You’ve probably read a lot of articles lately that (justifiably) offer a bleak view of the future of women’s healthcare in the United States. But rather than dwell entirely on negatives, let’s take a moment to look at the positives: I’ve collected a few promising women’s health statistics to remind you that progress is worth fighting for — and that your advocacy for women’s health really can make a difference.
With the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade, and federal funding for Planned Parenthood under threat from Trump and a conservative legislature, it’s easy to get bogged down in negative projections about the future of women’s healthcare and reproductive rights. It’s hard to not obsess about predictions of how many people will lose health insurance and access to contraception, how many may lose access to the preventative care offered by Planned Parenthood, how many women will be forced to seek unsafe abortions in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, and on and on and on. It is undoubtedly important to be aware of these potential outcomes, but it’s also easy to become so overwhelmed by them that you find yourself losing steam and asking, “What the hell is even the point?”
So here are seven numbers that you may find encouraging. They show that you’re not alone in the fight for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights, and that what you’re fighting for matters. When women have access to healthcare, education, and comprehensive family planning, they are better able to make informed, empowered decisions about their health, their families, and their futures, and that benefits all of us.
1. Most Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
A lot of people are, understandably, concerned that Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 decision that established women’s right to abortion — will be weakened or overturned in the next few years, especially if Trump is able to appoint more anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. It’s helpful to know, however, that most Americans don’t actually want Roe v. Wade to be overturned — in fact, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center suggests that more people support the ruling now than at any other time in the last 20 years. In January of 2017, Pew released findings that 69 percent of Americans do not believe that Roe v. Wade should be completely overturned; only 28 percent said the opposite. Public attitudes about Roe v. Wade have held fairly steady since the 1970s, but these numbers represent an uptick in support for the ruling.
Unsurprisingly, opinions about Roe v. Wade tend to fall along party lines. Pew reported that 84 percent of Democrats and people who lean left don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned, while 53 percent of Republicans and people who lean Republican also oppose the ruling being toppled. A significant majority of moderate and liberal Republicans — 71 percent — say that they oppose Roe v. Wade being overturned. (It’s important to note that these numbers reflect opposition to the ruling being completely overturned; as The Atlantic points out, plenty of people who don’t want to get rid of Roe v. Wade nevertheless support some restrictions on abortion access.)
2. The majority of Americans do not want to defund Planned Parenthood.
The voices that want to defund Planned Parenthood may be loud, but they certainly don’t represent everyone. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll found that 60 percent of adults believe that any congressional budget should include Planned Parenthood funding; similarly, a 2015 NBC/WallStreet Journal poll found that 60 percent of Americans oppose defunding the health organization. That year, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll also found that 65 percent of respondents opposed eliminating Planned Parenthood funding.
3. The unintended pregnancy rate in the United States is decreasing, thanks to reliable birth control.
Last year, a study led by Lawrence B. Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, found that the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States declined in the years between 2009 and 2013. Finer told CNN that the key to this decline is the “pretty significant increase in women using long-acting contraceptive methods like the (intrauterine device) in recent periods.” The provision of the Affordable Care Act guaranteeing women access to insurance-covered birth control went into effect at the tail end of the research period; Finer suggests that the use of long-acting contraception methods like IUDs and implants will only increase over time (and therefore continue to decrease the unplanned pregnancy rate). With the potential repeal of Obamacare on the horizon, it’s findings like these that show just why it is so important to fight for women to have contraception covered by their insurance.
4. The U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest since Roe v. Wade.
Recently the Guttmacher Institute released findings about abortion in the United States from 2011 to 2014, and revealed that abortion rates, which have been declining steadily since the early 1980s, reached a historic low in 2014. In the report, the researchers make clear that the reasons for this decline are complex and that it’s difficult to make definitive pronouncements about why the abortion rate has changed. They suggest, however, that a major contributing factor is the increased use of LARC (long-acting reversible contraceptive) methods of birth control like IUDs and implants— highly effective and reliable means of preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Pro-life proponents may attribute the decline in abortions to laws restricting abortion access, but the researchers argue that, although such restrictions may have had some affect on women’s access to abortion and therefore the abortion rate in some states, it’s unlikely that abortion restrictions are the primary reason for the decline in the abortion rate— because states with new abortion restrictions didn’t see more reduction in the abortion rate than states without such restrictions. As Vox points out, the majority (62 percent) of the decrease in the abortion rate came from states that did not institute new restrictions on abortion during the period of the study.
What this data seems to suggest is that increased education about and access to reliable birth control methods give women more control over their reproductive lives and lead them to have fewer unplanned pregnancies. That seems like it can only be a good thing — regardless of which side of the pro-choice/pro-life divide you sit on.
5. Obamacare’s contraception mandate saved women $1.4 billion in 2013.
Reuters reports that Obamacare’s controversial mandate that insurers provide contraception without copay saved women a staggering $1.4 billion in 2013. Those savings mean that more women have access to birth control, and fewer are having to choose between basic needs like groceries and reliable family planning. Of course, this mandate is in danger from lawmakers hoping to dismantle the Affordable Care Act — so you should remember the number “1.4 billion” as you call on your representatives to keep the mandate in place.
6. Donations to Planned Parenthood have surged.
In December, The Guardian reported that donations to Planned Parenthood in the weeks following the election had surged to 40 times what the organization normally receives. Delightfully, 82,000 of those donations were made in the name of Vice President Mike Pence.
7. In January, millions marched to support women’s healthcare.
Participants in the Women’s March on Washington and in sister marches all over the world marched for a wide variety of reasons, but one of the stated goals of the march was to support women’s healthcare— and key ways of doing that include allowing women to continue to access health insurance through the ACA, keeping the contraception mandate in place, and by maintaining federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the many preventative, educational, and reproductive services it provides. Researchers estimate that between 3.3 and 4.6 million people participated in the Women’s Marches on January 21, showing that a lot of Americans are ready to stand up and fight for the future of women’s health.