For more than 50 years, the birth control pill has played an integral role in American women’s daily lives. Many argue that this tiny pill has been a powerful catalyst for social and cultural change. It revolutionized life and redefined the role of women in our society. For the first time in history, women were granted the freedom to control their sexuality and fertility — as men have always done.
But American women still lack the access and ability to make healthy and informed reproductive decisions. Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are still unplanned. More than one-third of women have struggled to pay for birth control at some point in their lives. The Planned Parenthood Action Center launched the Birth Control Matters campaign in October, which advocates for prescription birth control with no co-pay under the new health care reform law. Reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion through accessible and affordable family planning is a common goal we all should share — regardless of our political affiliations or religious beliefs.
The challenges we face are unremitting. After the budget was voted down last month, Republicans, led by Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, still threaten to pass dangerous legislation that would eradicate all Title X funding, including HIV testing, cervical cancer screenings and other critical preventive reproductive health care services. Defunding Planned Parenthood, America’s largest recipient of Title X funding, is its primary objective. It is disturbingly clear that abortion is no longer the only focus for anti-choice extremists — their goals are much more sinister.
Cutting funding for family planning is nothing short of fiscally irresponsible. After the GOP pledged to focus on the economy, they are instead pushing their extreme social agenda, which leaves no safe place for women to turn, and cuts funding for social programs like Women Infants and Children.Women’s bodies have become a mere chip in a game of political poker. White, balding men in Congress and the courts have more of a say in women’s health than doctors and women themselves.
On our campus, I have spoken to countless women who shell out exorbitant co-pays for their birth control each month. I have listened to innumerable men share fears about getting someone pregnant. Of all the stories I’ve heard, students have said they are grateful for what birth control and organizations like Planned Parenthood have afforded them.
We may believe the battle on reproductive health has already been won, but this could not be further from the truth. Women’s bodies are still a battleground. If we allow anti-choice activists to take advantage of our complacency, we may find ourselves returning to a frightening era when women had to resort to illegal and potentially fatal means in order to control their reproductive destinies — much like countless women in developing countries still do today.
Now is the time to mobilize and harness our collective power and demonstrate our unequivocal support for women’s rights and social justice. Political ideology must not take precedence over our health and our futures, which are inextricably intertwined. We are America’s youth, and our dreams will not be deterred. Along with millions of fellow Americans from all walks of life who believe gender equality and choice are American values, I stand with Planned Parenthood.
Marissa Speno is a senior clinical health studies major. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.