In 1972 women’s reproductive health changed drastically. It was the year the Supreme Court made birth control legal for all women — regardless of age or marital status. Most of us today were barely out of grade school when birth control was legalized.
Stories shared from women in my life depicted frustrations with the limited options available for women trying to avoid unplanned pregnancy. In the struggle for birth control access, anecdotes are no replacement for lived experience.
I immigrated to the United States at 19-years-old when access to contraception was legal and accessible and thus, I cannot remember a time when I did not have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.
Almost 50 years after birth control became legal for all women in the U.S., we’re not working to expand access, but rather working to stop efforts that would undoubtedly reverse the progress we have made. This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Trump v. Pennsylvania, a set of cases that will determine whether employers or universities can choose not to cover birth control coverage in their health plans. The current requirement to cover contraception is part of the Affordable Care Act.
It is without question that like other health care decisions, birth control and what method specifically to use should be completely and solely decided by patients and their health care providers. Allowing employers to opt-out of covering birth control in their insurance plans serves as a barrier for women trying to get the contraceptive method they need, deserve, and is right for them. Effectively, this would permit employers or insurance providers to decide about something as basic as who can use birth control and what methods they can use. Allowing such interference creates a slippery slope which would undoubtedly mean interference in other areas of health care. What’s next?
According to public opinion, contraception is popular, as 99 percent of women who have ever had sex with men have used a method of contraception at some point in their lives.
According to our data, 76 percent of adults believe that birth control is a basic part of women’s health care and 86 percent support access to the full range of birth control methods — with strong support regardless of race, ethnicity, region, and political affiliation. Given the wide use of contraception and its broad public support we should not be putting up barriers to accessing it, we should be looking for ways to make it more accessible.
Without coverage in their health plans, birth control will be cost-prohibitive for many women covered by these plans.
For women with limited resources, having to pay for contraception limits their access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care. The most effective contraceptive methods, which include IUDs and implants can cost hundreds of dollars. In fact, many women would need to pay more than $1,000 to start using one of these methods. Data show uninsured women on average pay $370 for a full year’s worth of contraceptive pills. Meanwhile, there is no financial incentive for denying contraception access to women. In fact, research shows that covering the full range of contraceptive methods provides considerable cost savings to companies. However, if an employee was separately billed the cost for many would be prohibitive.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we made progress for women’s access to the full range of contraception by ensuring it is covered at no additional cost. The unprecedented attacks on women’s contraceptive access from the present Administration have come despite its overwhelming popularity.
We hope the Supreme Court will put women first so that they can have the access to the full range of reproductive health care they deserve and have the power to decide if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.
Gillian Sealy is the CEO of Power to Decide.