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The American right’s deranged war on the Pill

The assault on women's reproductive freedoms is a guaranteed vote-loser.

Ann Furedi

Topics Politics USA

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Ahead of a presidential election later this year, American voters face an unappetising choice. Joe Biden’s Democrats, having fully embraced ‘progressive’, woke politics, are a deeply unattractive option. Yet the Republican alternative is no more appealing. In opposition to the madness of progressivism, Trump and his MAGA supporters appear to have embraced a pantomime conservatism.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in MAGA Republicans’ reactionary opposition to women’s reproductive rights, which they mistakenly view as a woke cause. This has led to many Republican-governed states imposing a variety of restrictions and outright bans on abortion, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade in 2022.

These restrictions and bans have proven deeply unpopular. So much so that even Trump now acknowledges that his anti-abortion stance is costing him support. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The women now prevented from obtaining abortions are not identitarian youngsters who would rather see hell freeze over before they voted Republican. They are ordinary women, and many of them are conservative. They just want to be free to make the best decision for themselves and their families.

Yet it seems that some right-wing activists are learning nothing from their unpopular attack on abortion rights. Incredibly, they’re now turning their sights on the Pill. Charlie Kirk, director of conservative campus group Turning Point USA, has this week claimed that the Pill ‘screws up female brains’. He says ‘it increases depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation’, and ‘creates very angry and bitter young ladies and young women’. Kirk claims these ‘bitter young ladies’ are then drawn towards the Democrats – who, he says, are ‘all about bitterness’.

Kirk’s argument here is clearly nuts. He may think that playing on some young women’s dissatisfaction with the Pill is a smart, interesting move. But these attacks on women’s reproductive freedom simply don’t go down well with ordinary people. Indeed, at the 2022 Midterms, the better-than-expected performance of the Democrats was partially attributable to Republicans’ anti-abortion stance.

Whipping up fears about modern contraceptive methods is only likely to put more people off the Republicans and their outriders. After all, the Pill is used by women of all political persuasions. Raging against it means raging against something that is vital to many women’s daily lives.

There is a great irony to this conservative attack on the Pill. If MAGA types were serious about cutting the demand for abortion, the last thing they should do is attack one of the most effective ways of preventing pregnancy – namely, hormonal contraception.

At best, these conservatives are deeply misinformed about the Pill. At worst, they are mendacious. The Pill doesn’t ‘screw up’ women’s brains. And it certainly doesn’t create a cohort of bitter, Democrat-voting young ladies. Anyone who wants to find out about the genuine risks and benefits would do well to look at the actual medical guidelines in the US, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Or, indeed, at those produced by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare in the UK.

American right-wingers should be careful what they wish for. Opposing birth control or abortion rhetorically is easy. But now that, post-Roe, conservatives are having to follow up on their promises and crackdown on women’s rights, they’re finding that ordinary women don’t take kindly to having their freedoms curtailed.

If Republicans genuinely want to support the family, they need to start supporting women’s reproductive rights. Indeed, these rights – to abortion and to contraception – allow women to take responsibility not just for their own bodies, but for their families, too. A commitment to the family and support for women’s rights go hand-in-hand. But the MAGA right is still totally blind to this.

Picture by Towfiqu barbhuiya, published under a creative-commons licence.

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Topics Politics USA

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