Birth Control Targeted by Right-Wing Influencers in Wake of IVF Ruling

conservatives birth control

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of 2022 — destroying the constitutional right to abortion access — conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that the court should also reconsider previous rulings that established the right to contraception. Less than a month later, all but 10 House Republicans voted against a proposed bill that would have enshrined access to birth control into law. Senate Republicans didn’t support the legislation, either. If it wasn’t clear then that conservatives might actually move to restrict access to contraception, it is now.

On Thursday, right-wing activist Chris Rufo — the man largely responsible for engineering widespread conservative moral panic about “critical race theory” and so-called “woke” politics — responded to an X, formerly Twitter, post from writer Michael Shermer highlighting Republican opposition to contraception. Shermer’s post quoted a 2023 video from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, that said “conservatives have to lead the way in restoring sex to its true purpose, and ending recreational sex and senseless use of birth control pills.”

Rufo didn’t see the issue. “So what?” he wrote. “The pill causes health problems for many women. ‘Recreational sex’ is a large part of the reason we have so many single-mother households, which drives poverty, crime, and dysfunction. The point of sex is to create children—this is natural, normal, and good.” 

Shermer’s post cited the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week  that embryos created using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are people in the eyes of the law. The ruling resulted in fertility clinics immediately pausing operations and, like Shermer pointed out, raised widespread concern over how the decision would affect the public’s future access to emergency contraception and birth control. While Rufo’s responsedrew widespread backlash, it also threw the right’s increasingly hostile — and medically misinformed — rhetoric on contraception into stark relief. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) struggled to come up with a coherent response to questions about his state’s new policy, claiming that he both endorsed the new embryo doctrine but also felt the country needs “more kids” and needs “people to have the opportunity to have kids.”

The Biden administration responded to the ruling by posting a video of House Speaker Mike Johnson ducking questions about his support for access to IVF treatments and contraception during a Fox News interview in November. 

“Where are you on these issues,” host Shannon Bream asked Johnson, who has a well-documented track record opposing access to emergency contraception, and supporting laws allowing health care workers to deny birth control access under the guise of a “religious or conscience” objection. 

“I’m pro-life,” Johnson responded, “I’m a Bible-believing Christian, I believe in the sanctity of every human life. So I come to Congress with deep personally held convictions.” He avoided directly stating any of his policy positions on camera and claimed not to remember his voting history on fertility treatments and contraception as a state lawmaker.

While lawmakers in Washington aren’t overtly pushing to further restrict access to contraception — especially given the electoral backlash they’ve faced in the aftermath of Roe’s demise — prominent influencers like Rufo are leading the charge to bring their views on birth control to the forefront of conservative discourse. 

“The birth control pharmaceutical propaganda has been so successful that women think their only options are to dose themselves with cancer-causing hormones, or have 50 babies or have multiple abortions,” The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens wrote earlier this month.

Last week, Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X and unmarried father of 10, wrote that “hormonal birth control makes you fat, doubles risk of depression & triples risk of suicide. This is the clear scientific consensus, but very few people seem to know it.” 

Unsurprisingly, Musk’s claims are not — in fact — a “clear scientific consensus.” The link between hormonal birth control and weight gain is statistically minimal. Some studies have found a small correlation between contraceptive use and increased risk of depression, but have indicated a need for further research and widespread analysis. Fundamentally, any health care decision implies risks and benefits, and there are a number of birth control options to address the concerns of individual patients. 

Regardless, common misconceptions are fueling intense opposition to birth control from the fringes of the political right, which continues to be emboldened by its success in restricting abortion access. The recent push against widespread access to contraceptive methods is not new, but rather an extension of longstanding efforts to curb access to emergency contraception like Plan B, and IUDs — one of the most common and effective forms of birth control — which many Republicans falsely consider to be abortion–inducing medication.

Several states, including Missouri and Texas, have attempted to introduce legislation that could restrict access and state funding for emergency contraception resources. Advocates are also pointing to Republicans’ backing trigger bans and other laws looking to establish personhood at the moment of fertilization as backdoor mechanisms for restricting contraceptive access down the line, particularly forms of birth control that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining as a secondary form of pregnancy prevention. 

Students for Life, one of the largest anti-abortion groups in the country and a prominent lobbying force for anti-choice policies, lists virtually all forms of hormonal contraception as being “abortifacient” medication on their website. “Contraception tends to feel like a ‘side issue for some pro-life advocates,” the group says. “But we do have a responsibility to address it as it plays a significant role in the supply and demand for abortion – in addition to causing a number of abortions itself.”

Last year, the Heritage Foundation released the Project 2025 “Mandate For Leadership” policy package, a sprawling document laying out conservative governance principles and priorities for the next potential Republican president. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, the plan includes proposed attacks on birth control including the restoration Trump-era “religious and moral exemptions” to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, eliminating emergency contraception “from the contraceptive mandate as a potential abortifacient,” and instead expanding access to “fertility awareness–based methods and supplies to family planning.” 


The plans are already beginning to take shape. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, Republicans have floated enforcing the Comstock Act, a zombie law from the 19th century, to criminalize the inter-state shipping of abortion medication. The outdated law also includes broad prohibitions on the mailing of materials considered “obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy, or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance,” including items related to birth control and contraception. 

In reality, the vast majority of Republicans — upwards of 90 percent — support access to birth control pills, and a majority of Republicans feel abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. It’s clear that when it comes to real-world policymaking, Republicans are finding themselves increasingly out of step with the public’s view of reproductive issues. As some of the most prominent voices in the conservative media ecosystem ramp up their attacks on birth control, the GOP’s inability to disentangle itself from its fringe elements poses a continued threat to reproductive freedoms.

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