Birth Control, Abortion & Election 2012: A Collegiette's Guide

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From freshmen to seniors, from pre-collegiettes to graduates, from a cappella singers to sorority sisters – whoever you are, the issues of birth control and abortion impact each and every young woman in this country. Whether you’ve ever purchased a birth control pill, debated with friends about the morality of abortion, or had a family member go to Planned Parenthood for a breast cancer screening, as a young woman you are inevitably affected by the discussion and status of women’s sexual health in this country. Issues of women’s reproductive health have forced their way to the forefront of the presidential election, and it is discouraging and a little disconcerting how few women are included in the conversation at the highest level, the Sandra Flukes of the world notwithstanding. This November, our vote is our microphone. The support of strong and informed female voters can be invaluable to a presidential candidate, so here is what you need to know to rock the vote.

At this time, abortion is legal everywhere in the United States, as a result of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973). The laws vary in specifics across state lines , dictating who can perform the procedure, what funds can be allocated to abortion, and when a woman can legally terminate her pregnancy. Here are a few staggering statistics to add to your day: According to Planned Parenthood 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. The Guttmacher Institute reported that while the number of overall abortions have decreased in the last decade, the majority of women having abortions are in their 20s, and the number of abortions among lower income women has increased significantly by 18 percent. Abortion has always been a particularly divisive topic in the United States, especially around election time. Between the self-proclaimed pro-choice and pro-life camps the debate about the morality of abortion itself and the constitutionality of the ruling legalizing the procedure is alive and well.

What hasn’t historically been a hot button issue until now is the issue of birth control. While originally considered taboo, in recent years using any kind of birth control to prevent pregnancy has become “settled social behavior” practiced by an estimated 62 percent of women of childbearing age in America. President Obama’s sweeping healthcare legislation has unearthed an argument that has less to do with the perceived merits or immorality of birth control, and more to do with the constitutionality of requiring institutions to cover the cost of birth control.

While this general election hinges on several issues, women’s issues in particular have become a major part of the campaign discussion. Both President Obama and GOP nominee Governor Mitt Romney have delineated where they stand on birth control and abortion, and like many things between the two candidates, their views are poles apart. With 60 days, four debates, and a whole lot of advertising airtime left in this race, it’s important that you get a handle on the issues before the ballot boxes close.

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About The Author

Caroline is a junior studying history and literature at Harvard College. She is an Executive Design Editor for the Harvard Crimson and was the Co-Editor in Chief of the Harvard Women in Business Magazine. Originally from Baltimore, Caroline loves seafood and Tellen Foods. Caroline loves traveling around the country and around the world, her favorite places being Lausanne, Switzerland, Cambridge, MA, and home. She can't live without, Chex Mix, reading Supreme Court case law, vitamin water, and The Real Housewives!

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