Around the world, the unmet need for safe and effective contraceptive services is staggering: Roughly 215 million women in developing countries rely on traditional contraceptive methods with high failure rates or do not use a contraceptive method at all. Here in the United States, approximately half of the over six million annual pregnancies are unplanned.
On this World Contraception Day, the Center for Reproductive Rights joins the global campaign that envisions a world where every pregnancy is wanted. Through our legal and advocacy work, we demand improvements in access to contraception and defend the right of all people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
Here’s a brief look at our recent initiatives to make access to contraception more readily available worldwide.
In March, the Center published a short report titled, The Right to Contraceptive Information and Services for Women and Adolescents. Working with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the report demonstrates that access to family planning information and services is a fundamental human right that states are obligated to actively respect, protect, and fulfill.
For more than a decade, the City of Manila has effectively prohibited public health facilities from providing or counseling about modern methods of contraception, which include condoms and birth control pills. In 2008, the Center released the report, Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila’s Contraception Ban on Women and Families , and continues to work with local partners and vigorously advocate for the lifting of the ban.
This year, the Slovak Parliament passed a dangerous bill that explicitly prohibits most contraceptives from public health insurance. The bill will put into law a discriminatory existing practice, making contraceptives coverage much more difficult to achieve in the future.
The Center and its partners had intervened before the Parliament, calling for the bill to be rejected because of its discriminatory effect on low-income women, but our concerns were not heeded. The Center has been following this issue in Slovakia for some time, and released the in-depth fact-finding report, Calculated Injustice: The Slovak Republic’s Failure to Ensure Access to Contraceptives. The report shows that the most vulnerable women in Slovakia, including those with low incomes or in violent relationships, lack the economic means to pay the full price for contraceptives. Through the report, the Center is calling for immediate action from the Slovak government to improve family planning policies and contraceptive access through comprehensive and evidence-based sexuality education in schools and an expansion of public health insurance to cover contraceptives.
Contraception and the Affordable Care Act: Just this summer, the Department of Health and Human Services made a historic announcement that birth control must be covered without co-pay under the new health insurance law. The Center for Reproductive Rights persistently lobbied the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt this change because affordable access to contraception is critical to women’s health and lives. Through this decision, millions of women will be better equipped to prevent unplanned pregnancy, and determine whether and when to become parents.
Emergency Contraception and the FDA: In 2009, the Center scored a major victory when a federal court ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had put politics before women’s health when it decided to limit access to emergency contraception. Today, emergency contraception is available without a prescription, but only for women age 17 and older. Pharmacies and clinics must keep it behind the counter and anyone seeking to buy it must show government issued identification proving their age in order to buy it without a prescription.
For more than a year and a half, the FDA and the Obama Administration has ignored a court order to reconsider its refusal to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter to women of all ages. The Center has given the FDA ample time to end its baseless restrictions, but as of today it has not taken any steps to comply with the court order.