Obama’s birth control legislation long overdue

Illustration by Marleigh Culver

Katherine Johnson

Illustration by Marleigh Culver

Obama’s controversial health-care plan continues to receive attention after the administration passed a law regarding birth control. Republicans and some churches are claiming that the law violates religious freedom, since organizations affiliated with a religion must comply with making birth control available to women.

The law requires employers offer female employees access to birth control. That means women will no longer have to pay a co-pay for birth control and will also have access to the morning-after pill and sterilization services.

Allowing women to have access to birth control is an advancement that’s long overdue in our country.

The bill, however, does come along with controversy from Republicans, whose party leaders claim that the law violates religious freedom. The law mandates that hospitals or universities affiliated with a religion must offer birth control to its employees.

This should not be an issue though, because all women have the right to access birth control for their health and well-being. Religiously affiliated employers don’t have the right to deny them this, since it would overstep personal freedom. Even though the employee has the option, this doesn’t mean they will or have to take advantage of the law.

Republicans need to accept that we’re a progressive society. As a country, we shouldn’t regress by trying to defund Planned Parenthood or ignore the issue of high birth-control costs.

Many women aren’t on the pill now simply because of its cost. If they don’t have insurance, they go without the pill. But now, that women have access to the pill, we may see fewer unplanned pregnancies and abortions, something it seems Republicans would support.

If women can’t afford contraceptives such as birth control, it’s unlikely that they’d have the means to support a child. Since they have the pill as an option now, we may see less use in other areas such as welfare or WIC. At the least, we’d see a reduction in unplanned pregnancies and potential mothers facing some tough decisions.

Presidential candidates have also criticized the law, and have claimed it’s “anti-religious.” Providing women with medicine doesn’t push an anti-religion agenda. Why, as a country, should we revert and not embrace medical advances?

Although the pill itself also had controversial beginnings, it soon gained acceptance in modern society, to the point that the government has funded numerous birth-control clinics. Today, 99 percent of sexually active American women have used birth control. This shows that use of the pill has crossed demographic and party lines.

In a way, birth control represented the advancement of women’s rights and the movement of women into the workforce and out of the home.

So why are conservatives so against it?

The Catholic Church has always had a no-contraceptive policy, but not many followers adhere to that anymore. In fact, it probably hasn’t been taken seriously for the last 50 years, at least in the United States. Women are no longer basing their health and personal decisions on a stipulation made by the church. It’s been reported that 98 percent of Catholic women have used some form of birth control.

Churches themselves are exempt from the new law, but groups such as Catholics for Choice and the Central Conference of American Rabbis have voiced their support in favor of the law, claiming that the policy “safeguards religious liberty” and will improve the lives of women and their families.

Women should have the right to medical care, including birth control, which is now possible through this law. Simply put, women can choose to participate but don’t have to. Now finances don’t have to be a woman’s deciding factor when dealing with her health.

Religious freedom is not at stake in this case, because it’s still the woman’s choice and only offers her a new option.

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