Which Women Should Be Denied Contraception?

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has spent the last week defending the extremely controversial leaked draft of regulations that would re-define contraception as abortion, and allow federal institutions and employees to deny women contraception if said institutions/employees decided to define methods of birth control as abortion.

Many know, at this point, that every, major medical association in the country including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and others strongly oppose the regulations as they are drafted.

Twenty-six Senators including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have signed a letter to Secretary Leavitt outlining their objections as well.

At this point, the only vocal support has come from extremist, right wing anti-choice organizations that do not support family planning services or contraception for any American.

And, now, there’s more.

The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study that will be featured in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The study shows that more women in the United States are accessing contraception than ever before and that publicly funded health centers that provide these services are more needed than ever before.

Seventy-six percent of respondents in the survey said that they had used private health care providers to access contraception and family planning services and the remaining, almost one quarter of women, said they visited publicly funded health care centers. Interestingly, and critically, the almost 25% of women noted received a much broader range of services from these centers – including sexually transmitted infection testing, pap smears, annual exams, breast exams and more.

And if 76% of women are receiving their health care services from private practice providers, with the institution of a regulation such as this, would we not be setting up even more of a chasm between women who can afford to, essentially, bypass the regulation? Health care access is already a challenge for most Americans. With federal regulations that make it more difficult for lower income, uninsured or underinsured women to access family planning services, we bring down the economic hammer again.

Most importantly (and this is where my logical brain gets twisted into a knot), the report concludes that publicly funded health clinics "…helped women avoid 1.4 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 640,000 unintended births and 600,000 abortions." If these health centers and the family planning services they provide help prevent unintended pregnancies, why would we, again, enact more barriers to success?

I respectfully ask Secretary Leavitt, given this wealth of information, which women would you feel comfortable denying contraception to in favor of
protecting federal institutions "right to refuse"? Married women, single women, mothers, poor women, middle-class women, students, full-time workers? Whose rights get refused because a medically trained professional chose to work in a job that does not align with their particular beliefs?

Which women should be turned away from federally funded health care programs that provide contraception – so critical to women’s health and autonomy, the health of our families and to the benefit of public health as well?

Since 1970 and the creation of Title X to fund family planning federally for Americans who could not afford services otherwise (our most sucessful federal public health program, I might add), we have told American women and men that contraception and family planning are critical to a healthy society. Now, Secretary Leavitt wants to allow health care providers that have a personal or religious opposition to contraception to block access to this crucial public health tool.

So, Secretary Leavitt, some women will need to be martyred for this. Despite the proven success and necessity of publicly funded contraception accessible to those who need it, despite the evidence of clear benefit of publicly funded health centers that provide contraception to women, this administration would prefer to enact more barriers than less?

Which mothers, wives, girlfriends, aunts, sisters, or daughters will just be plain out of luck when they show up to fill their birth control prescription, get an IUD implanted, or purchase a diaphragm and be turned away because the government proclaims that some health care providers just don’t believe they should use those legal, successful methods to control their fertility?

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    I wonder the same things you do, Amie. Great post as always!

  • invalid-0

    for medical conditions and not as birth control??

  • invalid-0

    To reply to anonymous, I guess it will all depend on your income level and where you live. For instance, I am a upper middle class woman who does rely on the pill for PCOS/period regulation, I have enough money to go to a private doctor for bc but I live in a rural area in WV where there aren’t alot of doctors or clinics. I can easily go outside of where I live pretty far cause I have the money to but if I had no insurance, relied on a clinic or one doctor, one store to get bc from then I might be pretty screwed. Rh has often talked about this how abortion and bc pills will never be outlawed for upper class women because they have the means to jump in a car and drive or a plane and go to where it is legal/easy to get. It is often the low income women who will get the shaft on this and those in power I think know it. Trust me I see it alot here in WV we have more CPCs than family planning clinics. The prochoice sides have been trying for years to get a Planned P built in an area of WV that needs it but it has been stopped at every turn cause as you imagine, the pro forced birth crowd outnumbers the prochoice side here. Maybe one day it will change but as Amie says in her latest blog post not with the recommendations that are being proposed. We need as a society to tell those in power to treat ALL women fairly. Heck I have to drive an hour and a half just to see a prochoice GYN. That’s the point this website makes on the abortion/bc issues. I am one of the lucky ones that has the money to drive and a car to get there most however are not. It all needs to change.

  • invalid-0

    Heck I have to drive an hour and a half just to see a prochoice GYN.

    That’s really scary.

  • http://www.momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com invalid-0

    And that is why it is ridiculous that Sec’y Leavitt defends this proposed rule as a way for patients to select practitioners who share their belief systems. When there is only one game in town, who can be selective? And when a patient is poor and has no access to transportation to go to another practitioner that is father away, that juat emphasizes who gets to be selective – wealthier patients.

  • invalid-0

    We prochoicers on the ground here in WV have seen the divide between the wealthy and poor grow especially recently with the economy the way it is. This state is very poor and only getting more so. Some women who never thought they would have to seek assistance are doing so. Doctors are moving out of state due to the malpractice costs leaving patients with very few options. If these proposed regs go into effect it will be a nightmare for women all around the country not just WV. Hilary is right and yes Dr. Dredd I really have to drive that far just to get a bc pill Rx and see a doctor who won’t judge me. Where I used to live in MD we had so many choices but being a transplant to WV it has taken a good bit of getting used to. When my husband decided to have his vasectomy, we had to see several doctors before one would agree to do the procedure. But I am a upper middle class woman just think if I wasn’t. That’s why I fight the good fight.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Pregnancy is a medical condition.  Your comment implies that preventing pregnancy is somehow less of a medical necessity than controlling menstrual pain.  I know you mean well, but let’s not break contraception use into "good" and "not as good" categories.

  • http://www.aol.com invalid-0

    A few years ago, I voluntarily chose to become sterilized, after deciding that I don’t want anymore children, and for my career; however, with the rising legitimate concern that abortion will someday be a thing of the past (if McCain is elected and don’t laugh at this real possibility). NOW I know for sure that I made the right decision for myself and my reproductive health. I only feel sorry for the women of child-bearing age, who will be forced to desperate means, in the very near future (my teen daughter included).

    I don’t mind being the martyr; the Lord has closed off my womb, with assistance from my doctor. The only way I can get pregnant is if the immaculate conception reigned down upon me (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the right-wing had that one figured out, too).

    So, hahahaha to the right-wing and to Roe Vs Wade, too! This conflict won’t rain on my parade (but it will on my sisters). Let’s keep up the good fight! I’m the girl that got away, ha-ha!

  • sayna

    From what I understand, doctors will not perform a tubal ligation on a woman unless she is of a certain age and has already had children. This means that women who don’t ever want to have children are refused sterilization. Apparently the reasoning is that women might change their minds and sue the doctors, which makes a little sense, but I just don’t get how people can treat these women like they couldn’t possibly know what they want! (But those women with more kids than anyone can reasonably provide for? Of course they know what they want! *rolls eyes*)