Considering birth control options while pregnant or right after giving birth may seem unusual for some, but for others, it serves as an empowering tool to reduce unwanted pregnancy. Initially adopted by South Carolina, a new policy offers long term contraceptive plans for women on Medicaid right after they give birth. With 19 states now following South Carolina’s lead, this plan is aimed towards providing easy access to birth control for women in low income households.
Unplanned pregnancy is highly prevalent in the United States. Approximately half of the nation’s pregnancies are unplanned, even with the development of more reliable means of birth control. These include intrauterine devices (IUD), birth control implants and hormone shots. However, the cost of and accessibility to these contraceptives are obstacles for many low-income women, who are more than twice as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy as opposed to women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.
This new policy targets pregnancy, a time period in which women are most likely to be receiving some sort of health care. Pregnant women who are not already on health insurance
are temporarily put on Medicaid, which covers contraceptive options. A little less than half of all pregnancies are covered by Medicaid, so this new plan could serve as an essential tool for low-income women.
While well-intended, this initiative has caused some to recall an era in which women were forcefully sterilized. During the early 1900s and as late as into the 1970s, women in marginalized groups including African-Americans, women from low-income households and disabled patients were subject to state-sponsored sterilization efforts. These groups were specifically targeted in order to control their population levels, which highlights the often overlooked history of the government’s role in regulating minorties’ reproductive rights.
Women have fought a long battle for control over their bodies. Whether it be abortion or access to birth control, the government’s role in regulating women’s healthcare has always been controversial. Often times women feel as if their voices are left unheard, while male legislators make decisions that will never affect them. However, giving birth control options to women after birth is not something that is left for the doctors or policy makers to decide. Instead, women are given the choice to decide what they want to do with their bodies.
As long as the decision to receive or not receive birth control is discussed and carefully thought out with doctors beforehand, postnatal birth control would empower women by giving them the option to think about their future. For many women, birth control is simply not an option because of its expense. Medicaid relieves this financial burden while offering birth control at a convenient time, because the price isn’t the only thing that obstructs a woman’s access to contraceptives. Usually, accessing birth control means more than one trip to the doctor’s office, planning appointments beforehand and taking time off from work that many women from low-income households simply cannot afford. Also, the birth control options offered by Medicaid are not permanent; if a woman were to decide to stop using it, a trip to the doctor’s office would remove the birth control implant. While the history of the interaction between the nation’s healthcare system and marginalized groups has been riddled with discrimination, this new plan serves as a ray of hope and opportunity for many women.
Hana Anderson ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Duluth, Minn. Her major is undecided.