No, Overturning Roe v. Wade Doesn't Outlaw Birth Control

·4 min read
No, Overturning Roe v. Wade Doesn't Outlaw Birth Control

The Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade court case last week, meaning abortion is no longer protected at the federal level as of June 24. Since then, everyone has been scrambling to understand the ripple effects this will have on reproductive rights in America.

The questions are endless. Which states does the decision affect the most? What are trigger laws and how quickly will abortion bans go into effect? Is Plan B still legal? And after Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in his concurring opinion that the court “should reconsider” its past rulings on rights to birth control access, it makes sense that people have concerns about what Roe's overturning means for birth control.

While last week's court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, dealt specifically with a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, the decision had significant implications for Roe v. Wade, ultimately overturning 49 years of access to legal abortion at the federal level. At least 26 states now have bans and restrictions that are currently or soon-to-be enacted.

Currently, no state has banned birth control. But legal analysts say that overturning Roe v. Wade could open up the door for some states to try to restrict it. Indeed, a few states have already started the process of limiting access to birth control and emergency contraception.

So, here’s everything you need to know about how the Roe v. Wade ruling means for access to contraception:

What counts as birth control?

First and foremost, let's go over birth control. The phrase is synonymous with "The Pill," a.k.a. the birth control pill, but contraception is really so much more than that. The most common forms include:

  • The Pill

  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

  • Tubal ligation

  • Vasectomy

  • Condoms

  • The ring

  • The shot

  • The implant

Is birth control affected by the Roe v. Wade ruling?

No, birth control is not directly affected by the Roe v. Wade ruling, which now allows individual states to decide whether abortion is legal within its boundaries. And no states currently ban birth control.

However, certain forms of birth control like IUDs, and emergency contraception like Plan B, may now be an easier target for lawmakers because they prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, NBC News explains. And, since some lawmakers believe that life begins at the moment of fertilization, questions have arisen about whether these birth control methods should be considered "abortive medications." (FYI: neither Plan B nor birth control constitute an abortion, Women's Health experts have explained).

State legislators would have to create separate legislature to actually ban certain forms of birth control at this point, but they may feel emboldened to do so based on the Roe v. Wade decision.

Are any states banning birth control?

To date, no states have banned birth control. However, the following states have discussed future legislation that may attempt to do so:

  • Idaho: State representative Brent Cane said he would hold hearings on legislation that would ban emergency contraception like Plan B, and possibly IUDs, according to the Idaho Statesman.

  • Louisiana: A state committee has passed a bill that says that “human personhood” starts at fertilization, which could potentially be used to outlaw emergency contraception and IUDs in the future.

Last year, conservative Republicans in Missouri also attempted to go after specific forms of birth control—emergency contraceptives like Plan B and IUDs—and failed, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Photo credit: Araya Doheny - Getty Images
Photo credit: Araya Doheny - Getty Images

What’s the difference between birth control and Plan B?

Technically, Plan B is a form of emergency birth control, and it is not currently banned in any states.

Combined hormonal birth control methods like the Pill work by releasing estrogen and progestin into the body, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). These hormones stop ovulation and cause other changes in the body that prevent pregnancy, like thickening cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and thinning the lining of the uterus.

Plan B contains the hormone levonorgestrel (which is a progestin). It can prevent ovulation, block fertilization, and keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What is Griswold v. Connecticut?

There's another big case people are talking about when it comes down to birth control and Roe v. Wade: Griswold v. Connecticut.

This case was another landmark Supreme Court decision involving reproductive health care which said that the Constitution protects married couples' rights to buy and use birth control without government restrictions.

The case involved a law in Connecticut that prohibited someone from using "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception.” The decision was handed down in 1965.

Why is it relevant? Well, in his concurring opinion in the Dobbs case, Justice Thomas suggested that this case, along with at least two others that legalized rights like same-sex marriage, could be reconsidered in the future.

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