Bioethics Blogs

Contraception and Reproductive Ethics: Constitutional Right vs. Right for the Country

Sophia Yin won the Reproductive Ethics category for our 2016 Bioethics Essay contest.  Our panel of judges thought Sophia’s essay presented a rigorous and clarifying analysis of a contentious and ongoing debate about reproductive rights.  We are pleased to publish Sophia’s essay, below. — The Editors

by Sophia Yin

Though the male condom seems almost ubiquitous in current American society, female contraceptive methods constantly seem to be the subject of controversy. While debates in the twentieth century centered on the legalization of contraception, the discussion now is over who should be required to pay for contraception. This question of funding may seem less pressing than the question of legality, however, ability to pay is directly tied to access: women who cannot afford contraception cannot freely use it. Though many supporters frame their case in terms of an infringement of women’s rights, this argument is inherently weak. Women should have open access to contraception regardless of whether they have the right to it. The issue of women’s access to contraception is most often viewed through a legal lens, but it should be discussed in terms of its benefits to public health.

Supporters of access to contraception argue that women have a right to contraception. This argument is based upon the rulings of Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot outlaw the use of contraception by married couples because of “the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees.” Though the ruling did not directly state that women had a right to contraception, it did create a right to privacy in reproductive matters for married couples, which allowed them the freedom to decide, without state interference, whether they would like to use contraception.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.