Reproductive Health Issues
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Pregnancy & Family Leave Issues
Updated: November 9, 2014
- A Quick Guide on the Human Rights of Women - The terms reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice are often used as interchangeable phrases to talk about either contraception or abortion. But these terms are in fact three very different concepts. Reproductive health refers to preventive care, family planning, and disease management, while reproductive rights include the legal protections and public supports that allow women to control their fertility, give birth as they choose, and protect their health so that they can fully participate in society. Reproductive justice, a 20-year old term, refers to the structural and social issues that effect women's ability to fully benefit from the law or health services and that allow her to be the person, mother, caregiver, and breadwinner she wants to be.
- Ensuring Access to Family Planning Services for All - At some point in their lifetimes, 99 percent of sexually active women in the United States use contraception. However, women access family planning in a variety of locations, as well as pay for the services they receive in a multitude of ways. Although each and every woman in that 99 percent has family planning in common, their needs are all met differently. Policy and funding decisions must recognize these differences in order to support all women in the ways that work best for them. Improvements must be made to our current health care system so that all women can access and receive the contraceptive services they need. This issue brief discusses the importance of family planning and the benefits of making a societal investment in this much-needed health service.
- Family Physicians' Group Officially Opposes 'Nonevidence-Based Restrictions' on Women's Health Care - The American Academy of Family Physicians last week adopted a resolution that "supports a woman's access to reproductive health services and opposes nonevidence-based restrictions on medical care and on the provision of abortion services." AAFP's New York chapter proposed a resolution that would support measures like the Women's Health Protection Act (S 1696, HR 3471). The federal legislation would dismantle state laws "restricting physicians' speech and compelling physicians to give medically inaccurate information to patients, particularly regarding abortion services," AAFP New York President Linda Prine said.
- Ensuring Access to Sexually Transmitted Infection Care for All - At some point in their lives, most sexually active people will be infected with a sexually transmitted infection, or STI. About 20 million new cases of STIs are diagnosed annually. Despite being a common, preventable, and treatable health problem, a lack of information, shame, and stigma tend to characterize the nation's discussions about STIs-even though they represent a severe risk to the public and economic health of the United States.
- U.S. Taxpayers Save $7 for Every $1 the Government Spends on Family Planning - Publicly funded family planning programs help save taxpayers billions of dollars each year by averting costly medical expenses, according to a new analysis from the Guttmacher Institute. It's the latest data point in an overwhelming body of evidence illustrating the societal benefits of expanding access to affordable birth control. Low-income women are at the highest risk of unintended pregnancy, largely because they don't always have access to medical resources like contraception.
- NPR Interview Discusses Development of Birth Control Pill - NPR's "Shots" discusses an interview "Fresh Air's" Terry Gross conducted with Jonathan Eig, author of "The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution." The effort was primarily led by activist Margaret Sanger, scientist Gregory Pincus, Catholic ob-gyn John Rock and research funder Katharine McCormick. Together, they helped develop oral contraceptives during the 1950s, when contraceptives were still illegal in several states.
- Study Finds Implants Curb Teenage Pregnancy - Three in 10 girls and women in the United States become pregnant before 20, a rate significantly higher than that in many other rich countries. In a program offering teenagers free birth control, pregnancy and abortion rates plunged compared to national rates. Pregnancy and abortion rates plunged to less than a quarter the rates of sexually experienced teenagers nationally, the group most comparable to those in the study. Rates were also significantly lower than those among all teenagers.
- AAP Issues Birth Control Guidelines for Teen Girls - The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines for teenage girls who use birth control. The physicians group says long-acting contraceptive devices-the I.U.D. and hormonal implants -should be the first choice for teen girls who don't want to practice abstinence.
- CVS Refunding 11K Women for Improper Birth Control Copays; Target, Walgreens Face Complaints - After an inquiry by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), CVS Health announced that it will reimburse about 11,000 women who were improperly charged copayments for birth control. Meanwhile, Speier also is asking Walgreens and Target to address consumers' complaints about being charged copays for contraceptives at their pharmacies.
- Calif. Gov. Signs Bills To Address Contraceptive Coverage Gaps - California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Thursday signed a bill (SB 1053) into law that requires health plans in the state to cover contraceptive methods and services without out-of-pocket costs, delays or other restrictions.
- Insured Women Increasingly Pay Nothing Out of Pocket for Contraceptives, Guttmacher Survey Finds - Sixty-seven percent of U.S. women with private health coverage paid no out-of-pocket costs for oral contraceptives this spring, compared with 15% of women in fall 2012, before the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage benefits took effect, according to a new Guttmacher Institute study. The proportion of insured women who paid nothing out of pocket also rose substantially for other methods, like the vaginal ring and intrauterine device, the study found.
- Religious Not-for-Profits Likely To Petition Supreme Court Over Contraceptive Coverage - The Supreme Court this fall will likely receive petitions from religiously affiliated not-for-profits that continue to oppose a federal rule designed to ensure that enrollees in their health plans have access to contraceptive coverage.
- The Parent Gap: Many Challengers of Birth Control Benefit Don't Offer Parental Leave Either - Many of the employers currently suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive benefit fail to offer employees robust parental leave coverage, an analysis by RH Reality Check shows.
- Defending Abortion Rights - The state of California sent letters to insurance companies Friday telling them that they cannot go along with the plans of two Roman Catholic colleges to drop abortion coverage from their health insurance plans for employees. The move (which could face legal challenges) could block Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University from carrying out their plans to end the coverage. Both institutions previously offered the coverage, but announced plans to stop doing so. The universities said that they were trying to adhere to Catholic teachings, but faculty members at both Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara -- many of whom are not Catholic -- opposed the shifts. Nonetheless, the universities held firm.
- Poll: Most Voters Say Government Should Not Restrict Abortion Access - Almost 70% of registered voters say the government should not limit access to abortion, according to a new poll from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
- Federal Judge Rules Baptist College May Exclude Coverage for Some Contraceptives - A federal judge ruled that the employee health plan for a private Baptist college does not have to cover contraceptive methods that the school finds "religiously offensive." Louisiana College provides health insurance for its employees through the GuideStone Plan, which offers health coverage in accord with the religious beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention. The insurer does not cover emergency contraception.
- Our Safety Net Is Failing the Impoverished Women Who Need Birth Control - As the number of low-income women who need government assistance to access family planning services has been on the rise, the number of patients served by publicly funded clinics has been falling, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute. The gap helps illustrate the widening gulf between poor women and wealthier women when it comes to their ability to use reproductive health services, a disparity driven partly by partisan attacks on abortion.
- Administration To Release New Contraceptive Coverage Accommodation by Aug. 22 - The Obama administration has notified a federal appeals court that it will release by Aug. 22 a modified accommodation for religious not-for-profits that object to the federal contraceptive coverage rules.
- Court Permits Food Company To Deny Contraceptive Coverage in Light of Hobby Lobby Ruling - A federal appeals court on Friday ordered a lower court to grant Freshway Foods an exemption from the federal contraceptive coverage rules in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. The ruling appears to be the first exemption granted since the Supreme Court issued the Hobby Lobby decision in June.
- How Colorado’s teen birthrate dropped 40% in four years - Since 2009, the state has provided 30,000 contraceptive implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs) at low or no cost to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado through the Colorado Family Planning Initiative. The effort was funded by a five-year commitment of $23 million from an anonymous donor.
- N.Y. Will Allow Medicaid Reimbursements for Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives for New Mothers - New York has joined five other states in making it easier for new mothers in the Medicaid program to access long-acting reversible contraceptives after giving birth. Under a policy change announced last week, women participating in the fee-for-service portion of the program can receive coverage for LARCs immediately after giving birth.
- Senate Democrats Propose Bill To Ensure Women Cannot Be Refused Access to Contraceptives at Pharmacies - The Access to Birth Control Act (S 2625) -- a new measure from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) backed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- aims to ensure women's access to birth control by requiring pharmacies to help women fill prescriptions for contraception.
- Schneiderman Bill Would Require Disclosure Of Contraception Coverage - A bill proposed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday is aimed at limiting the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling over companies providing certain contraceptives in employee health insurance.
- Senators Block Bill Reversing Hobby Lobby Decision - On Wednesday, a minority of senators blocked the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act in a procedural vote. The bill, also known as the Not My Boss’ Business Act, fell four votes short of the 60 needed to advance to debate. Three Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—broke from their party to support the measure, which would prevent for-profit companies from refusing to cover any health care services, including contraception. The vote came hours after the White House announced its support for the bill as a legislative fix to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in
- Timeline: 100 Years of Birth Control - Since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger coined the term "birth control" in 1914, contraception has truly revolutionized women's lives in the United States, and around the world. This timeline begins that year and ends 100 years later in 2014, as 99 percent of sexually active women report using at least one form of birth control at some point in their lives.
- AAUW Blog: - According to the Supreme Court, an employee’s contraception is her boss’s business after all. Although the majority in the Hobby Lobby case claims that its decision is narrow, the truth is we won’t know the full reach of the decision for some time. Hobby Lobby challenged four forms of contraception, but Justice Samuel Alito did not limit the court’s ruling to those forms of contraception only. Thus, companies can refuse to cover ALL forms of birth control if they choose to do so — we’ll see how it plays out. Already 82 companies have stepped forward to say they will embrace the decision, but they have not confirmed how far they will take it.
- Birth Control Order Deepens Divide Among Justices - In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women's rights. The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
- Supreme Court's 'Hobby Lobby' Ruling Won't Resolve Suits by Religious Colleges - While some religious colleges filed briefs backing Hobby Lobby, religious college leaders and lawyers said that they expected another Supreme Court case, likely in the next year or so, would determine how religious colleges are covered by the federal health-care law.
- The Supreme Court Just Made It Harder For Women To Exercise Their Right To Choose - The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts' abortion buffer zone law on Thursday, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay 35 feet away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech. The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to safeguard women's access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.
- Poll: Public Backs Contraceptive Coverage Requirement for Most Employers - Majorities of Americans believe that both publicly and privately held corporations should have to cover contraceptives in their employer-sponsored health plans, according to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.
- Health Department proposes first-ever youth sexual health plan - New York's first-ever Youth Sexual Health Plan was unveiled last week to combat the growing epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies among young people. "Reproductive and sexual health are key issues for adolescents and young adults," acting state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "Providing accurate and comprehensive information to protect adolescents' health and prepare them for responsible decision making is a public health priority."
Menstrual Hygiene Day Links Periods and Human Rights - Handling periods (or "menstrual hygiene management" as experts call it) isn't the first thing one might associate with human rights. Yet the link between realization of rights for women and girls and menstrual hygiene management could not be clearer.
- Preventive Services Coverage Uneven Despite ACA Requirements - The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) requires health plans to cover many preventive care services at no out-of-pocket cost to beneficiaries, but confusion among insurers and providers has left some consumers with unwarranted charges, Politico Pro reports.
- Reproductive Justice and Women's Equality: There Is Some Good News! - In spite of the continuing onslaught against reproductive justice and women's equality, legislators in 17 states introduced 64 measures to expand reproductive options during the first quarter of 2014, the largest such number in 25 years.
- How To Help Prevent Teen Pregnancies Without Shaming Young Women - May marks National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, an advocacy push to promote sexual health and address this country's disproportionately high rate of unintended pregnancies among young people. But programs in this area typically walk a fine line. All too often, public awareness campaigns focus on blaming teen mothers for their choices and telling young women that having a baby will ruin their lives.
- Gap From Age at First Sex to First Marriage and Birth Increases for Women - Compared with several decades ago, women today face a longer time period from when they start having sex until they have their first child, a new study finds. The findings underscore the need for access to effective contraception during those years.
- ACA Improves Contraceptive Access for Teens, But Coverage Gaps Remain - The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) has increased teens' access to a broader range of contraceptives that will bolster efforts to reduce teen pregnancies, according to advocates at a forum hosted by the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, CQ HealthBeat reports.
- In the News: Public Widely Supports Contraceptive Coverage, Study Finds - A strong majority of U.S. residents favor a requirement that health plans cover contraceptives, according to a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- In the News: Colorado Reproductive Health Freedom Act Advances - A Colorado Senate committee has advanced a bill (SB 175) that would prohibit government entities from enacting policies that deny or interfere with reproductive health care.
- AAUW Blog: Defending Women’s Health Care at the Supreme Court
- In the News: Why Religious Leaders Are Speaking Up in Support of Universal Contraceptive Access - When the Supreme Court took up the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases March 25, attorneys for the business owners argued that their religious freedom (and that of the corporations!) is being violated by the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. But not all religious leaders agree.
- In the News: Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy: The Company's Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers - When Hobby Lobby filed its case against Obamacare's contraception mandate, its retirement plan had more than $73 million invested in funds with stakes in contraception makers.
- In the News: Supreme Court Rejects Catholic Groups' Contraceptive Coverage Appeals - The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not review appeals of lower courts' decisions to uphold the federal contraceptive rules in two cases involving the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Catholic University; and other Catholic not-for-profits.
- In the News: Need for Family Planning Funding Remains High, Advocates Say - Reproductive health advocates at a Capitol Hill briefing on Thursday urged lawmakers to maintain funding for the federal Title X family planning program, even as the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) extends insurance coverage to more U.S. residents.
Branch Homepage - Public Policy Issues to Watch