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February Editorial: Federal Birth Control Mandate a Victory for Women's Rights

Byline: by Brooke Ketron

Posted: March 2, 2012

Controversy recently sparked over the Obama administration mandate that requires employers to cover the cost of birth control for their female employees. Catholic institutions across the nation immediately resisted the mandate, calling for changes that would relieve the religious establishments from responsibility for the distribution of birth control, which they argue violates their religious and moral ethics.

President Barack Obama recently came to a compromise that excludes Catholic institutions from paying for the birth control, but instead allows employees to acquire the contraceptives through the company medical insurance.

Though it is customary for employers to offer medical coverage after a pre-determined amount of time of service, dental cleanings are much less case-sensitive than birth control prescriptions. Requiring employers to cover the costs of birth control pushes the limits of personal and professional relationships. Some employees may want their employers to know about decisions they make regarding their personal lives.

However, this mandate could benefit employers. By supplying birth control coverage, companies may experience less instances of maternal leave or complete loss of an employee due to unplanned pregnancies. It can also create a sense of job security for women who take advantage of the program, ensuring that they can dedicate their time to the employer as appropriate.

While the mandate receives mixed reviews, women everywhere seem to be breathing a little easier. For many women, contraception can be difficult to obtain and afford on a consistent basis. The near shutdown of Planned Parenthood, one of the largest distributors of birth control, left many women without personal protection against unplanned pregnancies. Though some may consider the mandate extreme or unnecessary, it could be a step in the right direction for women’s rights and equality.

As a women’s college, Wilson College should be particularly interested in what seems to be a victory for women’s rights of reproductive choice. Though some argue that the mandate is an attempt to sway the female vote for the 2012 elections, the focus should be that more women will be able to afford birth control than ever before. Women--particularly teenagers and young adults--can experience difficulty consistently acquiring and affording contraceptives.

Though this is a big step for women nationwide, not all women are affected by the mandate. Employers do not always offer medical benefits, leaving women working part-time and those who are unemployed without the opportunity to receive birth control free of cost. The mandate does not address changes for the contraceptive costs for unemployed, impoverished or underage women. Perhaps the women that would most benefit from free birth control services are the ones being denied. This begs the question, what can be done to help these women?

Shippensburg University installed a machine for students to purchase the "morning after pill" Plan B, from the Etter Health Center. Daniel Tosh, comedian and host of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, recently satirized the vending machine on his blog. Many of the blog readers commented that the machine gave the message that safety precautions before sex were not necessary. I agree that it may be giving students the wrong impression, but I do commend Shippensburg University for at least being aware of the consequences of unsafe sex and keeping an open dialogue with students about their options.

All differences aside, birth control services should be provided for inexpensive or no cost to all women who wish to use it. As autonomous beings, we as women have the right to decide when or if we wish to use contraceptives.

Last Updated: March 5, 2012

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