Happy Anniversary Birth Control! Not the anniversary of the invention of the “pill” or the “IUD”, but of an individual’s right to actually obtain and use contraceptives. It seems incredible, but that right was only fully granted in 1972, when the US Supreme Court in Eisenstadt v. Baird decided that it was unconstitutional to deny contraceptives to unmarried persons.

It was only a few years before Griswold v. Connecticut, that the Supreme Court declared that forbidding the use of contraceptives violates the right to marital privacy, a decision that was determined to only apply to married persons.

So, 37 years ago the US Supreme Court declared that woman should be fully in charge of their reproductive future. So why does it seem like we’ve been backsliding?
Today in Michigan, pharmacists can choose to deny to fill a prescription for birth control based on their own personal moral convictions. And, the Michigan legislature continues their attempts to pass a law enshrining that practice as a right in statute.

Michigan employers who offer an insurance plan which includes prescription coverage can choose to remove contraceptives from the prescription plan, a choice not available for any other category of covered drugs. Even though the EEOC has declared this practice a violation of Title VII and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights declared it sex discrimination under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, the practice is not against the law in Michigan.

But things look hopeful as this important anniversary rolls around.

The Michigan House of Representatives is introducing a comprehensive package of legislation that will require a pharmacy fill a prescription as written, leaving it up to the pharmacy to make arrangements to honor an individual pharmacists religious convictions without affecting the customer. The legislation will require “contraceptive equity” – a requirement that contraceptives cannot be excluded from an employer’s otherwise comprehensive prescription coverage plan. Other bills in the package will require that hospital emergency rooms offer emergency contraception to rape survivors and that public school sex education courses must include medically accurate information.

These common sense measures are long overdue. Encourage your elected officials in Michigan to help restore a woman’s right and ability to control her reproductive future by supporting this package of legislation.

By Shelli Weisberg, legislative director