Kellyanne Conway is right: Young voters do care about contraception. 

Last month, Politico reported that Conway advised Republicans to “get ahead of Democrats’ attacks that the GOP is anti-woman by talking more about protecting contraception and less about banning abortion.” Conway supported this position with findings from a 2023 poll commissioned by Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), which found that 84 percent of Republicans strongly support safe contraception — a rare “tri-partisan” issue that unites Republicans, Democrats, and independents, even as the Dobbs decision continues to divide America.

It’s no secret that the youngest generation of American voters, Gen Z, votes consistently and overwhelmingly for Democrats. Women are an even bigger piece of the electorate, and female voter registration is only continuing to surge in post-Dobbs America. While the GOP may appear to have a complicated relationship with contraception, as Hadley Heath Manning at Independent Women’s Forum points out, conservatives generally view contraceptives as a matter of individual responsibility and, therefore, a personal choice.

Yet many female conservatives have denounced pro-contraception-access messaging as out of touch with younger generations. This is simply false: while Gen Z values transparency and rejects one-size-fits-all health solutions, my generation still broadly supports contraception access. Far from being out of touch, this messaging aligns with the reality that women of all childbearing ages desire and utilize contraception. And, contrary to backlash, it is possible to acknowledge this fact without abandoning conservative principles.

Young voters are interested in engaging the issue of contraception because we are at a prime time in our lives when it comes to family planning. We’re also increasingly skeptical of a lack of transparency from healthcare providers, including pharmaceutical companies, leading to a growing number of women who now favor non-hormonal birth control options.

But make no mistake: there may be a growing number of public detractors, but Gen Z is more likely than millennials to utilize two forms of contraception and protection against STDs during sex, and there has indeed been an increased demand for contraceptives since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Critics of Conway’s messaging have failed to distinguish between different contraceptive methods, but this is something that Gen Z women (and female voters writ large) are capable of doing. One findingfrom IWV’s polling is that the “GOP base clearly distinguishes between methods that prevent pregnancies and medications that end pregnancies.”

Among evangelicals, who largely identify as conservative and pro-life, there is strong support for non-abortifacient contraceptives. Polling also finds that self-identifying pro-life GOP primary voters, as well as pro-life advocates, largely agree with independents that it is important for women to have access to effective contraception of their choice.

While more young women are beginning to question whether “the pill” is right for them, I would caution conservatives pushing back against pro-contraception-choice messaging that online trends (i.e., TikTok videos) cannot account for everything. Young conservative voices advocating for women to reject the pill altogether must recognize that there is still a lot of persuading to do when it comes to contraception and the options presented to women.

The lack of any real political will to restrict birth control testifies to its popularity across the political and religious spectrum.

Still, messaging matters. I graduated college less than a month ago, and I personally witnessed conservative student organizations sending an anti-birth control messages to impressionable young voters. While much of it is wrapped up in pro-life and holistic health sentiments, these messages may suggest — particularly to those outside of the right — that conservatives don’t care about safe sex and would restrict contraception if given the opportunity. This puts conservatives dangerously out of touch with multiple demographics, from single college students to married couples who prefer to use contraception as they plan their families.

I am the result of an unplanned pregnancy between two unwed college students, and now the sister of adopted siblings. Talking openly and positively about contraceptive options need not negate the joy of adoption, condemn unplanned pregnancies, or disregard the unique biology of female bodies. But if conservatives continue their dogmatic messaging on contraception, younger generations will be far less likely to hear anything else conservative women have to say. 

Young women deserve more than what hookup culture, noncommittal men, and a slew of prescription drugs can offer them. They also deserve transparency and compassion — two things I hope conservatism can advance. If we wish to offer compassionate conservatism and communicate our principles in a way that is not tone-deaf but affirms women and their options, engaging the next generation of female voters begins with meeting them where they are.