By Riane Eisler and Catherine Bohnsack
Some politicians are still calling contraception a social evil. This is an astonishing claim in the 21st Century when all the evidence is that contraception is key to a more successful economy and a better quality of life – not only for individual women and their families, but for us all.
Because contraception makes it possible to control the timing and spacing of pregnancy and childrearing, it gives both women and men a far greater opportunity to pursue education, have a career, and contribute to our economy. It makes it possible for them to care responsibly for children they already have, as well as for children they choose to have in the future. For women, the constitutional guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has little meaning without access to contraception, which is one of the most basic indicators of women’s rights and women’s health. Indeed, there are so many health benefits from contraception – from the lower risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, osteoporosis, and anemia offered by hormonal methods to the reduction in STDs offered by barrier methods—that only 42% of women for whom birth control is prescribed use it exclusively for contraceptive purposes. For children, parental access to contraception means a greater likelihood that their parents can provide for them so that they have better educational and employment outcomes, better emotional health, and perhaps most importantly, that they are wanted.
Socially, access to contraception means a greater degree of family stability, greatly reduced public health costs, lower abortion rates, and a much higher quality of life than would otherwise be possible. Birth control is also an important part of a more caring economy, which brings about a more successful and prosperous economy for us all. In short, the social and economic benefits of contraception are huge.
This is true not only for the people in our nation, but also for people the world over. As early as 1995, the study “Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life” conducted by the Center for Partnership Studies compared statistical measures from 89 nations on the status of women with measures of quality of life such as infant mortality, human rights ratings, and environmental ratings. It found that in significant respects the status of women is a better predictor of quality of life than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And the measure that had the single highest correlation with quality of life was the prevalence of contraception.
Yet a small, vocal minority representing Catholic and fundamentalist religious institutions want to deny women insurance coverage for contraception on the grounds that it is “morally objectionable” because sex should only be for procreation. Strangely, they have no objection to insurance coverage for Viagra, which is prescribed for men almost exclusively for recreational sex. This is not only hypocritical; it is immoral in light of the enormous benefits of contraception for families and for nations.
We cannot let a religious and political minority dictate our future. Americans overwhelmingly support insurance coverage for contraception as a basic right. A recent CBS/New York Times poll showed that 66 percent of Americans support “a recent federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control for their female patients,” with only 26 percent opposed. Moreover, the poll found that Catholics support it (67-25), Republicans support it (50-44), and women support it (72-20).
In a democracy, the voice of its citizens must not be overridden, especially in matters that so directly affect health, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Morality and good sense demand that access to contraception be recognized as basic to individual and economic health and the wellbeing of our nation.
Riane Eisler, JD is the best-selling author of The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations and founder of the Center for Partnership Studies. Catherine Bohnsack is a mental health counselor and a Doctoral candidate at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
U.S. Representative from New York
The Republican crusade to limit access to birth control for women across the country took an ugly turn last week. As our Republican colleagues continued their effort to extend the reach of the government into the bedroom, most of them stood silently by while one of their favorite radio personalities launched a despicable, sexually charged attack on a respectable young woman. If this is what passes for family values in Republican circles these days, things in the Grand Ol’ Party have indeed come to a sorry pass.
It is a certainty that their efforts, if successful, will have a damaging effect on women’s health. Make no mistake — though the headlines have been about birth control, the issue here is women’s health.
Birth control is directly and undeniably related to women’s health. Birth control protects women from the risk of bearing children before they are ready. Birth control helps to ensure that women do not bear too many children or bear children too soon after their last pregnancy. Birth control is used to relieve symptoms of endometriosis, regulate a cycle, reduce acne, relieve symptoms of depression, reduce migraines, treat polycystic ovary condition, alleviate anemia, and even reduce the risk of some cancers.
And despite misleading Republican talking points about not wanting to subsidize birth control, studies have shown that it may be less expensive in the long run for employers to provide employees with no co-pay coverage of birth control than to deny such coverage altogether. This is in large part due to the fact that no-cost coverage improves a woman’s access to birth control, which means fewer unwanted and/or potentially harmful pregnancies. And that can significantly reduce the huge long-term costs of care related to problem pregnancies and pre-mature births. … Read More