Access to Plan B and IVF under threat by anti-abortion rightwing
When the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion in the U.S. this summer, some people warned the right to contraception would be next on the chopping block. In the intervening months, we have seen proof that the rhetoric around contraceptives from the right is increasingly hostile, while in some places it is becoming harder to access.
The University of Idaho sent an email to employees last month advising them not to “promote” abortion or dispense emergency birth control, like Plan B, to students.
“University of Idaho is committed to operating within the confines of laws of the state of Idaho which restrict expenditures of funds and activities of university employees in the areas of abortion and contraception,” the memo said. The applicable law, called the “No Public Funds for Abortion Act,” was signed into law last year.
However, the bill does not ban the distribution of emergency contraception—that appears to be the university’s own interpretation. The bill additionally says nothing about condoms, but the memo sent to employees states that condoms may only be given out to prevent STDs, not to prevent pregnancy.
Failure to comply with the law, according to the university, could result in misdemeanor or felony prosecution, as well as “mandatory loss of state employment.”
The email has left students and staff in confusion about what they are and are not allowed to do or talk about on campus:
In the weeks since the memo was sent out, the student club dedicated to sexual and reproductive health has debated whether or not they needed to use a Sharpie to cross out the words “to prevent pregnancy” on the condoms they hand out on campus every Friday. Campus groups that would normally turn out for rallies in support of abortion rights in Moscow were suddenly cowed by the idea that they might get their faculty sponsor in trouble. Sara Zaske, an organizer with the local chapter of Bans Off Our Bodies, says the clubs she usually partners with for demonstrations “told me they were not allowed to speak about abortion or contraception” in the wake of the memo.
“We don’t know what we can talk about. That’s the biggest issue right now,” says student Martha Smith. “People are pretty much radio-silent about it. I have a friend who is writing a paper about Roe v. Wade. Now the professor is apprehensive to even grade it. Here we are six weeks into the 12-week semester.”
The Republican candidate for Michigan’s attorney general, Matthew DePerno, said he’d “figure out how to ban” Plan B if he wins the election.
DePerno is a former Trump 2020 campaign lawyer who is under investigation by a special prosecutor for allegedly illegally accessing voting machine equipment in an attempt to find evidence of voter fraud. He is challenging pro-choice Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel.
In a secret recording obtained by Heartland Signal, an undercover activist asked DePerno about banning the emergency contraception medication known as Plan B. “What’s Plan B?” DePerno asked, before being informed it is the morning-after pill. He then compared it to fentanyl and
“You’ve got to figure out how to ban the pill from the state… You have to stop it at the border. It would be no different than fentanyl,” DePerno said. “The state has to ban it, and it should be banned. But it’s just an issue of how do you enforce it. How do you make sure that it stops? That’s your problem.”
When asked about his comments, DePerno claimed that he is not opposed to contraceptives because, he incorrectly said, Plan B is not a contraceptive.
“Life begins at conception, and is the Plan B pill being used at that time as a contraceptive or is it being used to terminate a pregnancy?” DePerno said. “That’s the kind of conversation we were having. I think that’s a difficult question to answer.”
But Dr. Elena Oatey, an OBGYN with Central Michigan University Medical Education Partners, said it’s not difficult at all.
“No, even if you believe life begins at conception, it’s not going to terminate a pregnancy,” Oatey said. “You know, that’s how the people opposed to Plan B market it that way but it’s really not. If you use it as appropriate, you’re using it as contraception.”
- Related reading: “Matt DePerno Sought to Foreclose on His Clients’ Property. Now He Wants to Be Michigan’s Top Lawyer,” Mother Jones.
The Republican nominee for New Hampshire’s Senate seat criticized in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and signaled that he will limit the procedure if he is elected.
Candidate Don Bolduc, running to unseat Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), is a retired Army brigadier general who supports Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. In May 2021, Bolduc was one of 124 retired military leaders who signed an open letter declaring that the presidential election was “rigged” in Biden’s favor.
“Under a Democrat Congress and the Current Administration,” they wrote, “our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government which must be countered now by electing congressional and presidential candidates who will always act to defend our Constitutional Republic.”
Like DePerno, Bolduc was also secretly recorded by a Democratic activist saying that the disposal of embryos at fertility clinics that perform IVF is “a pretty disgusting practice” that is in “the same ballpark” as abortions, which he has advocated banning at a national level.
During IVF, doctors combine eggs with sperm in a laboratory dish outside of the body. It is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology according to the Mayo Clinic and is important to people experiencing fertility problems. Not all leftover embryos are discarded, either; some are donated to other couples or to science.
Bolduc is an outspoken opponent of abortion, even going as far as saying that the decision to legalize or ban the procedure “belongs” to “gentlemen” in the state legislature, not to women who live with the consequences.
At a Wednesday night town hall in Auburn, Bolduc said, “It belongs to the state. It belongs to these gentlemen right here, who are state legislators representing you. That is the best way I think, as a man, that women get the best voice. At the state level, not at the federal level. It’s really Senator Hassan that doesn’t understand this.” He added that Sen. Maggie Hassan, the state’s incumbent democratic senator, “needs to get on board with the Supreme Court decision” to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Reminder: During her confirmation hearing, Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer questions about whether IVF should be criminalized.