Matthew Bowman once wrote that employers who provide contraception coverage “kill embryos and bow to the altar of fruitless intercourse.” He believes that contraceptives cause abortion and enable “promiscuity,” and that the birth-control-coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act was part of the government’s “anti-fertility” regime. He rants about contraception as a part of “liberal faith in the sexual revolution.” He subscribed to a radical fundamentalist Christian group that sought “to recover the robust Christendomic theocracy of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” And he is deputy general counsel for our Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration and an architect of Trump’s health-care policy, including the rule last year that overturned the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. This is now the approach to family planning in our country.
For decades, support for family planning in America was bipartisan. But under the Trump-Pence administration, we’ve seen attacks on reproductive rights reach a fever pitch—not just on access to abortion care, but also on contraception in all forms. Trump owes his election in large part to white evangelical voters, and he’s paying them back for their support; as Vice President Pence recently noted, he is acting as “the most pro-life president in American history.” Trump has not just embraced the anti-choice movement—he is giving a platform and formidable power to its most extreme and fringe leaders who have all forms of reproductive rights in their crosshairs. And accordingly, a recent poll found Trump’s approval rating among white evangelicals at an all-time high of 75 percent.
The politics of reproductive rights have never been clear-cut, and they’ve never just been about abortion or about life. In fact, Republican activists helped establish Planned Parenthood and Republican lawmakers worked to secure its funding; it was female Republican leaders who fought to legalize contraception and expand access; it was President Nixon who first called for a national family-planning program and created Title X. Well-known Republicans like Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn; Barry Goldwater and his wife, Peggy; John D. Rockefeller Jr.; President Eisenhower; even the first President George Bush—these were birth-control champions and reformers. Even when the Republicans first adopted a position on abortion at the 1976 convention, the party and its delegates were majority pro-choice. The abortion issue was mostly used as a political tool, in this case to attract more Catholics to the party.