Introduced by the framing of the Zika Virus spreading to the United States, Rebecca Kreitzer and Candis Watts Smith, two assistant professors of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll, dive into the concern over whether or not women in every part of the country can protect themselves from the possibility of pregnancy through contraception.
For anyone who has ever read a little bit about women’s reproductive health, the answer should be an obvious “absolutely not”. Unfortunately, the fairly unknown federally subsidized Title X program, the only one dedicated solely to family planning and related preventive health care, is being abused by a number of states and Congress, making it even more difficult for some women around the country to access contraception.
Contraception deserts. Think: “desolate or forbidding area” or “uninhabited and uncultivated tract” and that is what a large number of women in the United States deal with in regards to accessing contraception on a day-to-day basis. Zika is an issue; that is undeniable. However, Congress did not reduce Title X funding by 9.8 percent over the course of six years because they were not worried about Zika. (That’s $317.5 million in 2010 to $286.5 million in 2016, by the way!) Congress and states like North Carolina and Texas are reducing these budgets for ideological and religious purposes, not to mention control. Worse, Obstrics & Gynecology published a study demonstrating that their reckless behavior is a contributing factor to the increase in the United States’ maternal morality rates between 2000 and 2014. For the record, maternal mortality rates around the world are decreasing.
So, whom is this affecting? Not me. I get three months of brand birth control covered by my family’s health insurance whenever I need a refill and if I happen to lose a month’s packet, I can just call my doctor and have her contact the pharmacy down the road. Then, I take my car, drive to Walgreens and the problem is solved. Perhaps, this is why I have never worried about having a baby infected by Zika; perhaps, this is why I did not even realized we had a Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Lucky for me, I am not one of the 55% of American women who every day experience at least one barrier in accessing reproductive health care. The figure of 55% is bone chilling. Over half of American women could be facing the fear of becoming pregnant with a Zika infected child; more importantly over half of American women face the fear of becoming pregnant.
An inability to pay, getting time off work or lack of transportation are the three biggest barriers that contribute to the contraception desert and these deserts are in pockets around the country mainly affecting poor, less educated, minority women (especially Hispanic women). Every woman deserves the comfort I experience everyday in knowing that I do not have to worry about getting pregnant (Zika infected country or not). With the election just weeks away, American women need to be told what these candidates’ plans to do about Title X and I hope the moderators in the upcoming debate feel the same.
And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek
Written by: Lauren King