Contraception Without Co-Pays: Good for Women and the Planet

Happy Contraception Day! Today’s the day that most insurance plans in the United States have to start covering birth control with no co-pays under the Affordable Care Act. As a woman who’s spent a fair amount of effort and money avoiding motherhood, I couldn’t be more pleased.  Birth control can be very expensive, and laws that help increase access are a great thing in my book.

But you don’t have to be a woman of a certain (reproductive) age to benefit from expanded access to contraception. Contraception is good for the women you care about, their families, their communities and the planet. And who could possibly be against that? (Well, plenty of people, but I’ll touch on that later.)

First up: Women. It’s not just the childless by choice who benefit from contraception. Birth control allows women to wait to have babies until they’re ready. When women can plan and appropriately space their pregnancies, they and their babies are healthier. According to the reproductive health gurus at the Guttmacher Institute, “Women whose pregnancies are planned are more likely to receive timely prenatal care. They are less likely to smoke or drink during pregnancy, and more likely to breast-feed once their baby is born.” That’s good stuff.

The typical American woman only wants two children. Contraception allows families to have the number of children they’re comfortable raising–and give those children the best possible shot at success. A child who’s received good health care and a great education is more likely to grow up to be a productive member of society. That helps entire nations succeed–and in our complex, interconnected global economy, we need as much success as we can get.

So how does contraception help the planet? In a number: 26.8 billion. That’s how many people the United Nations projects will be sharing Earth in 2100 if we don’t slow population growth rates. Keep in mind that we have about 7.1 billion people on the planet right now. Picture nearly four times as many people struggling to find (and afford) water, food, and energy on a planet where water, food and energy are already scarce in many areas. It’s a recipe for disaster, but it’s an entirely preventable disaster if we take action.

By Guttmacher’s projections, 222 million women in the developing world don’t have access to affordable and appropriate contraception. Here in the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. By expanding access both here (thanks, President Obama!) and abroad (thanks, Melinda Gates, UNFPA, USAID and friends!), we can reduce unintended births, slow down population growth and give the people of 2100 a little more breathing room.

Sounds great, right? Not to everyone, unfortunately. The tentacles of sexism are long and tightly wrapped around societies – including ours. The collective right-wing freakout over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate is only the latest example. While many of us see women’s equality as an inalienable right, powerful interests see it as a threat. That’s why we can’t rest. We have to keep fighting the forces that would be happy to see all women barefoot and pregnant and confined to making sandwiches in the world’s kitchens.

The Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage is a great step in the right direction, and it will help women. And men. And communities. And right-wingers, even though they claim otherwise. And our planet. And the people of 2100. Here’s hoping the long fight for gender equity is done by then.

Amy Phillips Bursch is the media relations manager for Population Connection, the nation’s largest grassroots population organization. You can contact her at

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  • jackcpa2

    Excellent for women to totally remove any personal responsibility for their actions, without regard to any commitment 

  • jennifer-starr

    Actually contraception IS responsible–for those of us that live in reality, that is. 

  • crowepps

    That’s a strange word choice — commitment to whom or what?

    Are you asserting that women shouldn’t have sex unless they intend to become pregnant, that women have some duty to be impregnated unless the man is the one using the birth control, or is your point instead that women should have a commitment to the tenets of their religious faith?

    The reality is both women and men have sex for fun, men usually aren’t eager for a pregnancy that their partners would find unwelcome, and the majority of the people in this country, including the minority who are Catholic, have no problem at all with the ‘morality’ of birth control.  Personal responsibility is the REASON for using birth control.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    The majority of contraceptive-using women are committed to their husbands and already born kids.  Such women don’t want to outsource their cherished husbands to brothels by practicing abstinence only.  Such women don’t want to make their husbands and kids homeless with unwanted bankrupting extra mouths.  Such women don’t want to orphan their kids and leave them vulnerable to pedophile priests.

  • princess-jourdan

    Hey Jackass, contraception is for MEN too. My boyfriend uses condoms religiously, and many older men I know have gotten vasectomies when they decided they were done procreating children. I have found that most men who have no commitment to any woman and are only looking to go floating around having casual sex are the ones who don’t give a shit about using birth control, because if they get a woman pregnant they’ll just walk away anyway. I have found that it’s often the good guys who talk with their wives and girlfriends about using contraceptives, because these men WANT to take responsibility for their sex lives and don’t want their female partners to have to go through the stress of an unplanned pregnancy. My man and I discuss this stuff all the time because we both want to be responsible about sex.