A gynecologist discusses birth control with a patient. In Wisconsin and across the country, Republican-sponsored bills would make common forms of birth control illegal | Getty Images
As a woman and a medical professional, I simply can’t believe that — in 2023 — we are having to defend basic contraception against politicians with a dangerous habit of discounting science and playing politics with people’s lives.
In recent days, Wisconsin State Rep. Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego) made patently false claims on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly about contraception. In his remarks, Wichgers perpetuated the myths that contraception leads to “infidelity,” a “loss of respect for women,” and a “proliferation of STDs.”
Wichgers’ claims are baseless and not supported by scientific evidence. There is no causal relationship between contraception and infidelity or men devaluing women. Rather, contraception empowers individuals to make responsible decisions about their reproductive health and strengthens healthy relationships by allowing couples to plan and space pregnancies.
The assertion that contraception leads to the proliferation of STDs is equally false. In fact, by promoting safe sex practices and providing access to contraceptives, we can significantly reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted infections as well as unintended pregnancies. Contraceptives are safe, effective, and essential.
Throughout my years as an OBGYN, I have seen firsthand the essential role that contraception plays in the lives of women. Birth control is a lifeline that allows people to plan and provide for their families, manage health conditions including endometriosis and cancer, achieve educational and employment goals, and thrive in their communities. Greater than 99% of sexually experienced women use at least one form of contraception throughout their lives: from our teens through menopause, Republicans and Democrats alike, and even women who identify as religious (including Catholics, like me). Access to contraception can also save lives. It helps to reduce rates of maternal and infant mortality.
As a physician who has dedicated my life to taking care of women and young families, it is alarming to see such blatantly false assertions and threatening actions taken by extremist politicians. Last year, 195 House Republicans — including Wisconsin Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Gallagher, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil, and Tom Tiffany (R-WI) — voted against the “Right to Contraception Act,” which would have codified this essential healthcare in federal law. It only passed the House thanks to the support of all 220 Democrats, then in the majority. Senate Republicans then proceeded to block all action on the measure (sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin) in the Senate both in 2022 and again around the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision.
There can be no confusion here about what these Republican politicians did: They simply don’t want you to have any contraception including condoms, IUDs, and the pill. Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers across the country have started introducing legislation to ban common forms of birth control, including IUDs. And some states have already enacted laws allowing health care providers to refuse to provide or cover contraception, denying you the care you need and deserve.
If that weren’t bad enough, in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion of Dobbs, Thomas voiced support for overturning the constitutional right to contraception — a right established in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. The right to contraception has been a freedom that Americans have enjoyed for generations, but now that right is in serious peril, vulnerable to activist Supreme Court justices who have already projected their intentions.
None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines any longer as extremists continue to legislate their way into our most personal health care decisions. Our elected leaders throughout the Badger state should listen to their constituents — and the 90% of Americans in favor of contraception. Currently lawmakers are considering a “Right to Contraception Act” at the state and federal levels.
I was actually in Madison the day of Wichgers’ speech, proudly standing alongside Wisconsin State Reps. Lisa Subeck and Dora Drake and State Sen. Dianne Hesselbein as they introduced Wisconsin’s Right to Contraception Act. The bill would establish an individual’s right to access, and a health care provider’s right to provide contraceptives and information regarding contraception. In preparing my remarks that day, I asked my 14-year-old son what he thought I should say. He answered, “Mom, contraception not only gives you control of your body, but also control of your life, and your future as a person.”
If a 14-year-old boy understands it in these simple terms, surely, our elected Republican leaders can, too.
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