According to the Guttmacher Institute, 99 percent of American women of reproductive age have used birth control at some point. Yet this right that women have long held is coming under attack with a vengeance. In 2015 the corporation Hobby Lobby challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, requiring insurance policies to cover birth control. The Supreme Court ruled in the company’s favor, saying that because corporations are considered “people,” Hobby Lobby has the right to its religious beliefs and can refuse to cover employees’ contraception.
Incidentally, Hobby Lobby is happy to provide health insurance for erections, when made possible by Viagra, along with vasectomies.
A case of gender bias? Vasectomy, a surgical form of birth control, is not a crime, nor continually threatened by regulation. In 2014, 38 states introduced legislative provisions to limit women’s access to reproductive health care. Some imposed clinic regulations, which were medically unnecessary yet so hard to meet, that clinics went out of business. In Mississippi, only one clinic providing abortions remains, and the efforts to shut it down continue. Laws also create obstacles for women, particularly low-income women, who seek to terminate a pregnancy. In 2015, more states mandated a waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion, than those that require a waiting period to purchase a gun. (28 versus 11).
A few states have tried to pass so-called Personhood Bills, which grant the full rights of “persons” to fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses as persons with legal protections. Such laws would not only effectively end legal abortion in the United States, but also ban many common forms of contraception, such as the pill and IUDs. Destroying a fertilized egg or ending a pregnancy at any stage, for any reason, could be considered murder.
The majority of anti-choice groups view the personhood movement as too extreme. Yet the slow but steady chipping away at legal protections for reproductive choice continues to threaten women’s freedom.
Percentage of U.S. women who have used birth control: 99
Number of states in 2014 that introduced legislative provisions to limit women’s access to reproductive health care: 38