It was nearly half a century before the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark 1965 opinion Griswold v. Connecticut, overturned bans on the sale of contraception to married women. Seven years later, the Supreme Court would recognize this same right on behalf of unmarried women.
More recently, the Obama administration, under the Affordable Care Act, has mandated that contraception must be made available in health insurance plans. Less than a hundred years after Sanger’s arrest, millions of women in America will now have access to affordable, effective contraception.
Contraception empowers women with the ability to control their reproductive decisions, protect their health and plan their families. With that power, women more readily can pursue higher education and training, and as a result, contraception promotes gender equality in the workplace and society. More than 99 percent of sexually active women have used contraception in their lives, and a majority of sexually active women use it.
As far as we’ve come in access, politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to confuse political judgment for medical sci ence.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the battle to make emergency contraception (EC) more widely available.
When taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, EC significantly decreases the chances of an unintended pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion and is safer than most drugs currently sold over the counter without any age restrictions or requirements for prescription.
However, even after FDA scientists unanimously approved EC as safe for over-the-counter sale to women of all ages, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius made the unprecedented decision to overrule the recommendation. This earned a harsh rebuke from federal Judge Edward Korman. Absent an unlikely decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that overturns Korman’s decision, at least one version of EC will be dispensed according to science, not politics.
Meanwhile, back in Oklahoma, legislators earlier this year made a last-minute, backdoor attempt to do just what a federal court has told the Obama administration it couldn’t: Put politics ahead of science. Amendments placed in at least two bills toward the end of the legislative session sought to limit access to EC in Oklahoma. One of the measures ended up winning passage.
It remains difficult to wrap one’s head around the reason legislators, who are ostensibly against abortion, would go out of their way to make it that much more likely that women in Oklahoma would be faced with an unintended pregnancy — bringing about the absurd scenario of legislators increasing the demand for the very abortion services they so often seek to eliminate.
Kiesel is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.
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