You’ve read the headlines and seen the TikToks, but will the likely fall of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling really lead to attacks on our birth control, too?
In the coming days, the Supreme Court will rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most significant abortion rights case in nearly 50 years ago (more on that here). Roe v. Wade will likely be overturned, leading to abortion becoming illegal in approximately 26 states—some immediately and some within the coming months. This is a bellwether for what the future of emergency contraception and even birth control access could look like: available only to those in certain zip codes with the means, resources, and information to access it and out of reach for those most vulnerable.
We’re here to tell you what’s up and what to do to protect your access to birth control.
How it Could Happen
Emergency Contraception Access on the Line
There’s been a concerted effort for years to conflate emergency contraception (EC) and medication abortion with some success. After Tennessee passed a law banning medication abortion, a disinformation social media campaign led to people (incorrectly) concluding that emergency contraception was illegal, which simply isn’t true.
Lawmakers are already taking steps to limit emergency contraception, creating legislative barriers that increase stigma and make it harder to access. Pharmacists in six states are explicitly allowed to refuse to dispense EC based on their personal religious and moral beliefs. And while some EC is available over the counter—aka without a prescription—it’s located behind the pharmacy counter, making it more challenging for patients to access.
IUDs on the Chopping Block
Some lawmakers are making moves to define life at fertilization, which could create a gray area for certain types of birth control, including IUDs. States like Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas are considering such bills and a Louisiana legislator recently went viral for saying that IUDs are an abortifacient (which they are not).
Weakening the ACA Mandate
While the ACA contraceptive mandate has helped increase access to birth control, concerted efforts to weaken it are already underway both nationally and in more conservative legislatures across the country. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of corporations opting out of the ACA’s birth control mandate and efforts during the Trump Administration significantly weakened the contraceptive mandate, making it easier for employers to deny coverage to their employees—a move that could result in loss of coverage for 126,000 people. In fact,20 states and DC already allow certain employers and insurers to refuse to comply with the contraceptive coverage mandate.
Just last year, Missouri introduced a bill that would have banned coverage of certain contraceptive options for Medicaid patients. Putting contraceptive options for women and people who menstruate in the hands of politicians is a slippery slope. It dangerously mirrors the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits public funding for abortion, putting it out of reach for anyone on Medicaid (among other government-funded health insurance programs).
What You Can Do
Access to contraception is more important than ever and will be even more essential as anti-abortion groups shift their focus to restricting birth control.
Here’s how to protect your access to care:
Don’t Be Bullied: If you run into trouble getting your birth control, you can file an appeal with your insurance provider. If you think you’re incorrectly required to pay out-of-pocket for your birth control, you can contact the CoverHer Project at the National Women's Law Center.
Call Your Elected Representatives: You can call or write to your senator and congressional representative asking them to protect access to free birth control and sign on to this letter if they haven’t already. You can look up your elected official here.
Vote in every election: State legislatures play a big role in decisions about reproductive health care where you live. Vote in state and local elections, and pay special attention to ballot initiatives that could determine the future of abortion, birth control, or other reproductive health care.
Educate yourself! Our resource hub synthesizes what’s happening and what you can do to protect yourself and support others, including stocking up on emergency contraception and donating to local abortion funds and independent clinics.
Knowledge is power. We must work together to advocate for our human right to basic and necessary reproductive care. Together, we can do this.