The Missouri Senate defeated a measure that would have redefined certain forms of birth control as abortifacients in order to ban Medicaid from paying for the contraceptives.
After hours of negotiation last Friday, lawmakers dropped the anti-choice language from the tax bill and voted against an amendment to ban Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. The senate voted early Saturday morning to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance, a state tax that funds Medicaid, and the measure now heads to the state house. The Kansas City Star reported:
The vote makes it much more likely the General Assembly will meet Gov. Mike Parson’s July 1 deadline to renew the tax. He has promised severe budget cuts without a bill on his desk by then.
Last week, Missouri lawmakers had tried to use the funding bill to ban Medicaid from covering emergency contraceptives like Plan B and certain forms of birth control, like intrauterine devices (IUDs). The Republican state senators claimed that using Plan B or IUDs is the same thing as getting an abortion.
This is a preposterous lie, but one that anti-choicers will keep spreading far and wide in order to achieve their goal of criminalizing the use of birth control. Make no mistake—that is their end game.
Don’t fall for it.
Contraceptives like IUDs and Plan B prevent pregnancy. An abortion terminates a pregnancy. This is not up for debate.
But do you think that mattered to Republican lawmakers in Missouri? Nope.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson even called a special legislative session so lawmakers could discuss sticking it to poor people by cutting Planned Parenthood from the state’s Uninsured Women’s Health Services Program and prohibiting Medicaid from covering IUDs and Plan B.
How? By pretending they’re abortifacients.
Birth control methods like IUDs are not abortifacients. Emergency contraceptives like Plan B aren’t either.
Just ask Imani Gandy, Rewire News Group‘s senior editor for law and policy, who wrote back in 2014:
Contraceptives prevent pregnancy, abortifacients terminate a pregnancy, and a pregnancy begins at implantation. So contraceptives by definition are not abortifacients because they prevent a pregnancy; if they work, there is no pregnancy to be terminated.
Birth control benefit opponents obfuscate basic concepts about reproduction and women’s health. They attempt to turn a discussion about when pregnancy begins—and therefore when and how a pregnancy can be terminated—into a discussion about when life begins.
This is hardly the first time conservatives have argued that certain birth control methods should be banned or restricted because they cause abortion.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz infamously believes that all kinds of birth control cause abortion. Gandy wrote in 2015:
At last year’s Value Voters Summit, where Ted Cruz opened his mouth and a lot of words that made no sense fell out, Ted Cruz repeatedly referred to birth control as “abortion-inducing.” At one point, Ted Cruz even claimed that the government is trying to force Catholic nuns to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, which is as hilarious as it is untrue. Cruz was referring to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a bunch of nuns who filed a lawsuit about the compromise the Obama administration entered into in order to shut up some of the birth control benefit detractors. (Spoiler Alert! The compromise didn’t work and, in fact, probably made things worse because the Religious Right is unreasonable and cannot be appeased.)
And just last week, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene argued that federal funding for Plan B amounted to paying for abortion, parroting the same misinformation that’s being used in Missouri.
Even if these restrictions only applied to abortifacients, they would be unnecessary and harmful. But it’s important to remember anti-choice politicians aren’t just coming for abortion.
Because it’s not really about abortion: It’s about restricting people’s autonomy.
It’s rare that reproductive rights advocates get to celebrate a win like this, but it’s an important reminder that these battles can sometimes be won, even in Republican-dominated states like Missouri.
This article was adapted from a Twitter thread.