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Penny Herscher

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Birth Control Battles and Women in Tech

Posted: 08/23/2012 11:47 am

Would I have the career I have today without having had easy access to birth control? I doubt it. Tech women are like any other women. Most of us 'successful' technical women were uninsured or low-income at the beginning of our careers, including those of us in Silicon Valley. We were students, we went for stretches without health insurance, we had to manage when we got pregnant just like any other woman building a career and taking her rightful place in our society.

And technology is an area that needs women more than most. It's the fuel of our new economy, especially software technology. We're creating tech jobs here, the U.S. has an advantage, but we need more STEM college graduates, and that means we need more women going into and staying in technology.

But as the Republican Convention is about to begin, consider how the Romney-Ryan ticket would rupture the opportunity for tech women by going after our birth control. That's right, birth control. Leaving aside other weapons in the 'War on Women,' maybe one of the best ways to keep working women down is by making basic contraception difficult to find and hard to afford. Mitt Romney has pledged to "get rid of" and defund Planned Parenthood, which would deny access to birth control for millions of women, and Romney supports efforts in Congress to restrict or eliminate access to birth control for low-income and uninsured women. That means most women at some point in their lives.

Ask any under-insured grad student who spends her nights on her computer how her career prospects would look if she couldn't afford to control whether and when she gets pregnant. How many female CEOs would have shattered the glass ceiling in Silicon Valley if managing their reproductive health had been out of their hands when they were working their way up the ladder? Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo who is about to have her first child at the age of 37, might have something to say about that.

It is incredible that in the 21st century there is any debate about the value and necessity of easily accessible and affordable birth control. Now Romney has chosen for his running mate a young congressman who seems very comfortable turning back the clock by frowning on birth control, while writing a plan to dismantle the basic health care safety net that millions of women rely on. Paul Ryan also voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and last year sponsored a "personhood" bill that would not only give full constitutional rights to fertilized eggs but could ban some forms of birth control and fertility treatment.

Women working in technology are on the cutting edge, creating jobs and changing our world in dramatic, powerful ways. But we can't do that if politicians in Washington restrict our ability to plan our families and our futures.

 

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