by Davida Silverman and Adriana Kohler. Silverman is Senior Policy Analyst for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Kohler is Public Policy Analyst for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
*This post is part of ACSblog’s symposium reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right of privacy and right for married couples to use contraception. This decision was the first in a series of events that transformed the lives of American women and their families.
Half a century later, birth control has become integral to a woman’s life: More than 99 percent of sexually active women have used at least one form of birth control at some point in their lives. Yet, there is still a very real danger that the right to birth control may be derailed through legal attacks and ongoing efforts by lawmakers to undermine access to contraception.
Access to birth control has dramatically improved women’s lives and ushered in profound societal changes:
Birth control has contributed to the significant decline in unintended pregnancies, dramatic improvements in maternal and infant health, decreased rates of infant death, and women’s educational, political, professional, and social advancements.
In fact, one-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptives, and being able to get the birth control pill before age 21 has been found to be the most influential factor in enabling women enrolled in college to stay in college.
Additionally, a study on the long-term effects of access to contraception found that individuals born in the years immediately after the rollout of federal family planning programs were less likely to live in poverty in childhood and as adults.
Access to birth control also has helped bring teen pregnancy rates to a 40-year low.
Making Legal Birth Control Affordable
Even though birth control became legal and widely available after Griswold, lack of insurance coverage and cost barriers continued to prevent women — particularly lower-income women and women of color — from accessing the birth control they needed. Out-of-pocket costs for birth control could amount to up to $600 per year, depending on the birth control method.
In response, roughly 45 years after Griswold, women’s health champions in Congress pushed for a key provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would require most health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive care without out-of-pocket costs. The administration tasked the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine to determine which women’s health services to consider preventive. Based on those recommendations, the Obama administration adopted guidelines in 2011 (which took effect in 2012) affirming that the women’s preventive health provision must include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without out-of-pocket costs.