Contraception as a Contemporary Issue
In the United States, 99% of the approximately 62 million women of reproductive age have used contraception at one time or another (Jones & Dreweke, 2011). Furthermore, the typical heterosexual woman may need some form of contraception for 30 or more years because she is only trying to become pregnant, or is pregnant, for a small percentage of her reproductive life (Gold & Sonfield, 2011). The increase in teenagers’ contraceptive use in the United States is very positive news. A significantly larger proportion of teens are using contraceptives than did 20 years ago, even the first time they have sexual intercourse. Of sexually experienced teens ages 15 to 19,78% of females and 85% of males used contraception the first time they had sexual intercourse (Martinez et al., 2011). However, the United States continues to have among the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion in the developed world (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011). In Europe where teen pregnancy rates are much lower, governments support mass media public health messages to encourage the use of contraception, emphasizing both safety and pleasure (Alford & Hauser, 2011).
The availability and use of reliable birth control is desirable for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, with contraception heterosexual couples can enjoy sexual intimacy with minimal risk of unwanted pregnancies (May, 2010). Children are more likely to be born to parents who are prepared for the responsibility of rearing them, and the ability to space children at least 18 months apart increases newborn health (Conde-Agudelo et al., 2006). Far fewer women than ever before have to decide to have an abortion. Effective birth control methods have also allowed women in the United States to become equal partners with men in modern society. As a result of the increased earning power of women, men have had opportunities unknown to their own fathers to expand their involvement with their children.
Insurance coverage for contraceptive costs is an important variable in accessibility in the United States. As of 2011, 28 states required insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices (Guttmacher Institute, 2011b). In addition, following recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, the Obama administration required private health insurance plans written after August 1, 2012, to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments. Despite the fact that 71% of U. S. voters support having health plans cover prescription birth control at no cost, conservative Republican politicians and leaders of the Catholic Church quickly advocated the elimination of the required coverage (Condon, 2012; Jervis, 2012; Pear, 2012).
Objections to contraception often stem from religious beliefs, and a few individuals and couples do not use a birth control device because of their religion. Fully 88% of voters in the United States support women’s access to contraception, and most contemporary religious groups approve of and even favor the use of birth control (National
Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2011). Despite the fact that 98% of Catholic women in the United States have used a contraceptive method, the official doctrine of the Church continues to maintain that all birth control methods other than abstinence and methods based on the menstrual cycle are immoral (Jones & Dreweke, 2011). Many far-right Christians, self-described as "pro-life," also oppose contraceptive use, explained further in the Sex and Politics box, "The Power of ProLife Anti-Contraception Politics."