March for Life, the group that organizes what it bills as the "world's largest anti-abortion event" every year on Jan. 22, wants to do more than just ban abortion. They also hope to deprive women of the option to use birth control. Here's
Molly Redden at Mother Jones
March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the nonprofit that organizes the annual protest, identified oral birth control as a form of abortion in a lawsuit filed [last] July. With the suit, which is ongoing, March for Life is fighting for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act mandate that all private employers provide contraception coverage.
In its suit, the group argues that oral contraception and vaginal rings cause abortions, referring to them as "abortifacients" (something that induces an abortion). Pro-lifers have been making this claim since the '90s, so the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
reviewed research on how these contraceptives work in 1999. Here's what they found
After reviewing the available literature, the authors conclude that hormonal contraceptive methods (oral contraceptives, the patch, the ring, the shot) cause a number of changes in a woman’s body which prevent
pregnancy. Primarily, what they do is simply prevent ovulation. In other words, take the pill and in almost all instances a woman won’t release an egg. No egg, no chance of pregnancy. The secondary way these contraceptives function, the authors report, is by preventing fertilization. So, on the very slim chance that a woman using a hormonal method does produce an egg another mechanism of action kicks in. Hormonal contraceptives also thicken the mucus lining of women’s reproductive organs which hamper the ability of the sperm to even get to the egg. And if a rogue sperm reaches the egg, hormonal contraceptives prevent it from penetrating the egg. Specifically, they stop the shell encasing the egg from disintegrating so a sperm can’t actually do the deed of fertilization. This is what is known about how hormonal birth control works.
But hey, forget about the science. Hoping to capitalize on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby
decision, March for Life doesn't want to provide birth control to its employees.
The group's lawsuit seems to have been inspired by the Supreme Court's June 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In that case, Hobby Lobby's owners sued to avoid covering intrauterine devices and emergency contraception pills. A 5-4 conservative majority on the high court ruled in favor of the craft chain's owners, saying that certain privately owned businesses don't have to cover emergency contraceptives if the owners object on religious grounds.
The next month, the Supreme Court went even further: It allowed organizations with objections to paying for any kind of contraception—not just the types of emergency contraception that the court dealt with in Hobby Lobby—to bring lawsuits against the contraception mandate. March for Life Education and Defense Fund filed its lawsuit five days after that expanded ruling.
The March for Life suit is all part of a bigger effort to erase the distinction between birth control and abortion.
Joerg Dreweke, a policy researcher with the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank, says the March for Life lawsuit is part of a pattern of anti-abortion groups conflating contraception with abortion in a quiet effort to roll back both.
"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," he wrote in a recent analysis. "Yet, the movement is doing this in a strategic and deceptive way… If you take their lawsuit at face value, it turns the March for Life into the March to Ban Birth Control."