Did you know that the average U.S. woman who wants two children will spend five years pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, and 30 years trying to avoid pregnancy? Or that 215 million women worldwide don’t have access to modern birth control?
On this World Contraception Day, the Center for Reproductive Rights is calling attention to the immeasurable benefits modern contraception has brought to women and their families, as well as the barriers that continue to prevent women from obtaining the birth control they need to be in charge of their bodies and their lives.
Contraception Is Key to Women’s Human Rights
Contraception is essential to a woman’s ability to exercise one of her most basic rights—the right to make her own decisions about her life, including whether and when to have children. This is why the Center has always fought hard for laws and policies that will ensure every woman can obtain the contraception she needs.
U.S. Federal Court Rebukes FDA Over Restrictions on Emergency Contraception
In 2009, we won a momentous ruling from a U.S. federal court ordering the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revisit its unwarranted restrictions on emergency contraception and expand over-the-counter access to the drug. But the battle continues: a year and a half later, we are still pressing the FDA to fully comply with the judge’s order.
Ideology Trumps Access to Contraception
In fact, when it comes to contraception, politics and ideology continue to take precedence over women’s wellbeing and autonomy in all corners of the globe. Courts in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru have all recently restricted or banned emergency contraception based on false claims that it terminates pregnancies. Using the same misleading argument, lawmakers in Idaho passed a bill earlier this year that allows healthcare professionals to refuse to provide emergency contraception to women.
Any form of modern contraception remains out of reach for millions of poor women in Manila City, the Philippines, where an ideologically driven policy has banned public clinics and hospitals from distributing contraception for the past ten years.
Restrictive Laws and Unaffordable Contraception Harm Low-Income Women
As the case of the Philippines makes devastatingly clear, low-income women are hit the hardest by restrictions on contraception. And even when women are not stymied by bans, the lack of affordable options can be an insurmountable obstacle.
For example, our recent submission to the UN Human Rights Council on human rights in the United States highlights high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among low-income women, who may not be able to afford contraception, and women of color, who disproportionately lack affordable health coverage. We are urging the U.S. government to increase funding for reproductive healthcare services.
We are also working with local partners in Slovakia to examine how government subsidies can expand access to contraception to low-income Slovak women.
Governments Must Ensure Access to Contraception
Contraception is critical to women’s reproductive rights and to their ability to fully participate in society. Moreover, a woman’s ability to decide for herself whether and when she wants children translates into improved family well-being and vast gains in female education and economic and social empowerment.
We strongly urge governments to throw aside ideological imperatives and ensure that every woman is able to obtain contraception and make decisions about childbearing that are best for her and her family.