Some respect wanted for women

Some respect wanted for women
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Fifty years ago this week, the nation celebrated a Supreme Court decision that has since had a profound impact on women’s autonomy in this country. The landmark case, Griswold v. Connecticut, legalized birth control (for married people, at least) and paved the way for all women to have control of the single most important health and financial decision she makes in her lifetime—whether and when to become pregnant. 

The historic achievement was a game changer for women’s health. Now, a half-century later, some in Congress and statehouses across the country are working relentlessly to turn back the clock.  

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Why in 2015 is contraception so controversial?  It prevents millions of unintended pregnancies, saves billions of taxpayer dollars annually, and empowers women. It’s outrageous that in 2015 federal legislation as well as court decisions erect barriers between a women and her family planning care. Local and federal governments seem to be working overtime to figure out more ways to restrict and sabotage this constitutional right that was affirmed half a century ago with Griswold. What’s more, the recent Hobby Lobby decision opened the floodgates for other lawsuits that could prevent employees from having their birth control covered by their insurance companies due to their employers’ religious beliefs.  

In a new survey of female voters conducted by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, 91 percent of women polled said that Americans should have the right to privacy when making decisions about contraception. So, why are we still questioning whether women should be “allowed” to have access to birth control without cost?

Later this month the Supreme Court will rule in King v. Burwell, a case that challenges the use of subsidies in states that use healthcare.gov. If this central feature of the ACA falls, seven million women are at risk of losing affordable access to essential preventive health care services, including contraceptive coverage. It seems unfathomable that after so much progress we are in a period of unprecedented attacks on women's health. 

In this new study, 63 percent said that they are more likely to vote for their member of Congress if he or she supports increasing funding for family planning services. Yet, funding for Title X, the nation’s family planning program, has been slashed and fewer women and men are able to seek care. This type of policy runs counter to the way people think about family planning and contraception today, and makes no financial sense at all.   

Research has shown that investing in publicly funded family planning services enables women to avoid unintended pregnancies, and space intended ones, which is good for women and their families.  According to Guttmacher Institute data, in the absence of Title X and the family planning safety net, the public costs of unintended pregnancy in 2010 would have been 75 percent higher. As it is, unintended pregnancies cost our government $21 billion in 2010. Logically, the more that is cut from public funds, the greater the cost for all, which begs the question, why are we not increasing Title X and other public funds?

Fulfilling the promise of Griswold does not rest on its legalization alone. It is about ensuring that all women and men have access to high-quality family planning and sexual health care.  That includes rebuilding the publicly funded family planning network. We need more resources to care for low-income populations and those centers that serve them, we need increased access to family planning care, and we need real sex education that spells out how to avoid unintended pregnancies and how to avoid STDs because abstinence-only programs do not work. 

We’ve come a long way as a country in the last 50 years. But the truth is, while we may have won a few battles, we haven’t come close to winning the war. As we celebrate the 50-year legacy of Griswold v. Connecticut it has never been clearer that the fight over contraception access is hardly a thing of the past rather but an issue of our time. And it’s time to trust that US women know what is best for them and give them the respect they deserve.

Blumenthal is Connecticut’s senior senator, serving since 2011. He sits on the Armed Services; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; the Judiciary; and the Veterans’ Affairs committees. Coleman is the president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.