So as I’ve mentioned before in posts, one great way Wisconsin women are winning with the ACA is covered preventive care that includes contraceptives such as emergency contraception and IUDs.
Currently, there are about 62% of women who are of reproductive age that are using contraception. In fact, contraception is even common among women of all religious denominations. 99% of women who have had intercourse have used contraception and 98% of Catholic women who have had intercourse have used contraception.
Yet, despite the common usage and wide spread acceptance of all forms of contraceptives, some private, corporate business owners who oppose certain forms of birth control are fighting for their right of religious freedom and ultimately their right to deny their employees access to some of the preventive care now covered under the ACA.
In the current Supreme Court case (Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius), not only is key part of the ACA at stake but so is the future of women’s access to birth control – a basic health care need for over 99% of sexually active women.
Hobby Lobby is a corporation that has taken its fight to the Supreme Court in opposition to the ACA provision of providing contraception for all employees.. Currently, religious employers do not have to provide contraceptive coverage, which does not include companies who only claim to have certain religious beliefs.
Although this case may seem like a dispute against business owners and the ACA provisions, there are bigger implications that could once again put women at a disadvantage in the world of health care. So I looked up some definitions to try to provide a clear picture for people who do not consider birth control to be truly basic health care for women.
1. The deliberate prevention of impregnation through use of various devices.
2. The practice of preventing unwanted or untimely pregnancies.
3. Control the number of children being born by lessening the frequency of contraception.
Synonyms: Family Planning
Family Planning: The use of birth control to determine the number of children there will be in a family and when those children will be born.
With these definitions, it seems like it should be a simple fact that contraception is a necessary health concern for women. If women want to be working and want more control over their lives, they are going to want to control the amount of children they have and should get to decide when they want to have them so that they can adequately plan and provide for their family. However, the fact that we are talking about contraception implies that we are acknowledging that women will be having sex, which is a very taboo subject in our society and in turn makes birth control a taboo subject. I can’t help but wonder what the arguments would be like if there was a religion that was against a different sort of preventative or basic health care topic such as vaccinations or something that affected everybody and not just women. Would people think denying employees access to vaccines was acceptable just as people arguing that denying women access to contraception is acceptable? What is it about birth control that makes it so different from other health issues?
Looking at this issue from a completely health oriented standpoint, easier access to birth control not only betters the quality of life for women, but also could help reduce health care and other costs for Americans as a whole. Before the ACA, more than half of young women had experienced a time when they could not afford to use birth control consistently and many women have reported that they need to delay becoming pregnant because of economic hardship (see for more information: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/2292-protecting-birth-control-coverage-for-young-peoplerwwv.wordpress.com/). With that, unintended pregnancy has been increasingly higher in poor women, which may have stemmed from their inability to access contraception. Research by the Guttmacher Institute showed that in 2008, the U.S. spent $1.9 billion for services that supported family planning centers and this resulted in $7 billion in gross savings from helping women avoid unintended pregnancies and the births that would follow (see for more information: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html).
The increased access to contraception is a win for all women with the ACA and to revise this part of the law would be a huge step back not only for women but for others who may face discrimination from religious employers for other reasons. Women should not be affected by their employer’s beliefs and denied coverage on something that is so beneficial that they may not be able to otherwise afford. It is time to get rid of the stigma behind birth control and behind women who use birth control because we are in an era of empowerment where women can plan for their life in a way they have not been able to in the past. Each woman has a right to decide for herself when it is the right time to have a family, and that is not something that an employer should be able to take away from her.
For more on contraception statistics and information: