Op-Ed: We must preserve the right to access contraception

Op-Ed: We must preserve the right to access contraception

State Rep. Julie von Haefen speaks at a rally at Bicentennial Plaza put on by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in response to a bill before the North Carolina Legislature, Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

By Julie von Haefen

June 19, 2024

A North Carolina lawmaker sounds off, amid concerns that conservatives are trying to limit access to contraception.

[Editor’s Note: The following op-ed is contributed by Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat representing Wake County in the NC General Assembly.]

Contraception is part of routine health care, and it should be accessible to all people for any reason, not only to prevent pregnancy. Politicians and the government should have no role in making personal healthcare decisions for individuals and their families. That’s why I introduced H.B. 670 Preserve Access to Contraceptives last year. 

Alongside abortion, contraception is the other pillar of sexual and reproductive healthcare. These services are critical to ensuring we are free to make decisions about our own bodies and lives with dignity and respect. North Carolina’s ongoing maternal mortality crisis and 12-week abortion ban make contraception access especially vital. You must have the right to make your own choices for your health, and the government should not interfere with family planning.

Reduced and unequal access to contraception is not a hypothetical problem for North Carolina. Our state already has a contraception access crisis: 637,960 North Carolinian Women-In-Need live in counties without reasonable access to the full range of methods, known as contraceptive deserts, and over 12,000 of those women live in counties without a single health center that provides the full range of services.

These barriers put individuals and families who already struggle to make ends meet at risk of being unable to access the birth control method that is right for them. They might face additional transportation costs, child care costs, and unpaid time off work because of the long distance they need to travel to access care. The last thing North Carolina needs is new laws creating more barriers to accessing contraception.

Unfortunately, instead of taking steps to lower these barriers or at least committing to not imposing new barriers, North Carolina’s Republican supermajority has refused to address or even discuss this issue. House leadership routinely refuses to assign Democratic bills to a subject-relevant committee after the bill is introduced, and this is exactly what they did with HB 670. Such bills are never heard in any committee or even voted upon. 

Refusing to consider or vote on bills at the legislature is not an inevitable result of arcane legislative rules beyond leadership’s control. It is a conscious decision by House leadership to kill bills without discussion and without votes—it is also a neat form of political cover to ensure they do not have to go on the record voting for or against the policies in those bills. 

Republican lawmakers want to preserve their power to control our bodies, but they don’t even dare to put their names on a vote. That’s consistent with their conscious choice to arbitrarily limit public comments during committee meetings and turn off automatic archiving and retention of committee meetings and House sessions on the General Assembly’s YouTube channel. I can only guess that they don’t want it to be easy to hold them accountable for what they say in public while discharging the duties of their elected offices.

But, Democrats stand united in the fight to protect reproductive freedom in North Carolina. It’s not enough to merely repeal the extreme and unpopular abortion Republicans passed last year.

We want to codify the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade into law, and every Democrat sponsored a bill to do just that earlier this session. But, we have also learned from the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson that any healthcare not enshrined in law is vulnerable. Therefore, we want to protect North Carolinians’ right to contraception now and in the future. 

We trust North Carolinians to make the healthcare decisions that are right for them, and our legislation would enshrine this right into law. We must hold those politicians who refuse to support bodily autonomy accountable, both in their duties as elected officials and at the ballot box in November.

Author

  • Julie von Haefen

    Julie von Haefen has represented the 36th District in the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2019. She serves on the Appropriations, Appropriations General Government, K-12 Education, Local Government, and Military/Veterans Affairs committees. She is an attorney and lives with her husband and three children in Apex, NC.

Related Stories
Share This