The topic of access to birth control has stirred up some debate among opponents and proponents for decades. In the 1960s, the first oral contraceptive was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, but unmarried women in over 20 states were still denied the right to birth control. Even though there have been many successes in providing birth control for women, studies estimate there are more than 200 million women in developing countries who do not have access to modern birth control methods.
As of 2013, a total of 13 million women who were of reproductive age were not insured and could not get affordable access to birth control in the U.S. The Center for American progress reports that oral contraceptives can cost as much as $1,210 a year for uninsured women. Insured women have lower costs, but still pay for almost half the fees.
The Affordable Care Act tackles this pressing issue under the birth control mandate, which allows for women to gain access to birth control without co-pay. However, religious-affiliated companies have filed suit against the federal government due to high costs and threat on their religious freedom. Hobby Lobby as well as Conestoga Wood Specialties are scheduled for a hearing with the Supreme Court on Tuesday March 25th.
“Our religion is Mennonite; that is our faith. Our company was founded on that religion as well,” said Conestoga’s President Anthony Hahn in a statement. “We feel the government has gone too far in too many instances. It’s been troubling to us as a family.”
The National Organization for Women (NOW) – a non-profit that focuses on women’s rights through education and litigation – will be displaying a banner outside the Supreme Court to stand against the 100 companies opposed to the mandate.
“Proponents of discrimination have routinely used religion to justify their hurtful policies,” wrote NOW President, Terry O’Neill in a blog post, “two shameful examples are slavery in the United States and segregation in the Deep South.”
O’Neill also points out that nearly 99 percent of females who are sexually active, 98 percent of whom are of Catholic faith, have used some form of contraception at some point. Consequently, the high costs of contraceptives have led over 50 percent of young, sexually active women to not use birth control as directed.
The Guttmacher Institute reports a total of 51 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. to be mistimed or unwanted. That totals up to 3.4 million pregnancies a year, states the report. The costs of unintended pregnancies are also problematic. More than 60 percent of 1.7 million of unwanted births were paid through public assistance programs in 2008, which cost nearly $12.5 billion in public expenditures.
“…[I]f the Supreme Court decides that a corporation is a ‘person’ with religious freedom under the First Amendment,” wrote O’Neill, “where might that leave the status of women as “persons” with the right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment?”