Contraceptive Equity

Ninety-nine percent of women, who are of reproductive age, have used or are using contraception. That statistic shows the wide acceptance of contraceptives in American society. Access to safe, effective and affordable contraceptives is essential to the health and well-being of women and their families.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the Court’s decision, “is rooted in the idea that women’s reproductive health is somehow “extra,” “different,” or “separate.” The ruling unfairly allowed for-profit companies to use the religious beliefs of their owners to take away employees’ health care benefits that were guaranteed to them under the ACA.

Over eight in ten respondents to our poll view contraceptives as part of women’s basic health care. And 94 percent believe that “publicly funded heath care should include birth control for low-income people if they want it.” This view cuts across religion (92 percent of those who attend religious services weekly or more) and political ideology (91 percent of self-identified conservatives).

Under the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) all new private health care plans written on or after August 1, 2012 must cover contraceptive counseling and services and all U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved methods without out-of-pocket costs to patients. While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved an exemption for some religious employers, on June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that allows closely held, for-profit firms to opt out of the contraceptive coverage mandate in the ACA.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the Court’s decision, “is rooted in the idea that women’s reproductive health is somehow “extra,” “different,” or “separate.” The ruling unfairly allowed for-profit companies to use the religious beliefs of their owners to take away employees’ health care benefits that were guaranteed to them under the ACA.

Currently, 28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA- approved contraceptive drugs and devices; 17 of these states also require coverage of related outpatient services. Two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) exclude emergency contraception from the required coverage and one state (West Virginia) excludes minor dependents from coverage.


Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is a high dose of hormones similar to those found in birth control pills. It is a safe and highly effective way to prevent a pregnancy following unprotected sex or if you have a contraceptive failure. Currently there are four FDA-approved products on the market. Three of these products are approved for preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex. IN 2013, the FDA approved one of these products, Plan B One-Step, for over-the-counter sale.

Some states mandate emergency contraception-related services for women who have been sexually assaulted; some states permit a woman to obtain the medication without having to obtain a physician’s prescription; and some states have regulations that discourage pharmacists from refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. At the same time, other states have attempted to restrict access by excluding emergency contraception from state Medicaid family planning eligibility expansions or contraceptive coverage mandates, or by allowing pharmacists and potentially some pharmacies, to refuse to provide contraceptive services.


Why It Matters

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda believes that Black women have the right to make informed decisions about their fertility and to prevent unintended pregnancy. Fundamental to ensuring that right is our commitment to promoting family planning, expanding contraceptive access and affordability, and encouraging healthy sexual behavior.

Historically, Black women, and other women of color, have been the targets of coercive contraceptive practices and policies, misinformation about the use of contraceptives, and unethical contraceptive testing. While we have extensive contraceptive options available today, we must ensure that women fully understand their options for safe, effective and affordable contraception.