Access to Birth Control Is Disappearing, And It’s Worse Than You Think

If a person wants access to birth control there are two choices — ask your personal physician or go to a public clinic. With multiple states working steadily to defund and close Planned Parenthood, the organization that offers the greatest number of locations for accessing birth control, especially subsidized contraception, those options are dwindling. Even worse, as some of those states realign family planning subsidies to go to clinics that may be able to pick and choose under which circumstances they will provide this service, pregnancy prevention is becoming harder and harder to find, and the greatest fear is that it may disappear all together.

That fear went public in Bartlesville, Okla., where doctors in medical centers, offices and hospitals have been ordered not to offer birth control to their patients any longer, unless it was for medical reasons, due to a recent acquisition of St. John Health System by Ascension Health. As a result of that directive, only one doctor would be left able to prescribe contraception for the purpose of actually preventing pregnancies, according to the local news report.

St. John has responded by essentially stating that yes, they did tell doctors that, but that they cannot actually make the doctors do what they command. “Consistent with Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, and therefore does not approve or support contraceptive practices,” read the statement. “However, only physicians (not institutions) are licensed to practice medicine and make medical judgments. While our physicians agree to abide by the Directives, they also have the ability to prescribe medications, including hormonal medications, in accordance with their independent professional medical judgment. This includes informing patients when they are operating under their own professional medical judgment and not on behalf of St. John Health System.”

What’s most alarming really isn’t whether St. John or Ascension banned pregnancy prevention (although the idea that they could do so should fill everyone with dread) but the fact that the Oklahoma story shows what is becoming increasingly problematic throughout the country: that contraception is increasingly available at the whim of the physician prescribing it. As the press statement says, doctors get to act “with their independent professional medical judgment,” all the Catholic medical board is doing is providing the background for refusal.

This is especially troubling in Oklahoma, where the legislature’s battle against Planned Parenthood is so vindictive that they even went so far as to eliminate them as a provider of formula for low income mothers under WIC, determined that absolutely no taxpayer dollars so much as cast a shadow upon the reproductive health care organization’s step. Planned Parenthood facilities in the state do not even provide abortions, they simply provide other reproductive health care services.

Across the country, the ability to access birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy is being hampered, both drastically and intentionally. While clinics that provide contraception regardless of purpose or marital status are being defunded in an effort to shut them down, more protections are being put in place for private physicians and private clinics, who are becoming a growing percentage of the provider population, to be able to pick and choose who does and does not deserve services. Directives like those put out by systems like St. John provide one method for doctors and clinics to deny allowing patients contraceptive services, and simultaneously state laws protecting “conscience” provide a separate outlet for doing the same.

What we are left with, then, becomes a system where a doctor can decide when and if a patient should be allowed to have sex while using contraception. A doctor could allow it in the case of a married couple, but not a single woman, because the practitioner believes sex outside of marriage is immoral. A doctor could chose to not allow birth control to someone he or she believes is too young to have sex, even if that person is legally an adult, or comes in with a parent who supports her. A doctor could refuse it to a patient he or she believes should consider having children before she is too old, worried she may regret her decision not to have children or that it will become too difficult when she does choose to have one. Or, even deny you because you only have three children and he or she thinks you should have at least four.

There are a myriad of reasons any doctor could give for denying contraception. Without accessible, non-biased health care providers to prescribe based on a patient’s desires rather than a physician’s belief system, the risk of being unable to decide when and if to have children is a real one. And unfortunately, it’s growing every day.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim V
Jim Ven11 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S11 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Stupid human trick!

Kate Yianakis
Kate Yianakis4 years ago

It seems to me that restricting or removing contraceptive and abortion funding is a violation of human rights. When women can no longer control their own reproductive systems then they no longer have control over their own bodies. To think that this situation is happening in the so called educated and enlightened Western World is appalling. Too much power has been given to the conflicted world views of the doctors. Lets make this a basic human right - every person has the right to control over their own bodies especially reproductive control.

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

Hi @ Dandelion! Good to see you. Good comment too.

Listen, I gave up on typing comments directly into the window about 2 years ago. I never lose comments. I type them in a Word document, other options are also available, and I do a word check on what I want to post and as long as I don't go past 223 words, Care2 accepts it and there it is, after I copy and paste it into the add comment window and push the button.

My posts never get cut off, and they are never lost after I labored over them. It is a couple extra steps but well worth it.

Dandelion G.
Sheryl G4 years ago

Too many pushing their own personal agenda's and religious beliefs onto others. Truly sickening in this day and age.

C2 ate my comment too AF

janice b.
jan b4 years ago

Taking oral contraceptives (OCs) can slash your risk for both endometrial and ovarian cancer by more than 70 percent after 12 years; even just one to five years may lower your risk by 40 percent. They work by reducing the number of times you ovulate in your lifetime: Ovulation may trigger cell changes in the ovaries that can lead to cancer. Pill perk #2: Clearer skin

Estrogen - the female hormone found in most OCs - helps clear your skin by decreasing levels of testosterone, a male hormone that stimulates oil production. Although Ortho Tri-Cyclen is often used to treat acne, many pills, such as Yasmin or Desogen, can banish blemishes. You'll likely see results within a couple of months.

Pill perk #3: Lighter, less painful periods

When you're on the Pill, you don't ovulate, so your uterine lining doesn't build up as much. In fact, you don't have a true "period" during the placebo phase - just withdrawal bleeding, in which your uterine lining breaks down in response to the drop in hormones. So most OC takers bleed less for a shorter time, and have little or no cramping. If you want an even lighter flow, ask your doctor about Seasonique, a new pill that gives you four periods a year and helps reduce period length to three days on average.
Pill perk #4: PMS relief

Hormonal shifts during the second half of your cycle are the main cause of PMS symptoms. The Pill can provide relief by steadying hormones, but different symptoms require different pills. If

janice b.
jan b4 years ago

When we see photos of people in Haiti or any third world's full of children who are dirty, unhealthy and hungry.......because there is no access to birth control and families are very large. This is what they want for the USA ......when we don't even have enough jobs now for everyone ? This country is going to hell in a high basket because of the gathering of like-minded people in one particular republican party.

Carole L.
Carole L4 years ago

Cathleen K
“Carole: I hear ya. Doctors don't like to do tubals on young, healthy women because they are not all reversible and everybody has had a few patients come back after they've changed their minds - often when they've married a new husband who wants a kid of his own.”

yes I realize this, I knew at age 3 I didn't want children of course, drs thought that was “cute”. I didn't even like babysitting and opted to work in the fields to earn $$ for myself. I wouldn't care if the man did want children, I would not have them, period. I am not into the motherhood scene. Those who know me best nick-named me 'the anti-mom', and I wear that title proudly. And I did use the various forms of contraception.

Rebecca D
“Go to the supermarket and buy a packet of condoms, it's that easy.”

oh I see, so you think women should be responsible for the man as well.

Carole L.
Carole L4 years ago

pam W
“Carole...I agree with you but caution you, too.....don't waste your effort on the TROLLS of this site! "Freddy" and "Jacob" and other misogynistic males (all of whom undoubtedly consider themselves ''women friendly'') will never, ever admit to believing in womens' right to choose their reproductive future.”

I know, I no longer bother to read Jacobs posts. However, every once in a while I like to see if I can make the swine squeal.

Michael T
“@Carole, I can't find a "stop" button”

guess it depends upon ones browser, my stop/reload button is to the right of the address bar.