A recent survey by nonpartisan polling group PerryUndem about American attitudes toward contraception found that the majority of men believe they don’t benefit from affordable birth control for women. At a moment when the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate is under threat, it’s disturbing to realize that more than half of men don’t see how women having access to safe, affordable birth control makes their lives better. Have they simply forgotten that conception involves both female and male reproductive systems?
PerryUndem polled a representative sample of voters in early March about their perceptions of contraception, gender, and public policy. Among other findings, the researchers found that, when asked, “Have you beneﬁted personally from any women in your life having access to affordable birth control?”, 52 percent of men said “No.” Thirty-seven percent said that, yes, they had benefitted personally from women’s access to affordable birth control, while 9 percent answered, “Not sure.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, age appeared to be a factor in men’s responses. Male respondents of age 60 and older were most likely to say that they haven’t personally benefitted from affordable birth control, with 70 percent of that age group answering “No.” In contrast, men between the ages of 18 and 44 were the most likely to say that they had benefitted, though, even then, only 45 percent responded that way.
I am always sort of amazed that prescription birth control, as well as issues like abortion access and maternity care, are so often cast as solely “women’s issues,” as if reproduction has nothing to do with men. Some guys appear to have a convenient sort of amnesia about what’s involved in a woman getting pregnant in the first place. (Just ask Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who seems offended by the idea that men might be required to contribute to insurance that covers prenatal care.)
And, to be clear, preventing pregnancy isn’t solely a woman’s responsibility — she may be the one to actually take prescription birth control, but she and the men she sleeps with get the benefit of not having unplanned pregnancies.
The PerryUndem survey found that although many men may say that they haven’t benefitted personally from women’s access to affordable birth control, the majority of men do believe that this access benefits communities, the economy, and families. Sixty-two percent of male survey respondents said that women’s access to affordable birth control “helps my community,” while 56 percent of men said that this access is good for the economy. Sixty-three percent of men agreed that access to affordable birth control affects stress in relationships, and 59 percent said that it affects families’ wellbeing.
The survey revealed a troubling disconnect between politicians’ approach to contraception and women’s health, and people’s actual attitudes about these subjects. Many Republicans have argued, for example, that the ACA’s birth control benefit should be thrown out, but 77 percent of women voters and 56 percent of male voters want to keep it in place. The American Health Care Act, the proposed replacement for the ACA, would defund Planned Parenthood if passed, but the PerryUndem survey shows that 80 percent of women and 69 percent of men oppose defunding the women’s healthcare provider.
The survey suggests that getting rid of the mandate to provide affordable birth control to women would have a significant, adverse effect on many women’s ability to obtain prescription contraception. A full third of women of reproductive age said that, if they needed to get birth control today, they could only afford it if it cost $10 or less. One in seven said they wouldn’t be able to afford birth control at all. These are women who could be left without birth control if access to affordable contraception is removed — and that’s a major problem, not only for them, but also for the men in their lives.