What I think “Reproductive Rights” Mean

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Hi Guy and a happy Friday! Hope you guys are looking forward to the weekend like I am. I have planned an exciting weekend for myself that should be fun to unravel. Keep tuning in. As you guys know, this month is Women’s History Month. And with International Women’s Day just having passed, the internet is filled with pictures, articles, stories, and “hail-outs” to those women who are working towards a better future and those women who are beating all odds and accomplishing life-long goals. So proud of everyone for recognizing the woman gender like this.

Keeping the overarching theme of women this month, I planned to do a post on women’s reproduction rights. And I can’t think of no better time than today, the day after International Women’s Day, to get down to business. While the rest of the developed world has seemed to “figure women’s health out” United States is still on a hotbed over this issue. While there are women who hate the reality that their government can “control their bodies” there are women out there who feel some sort of structure is needed from the government to preserve the sanctity of “rights” themselves.

General

According to “Status of Women In The States” (See HERE), reproduction rights are “having the ability to decide whether and when to have children”, which sounds like a basic human right, but if we delve deeper, it has important socioeconomic, social, health, and religious implications. According to them, “research suggests that being able to make decisions about one’s own reproductive life and the timing of one’s entry into parenthood is associated with greater relationship stability and satisfaction (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy 2008), more work experience among women (Buckles 2008), and increased wages and average career earnings (Miller 2011)”. It sounds great superficially, but like a woman’s body, the issue is very complicated. Read on to learn what are some current women’s reproduction issues and what should be part of the discussion. So here goes…

Access to Birth Control And Hygiene Products

According to the same website (See HERE), “the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded women’s access to contraception in several ways, including by requiring health care insurers to cover contraceptive counseling and services and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without any out-of-pocket costs to patients (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014)”. This change is significant for women who are unemployed or low-income or live in states where employers could deny access to contraceptives because of their religious beliefs.

“According to the Guttmacher Institute, the average cost of a year’s supply of birth control pills is the equivalent of 51 hours of work for a woman making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (Sonfield 2014). One national study estimates that for uninsured women, the average cost of these pills over a year ($370) is 68 percent of their annual out-of-pocket expenditures for health care services (Liang, Grossman, and Phillips 2011).” In a nutshell, contraceptives are controversial, expensive and women need them as part of their insurance or health benefits, which now they are.

But, there is another aspect that we miss? Hygiene products. Who (a girl obviously) remembers being on their period in school or college and suddenly finding themselves not having a pad? I am sure a lot of girls can attest to this. As a grown woman, I have learned to carry hygiene products in my purse everywhere, but when for a young girl, stocking up hygiene products in school and university bathrooms can save a lot of embarrassment from asking for one or worse, accidents. And girls know periods are not always timed perfectly and can just “show up”. How about requiring schools and universities to stock hygiene products in bathrooms for that unexpected moment? I think this should be a “woman rights” issue, maybe even a “reproductive right” issue.

Abortion

This has been a hot topic in the United States since I can remember. I heard about the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in my junior year of high school and was a bit confused how limiting the scope of its ruling was. According to the website, “In the United States, the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade established the legal right to abortion. State legislative and executive bodies nonetheless continue to battle over legislation related to access to abortion, including parental consent and notification and mandatory waiting periods (Guttmacher Institute 2015b).” I didn’t voice my opinion on the matter then, but was pretty set on what I believed in.

During college, I was in a deep pondering over this matter as well. I mean, when women said we need to be in control of our own bodies, who can disagree with them? But, then on the other side, we have those who vehemently believe in the unborn child’s right to live. So needless to say, this is a very personal and difficult issue to legislate.

However, the website continues that “public funding for abortion remains a contested issue in many states: federal law has banned the use of federal funds for most abortions since 1977, and currently does not allow the use of federal funds for abortion unless the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger (Boonstra 2013). The Affordable Care Act of 2010 reinforces these restrictions, but state Medicaid programs have the option to cover abortion in other circumstances using only state and no federal funds (Salganicoff et al. 2014)”. I think I agree with this ruling. Why should the taxpayers or the state pay for abortions when not they don’t agree with it? I think that’s where we need to draw the boundary. Making the act safe, but paying no part in funding it. It is TOTALLY fair.

However, “State legislative efforts to limit access to abortion have become commonplace. In 2013 and 2014, a broad range of legislation was introduced and passed, including bills requiring women to have an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, stringent regulatory measures targeting abortion providers, bans or restrictions preventing women from obtaining health insurance coverage for abortion, and bans on abortion at later stages of pregnancy (National Women’s Law Center 2014a and 2014b)”. I haven’t had first-hand experience with this law or heard anyone talk about it, but it was probably placed to avoid thoughtless abortions. Sure, you can say it was instilled to appease the far right, but honestly, who in their right mind doesn’t care about their child enough to go through this? Whatever their intention behind the abortion is (socioeconomic, health-related, etc), I think there needs to be some sort of thought process. I think it is helpful to have some form of legislation to discourage irresponsibility, no matter how young or old the mother is.

Preventive Screenings

This is definitely an important part. Research and doctors unanimously agree that preventive care as part of health benefits save lives and money. So having the annual physical, dental cleanings (remember, healthy mouth healthy body), and a gynecological test should be part of any healthcare plan. I am surprised this is not discussed in the political sphere as a woman’s right issue.

Family Health

This may be a long shot, but infertility or single-mother family health plan (for those moms who can’t work full-time because they can’t afford childcare or want to spend more time with their kids) should be part of the “reproductive rights” debate. Many low-income couples have problems conceiving. Many single mothers have to work long hours to put food on the table. In either case, a woman should not have to worry about living the life in worry because she has no job and a health plan.

Family planning is another aspect that can be added under here. While educated women choose to have children later in life, there are women who need to be informed that having kids later in life can lead to more stability and life and relationship satisfaction. And that this is not selfish.

Call-To-Action

1. Start with educating yourself on women’s reproductive laws (why don’t men have them?). The websites I have referenced here are wonderful sources to start with.

2. In the midst of the “Women’s March”, the “Times Up” campaign and the “Me Too” hashtag that seems to be led by women who are pro-choice among other things there is a silent population that wants to be heard as well. If you choose to work in the background on public policy or helping women lead healthy lives, then a great foundation that works with the middle class is the Biden Foundation (See HERE). Currently, its aim is to protect and advance the rights and opportunities of all people through educational programming and public policy analysis. Visit their website and learn how you can help.

Remember, your voice is important. You are in control of your body and should take care of it. Participate in the law-making process that effects you, even if all you do is email your state legislature. Happy Reading!!!