Limiting access to birth control is archaic and hypocritical

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From 2009 to 2015, the state of Colorado offered free, long-term birth control to all women, specifically teenagers and other at-risk women who otherwise would not be able to afford the costs of an IUD or an implant.  

During this period, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the number of abortions dropped 42 percent while the birthrate among teenagers dropped 40 percent.  This action by Colorado went even further then the ACA’s birth control mandate, which covers birth control without a co-pay.  

Although this initiative seems like a resounding success, it hit a major funding wall as all Colorado Republicans in the state legislature opposed the funding for this program in 2015.  As was the case in 2009, the Family Planning Initiative was forced to find private funding to continue the program.  The long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) which were provided for free as part of the initiative have been shown in numerous studies to be the most effective forms of birth control.  

It seems intuitive that Republicans would be in favor of such birth control measures because they are fiscally responsible and lower the number of abortions, but Republicans have been staunchly against increased access to birth control, at both a state and national level.  Republicans in Colorado said that the decrease in abortions was part of a national trend, despite Colorado rates drastically outpacing the national average.

They also said that it would lead to more teenagers and unmarried women having sex, despite studies showing that LARC’s do not lead to increased sexual activity.  Tom Price, the Trump-appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services, is against the ACA birth control mandate, saying it infringes on citizens’ religious freedom, despite the fact that no one in the United States is required to use birth control.

Why is this a partisan issue? The Republican Party, supposedly the party of freedom and limited government, seems to believe that the freedom of a woman to choose when and if she wants to have children is not an inalienable human right but one that depends on her income and socioeconomic status.  

If Republicans were only against abortion because it meant saving a life, then they would embrace easy access to birth control.  But they’re not.  Republicans want to punish women for having sex without the intent of having a child.  Unplanned pregnancies make up almost half of all pregnancies in the United States every year.  Surely this number would go down if women had greater access to better forms of birth control, therefore empowering them by giving them more control of their lives.  

Limiting birth control for women disproportionately affects impoverished and lower-income women who wish to have control over their reproductive rights but do not have the economic means to do so.  By forcing women and teenagers to purchase contraception out-of-pocket and mandating that sex education includes abstinence as the primary form of birth control, legislators are making it harder for many women to get ahead and make the choices they want to make for their future by leaving them with the burden of raising a child that they did not want to have at the time.

As long as Republican legislators continue to go against the principle of religious freedom and use their personal moral beliefs to limit women’s reproductive rights, the United States will lag behind many other developed countries when it comes to unintended pregnancies, infant mortality rates, and women’s maternal health.