On July 22, Rep. Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids), chairwoman of the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus, introduced a package of bills aimed at creating better access to birth control and decreasing unintended pregnancies. These bills would, among other things, make emergency contraceptives available to rape victims and make it illegal for employers to discriminate against women based on their use of contraceptives. This proposed legislation should be passed, as it is a long overdue step toward leveling the playing field for women.
If implemented, these bills would require employers to take on a greater role in the welfare of their female employees by informing them, and female applicants, of reproductive health care coverage. This would allow women to make more informed decisions regarding their healthcare and place of employment. Given the increased employer oversight in contraception and reproductive rights for their female employees, a possible result could be discrimination against women. This bill, however, anticipates and accounts for this possibility by including a provision that would prevent discrimination by employers against women based on their birth control.
The state would also have to take on a larger role in women’s reproductive health under this legislation. Particularly, the state would have to spread information about emergency contraception and ensure that emergency contraceptives are available to rape victims. These efforts toward better access to birth control are important considering the introduction of this set of bills comes after a large decrease in state funding for family planning in Michigan; between fiscal years 2001 and 2012, state funding for pregnancy prevention fell 91.6 percent. According to the Michigan Department of Health, this decrease in state aid correlates with an increase in unintended pregnancies; over this time period, the rate of pregnancies that were unintended for women ages 15-19 rose from 72.4 percent to 82.1 percent. These bills, through increased family planning funding that prioritizes education about and access to contraception, would reverse this trend.
By enabling more people to avoid the financial difficulties that come with unintended pregnancies, the cost of an abortion or the cost of raising a child, these bills would help create more financially stable individuals, families and communities. Needless to say, passing this legislation has overwhelming, undeniable positive consequences.