Again, the eyes of the country turn to Missouri in horror.
This time, it’s to see how far conservative Republicans will go to snatch birth control from women. Yes, birth control that prevents unwanted pregnancy and reduces abortions — contraceptives that you can get from your doctor’s office. They are specifically targeting highly effective intrauterine devices that have been shown in studies to lower the rate of abortion and teen pregnancies.
We know this debate isn’t really about abortion. Republicans, who have a supermajority in the statehouse, have already passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country back in 2019. With upcoming elections next year, however, the anti-abortion zealots had to find a way to one-up each other on their anti-choice credentials.
They’ve opted to disingenuously expand the definition of “abortion” to include using IUDs, like the Mirena and ParaGard, which is not an abortion by any stretch of medical explanation.
Dr. Denise Willers, associate professor of obstetric and gynecology at Washington University explained that both types of IUDs — hormonal and copper — work by preventing fertilization of the egg.
“You do not have egg meeting sperm. You don’t have a pregnancy. It’s a prevention of conception,” she said. As someone who has used an IUD, she is offended by the mischaracterization of what it is and how it works.
Applying this bizarre Republican standard means every man who has used a condom has performed an abortion.
Our state’s GOP leadership has already demonstrated a weak grasp of medical and scientific understanding. We’re No. 1 in new COVID-19 infections per capita in the country. We didn’t get there without some high-level science denial.
But how did we get to this new low? A gang of Senate Republicans refused to renew a federal tax that funds health programs for the elderly, disabled and lower-income folks in the state unless they added a ban on certain types of birth control. The governor had to call the state Legislature back in a special session or risk losing billions of federal and state dollars needed to pay for Medicaid programs.
Today, the Missouri Senate committee will debate three possible outcomes: A bill that restricts birth control and access to Planned Parenthood for low-income women, one to extend the needed Federal Reimbursement Allowances (FRA) tax without added restrictions and another that does both.
For the ones who plan to vote for these birth control restrictions, which will certainly be challenged in court, your desire to control women's sex lives and health choices make you look a disturbing sicko.
Republicans fighting for the restrictions are willing to hold health care hostage for the most vulnerable people in the state. That’s beyond the pale, even by Missouri GOP standards. That’s saying something for the state whose senator became the poster boy of the violent insurrection at the Capitol.
We’re used to top-shelf crazy from our home-grown Republican extremists. One of the old white men leading this current attack is Sen. Paul Wieland — the same guy who sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and two other federal agencies in 2013 to prevent his adult daughters from having birth control coverage included in their health insurance plan. He was so morally troubled by the mere availability of contraception coverage that his daughter might dare to use against his fervent religious beliefs.
That’s a window into the level of creepiness we’re dealing with here.
We’re not your daughters to control, Rep. Wieland, and praise God for that.
The bigger issue is why so many other Republicans are willing to go along with such unpopular and extremist legislation, giving the entire state a black eye.
Why make it harder for women who are struggling economically to prevent unwanted pregnancies? Who benefits from perpetuating a cycle of generational poverty. Is there a motivation to have a steady supply of people willing to work low-wage, dead-end jobs?
Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, a Democrat from St. Louis, noted that cutting off access to birth control will disproportionately affect women of color here. She brought up the historical practice of slave owners who systematically forced the reproduction of enslaved women and girls to increase their profits.
“To stop someone from preventing a pregnancy, honestly, it’s a crime,” she said. “They are committing a crime and an assault on Missouri's women.”
Rep. Sarah Unsicker, also a Democrat, added that the consequences will be devastating.
“Women can’t have the same standard of living without access to birth control. It’s not just about women, it’s about couples and families and their standard of living,” she said.
The hypocrisy of so-called “small government” Republicans pushing for this type of Big Brother control is not lost on either Bosley or Unsicker.
I wonder what the college-educated, white women, a demographic who broke for Trump and support this broken version of the Republican party, think about the deal they’ve made. Do they want their daughters to have fewer rights than an unfertilized egg? Or are they comforted by the thought that this legislation targets poor women?
What makes them think Missouri’s far right will stop here?
Republican men in Missouri have taken the infamous words of their former Dear Leader literally.
“Grab them by the p---y,” he said. “You can do anything.”
They’ve got their marching orders.