Fair Pay = Access to Contraception

Judy Waxman

What does fair pay mean to you? Equality? Justice? What about the ability to care for the family you have and plan for the family you want?

What does fair pay mean to you? Equality? Justice? Respect for your work? Although the right to equal pay for equal work means different things to different women, for some women access to equal pay means the difference between having the financial ability to make one of the most fundamental decision in life – when and if to have a child.

The cost of reproductive health and family planning services is prohibitive for many women.  Especially in the current economic crisis, it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to access and pay for the services they need to make responsible choices for themselves and their families.

So what does fair pay mean, in dollars and cents? Well, let’s say you make around $13,500 per year (approximately what you would make working 40 hours a week at the federal minimum wage). Since women make 78¢ for every $1.00 a man makes, a man in your position could expect to make an extra $2,970.00 for the year. That amount of money would certainly come in handy for the average American woman who spends approximately three-quarters of her reproductive life in the costly pursuit of trying to postpone or avoid pregnancy. And to add insult to injury, some women’s health insurance won’t cover their contraception, even though insured women are already more likely to spend more than 10 percent of their income on out-of-pocket costs and premiums

A fair paycheck can do many things for a woman. Perhaps one of the most important is ensuring she can make her own reproductive choices. Guaranteeing that women have the ability to control their reproductive fate is just one more good reason that ensuring women are paid fairly for their work is more vital now than ever.

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The National Women’s Law Center is attacking the problem on two fronts. We are backing the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women can finally receive equal pay for equal work. This important legislation will close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and prohibit retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.

We also helped to make contraception more affordable through our support of the nominal drug pricing provision of the omnibus appropriations bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate and are fighting to increase access to contraceptives through mandating that insurance cover it. Finally, because approximately 17 million women are in need of publicly funded family planning care, we are working to expand access to family planning services for low-income women and their families through federal legislation that will allow states to expand Medicaid coverage.

So much depends on a fair paycheck. And providing women equal pay for equal work is one important step in ensuring that all women have the financial ability to afford reproductive health and family planning services. And that’s a reality you can take to the bank.

Visit the National Women’s Law Center website to see who else is writing about workplace fairness for women on this Equal Pay Day!

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