The Guttmacher Institute recently published a report examining how access to and the use of effective birth control affects women’s lives.
“The Social and Economic Benefits of Women’s Ability to Determine Whether and When To Have Children” reviews more than 66 studies over the past 30 years. According to researchers, access to contraception and avoidance of unplanned pregnancy have led to:
- increases in young women obtaining at least some college education
- increases in college-educated women pursuing advanced professional degrees
- increased participation in the workforce by women
- increases in women’s earning power and decreases in the gender gap in pay
The researchers identify several gaps in the literature as well as areas where additional research is needed, such as how contraception benefits older women and women with low incomes, of racial and ethnic minorities, single mothers, and women with other sociodemographic factors that might prevent them from getting the full benefits of contraception.
The authors conclude with an important call for ongoing efforts to enhance access to contraception:
Clearly, access to reproductive health care and the recognition of reproductive rights cannot be addressed in isolation from the rest of an individual’s life, or from the rest of society’s inequities. Rather, policies and programs that advance contraceptive access and those that affect whether a woman is still able to achieve her life goals if and when she becomes a mother should be considered as part of a greater whole.
By helping women and couples, regardless of background or income, determine and exercise their own reproductive choices, government and organizational policies can help advance broader economic equality and social justice for individual women, families and society.
The report is available online as a PDF; a summary with links to more information is also provided. Also check out OBOS’s Brief History of Birth Control and discussion of Global Access to Birth Control.