In the year since the Supreme Court struck down the federal constitutional right to abortion, policymakers and advocates have been working to protect another right at both the state and national level: the right to contraception.
Both contraception and abortion care are part of a full range of sexual and reproductive health care that allow people the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies and lives with dignity and respect. Many ‘right to contraception’ efforts aim to prevent state governments from implementing restrictive burdens on access to birth control, protect providers of contraception, and improve access (through insurance coverage, language accessibility, and more).
It is critical to name the United States’ long history of contraceptive coercion and forced sterilization and ensure it is not repeated. From enslaved Black women being forced to undergo deadly medical experimentation by the founder of obstetrics in the 1800s to the first birth control pill being tested on Puerto Rican women without their consent in the 1950s, communities of color, youth, immigrants, and incarcerated individuals, have all been targets of exploitative family planning programs. Even today, state and federal policy continues to reinforce racist and classist approaches to family planning including policies that attempt to control the fertility of Black and Latino people by pushing long acting reversible contraception (LARC) and refusing to remove LARCs when requested.
Reproductive justice advocates, patient centered care clinicians, and researchers recently flagged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services public-private partnership with Upstream USA- a contraceptive initiative that pushes the eugenics narrative of birth control as an ‘anti-poverty’ solution and has long used their funding power on biased counseling that prioritizes LARCs for low-income patients seeking birth control. Black women-led reproductive justice organizations have consistently challenged this narrative, created the LARC statement of principles to guide providers, agencies, and funders, and pushed policymakers to address the actual systemic, social, and policy drivers of racial and gender oppression in the United States by passing policy that affirms true bodily autonomy and the human rights to have children, not have children, and parent children in safe and sustainable communities
Reject Contraceptive Coercion Policies:
- Reject initiatives that prioritize certain methods of birth control with target numbers or incentives;
- End parental involvement laws on birth control;
- Ensure that insurance and family planning programs cover birth control for undocumented individuals;
- Implement 12 month prescriptions; and
- Remove unnecessary pelvic exams and annual office visits for contraception.
Policies like these return power to patients and reduce the likelihood of coercion by healthcare providers.
Right to Contraception Policies
- Thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently have statutory or constitutional amendments protecting the right to contraception, including: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
- In 2023, several states introduced right to contraception bills, including: Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
- State legislators in Arizona recently announced they will introduce a right to contraception bill in January, 2024.
- Congress reintroduced legislation to create a national right to birth control.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering an application for an over the counter (OTC) birth control pill. In May 2024, an FDA panel unanimously recommended approval of the application and a final decision is expected this summer.
- On June 29th, President Biden issued an executive order to improve contraception access and affordability for women with private health insurance, promote increased access to over-the-counter contraception, improve the coverage of contraception through the Medicare program, and support access to contraception for service members, veterans, and federal employees.
- State contraception policy tracker (Guttmacher Institute)
*use the dropdown form to select ‘Contraception’ policies
- State-by-state map of contraceptive access deserts (Power to Decide)
- All the types of birth control using a patient-centered model (Bedsider)
- Black Mamas Matter Alliance: Contraception Is Not A Remedy For Poverty (Essence Magazine)
- SisterSong and the National Women’s Health Network’s Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Statement of Principles