Birth control has transformed women's lives, but people are worried about the future

Birth control has transformed women's lives, but people are worried about the future
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Today is Thanks, Birth Control Day. The day we celebrate the fact that the availability of birth control has been nothing short of transformative for women, children, families and society. Since birth control was made legally available to all women in 1972, we have seen the percentage of female college graduates quadruple and women ascend to the top echelons of leadership.

Prior to 1972, there was not one female CEO of a Fortune 500 company; today, there are more than 30. While there is still work to be done on wage equality, studies show that the availability of birth control, alone, contributed to 30 percent of the wage gains made by women between the 1960s and the 1990s.

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With these game-changing impacts, it is not surprising that birth control is wildly popular. Ninety-nine percent of all woman of reproductive age report using birth control at some point in their lives, which needless to say, includes women of all religious and political beliefs. Our newly released polling data show that the majority (78 percent) of people in the United State — Republican (66 percent) and Democrat (93 percent) — consider birth control as a part of women’s health care.

These results are consistent with the results of countless polls conducted over the past decade.

Our new polling also revealed a more troubling trend: nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of 18-29 year olds report being concerned that women may not be able to access the full range of birth control methods in the future because of today’s political landscape. Their concerns are justified. Over the past year, the current administration has been relentless in its pursuit to limit access to no or low cost birth control. 

The administration has worked to undermine the contraceptive coverage provision by attempting to broaden employers’ ability to exempt themselves based on religious or moral objections. The Administration’s proposed “domestic gag rule” would strip family planning providers of vital Title X funding for the provision of contraceptive funding and supplies for low income women unless they make the untenable choice of curtailing the provision of complete and quality women’s health care and information in one visit and setting. This misguided policy would further limit low income women’s access to birth control method right for them and would further bifurcate women’s ability to access the basic health care they deserve. 

The administration’s policies are even more damaging when you consider the already existing challenges. More than 19 million women in need of publicly funded contraception live in contraceptive deserts, counties in which there isn’t reasonable access to a public clinic that offer the full range of contraceptive methods.

These access gaps, along with gaps in access to information are a systems failure and have contributed to disproportionately higher rates of unplanned pregnancy among women most impacted by these access gaps — women of color, women living in poverty and women in rural areas.

These continued attempts to limit access to contraception are, not surprisingly, wildly out of step with views of a majority of people in the United States. Our polling shows that 81 percent of the public support policies that make it easier for people 18 and older to get the full range of birth control methods; and 75 percent of respondents support efforts to protect federal, state and local funding for birth control for women 18 years and older. In addition, 70 percent of all U.S. adults support policies that make it easier for teens to get the full range of birth control methods.

So today, on Thanks Birth Control Day let’s make it clear to our national, state and local policy makers that we won’t go back. Birth control is basic women’s health care and all women deserve unfettered access to the method right for them so that they can decide if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.

This access has made a difference for millions of women since 1972 and the next generation deserves nothing less. That’s not just my perspective, it is one shared by the majority of people in this country. Join me today in saying Thanks, Birth Control (by using the hashtag #ThxBirthControl) and send a message to policy makers that this issue matters to you and to future generations.

Ginny Ehrlich is the CEO of Power to Decide, which is a private, non-profit organization that works to ensure all women have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant.