Women in the U.S. have more options when it comes to birth control than ever before, and while access to birth control is regarded as a human right, it tends to vary state by state. Reproductive rights continue to be debated in political and legislative arenas and certain forms of birth control are associated with considerable controversy. Understanding birth control access as well as the various forms of birth control enables women to make more informed decisions about their reproductive health.
Basic Birth Control Rights
In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that no person may be prevented from using contraceptives whether married or single. It also decreed that states may not impede the decision of whether or not one has children. Though decades have passed, there is still discourse, even heated debate, about access to birth control in many states and at the national level. Although access to birth control has been linked to socio and economic progress for women, various groups in the U.S. have sought to defund programs that provide birth control to low-income women and to decry the use of controversial forms of birth control like the morning-after pill.
Controversial Birth Control
Emergency forms of contraception like the “morning after pill” became available to women in the U.S. in 1996. This form of birth control was available to women over the age of 18. Women who were 17 or younger could not use this form of birth control without a doctor’s prescription, although this restriction has been removed as of 2009. Today, state legislatures take different paths to expand access to emergency contraception. Some states have mandated emergency contraception-related services for women who have been sexually assaulted, some permit a woman to obtain EC without obtaining a prescription, and others have attempted to restrict access in various ways.
To promote greater access to all approved forms of birth control, the Affordable Care Act has stated that employer-sponsored health insurance must offer all FDA-approved forms of birth control to employees without a co-pay. Because some religious institutions have challenged this mandate in accordance with religious liberties, they do not have to fund controversial forms of birth control; instead, the insurance provider will pay for the form of birth control in question. Nevertheless, various groups and politicians are still fighting about birth control coverage and asserting that the forms covered by the employers’ policies should be decided by the employer. Other groups are still fighting to deny access to emergency forms of contraception and also to defund clinics that offer more controversial forms of birth control.
Even though women today enjoy greater access to birth control than in the past, this access may be under threat depending upon the state you live in or upon the ever-changing political climate. Women of reproductive age should take time to research the birth control access in their home states. Additionally, women should investigate what forms of birth control work best for them and talk to their healthcare providers about issues such as insurance coverage, cost, and other topics associated with reproductive health. Women can also continue to monitor this issue as it continues to evolve at both the state and federal levels.