By Julie Burkhart
More and more, in states across the country, it is becoming clear; birth control is the new abortion.
Abortion has always been a divisive issue, wrapped up in questions of morality and human rights. Birth control, on the other hand, has enjoyed widespread popularity and support for decades.
However, a national fight to require health insurance to cover birth control, state laws that begin to edge over the line from anti-abortion to anti-contraception, and new “personhood” bills across the country suggest that some lawmakers are trying to change this.
Not only would these “personhood” bills make abortion illegal, they would endanger a woman’s right to access even basic contraceptives, including birth control, IUDs and Plan B. Bent on protecting the unborn at the expense of women’s health, the bills have the potential to turn the tragedy of a miscarriage into a witch hunt for wrongdoing on the part of the mother. Above all, they puts women’s lives and health in serious jeopardy, taking family-planning decisions away from the families themselves and giving them over instead to the state, the government, doctors and pharmacists.
Next year, in a small town in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, or Oklahoma, a young mother will walk in to a doctor’s office. Her husband has just lost his job, and although they are excited to have more children, adding to their family will need to wait a few years. Because she cannot take hormonal medication – she is prone to blood clots and she wants to be a healthy mother to the two children she already has – she will ask her doctor to insert an IUD, which she has used in the past. New “personhood” bills in these states, which declare that life begins at “conception,” when a sperm meets an egg, will make birth control which prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb illegal. The IUD is one such form of birth control. The doctor will not be allowed to prescribe it.
It seems unbelievable – ridiculous even – but this is a very real future for women across the country. And while these states seem far away to many people, anti-birth control legislation is being pushed even in states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. A federal judge just recently overturned a law in Chicago requiring pharmacists to distribute emergency contraception, saying that these employees have a moral and religious right to refusal. Has the state confused churches and drugstores now?
“Personhood” bills seem like extreme examples, but they are real threats to our reproductive rights, and they have a real chance of passing in many states. More straightforward anti-birth control bills, however, are already passing, chipping away at our access while we are distracted by threats of trans-vaginal government intrusion. New Hampshire, a state which has mandated insurance coverage of birth control for over a decade, now wants to overturn the law. Individual states are banding together to fight a federal law that would require that birth control be covered by insurers nation-wide.
I have long worried my daughter will grow up in a world where her basic reproductive rights would be threatened. Now, the battle has moved from what she is allowed to do once she gets pregnant, to whether or not she has any choice in the pregnancy itself. We must fight for a better world for our children than the one our parents fought to give to us. But with bills such as these, young women may find that ever more difficult.
The Trust Women Commitment
Trust Women deeply values the freedom of each woman to make her own choices about her fertility with the support of her physician without coercion or fear of persecution from the government or any individual. We are committed to mounting a vigorous defense of these freedoms, wherever and whenever they must be defended to protect women’s rights. It is our intention to be proactive and forward thinking. We will engage those who want to limit our freedoms in the political process and not wait until they’ve closed reproductive health care clinics across America or restricted our rights through the courts.
The Trust Women Mission
Trust Women is a pro-woman, pro-choice organization that focuses on the Southern and Midwestern Regions of the United States. Trust Women focuses on expanding access to full spectrum reproductive health care, builds community involvement in reproductive health clinics and rights, and creates model comprehensive public policies to expand abortion care and improve maternal health. Additionally, Trust Women educates voters about candidates so they can make informed voting decisions that will protect their reproductive freedom. During the legislative session, Trust Women lobbies legislatures in target states in support of bills that protect the reproductive rights of women, while working to defeat any harmful legislation that would potentially turn back the clock on women’s rights.
Julie Burkhart is founder and director of Trust Women.