Happy anniversary, Roe v. Wade!
Each year on this anniversary, the anti-choice community gathers to march in opposition of abortion rights. Known as the March for Life, this Washington, D.C. event draws thousands of protesters and is organized by the nonprofit March for Life Education and Defense Fund.
It’s no secret that the Republican Party aims to restrict abortion rights, and many prominent figures within the GOP have been known to lend their support to the march’s cause. John Boehner, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum have all delivered remarks at the demonstration, and just last year Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, not only delayed his party’s annual winter meeting so that he could attend the march, but also chartered a bus and invited guests to join him.
But this year, the March for Life has a few things up its sleeve that both the pro-choice community, as well as Republican leaders, need to be aware of.
1. This year, it’s also about birth control.
Taking a page out of Hobby Lobby’s Guide to Religion and Hypocrisy (which is not a real book but should be), the March for Life Education and Defense Fund is currently involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, fighting for exemption from the ACA’s mandate that employers provide contraception coverage. The March for Life is taking their lawsuit even further than Hobby Lobby, arguing that covering drugs or medical devices that cause abortion violates their religious beliefs, and including previously accepted contraceptives like the pill and vaginal rings on their list of “abortifacients”, an assertion the medical community strongly disagrees with.
2. Science is not their strong suit.
Mainstream medical organizations agree that pregnancy begins when an egg is fertilized and then implanted in the womb. Birth control works by preventing ovulation, and the pill also causes thinning of the uterine lining, preventing implantation. However, abortion opponents, including the March for Life, contend that life begins when an egg is fertilized, no implantation necessary. Sperm + Egg = Forever. And since the pill prevents implantation, they consider that equivalent to an abortion. March for Life’s attorneys even referred to the suit as a legal challenge to the “abortion-pill mandate” even though the actual pill which does induce abortion in early pregnancies is not included under the ACA’s contraception mandate.
3. Keep it on the down-low though.
Inconvenient for the March for Life, the majority of Americans support the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. It’s no secret that people enjoy being able to live healthy sex lives without the possibility of getting pregnant, with the Guttmacher Institute citing that over 99% of sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used at least one form of contraception, Catholics and Protestants included. But the March for Life has kept their unsubstantiated medical claims and abortifacient hell-raising pretty quiet over the last 6 months. Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, the president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, declined to comment on the lawsuit or its repercussions for the group’s annual march. The organization’s website, as well as its promotional materials, are also suspiciously devoid of any birth control opposition talk. If the March for Life is serious about including birth control in its war on abortion rights, they sure are being quiet about it.
4. There’s a method to their madness.
By conflating birth control with abortion, groups like the March for Life are attempting to roll back access to both. In a recent analysis, Joerg Dreweke, a policy researcher with the Guttmacher Institute, stated,
“Birth control is very much in the movement’s cross-hairs, and antiabortion advocates are working to stigmatize contraception by blurring the lines between contraception and abortion. Yet, the movement is doing this in a strategic and deceptive way… Antiabortion groups ignore and often contradict their positions when it might hurt them politically.”
If the March for Life Defense and Education Fund was more upfront with its allegations about birth control ending pregnancy rather than preventing it, people would understand just how fringe their agenda really is.
5. It’s all about controlling women.
So if antiabortion groups like the March for Life don’t want women to have abortions, and they don’t want women to have access to birth control, what do they want? Control. If it was really about protecting life, antiabortion groups would be fighting to improve women’s access to birth control in order to prevent abortions instead of attempting to stigmatize birth control and promote restrictive gender roles for women. The March for Life doesn’t want women to be able to determine their own reproductive destiny… that’s God’s job.
At the very least, the March for Life should be more upfront about its assault on access to birth control. The group’s sole mission for almost four decades has been to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. Adding birth control to that agenda will only exacerbate the already far-reaching consequences that restrictions on reproductive healthcare have on women and families. Since most Americans who oppose abortion have no moral objection to birth control, many of the attendees probably don’t even know that March for Life views birth control as immoral.