Republicans don’t much like being accused of opposing women’s health and rights. But they don’t much like actually supporting them either. Enter Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to claim that health insurance coverage of birth control is a “nitty-gritty detail” that isn’t worth talking about.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we hope you’ll consider some facts.
First things first: Birth control is health care. Women use birth control for many reasons, including being able to have sex without fear of unwanted pregnancies. Women with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, acne, painful menstrual cramps, excessive bleeding, hormonal imbalances and many other medical problems use birth control to keep their symptoms under control. Having access to birth control can be a life saver for many. Read testimonies of women whose lives were saved by birth control. Literally.
But let’s remember that birth control to prevent pregnancy is also health care. Going through pregnancy and childbirth have huge implications for women’s health. Childbirth is more dangerous than safe abortion; every year, more than 300,000 women around the world lose their lives- not to mention jobs and economic and educational opportunities for self-growth- to pregnancy and childbirth. Taking affordable birth control away hurts adolescents the most, as girls under 18 face a significantly higher rate of health complications and mortality from pregnancy and childbirth.
This is especially important in the U.S. While global maternal mortality rates have gone down around the world, they have gone up here. In fact, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Forcing women to give birth because they can’t afford or get birth control puts women’s lives in danger and creates a public health crisis.
Investing in birth control is economically smart. Decreasing access to affordable birth control will hurt poor and marginalized women the most. Unplanned pregnancies cause economically disadvantaged women to stay stuck in the cycle of poverty, drawing on the very entitlements you’d like to see disappear. Birth control is proven to be one of the best tools we have for decreasing poverty. For every dollar we invest in birth control in the U.S. we save seven dollars.
Access to birth control impacts men, women, everyone. This idea that birth control access is a fringe problem that only matters to young women who get drunk and hook up with strangers is not only insulting but also inaccurate. All women, regardless of their marital status or sexual activity, have a right to access birth control. Birth control is not just a women’s issue. It matters to men too. It allows men to also be able to partake in the decision to become parents if and when they want. It always families to make decisions about the finances and logistics of having children and be in control of what happens to them.
Abstinence-only education doesn’t work. Study after study has proven this fact. People who want to have sex are going to do so regardless of whether they’ve been told not to by a teacher or a pastor. The important thing is to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and infections.
Access to affordable contraceptives is essential to a woman’s health, autonomy, dignity, and economic security, and it’s important to their partners, children, and communities as well. That’s why the overwhelming majority of Americans support it and why you should too, Mr. Speaker.