A History of the Fight About Birth Control

MargaretSanger-200x220.jpgNinety-seven years ago, when Margaret Sanger and her sister opened a clinic in Brooklyn to provide family planning information, birth control was illegal. Only 10 days after her clinic — the first Planned Parenthood health center opened — she was arrested and thrown in jail.  This was the beginning of the Planned Parenthood movement.

Since 1960, when the FDA approved the pill as a contraceptive, women’s health supporters have spent decades trying to make birth control more accessible and affordable.  The last few years alone have been filled with a number of important milestones in the fight for birth control access.  Check them out in the timeline below.

March 23, 2010: the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, including coverage for preventive care with no copay. 

BirthControlMatters_300x126_2x.pngOctober 12, 2010: the Birth Control Matters campaign launches to remind politicians that birth control matters, and should be available to every woman without copays.  

July 19, 2011: The Institute of Medicine recommends that insurers should cover birth control as preventive care.

August 1, 2011: Health and Human Services announces new guidelines requiring health insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012, to cover a number of women's preventive services, including birth control.

supreme_court_card_600dollar-225.pngJanuary 20, 2012: The Obama administration announces that as part of the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover birth control for women with no additional copay.

February 9, 2012: Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduces an amendment that would allow any employer to deny insurance coverage for birth control (or any benefit) based on a so-called “moral conviction.”

February 16, 2012: Congressman Darrell Issa hosts a congressional hearing to oppose insurance coverage for birth control with an all-male panel, leaving many wondering, "where are the women?"


February 16, 2012: Foster Friess, a major Republican donor, goes on MSNBC to speak with Andrea Mitchell and shocks many with his comments: “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives.  The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t’ that costly.”

February 23, 2012: After being snubbed by Congressman Issa and denied the opportunity to testify on behalf of the birth control benefit, Sandra Fluke speaks at an unofficial Democrat-sponsored hearing.

sandra_fluke_testify-275x227.jpgFebruary 29, 2012: Rush Limbaugh, commenting on Sandra Fluke's speech in support the birth control benefit, calls her a “slut” and a “prostitute” inspiring companies to pull advertisements from his show.

March 1, 2012: The Senate votes down the Blunt amendment in a vote of 51-48.  Over 400,000 actions have been taken by Planned Parenthood supporters in support of the birth control benefit since Nov. 2011.

March 15, 2012: The American Center for Law and Justice files a lawsuit against Health and Human Services, on behalf of a Missouri business owner, challenging the requirement to cover birth control with no copay.  This is the first challenge from a private business owner.

August 1, 2012:The birth control benefit starts to take effect.

October 5, 2012:The Contraceptive CHOICE Study is released and demonstrates that access to no-copay birth control — as is outlined in the Affordable Care Act — leads to significantly lowered unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.  

February 1, 2013: The Obama administration announces revised regulations on the birth control benefit, and the 60-day comment period starts. 

April 8, 2013: Planned Parenthood teams up with allies to deliver nearly 350,000(!) comments to the Department of Health and Human Services in support of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit.

June 28, 2013:  Planned Parenthood releases a new white paper describing the transformative effects of birth control on society, the ways in which the Affordable Care Act will exponentially expand that effect, and the urgent battle to move forward — not turn back the clock — on ensuring women’s access to basic preventive health care.

August 1, 2013: The anniversary of the benefit comes just as the Guttmacher Institute releases new data showing that giving women access to affordable birth control, through publicly funded family planning services, helped prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies in 2010, which would have resulted in 1.1 million unplanned births and 760,000 abortions. Similarly, the women’s preventive health benefit is an important benefit of the ACA for women and families to make their own decisions and have a range of options available to them.

November 26, 2013: The Supreme Court announces it is taking up cases brought by two for-profit companies, Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores with 21,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet manufacturer, against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit on the basis of the companies’ religious beliefs.