Contraceptives are, quite simply, ah-mazing. They are awesome and empowering, giving women (and men) control over family planning and their reproductive health. They are lifesaving and medically essential, used to treat everything from premenstrual dysphoric disorder to polycystic ovary syndrome. Contraceptives are a freaking modern-day miracle, and we should all be singing their praises quite frankly.
But unfortunately, reproductive rights have become a pawn in partisan politics, and contraceptives are at risk of becoming inaccessible (or least, less accessible). Quite simply, we’re at risk of setting women’s health and family planning back a hundred years if we aren’t careful. And no, that isn’t hyperbole. According to the Washington Post, cuts to family planning funds could take us back to health conditions like those in the early 1920s.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, birth control was considered illegal under the 1873 Comstock Act. During that time, thousands of women died from illegal abortions, and millions of unwanted children were born to families who were already struggling during the tumultuous early 20th century.
The 1960s and ’70s saw great advances in women’s health with the Supreme Court’s rulings in Griswold, which held that contraception was legal for both married couples and single persons, and Roe v. Wade, which paved the way for access to legal abortions.
But legality isn’t the same thing as access.
As the Washington Post reports, key players in the current administration have made it clear that they do not support federal funding for contraception, nor do they believe employers or the federal government should have to provide broad access to birth control.
There is so much wrong with this line of thinking that I’m not even sure where to start. In fact, I’m still a bit baffled that this debate around women’s health rights is even a thing. WTF, America, isn’t this the 21st century? Why are we still talking about this?
But apparently the issue bears repeating, so here’s an admittedly abbreviated list of the reasons why publicly funded birth control makes sense:
Birth control prevents abortions.
This seems obvious — because it is obvious — but the pro-life crowd forgets this fact when arguing about access to contraceptives. The simple fact is that access to birth control cuts down on unwanted pregnancies, which in turn reduces the number of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 6.2 million American women obtained contraception through public funding in 2015, including Title X and Medicaid, which prevented 1.9 million unintended pregnancies and 628,600 abortions.
Bottom line: Being pro-life means supporting publicly funded birth control.
Mother Nature is in favor of birth control.
By far, one of the single biggest things a person can do to help Mother Earth and fight climate change is to have fewer children. Yep, that’s right. More kids equals more CO2 emissions, which hurts the environment.
Pro-life legislation is hypocritical AF.
Oftentimes the same people who get all up in arms about health care coverage that covers contraceptives are the same people who fight for their boner pills to be covered. And the same people who shout pro-life messages about “saving the babies” are the same people who will vote for a president and legislators who close the doors on refugee children who are literally dying in the street and preach on about law and order when it comes to undocumented children. Well, FTS. Providing boner pills but not contraceptives is the height of a sexist patriarchal society. Let’s stop pretending the pro-life message is about anything other than judgment, punishment, and prudish attitudes about sex.
States’ rights are bullshit when it comes to the important stuff.
Even though abortion rates are at historic lows, the current administration and other politicians want to restrict a woman’s right to choose at the federal and state level. There is talk of repealing Roe v. Wade, which would transfer authority back to the states.
Some folks like to hide behind the states’ rights argument when it comes to contraceptives and pro-choice legislation. They use fancy double-speak about leaving it up to the states to legislate and demeaning the inefficiencies of big government. Do know when the state’s rights argument was also used to oppress? During the Civil War with respect to slavery. The argument was bullshit then, and it’s bullshit now.
Let’s cut to the chase: The issue is not about states’ rights; it is about control. Even though leaving it up to the states to decide women’s health rights doesn’t seem problematic on its face, one state’s policies might differ significantly from those of another, which would require women to travel great distances to obtain safe medical treatment — a luxury that many women (especially women of limited financial means) simply do not have. States’ rights are great for things like taxes and speed limit regulations, but when it comes to important things like heath care and freedom, all Americans deserve the same rights and protections regardless of financial states and location.
Reproductive rights are about more than sex, and we all save money.
I know it seems hard to believe, but reproductive rights are about more than sex and babies. They impact everything else in our life. Everything. Whether or when a woman chooses to have a child impacts all aspects of her life — education, career, earnings potential, marital situation, housing, everything — and in turn, those things impact us all. You literally cannot legislate reproductive rights without also impacting things like education, criminal justice, child care, the wage gap, and housing.
Expanding access to family planning and publicly funding contraceptives through Medicaid is the single biggest way to save taxpayers money. According to NPR, a $235 million investment in publicly funded family planning options would save taxpayers $1.32 billion by preventing unintended pregnancies. Other options, such as media campaigns and education-based programs, don’t come anywhere near that return on investment.
I’d like to think that we’re better than this. That compassion and empathy toward the plight of the vulnerable — including low-income women and teens — could help folks understand why access to birth control and universal women’s health rights are so essential. But if empathy isn’t going to convince people that it makes sense, maybe their own self-interest will, and the bottom line is that publicly funded birth control saves millions of lives and billions of dollars.