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Access to Contraception is a Human Right, Says United Nations

As challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage provision pile up—on the theory that somehow more lawsuits equals more legal merit—the United Nations declares that access to contraception is a basic human right.

After recovering from shock that some in the United States would disagree with the United Nations (sarcasm!), take a look at some of the things the UN Population Fund report points out. Access to contraception is a fundamental part of women’s ability to make decisions for ourselves and realize other rights—including getting an education and participating in the workforce, both of which in turn improve nations’ economies. And financial, cultural, and legal barriers to contraception infringe on women’s rights.

In the U.S., those financial barriers—even for covered services— include the cost of monthly co-pays, which add up quickly. Those cultural barriers include the claims being made in the nearly 40 lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement: that including coverage for contraception in employee insurance plans interferes with employers’ “religious freedom.”

But, besides the fact that we actually pay for it, access to contraception is not something our bosses get to decide—it is a fundamental human right. And dismantling the barriers that stand in our way—as the Affordable Care Act aims to do—means fulfilling women’s basic rights to health, to make decisions, and to participate equally in society.

Family planning is not a privilege, but a right,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNPFA, in a written statement upon the report’s release. While the UN report is not legally binding, the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement is.

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