Fifty-five years ago, the Supreme Court held that a married couple has the right to privacy in choosing to use contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut. Although in this opinion the Court did not extend protection to everyone’s right to make reproductive choices, it laid the foundation for later cases that expanded access to birth control and applied the right to privacy when deciding whether or not to have an abortion. Today, birth control access is under attack yet again, facing threats due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 brought nearly every aspect of our lives to a halt several weeks ago, but a woman’s right to birth control access can neither be put on hold nor rescheduled. Patients face increased barriers in obtaining contraception during the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and the risk of going to a medical clinic or pharmacy may impede birth control access. Furthermore, many of the pharmaceutical factories that produce hormonal birth control are located in China and have experienced reduced productivity. International shipping services are still suffering severe delays, which may result in shortages in contraceptives in the United States.
Despite these limitations, a woman’s right to birth control access can be exercised virtually. Birth control prescriptions do not usually require an in-person visit to the doctor. In the last few years, we have seen a rise in telemedicine, including apps such as Nurx and The Pill Club, which deliver birth control directly to you. This enables patients to use contraceptive pills during this pandemic without the added risks of going to a clinic or pharmacy to pick up their prescription. While Nurx and The Pill Club are only available in about 65% of states, Indiana included, patients have found this modern method of obtaining birth control convenient, safe and effective. Nurx reports their requests for contraception have increased by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, and requests for emergency contraception have gone up by 40%.
In addition to the threats against birth control access due to global pandemic, the Supreme Court is currently weighing a case that challenges the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act that currently allows 61.4 million women to have birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs. The Trump administration passed a law in 2017 allowing universities and employers to withhold contraception coverage based on religious or moral beliefs. The law was blocked in the lower courts before it could take effect, but now it is up for review in Trump v. Pennsylvania. No matter where you go to work or school, the ACLU is committed to protecting your right to decide whether and when to have children.
55 years after this fundamental ruling on reproductive care, we continue to fight to protect access to critical healthcare services. We will not return to a pre-Griswold era, and we will continue advocating for birth control access and reproductive autonomy for all Hoosiers.