A new study from the Guttmacher Institute investigates the ways that women believe their birth control has impacted their lives. Although the strong connection between increased access to contraception and increased improvements to women’s lives has been confirmed, women are rarely asked to speak about the effects of birth control on their own lives and in their own words — a gap that the study’s authors hoped to fill.
The majority of respondents confirmed that being able to use contraception has had a significant impact on the quality of their lives, particularly by giving them the economic autonomy to pursue goals like becoming financially independent or getting a college degree. 63 percent of women said their birth control allowed them to take better care of themselves or their families, 56 percent reported it helped them support themselves financially, 51 percent credited contraception with allowing them to complete their education, and 50 percent said it enabled them to either keep or get a job. When asked why they are currently in need of contraceptive coverage, women noted that an unintended pregnancy would put a financial strain on their lives — a full 65 percent of women said their primary reason for using birth control is because they could not currently afford to take care of a new baby.
Study author Laura Lindberg pointed out that the ability to have control over childbearing is an important value for women, since — unlike men — women’s reproductive systems are inextricably linked to their ability to achieve their economic goals. “Women value the ability to plan their childbearing, and view doing so as critical to being able to achieve their life goals,” Lindberg explained. “They need continued access to a wide range of contraceptives so they can plan their families and determine when they are ready to have children.”
The study notes that the Centers for Disease Control celebrated the development of modern contraception as one of the 10 most important public health achievements of the 20th century, and the authors point to their findings as further proof of “the value of ensuring women’s continued and increased access to a full range of contraceptive services and methods.” Following this line of thought, President Obama’s health care reform law adopted new guidelines to define contraception as basic preventative care for women. Although Obamacare’s birth control provision that requires employer-based insurance plans to cover birth control without a co-pay went into effect on August 1, conservative religious groups continue to fight against the imperative to provide affordable health care for women.