Now is the time to repeal a 40-year-old law that perpetuates inequality among women. The Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in certain circumstances, is unfair. The amendment targets women who rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, roughly two out of three adult women enrolled in Medicaid are between the ages of 19 and 44—the reproductive years. Abortions can run upward of $1,000, which places the (legal) procedure out of reach for most women living in poverty.
Several times every month, protesters come to the New Haven Planned Parenthood of Southern New England office to hold signs and pray the rosary. Planned Parenthood serves about 64,000 Connecticut patients a year, though according to a recent annual report, abortions are only about six percent of its services. Most of the services revolve around providing contraceptive services and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Last month, the federal Food and Drug Administration eased restrictions on the so-called abortion pill, also known as RU-486. The new rules allow women to use the drug later in their pregnancies with less visits to the doctor.
For all of recorded history, the contraceptive of choice for men—short of sterilization, withdrawal or abstinence—has been the condom. How ubiquitous are condoms? The federal government says 18 billion condoms will be used worldwide this year alone. They’re sold in latex, lambskin (good for pregnancy prevention, not good for prevention of STDs or HIV), and ribbed with something called “tattoo-inspired textures.”
The choices are dizzying, but only within an extremely small field that involves placing an expandable sheath over an erect penis. Not a single new form of male contraceptives has been introduced on the market in this century—or the last.
In a decision mostly divided along ideological and gender lines, the Supreme Court voted last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to release certain companies from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives to their female employees. Simply put, at 5-4, the Supremes crawled into the LadyBusiness of America and voted to allow closely-held companies to opt out of paying for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The IRS defines “closely-held” as any company that is not a personal service organization, and has five or fewer owners who possess more than half of the stock. A 2009 New York University Stern School of Business study says that’s little more than half of private sector companies that employ around 60 million people. Though press coverage would have you think otherwise, this is not a narrowly-defined decision.
We’re doing something wrong, but it’s fixable now. For years, researchers have said that among industrialized countries, the U.S. has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies, at 49 percent. Such pregnancies are even higher among poor, low-income, and less-educated women. Intended pregnancies tend to signal a family’s readiness for the huge transition brought by the addition of a new member. Intended pregnancies tend to be healthier, and require less public funds outlay.