Amy Jacobson, Fargo, letter: Cost, not law, hinders access to birth controlStudies show that when cost barriers are removed, women switch quickly to more effective methods and experience fewer unintended pregnancies as a result — a critical outcome in a nation where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.
By: Amy Jacobson,
FARGO — Forty-six years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court opened a new era in civil rights. In a case known as Griswold v. Connecticut, the court struck down a Connecticut law that made it illegal for married couples to use birth control.
What started as a case against one law in one small state ultimately would ensure that women can make personal decisions about if and when to have children — monumentally improving their health and the health of their families.
The anniversary of the Griswold case is a good moment to celebrate how far we’ve come.
Today, family planning widely is recognized by the medical community as integral to improving women’s health and the health of their children. For many women, access to birth control has made the difference between going to college or not, pursuing the career they wanted or not or even having a healthy pregnancy or not.
In fact, some 38 million women are using some contraceptive method at any given time.
Not surprisingly, communities are healthier than they were in 1965. But unfortunately, there’s still a very long way to go.
For too many American women — millions, in fact — birth control is beyond reach. For the estimated 14 percent of women ages 15–44 in North Dakota who are uninsured, the out-of-pocket costs are prohibitive; and even for women who have health insurance, a prescription for birth control often is not a covered benefit.
More than a third of women voters say they have struggled with the cost of prescription birth control at some point in their lives and have failed to use it consistently as a result.
And studies show that when cost barriers are removed, women switch quickly to more effective methods and experience fewer unintended pregnancies as a result — a critical outcome in a nation where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.
Ultimately, removing cost barriers to birth control could mean as much today as removing legal barriers did a half-century ago.
The Affordable Care Act holds enormous promise for expanding access to birth control. Under the new law, millions of women will become insured, and the health care — including birth control — they have gone without for so long finally will be attainable.
In addition, the law offers an unprecedented chance to make birth control more affordable. The fact that some states — including North Dakota — are trying to stop the law in its tracks is a shortsighted political goal that would only hurt women and their families.
The Griswold anniversary is time to not only celebrate but also recommit to improving our nation’s health.
As we mark the anniversary of the decision, let’s resolve to keep building on its legacy.
Jacobson is the North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.