If we want to promote sustainable and equitable economic development around the world, there is a need for universal access to reproductive health care and rights, including contraceptive methods.
It is 2017 and it is apparently still an issue of concern whether family planning and female contraceptives should be a personal choice and not a matter of State.
So when on May 30, 2017, the United States’ Departments of Health and Human Services, and Treasury promulgated a draft of an interim final rule discussing a faith-based approach to how contraceptives should be addressed under the national health care programme, we can all understand how the world became baffled by the decision of a country that attempts to be the leading investor in democratic and human rights.
When the Affordable Care Act of 2010 in the United States expanded federal contraceptive coverage guarantee, requiring for 18 methods of contraceptive used by women, along with counselling to be offered free of charge it seemed like the discussion was over in most instances, and finally female reproductive rights were at last in human rights in a country that had been battling with the issue for over a hundred years.
It is important to note that the federal guarantee already allows for religious employers to refuse to provide coverage for some or all contraceptive methods and services if the practices go against the ethos of their non-profit or corporation. Under that accommodation, the concerned employees would still be able to receive contraceptive coverage from the insurer without a cost.
Growing populations already prove to be a heavier load on social and welfare programmes worldwide and universal family planning including sexual education and the provision of accessible reproductive healthcare for women is essential to promote equal opportunities.
Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund said: “Family planning is about women’s rights and their capacity to make decisions about their health and wellbeing”.
A woman’s control over her own fertility has been widely linked with economic and social factors which put those who cannot afford female contraceptive methods at a deep disadvantage to those who can.
Even if for some women employment might be an option, for most it is a necessity.
In the United States, at least, contraception has historically also been an issue of race and class.
An individual’s self-determination over his or hers reproductive decisions is often taken for granted nowadays but denying access to it to less advantaged parts of the population has historically proven to be harmful even to the point of driving programmes that were detrimental to the most vulnerable parts of the society.
From 1920 to 1945 the black community in the United States majorly supported the birth control movement while trying to improve their already disadvantaged health and economic status in general.
In this same country, there was a dark side to the birth control movement, for many who were peddling eugenics as a method of population control advocated for sterilisations of women of colour, along with immigrants, the disabled, and the mentally ill in state-funded programmes throughout the 20th century driven by prejudiced ideas about science and social control among “undesirable” populations.
Low-income women are more than five-times as likely to encounter an unintended pregnancy, which greatly affects their social mobility and the ones of the children they bear, continuing an endless cycle of family instability and poverty.
Female contraception is such a huge part of our modern world that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary it must have been when it first came out and how it forever affected gender roles, family and relationships.
In a similar experience, when in 1961, female contraception became available under the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) it immediately came under scrutiny under fears of propagating ideas of promiscuity, but it increasingly became obvious that “the pill” would become an integral part of women’s health, improving the social and economic role of women in society.
It produced a positive change, and not only for women. Family planning was and still is enormously helpful in allowing parents to provide a better quality of life to their children, as they are able to better allocate their resources. It became beneficial to society as a whole.
At least for those who could access it.