This week marks the 54th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case overturning a ban on contraception for married people. As we celebrate this landmark decision from 1965, it’s hard to believe that in 2019, access to contraception is still under attack.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration imposed some of the most extreme changes to the federal Title X family planning program since it was established by Congress in 1970 with bi-partisan support. If the new regulations are implemented, they would undermine the program’s mandate to ensure low-income and uninsured people can access comprehensive family planning services. The changes would delay access to preventive health care for millions of patients served by the program throughout California and the nation.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also released rules that seek to allow employers to deny employees contraceptive coverage in work-based health plans, if the employer has a “religious or moral objection” to birth control. Most recently, HHS released new “refusal rules” that would permit providers to deny their patients essential health care if they personally oppose the services requested.
All of these regressive actions have been challenged, and many have been blocked by the courts. Although final decisions are pending, issues surrounding access to birth control are already settled in the court of public opinion.
Nine out of 10 likely California voters believe it is important for women to have access to birth control – regardless of their ability to pay. At least two-thirds of voters in every region support access – including the Central Valley where 77 percent of respondents said they favored access to birth control for everyone who wants or needs it.
Broad support for birth control is consistent across party lines and key demographics, including gender, age, and religion. A strong majority of Catholics and Protestants favor birth control access for all women. Strikingly, 73 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of respondents who personally oppose abortion, also believe access to birth control is important.
This broad support indicates that ensuring women have the freedom to decide when and if to have children is a core California value. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, we just have to look to our own lives to understand the benefits that come from the ability to plan our families and prevent unintended pregnancies. According to a University of Michigan study, access to birth control has significantly increased women’s earning power and narrowed the gender pay gap by as much as 30 percent over three decades.
California has a long history of instituting public policies that expand access to care. The Family PACT program, established in the 1990s, works in concert with Title X to provide a pathway for low-income people to get birth control, STD testing and treatment, cervical cancer screenings and other preventive services. Recently enacted state legislation requires most public and private health plans to cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control without out-of-pocket costs, and the dispensing of a year’s supply of birth control pills, patches, and rings at once.
The result? Unintended pregnancy rates in California have dropped to historic lows.
Fortunately our state leaders know this isn’t the time to rest on our laurels - it’s time for more action.
Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to push California forward by setting aside $100 million in state funding to enhance the delivery of family planning services for low-income patients. We urge the Legislature to approve the governor’s bold plan in the final state budget.
California also must hold the line against federal attacks in court. We applaud Attorney General Xavier Becerra for standing up for California’s values and leading the charge to protect access to birth control in our state and across the country.
We cannot and will not go back to the days when the ability to get birth control was a right available for some, but not all. Although our nation feels more divided than ever, birth control is one issue we can agree on. The federal government must hear this loud and clear - our birth control is not up for grabs.
Julie Rabinovitz is the president and CEO of Essential Access Health. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.