Trump vows to "NEVER" take away birth control — except he spent four years doing just that

Trump's attacks on contraception were unrelenting. He even asked the Supreme Court to block women's access

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 23, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Birth Control Blister Packs (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Birth Control Blister Packs (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

If he's elected president, Donald Trump will try to take away your birth control. We know this because he spent his first term in office attacking contraception access from many angles and, in many cases, successfully cutting people off from this necessary health care. His efforts were so dogged, it likely contributed to the alarming national outbreak of syphilis the country is experiencing. 

The plain facts need to be stated up front because right now there's a "controversy" over whether Trump has designs on taking away birth control. Trump, in his usual manner, is fueling this dispute with his favorite tactic: lying. 

The current dust-up started Tuesday morning when Trump told Pittsburgh's KDKA News that he's open to letting states ban birth control. "Things really do have a lot to do with the states, and some states are going to have different policy than others," he said when asked about proposals to ban contraception. He also claimed, falsely, that his campaign planned to release "a policy on that very shortly, and I think it’s something that you’ll find interesting." This is the standard lie Trump uses when asked about abortion. For instance, Trump told Time on April 12 that he'd release an abortion policy plan in "two weeks." It's been six weeks and no sign of it. 

It will never come. This is just Trump's way of evading having to weigh in on a sticky issue. He'd like low-information swing voters to believe he won't ban abortion, but, of course, he wants his evangelical base to have faith that he will sign any ban that's on offer. Reporters know that this "two weeks away" lie is code for "the Christian right gets whatever they want." So when he said it with regards to contraception, it was properly understood as a covert promise to go along with any proposed ban or restriction. 

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This, however, was really stupid.

Abortion rights are really popular, and contraception even more so: 88% of Americans in 2023 said birth control is morally acceptable. This is down slightly from the 92% high from 2022, likely due to a well-funded campaign from MAGA forces to demonize female-controlled contraception as "unnatural." So Trump scrambled, posting on Truth Social that, "I HAVE NEVER, AND WILL NEVER ADVOCATE IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS OF BIRTH CONTROL, or other contraceptives."

This, however, was a lie. We know it was a lie intuitively because Trump lies about everything. This is the same man who repeatedly said he would testify in his hush-money trial, but of course, wriggled away at the last minute. But in this case, there's a giant pile of receipts from Trump's four years befouling the White House. Even before he set foot in the Oval Office to the day he tried to steal the 2020 election, Trump let loose a horde of Bible-thumping fanatics across the administration who did everything they could to slap birth control out of the hands of women who need it. 

It often got lost in the maelstrom of other bad Trump news, but at Salon, we carefully tracked Trump's many assaults on contraception access. During his first round of staffing, there was a heavy emphasis on hiring people who opposed legal contraception. One of his biggest health care policy advisors falsely claimed birth control pills cause abortion, a pretext to ban the pill alongside actual abortion. His first Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, called for an end of federal funding for birth control and voted to allow employers to fire women for using contraception.

Trump's administration had a two-pronged strategy to take away contraception from as many women as possible: First, defund family planning clinics that offer birth control at low or no cost. Second, gut the Affordable Care Act provision requiring insurance plans to cover contraception as they would any other preventive service. Even amid the pandemic, the Trump administration kept pushing to take away insurance coverage, taking the case to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of allowing employers to block women from using their own insurance to pay for contraception. 

Luckily, few companies took advantage of Trump-created "rights" to interfere with their employees' use of birth control. But Trump's assault on family planning clinics had serious impacts. Nearly 1,000 clinics nationwide lost funding and were forced to reduce services or shut down entirely. It's unclear if this has had an impact on unintended pregnancy rate, which continues to decline overall because of increased insurance coverage. (Though the recent spike in abortion rates suggests many women are still falling through the cracks.) But there's significant evidence that this loss of affordable care has contributed to the rise in sexually transmitted infections, including the alarming syphilis outbreak. 

According to experts at both Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control, the dramatic rise in syphilis transmission — which is the highest it's been since the 1950s — has many factors, including drug abuse and pandemic disruptions to health care. But among the contributing causes is that "a lot of sexual health clinics have closed over the last decade," as the Hopkins analysis explains. Places like Planned Parenthood are often the only place some people, especially men, can get tested for sexually transmitted infections. Without it, many people just don't bother at all, leading to more transmissions. 

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One reason Trump's war on contraception doesn't seem to register with voters, even those on the left, is because of his personal sexual promiscuity. It's hard for people to imagine a man who likes to sleep around as much as he does would be opposed to technology that prevents some of the negative consequences. But that attitude fails to understand how much Trump simply doesn't care. As Stormy Daniels testified in Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan, he didn't bother using a condom when they had sex. Misogynists like Trump often don't think about birth control much, if at all, figuring that it's women's problem to deal with. We also see this attitude with Trump advisor Jason Miller, whose response to accidentally impregnating his mistress was not to express regret for his role in the situation, but to foist all the blame on her and attempt to weasel out of child support

Trump is guaranteed to renew his efforts to restrict birth control if he wins in November because that's what the larger Republican party, in thrall to the Christian right, wants. In the days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Democrats tried to pass a bill through Congress that would bar states or other government entities from banning any form of contraception deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration. This was necessary, because in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision, Justice Clarence Thomas invited states to ban birth control, so the Supreme Court could take that right away, as well. The bill did not pass, however, because 195 congressional Republicans — the vast majority of them — voted against it. There were a lot of lip-smacking excuses as to why, but the reason is not mysterious: The GOP is controlled by the religious right, and the religious right wants to take away birth control, just like they took away abortion for millions of women. 

Congressional Democrats are once again hoping to highlight Republican radicalism on this front. Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Democrats would re-introduce the Right to Contraception Act. The expectation is Republicans will filibuster the bill, which will create an anti-contraception voting record Democrats can point to in campaign ads. Republicans have been opposed to birth control rights for decades now, but it's been hard to get voters to believe it, since it's such a ridiculous position. But with the overturn of Roe, the hope is people will finally start to see what's been under their noses all this time: Yes, Trump and Republicans are coming for your birth control. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Birth Control Commentary Donald Trump Gop Reproductive Health Reproductive Rights Republicans