Thursday, July 21, 2011

No-Cost Birth Control Matters!

This post is part of the National Women's Law Center's Birth Control Blog Carnival.

Birth control has been important pretty much since the beginning of time. It’s discussed in the Torah, when Onan “spilled [his seed] on the ground” (Gen 38:9) in order to avoid impregnating his wife Tamar. Almost every ancient civilization used birth control in some form (including the Egyptians’ usage of crocodile dung as a diaphragm - I promise I’m not making that up). Most of the methods were forgotten by the Middle Ages, largely because of witch hunts and subsequent executions. People feared midwives’ knowledge of herbs and their uses (like as contraceptives), and often accused them of witchcraft. When women first began fighting for their rights in the 1800s, birth control became a feminist issue. Margaret Sanger established the first birth control clinic in 1921. The Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) decided that forbidding contraceptives to married couples is unconstitutional, and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) determined that the same applies to unmarried people. (Both cases helped Roe v. Wade out.)

Ever since the heyday of the Second Wave, feminists’ fight for accessible birth control has been fierce. In a couple months, the Department of Health and Human Services is going to decide which preventive services will be covered without a co-pay in new health insurance plans, and I think everyone reading this post wants to make sure that prescription birth control is included.

In general, accessible birth control is a vital component of an effective society. It’s imperative for women to have the choice to use contraceptives (whether in the form of a pill, diaphragm, or anything else) because women need to be able to decide if/when they want to have children. If women are forced into motherhood at an inopportune time, not only does it make for poor parenting, but it can also be physically dangerous for the mother. According to Promoting Healthy Pregnancies: Counseling and Contraception as the First Step, conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, reflux esophagitis, arthritis, and coronary artery disease can worsen during an unintended pregnancy. If a woman is endangered during a pregnancy, then it certainly puts her unborn child in danger, too. Condoms accomplish the same means, but it’s men’s choice, not women’s. Men’s choice in birth control is also important, and they should have the ability to get condoms at little to no cost, just as women should have the ability to get birth control at little to no cost.

Economically speaking, no-cost birth control is so important because many women can’t afford birth control if it costs a lot - women get paid 79 cents to men’s dollar, and it’s even worse for women of color. The current unemployment rate is 9.2%, so even women that could usually afford birth control may not be able to now.

No-cost birth control is also the solution to a vicious circle. Women who can’t afford birth control and choose to have unprotected sex anyway can get pregnant. If they decide not to have an abortion or give their child up for adoption, they have an infant to take care of, on top of the other responsibilities they have in life (which can include a job, taking care of a parent or sibling, caring for other children, etc.). A woman who can’t afford birth control certainly can’t afford a child. (According to the Agriculture Department, raising a child costs $222,360. That’s definitely a lot more than birth control costs.) Such a family can end up relying on government-sponsored programs like WIC, welfare, Food Stamps, public housing, Medicaid, etc. Isn’t it a lot cheaper to give a woman free birth control than support a family?

It’s equally important for no-cost birth control to be accessible. The fact that it’s free is great, and necessary, but if women can’t get it, it means nothing. If insurance companies will only offer birth control at no cost after a woman has hit the doughnut hole, or some other random requirement, it just makes it impossible for women to obtain the no-cost birth control they need.

No-cost birth control clearly benefits not only women, but their families. As I stated previously, women on birth control can avoid pregnancies they aren’t ready for because of other children they have to take care of. (The National Abortion Federation backs up this point.) This not only helps an unexpected child, but existing children. It also has men’s best interests in mind, because an unplanned pregnancy and newborn can strain a relationship unnecessarily.

All in all, no-cost birth control has so many positives and very few negatives. It’s imperative that it becomes available to women across age, race, and geographical lines - it can benefit so many lives without much effort.


  1. I think I'm addicted to this blog. This is SUCH a well-thought-out, well-researched, well-spoken article...Sigh. A new obsession.


  2. I'm glad you like the blog, and this article, so much! I do feel honored that it could become an obsession.