68% of Independents.
Thankfully, there are effective policy solutions that are low-hanging fruits not only to satisfy constituent demand, but also to reduce regulatory barriers and costs. Next year, Missouri is positioned to become the 27th state to pass annual-supply birth control legislation, requiring insurance companies already covering contraception to allow people to access a yearlong supply at a time – following a long line of states, both red and blue, most recently including Montana and Texas. Repeat: Texas. Additionally, Missouri could become the 28th state to grant pharmacists prescribing authority of self-administered birth control, a regulatory-reduction strategy that also promotes limited government. Finally, Missouri can also become the 22nd state to require emergency rooms to provide information about emergency contraception to survivors of domestic and sexual violence or human trafficking – a compassionate no-brainer that could prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Birth control has been a unifying issue for longer than many may know. The federal Title X (ten) family planning program our agency administers was created not by a Democrat, but under the Nixon administration. Recently, even Senator Josh Hawley made clear he supports increased access to contraception. And with the federal Right to Contraception Act, he might just have a chance to walk that talk.
While, in the wake of Dobbs, the need to change the policy landscape underlying contraceptive access has gotten deadly serious in Missouri, organizations like Missouri Family Health Council will continue administering high-quality, patient-centered contraceptive services throughout the state and collaborating with policymakers to increase access. We encourage you to join us.
To the candidates running for office in 2024, especially those who wish to distinguish themselves from the fringe, consider this some free campaign advice: birth control is always a winning issue.
Hagseth is the Director of Policy and External Affairs for Missouri Family Health Council Inc., which administers the Title X and The Right Time family planning programs, and provides funding, training and advocacy to over 65 reproductive health clinics across the state.