The issue of birth control access has made national headlines lately, as the Supreme Court is considering two challenges against Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement brought forth by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. If the justices rule in favor of those for-profit companies, it will put coverage for this type of reproductive health care in jeopardy at at least 70 companies, and pave the way for additional employers to follow suit.
But, even as social conservatives threaten to roll back access to birth control under the guise of “religious liberty,” women need family planning services more than ever.
According to a new analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, women in the U.S. are spending a longer period time avoiding unintended pregnancy than they used to, since they’re delaying marriage and childbirth. That means the gulf between the age when women first become sexually active and the age when they want to start a family has grown much wider over the past several decades:
CREDIT: Guttmacher Institute
“The increase in the windows between ﬁrst sex and ﬁrst marriage, and between ﬁrst sex and ﬁrst birth for women, is one of the clearest ﬁndings of our study,” the researchers conclude. “The result is that American adults now face a lengthy period before childbearing during which they require effective contraceptive methods.”
The typical American woman spends more than three quarters of her reproductive life trying to avoid pregnancy. Ensuring women’s ability to delay childbearing has had a particularly significant impact on the modern workforce, since women can now use birth control to put off having a family while they pursue financial goals.
Nonetheless, many women face significant barriers to family planning services. Thanks to the lack of comprehensive sex ed standards across the country, most women start having sex before they learn anything about effective forms of birth control. A third of women say they have struggled to afford birth control at some point in their lives, a figure that rises to 55 percent for younger women. And an estimated 19 million low-income women are in need of publicly funded reproductive health services, even as states continue to slash funding in this area. Title X has been cut by more than $23 million over the past two fiscal years.