With the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, there have been a lot of talks recently about reproductive rights.
Reproductive rights are human rights that center on the rights of people to safely access contraception, abortion, fertility treatment, reproductive healthcare, and information about reproductive and sexual health. Reproductive rights cover everything from access to sex education to access to abortion services and can have a direct impact on your life and your well-being.
At Pandia Health, we provide the information you need to lead a healthy life, including sexual and reproductive health. Let’s walk you through the basics of reproductive rights, why they’re essential, and what you can do to help protect them.
Examples of Reproductive Rights
Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Access to quality, timely, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education is a necessary reproductive right. In the US, comprehensive sex education often refers to K-12 programs that cover a broad range of topics.
Sex education topics are related to the following:
- Human development, including puberty, anatomy, sexual orientation, and gender identity
- Personal skills, including communication, boundary setting, consent, and decision-making
- Sexual health, including sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs), birth control, pregnancy, and abortion
- Society and culture, including topics of media literacy, stigma, how society shapes individual and collective sexual wellness and reproductive freedom
Family Planning and Birth Control
Deciding when and whether to have children is critical for ensuring people can exercise their human rights. Family planning improves planning around pregnancy, including desired birth spacing and family size, helps to prevent unintended pregnancies, and has also been shown to improve health outcomes for infants, children, women, and families.
Family planning can include:
- Contraception services: counseling, prescribing, dispensing medication
- Pregnancy testing and counseling
- Fertility services
- HIV and STD/STI services
- Patient education and counseling on reproductive health
- Sexual wellness and reproductive health screenings
As a key component of family planning, access to effective birth control is necessary for reproductive health care and reproductive rights. Birth control empowers women and those with uteri of reproductive age to decide when and whether to get pregnant.
Using birth control and other contraceptives isn’t only about limiting unprotected sex and preventing pregnancy. Birth control has other health benefits too! The birth control pill can help treat, prevent, or lessen the effects of hormonal acne, ovarian cysts, endometrial and ovarian cancers, STIs, iron deficiency and anemia, and PMS.
Birth control and contraception as a reproductive right also extend to access to emergency contraception!
Human rights bodies and courts across the globe recognize that abortion care is essential health care and a critical component of essential human and reproductive rights. The right to a legal abortion means the right to accessible, high-quality abortion care without fear of criminalization for seeking or accessing abortion services.
Abortion is common, and women seeking abortions can do so for many reasons. Millions of people face unplanned or unwanted pregnancies each year. Some people with planned pregnancies get abortions due to health or safety concerns. Legal abortions can be performed in person at a health clinic or doctor’s office or through abortion pills (sometimes called the Plan C pill, technically called medication abortion) if you’re up to 11 weeks pregnant.
Access to Preventive Health Services
Breast and cervical cancer screenings and prenatal care, the services you receive while pregnant, are also part of your reproductive health, which means you have a right to these services. Most insurance plans, whether public or private, cover preventative services without additional charges (for example, a copay, coinsurance, or even for those who have not met their deductible).
Insurance plans often also cover the following services:
- Breastfeeding education and any needed supplies
- Assessment of and counseling for those experiencing interpersonal violence
If you do not have insurance, you are entitled to preventative care through Title X Family Planning clinics, community-based health centers, and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. These services are high-quality and often offered at a sliding scale.
Why Are Reproductive Rights Important?
We’ve just covered what are reproductive rights. But, why are reproductive rights important?
Reproductive rights matter to everyone. They give all people access to safe reproductive health care services and critical information about sexual and reproductive health to make informed decisions that impact their individual lives.
Reproductive rights are often framed in regard to women’s reproductive rights or the reproductive rights of females or people with uteri. Still, sexual and reproductive rights are for every individual regardless of sex or gender.
Women’s reproductive rights center on the above-mentioned issues, including access to family planning services, education about sex and STIs, birth control and contraceptives, abortion, and reproductive and sexual health care services.
Men’s reproductive rights include the above rights with a focus on education and access to care for STIs and cancers that primarily impact men.
Sexual and reproductive rights and access to reproductive and sexual health education and services are essential for people of any age. The ability of minors to consent to a range of reproductive and sexual health care services has increased over the past several decades. For example, many states allow minors to consent to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of STIs. However 19 states limit the right to contraceptive services to minors to only certain categories (married or financially independent from parents).
Access to Health Care
Sometimes, limiting reproductive rights means restricting access to critical health care and reproductive health services, which can have far-reaching impacts on society and the economy.
In the US, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many people paid out-of-pocket for basic, preventive reproductive health care like breast cancer screenings, Pap tests, and birth control. Before the ACA’s birth control benefit went into effect, contraceptive costs accounted for 30% to 44% of women’s total out-of-pocket spending. With the ACA’s birth control benefit, women can access birth control without a copay.
Now that Roe has been overturned and more states are looking to limit or eliminate access to abortion services, the federal government US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken action to strengthen access to reproductive health care. This includes abortion care, protecting emergency medical care, protecting patient privacy and safeguarding information on health and rights for patients and providers, protecting patients and providers from discrimination, increasing funding for training for family planning providers, and protecting access to birth control under the ACA.
The Sexual and Reproductive Rights You Have Today
Once you’re clear on what are reproductive rights, you may wonder what rights you have today. Sexual and reproductive rights vary widely, depending on where you live.
Birth Control and Emergency Contraception
In the US, you have the right to access birth control and emergency contraceptives (like Plan B and its generics or Ella). Birth control is accessible with a prescription and is easy to order online and delivered to by mail with Pandia!
Only Plan B and its generic emergency contraceptives (like NewDay, Afterpill, Econtra EZ, React Levonorgestrel, Opcicon, Athentia Next, Fallback Solo, Next Choice One Dose, Levonorgestrel) are available without a prescription at a local pharmacy or online with Pandia!
While Pandia Health only offers emergency contraception, you can get the Plan C abortion pills as a prescription from your medical provider or telemedicine provider. It is important to remember that emergency contraception pills won’t work if you test positive for pregnancy. Similarly, if you are pregnant and want to terminate your pregnancy, you must obtain an abortion pill, such as mifepristone/misoprostol, or schedule a surgical abortion, instead of using emergency contraception.
As of Sept 3, 2022, the following states all still allow telehealth abortion services (meaning that you can get the Plan C pill without a trip to the doctor’s office and delivered to your home): Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
(Expanded Access) Abortion is currently legal and likely to be protected in the future if you live in California,, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon,Vermont, or Washington.
(Protected) Abortion is currently protected in these states but may not continue to be protected depending on who is elected and what laws are passed: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada.
Many other states have outlawed abortion since Roe was overturned or have previous laws that outlawed abortion.
TLDR: check this map by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the legal arm of the reproductive rights movement, for the latest on each state (It changes ALL the time).
In the US, you have the right to be free from forced or involuntary sterilization. The US has a history of legally and forcibly sterilizing marginalized populations and now has several laws to protect against that.
In the US, you also have the right to seek sterilization for yourself if you don’t wish to have children. This can take the form of tubal ligation (for those with ovaries) or a vasectomy (for those with a penis). Both are surgical procedures that are meant to protect against pregnancy permanently, though the implant beats them both and the IUD with hormone beats tubal ligation!
In the US, you have the right to seek fertility treatment such as fertility testing, artificial insemination, or in-vitro fertilization (IVF). However, fertility care in the US can be inaccessible due to costs, which may or may not be covered by insurance. Some fertility treatments can cost over $100,000 to get to having a child.
Rights for Minors
Many states have laws detailing that all or some young people under the age of 18 can access contraceptive services, prenatal care, and STI services without parental involvement or parental consent.
Laws vary widely across states for access to HIV and STI services, birth control, pregnancy care, abortion, and adoption for those ages 12-17.
TLDR: It’s complicated. Check this chart by the Alan Guttmacher institute for the laws for your state.
Threats to Your Reproductive Rights
With the overturning of Roe, more than half of US states are almost certain or likely to restrict or ban access to legal abortion care. These states are looking to increase the number of anti-abortion laws and enact further restrictions on abortion by limiting the amount of time one has to seek an abortion. Texas and Georgia have a law that outlaws abortion after 6 weeks — when many don’t even know they’re pregnant.
While the rights above, except for abortion, are currently protected under federal law. They’re not guaranteed under the constitution. The same reasoning for overturning Roe could be applied to limit access to birth control or the rights of minors in making decisions for their sexual and reproductive health.
How to Protect Your Reproductive Rights
It pays to understand what are reproductive rights.
- However, the most important way to protect your sexual and reproductive rights is to vote for candidates that support body autonomy, freedom of religion, abortion rights, and reproductive rights!
- If you live in a state where telemedicine abortion is legal, you can get medication abortion (Plan C) pills before you need them.
- You can also get emergency contraception (EC) pills before you need it! (Make sure you KNOW that emergency contraception is NOT abortion. If you have a positive pregnancy test, emergency contraception will NOT do anything.)
- You can also take control of your birth control by automating your birth control delivery or seeking out longer-term options such as the IUD, implant or permanent options: vasectomy, tubal ligation.
- Know and show Trustworthy abortion resources.There are many abortion funds to help others that live in states where abortion access is restricted. So if you have the money, please DONATE. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. We trust: the National Network of Abortion Funds and the National Abortion Federation.
How Can Pandia Help?
Pandia Health is dedicated to providing accurate and reliable health information — KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Check out our Instagram and YouTube channel for more information pertaining to what are reproductive rights and related health issues.
If you’re ready to start your birth control journey and exercise your sexual and reproductive rights, Pandia Health is here to help you find the options that are best for you. Pandia will help empower you with convenient access to safe and effective birth control with free delivery!