On the 42nd anniversary of Griswold v Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that established the right to birth control, new poll results showed yesterday that an overwhelming majority of Americans support access to birth control and other family planning services. The results of a survey conducted by Celinda Lake and released this week by the Women Donors Network and Communications Consortium Media Center indicate that regardless of their age, gender, race, or political party, Americans believe that birth control should be available without discrimination and that schools should provide comprehensive sex education.
According to the survey, 86 percent of Americans believe that safe birth control, including emergency contraception, should be available to couples. Comprehensive sex education in schools receives the support of 88 percent of Americans. Eighty-one percent of Americans say that women must have access to family planning services in order to achieve equality.
As Americans express strong support for contraception and family planning, Congress is moving to strengthen access to these services. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Rules, are sponsoring the Prevention First Act that would, in part, increase funding for Title X, which provides family planning services to low-income women, to $700 million, making it comparable to 1980 spending in constant dollars (but the population of the US has gone up significantly since then). Title X funding has decreased consistently over the past two decades; in real constant dollars, Title X receives only 40.5 percent of what it received in 1980. The Prevention First Act would also require private health plans to cover birth control at the same level of other prescription drugs and allocate $10 million to education about emergency contraception. Hospitals would be required to provide rape victims with accurate information about and access to emergency contraception.
Another bill that augments Title X funding by a mere $27.8 million moved through a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. This bill is attached to an equal appropriation to fund abstinence-only sex education.