The Pill, Power & Women’s Earning Power

Here's Hoping. Photo Credit: Americans Against the Tea Party

Two years ago, in May 2010, we acknowledged and frankly, celebrated, the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. According to Nancy Gibbs, executive editor of Time Magazine, in her cover story on the anniversary, the pill became “the means by which women untied their aprons, scooped up their ambitions and marched eagerly into the new age.”

And here we are, two years later, wading through a national discourse questioning women’s healthcare freedoms, in states across the country, led, in part, by a platform called the Republican Presidential Race.

The introduction of the pill ultimately helped usher in a societal transformation for women. Not only were women able to control their own reproductive cycle but the women’s movement soon emerged. It was a sea of change facing this country. And whether conservative politicians like it, let alone the Catholic Church, even in the 1960s, according to Gibbs, women flocked to the pill. She noted that only 400,000 women took the oral contraceptive in 1961. By 1965, the number was almost 4 million. Today, 99 percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives, in this country. The dramatic increase seems to fall on deaf ears to conservative men and Church leadership, even today in 2012.

Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks in the HuffPost, last month, tellingly noted that to question women’s rights to their own bodies is to treat women as property and the Republican party is, in effect, shaming women on abortion and shaming women for using contraception, by its attack on Planned Parenthood. What fascinates me, beyond how this topic is even such a leading issue in this day and age, is how it stands so starkly in contrast to the current cover story in Time Magazine written by Liza Mundy called “The Richer Sex.”

The piece is an excerpt from her new book and examines how female economic clout is growing and changing how we work, shop and our marriages.

Is anyone else amazed that while one national party wages a platform questioning women’s rights, we have new research showing the growing economic strength and importance of women in our society, the profound impact an educated workforce populated by women has on our society and the reality that more women are out earning their husbands? While headlines of foreclosure rates, rising gas prices, children going to bed hungry and the high unemployment rates continue to dominate our news cycle – how have we fallen so far off track with what is truly relevant to Americans today?

I could drown in the hypocrisy of it all. If, according to  Mundy’s research, in dual-earning couples, women contributed an average of 44% of family income in 2008 – up from 39% in 1997 – what, exactly, does our prolonged recession-society gain by limiting women’s choices in reproductive rights? If you set aside your philosophical views, and think practically, about the importance of growing our economy, feeding our children and paying our mortgages, who gains by keeping women pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen?

Even more, consider this, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, nearly 4 in 10 working wives out earned their husbands, an increase of more than 50% from 20 years ago, notes Mundy in her Time Mag cover piece.

These figures point to the profound change in our culture, one where someday half of marriages could consist of women as the dominant earning partner, more husbands are staying home with children, and women head off to work more often than they stay home with children.

So on one side, some of us are praising and acknowledging women’s individual advancements and the critical role we play in our economy yet over on the other side, a bunch of douche bags have a national platform to question and devalue women’s reproductive rights. Where along the way have they considered the practical realities of limiting women’s access to birth control?

Or really, shouldn’t my real question be this: how does the party who ignites in verbal flames over the idea of government imposing on individual lives not recognize the hypocrisy of their very own strategy to control the most personal of decisions in an individual’s life?

If the hypocrisy doesn’t work, which apparently it doesn’t, how about considering dollar signs? Here from a fascinating piece in Daily Finance from last summer are these facts:

“In a study titled “The Public Costs of
Births Resulting from Unintended Pregnancies: National and State-Level
Guttmacher Institute researchers found that two-thirds of the
births resulting from unintended pregnancies — more than 1 million births —
are publicly funded, making up more than 80% of the total births in a couple of
U.S. states. It estimates the cost of those births, and the potential gross
savings from helping women to avert them, at a whopping $11.1 billion.

A second study, “Unintended
Pregnancy and Taxpayer Spending,”
by researchers at the Brookings
Institution, estimated a health-care cost of between $9.6 billion and $12.6
billion per year, with an average of $11.3 billion per year, for unintended
pregnancies. Preventing these pregnancies would save taxpayers between $4.7
billion and $6.2 billion per year, with an average of $5.6 billion per

Sure – not allowing companies to offer women contraceptives for free totally makes sense….

If more women are out-earning their husbands and earning advanced degrees, who are these politicians and church leaders talking too?

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One Response to The Pill, Power & Women’s Earning Power
  1. Bridget
    March 20, 2012 | 11:41 pm

    “Guttmacher Institute researchers found that two-thirds of the births resulting from unintended pregnancies — more than 1 million births – are publicly funded, making up more than 80% of the total births in a couple of
    U.S. states.”
    Publicly funded. This is the problem! These women don’t need companies to give them free birth control, they need welfare to give them free birth control. I think this is where the real issue lies. Probably a separate topic for a separate post.

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