The American medical community has seen a vast amount of change in the last few decades, specifically when it comes to women’s health care. From government policy to rapid advances in technology, the medical world is constantly bending and changing in response to the societal movements around it.
Safe contraceptive care has faced numerous challenges over time. Chief among these challenges is the highly politicized debate surrounding women-specific reproductive and sexual health initiatives like Planned Parenthood.
There are still many people who believe that access to birth control should not be a given, and others still who demonize it all together.
In reality, though, it is so important to provide access to this type of care. Besides giving both women and men more control over their wellbeing and livelihood, access to safe contraceptive care and reproductive care prevents women from having to seek alternative, oftentimes harmful, ways of preventing or aborting pregnancies.
People have tried to prevent unintended pregnancies since the beginning of time. However, in modern history, the government hasn't made it easy.
Congress passed the Comstock laws in 1873, making all contraceptives illegal. This law wasn’t reversed until 1965, when women demanded more control over their own reproductive health as part of the burgeoning women’s movement.
Women didn’t have immediate access to many safe methods of pregnancy prevention, but raising their voices started people on the path to modern health care.
Today, there are many different kinds of birth control for women to use, depending on what works best for their bodies. Unfortunately, the issues women currently face regarding birth control can be summed up by saying many lawmakers don’t take reproductive health care seriously across the board.
Women’s health — and right to control their bodies — has become politicized, preventing women from getting the help they need.
Another struggle that women face is that women’s medical care is systematically taken less seriously by doctors. As a result, we see doctors and drug companies going as far as to outright abuse their power.
For example, take the 2009 case when the FDA had to issue an alert on the drug company Bayer for knowingly selling defective Mirena IUDs (intrauterine devices) and failing to warn women about the potential side effects.
Those side effects ranged anywhere from device migration and/or expulsion, to risks as high as increased likelihood of developing breast cancer.
Normally, IUDS are safe to use. These unsuspecting women were subjected to dangerous and painful side effects as a result of medical negligence, but they thought they were getting a standard, safe procedure done.
The reports identified over 70,000 women who were affected by unpleasant side effects.
Another big case was that of Dr. Paul Singh, who performed non-government-approved IUD insertions between 2008 and 2012. Afterword, the central California doctor billed women’s insurance companies for FDA-approved devices in order to make extra money.
It’s a classic case of pharmaceutical fraud, but it highlights how much some doctors will take women’s health care so lightly. The possibilities for medical complications resulting from something like this are endless.
Unfortunately, women still struggle to trust their doctors and health care companies because of examples like these. And for some women, it may seem like a fight that’s not worth having.
Beyond the extent of doctors and health care companies, there’s the politics of women’s reproductive health, which are shaky at best.
Women receive different levels of health care depending on which state they live in, and the national stance on contraceptive care isn’t much better.
It took until the last few decades for insurance to cover any form of medical birth control, and some bosses still don’t want to cover it.
Hobby Lobby won a case in 2014 that allowed them to remove birth control from their provided health care because of their religious views, setting a standard for private businesses to deny women health care.
Women are working toward a future where high-quality reproductive health care is available to everyone, everywhere, and cannot be taken away. Groups like the National Women’s Law Center aim to get birth control covered by insurance and make sure pharmaceutical companies are held responsible for all patients they provide products for.
Women can’t win this fight alone, but the ever-growing group of people standing up for reproductive rights provides the hope that the fight is, indeed, winnable.