Think where you live doesn’t affect how you live? When it comes to women’s reproductive health and rights, where you live is critical to your access to the care and services you need to live a healthy, productive and economically successful life. Women’s health care is not separate from Health Care – it is integral to it.
No single issue is more critical to a women’s economic success – and that of her family – than her ability to control her child-bearing. Making sure parents get to decide when they want to have children is a proven strategy for family well-being. The easier it is for women to obtain birth control, the more able they are to gain education and employment, which is enormously important for the economy and society.
A study from Child Trends commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund found that if every woman in the United States had access to the most effective birth control possible, it could save as much as $12 billion a year in health care costs.
The Affordable Care Act finally opened the door to affordable contraception by mandating that contraception was health care and had to be provided, free of charge, to women under most health care plans.
The ACA is still the law of the land, despite the best (or worse) efforts of Congress and the Trump Administration to kill, repeal, or replace it. Access to health care is a top issue on the minds of voters in 2018 because they have seen the attacks on it since the election of 2016. Those attacks have taken the form of proposed and passed legislation and executive action at both the federal and state level.
Who gets elected in 2018 will determine the fate of New York State initiatives like single payer (the New York Health Act) and the Reproductive Health Care Act, to bring NYS law into federal compliance with settled case law.
Under current state law, women seeking abortions have 24 weeks to terminate their pregnancies. Otherwise, they are required to carry their pregnancies to term. The Reproductive Health Act would allow licensed healthcare practitioners to perform abortions outside of that window if there is an absence of fetal viability or if the abortion is necessary to protect the mother’s life or health. It is important to note here that protecting the life and health of the mother in a dangerous pregnancy is and should be a medical decision between a woman and her doctor. Government has no role to play.
Where you live matters in these issues. Last year, the Guttmacher Institute published a report reviewing reproductive health policy trends across states in the U.S. in 2017. The analysis found that 19 states enacted 63 new restrictions on abortion access, while 21 states enacted 58 measures to expand reproductive health access and education.
Those states where women workers have better access to reproductive health care services are also the states that create better conditions for women to have more opportunities in the labor market, including higher-quality job opportunities, better wages, and less occupational segregation. The analysis also found that restriction on abortion access was a key indicator of the likelihood of women also facing job lock – or lack of labor mobility. This correlation suggests that women’s economic empowerment is integrated into an overall climate of women’s equality, including accessible reproductive health care that better enables women to exercise self-determination over their reproduction.
And this isn’t just an issue for state or federal officials. Recognizing that candidates at those levels usually rise from the ranks of the locally elected, you should also be asking your local candidates for their stands on health care and reproduction health.
The election of 2018 will set the stage for 2020, another presidential election and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which opened universal suffrage to women in the US. Remember, no one gave women the right to vote – it was the results of a seven decades long struggle to change hide-bound, ingrained, “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.
This November, do we elect candidates ready to move us forward in the 21st century or candidates trying to turn back the clock to the 19th? The decisions you make in the voting booth on November 6th will help determine the economic successes for everyone.