Birth Control Access Threatened by Recession

For politicians (John Boehner), pundits (Chris Matthews) and all of those people who insist that family planning is a “women’s issue” that has nothing to do with the far more serious economic crisis, here’s a newsflash: it’s all connected.  Yesterday, the Guttmacher Institute released a study that revealed that the recession has had a serious impact on women’s reproductive choices.  Not only are women less likely to want to have children because of tightened economic straits, they can’t afford birth control either.

That’s right.  Almost half of the women surveyed (44%) said that the recession has either led them to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they plan to have.  Even more dramatically, sixty percent of the women agreed with the statement, “With the economy the way it is, I just can’t afford to have a baby right now.”  This is a time when affordable birth control is crucial.  As Lisa Belkin reminded us back in August, babies are incredibly expensive, and it’s true that more women are reporting caution when choosing contraceptives. 

Long-term contraceptive options like the IUD (which I wrote about on my campus blog, Equal Writes, last month) are becoming more popular, and with good reason – they’re cheaper, and in this frigid economic climate, women can say with more certainty that they don’t want a child in the short term.

But the birth control that more and more women need?  It costs too much.  And so, to save money, women use the pill inconsistently, don’t invest in an IUD, or put off a gynecological visit.

So what do you do?  You definitely can’t afford to get pregnant, but the only way to save money and put food on your table is to cut birth control out of your budget.  It seems to me that American families are pretty much screwed.  Tell me that this isn’t an important national, not gender, issue?.

The problem is, affordable birth control is not yet regarded as a fundamental right in this country.  As we saw in 2007, when a “glitch” in an appropriations bill resulted in skyrocketing birth control prices for college students and low-income women (the error wasn’t corrected for TWO YEARS), legislators don’t regard family planning as a high priority.  This isn’t just about getting access to the pill – it’s about basic women’s health needs like pap smears or pelvic exams.  And when the government is considering how it can help Americans weather the recession, family planning and reproductive health need to be high priorities.

And there’s more.  I’m sure you’ve heard what a hot-button issue abortion has been for the health care reform debate, but a recent amendment to the Florida constitution is threatening to blow all of that out of the water.  The “egg as person” amendment has reached petition stage – in other words, an amendment to a state constitution that would outlaw the birth control pill is continuing to progress toward voters.  This is because, in the words of Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel, “The minute sperm enters egg, we have a person. One way birth control pills work is by thinning the womb so if an egg is fertilized, it will not implant.  Some Christians consider this an abortion.”

Once again, the potential “personhood” of a fertilized egg is ranked as more important than the well-being of American women and families.  I’m hoping that Florida voters will see this for what it is – a blatant attack on contraception by people who seem to want to strap chastity belts on everyone – and realize that because 98% of women will use contraceptives at some point, it is also totally unrealistic. 

But, just in case, if you live in Florida, contact your local Planned Parenthood to find out what you can do to combat this legislation, and do not sign any petitions that would support it.  Circulate this video about why the birth control pill is not abortion.  As far as affordable birth control goes, some states require insurance companies to cover birth control options, but many do not – in Michigan, for example, legislation is on its way to the House floor, so if you are a Michigan resident, call your congressman.  Otherwise, call your legislators and let them know that family planning issues are crucial to you, and that health care needs to be affordable.  Last week, Michelle Obama said that health care reform is a women’s issue.  She’s right.

Take action to protect reproductive rights for all women! Sign the petition to President Barack Obama.

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Danielle M.
Danielle M9 years ago

Thank you for this article. It's true that IUDs are cheaper, but the initial investment (especially if you have no insurance coverage) is a lot higher than the max of maybe $60 you'd pay out-of-pocket for the more expensive name brand hormonal options (seriously, NuvaRing is that expensive without insurance). I am going to convince my gyno to give me my 2nd IUD tomorrow...wish me luck! (I had the first one expel out of my nulliparous uterus, oops.)

David B.
David B9 years ago

also one more thing!! why is it always left up to the woman ,to make sure she is protected?why do she have to make sure she doesn't get pregnant?well other than the fact most men think withthe wrong head ,especially at times like that!and have all sorts of excuses as to why the shouldn't wear protection,or if i get sniped i'll never beable to have a family. well if niether of those solutions suite you stud,then keep it in your pants.try thinking with the upper head for a change,or is that to tough on you ??

David B.
David B9 years ago

ok,lets start with the "christian crap".has no place here !! were talking birthcontrol availiblity,aren't we?so why the religious crap?? why do that s--t,always get included??we wouldn't have 90% of the woorld problems ifit was not involved. kids are curious,they will experiment no matter what .all having birthcontrol do is make sure if there is a mistakeon there part there is some protection that we don't end up with another unwanted child.because although many want to keep them it's not always feasible,morally or financially.yup morally,the old religious crapolla again!!and to the dip wit who thinks cause women are older they can't have healthy babies,your dumber than your mom was for giving you birth.when i was younger i was in a lil club call to our mom's over 45 or something like that .no one in it was born to a mom who wasn't at least 45.and this was back before all the fancy life saving medical stuff to save babies in distress.there were a cuople of doctors,a lawyer,a college prof,a genetisist,and a judge!so take that card off the table children as i said will experiment ,lets give them the option to experiment ,if they must somewhat worry free!cause if they do have the "accident",do they still call it that now??and it's not perect and they can'tkeep it.then it will not be adopted! i know there be some that take children who are special,but mostly it so doesn't happen think about the child,and the possible un born child people !!

Nathan M.
Nathan M.9 years ago

There are a lot of birth control options out there which are affordable and accessible at least in developed countries. The choices are out there and women need to be aware of them.

Nicole C.
Nicole C9 years ago

I just wanted to add that I do think it's important for everyone to have access to birth control. To deny this access would inevitably be sexist, classist, and racist. I'm just very frustrated with the angle of this's like, it's the pill or it's nothing. People need to start thinking of other options and doing their research. Education is key.

Nicole C.
Nicole C9 years ago

whatever happened to cheaper methods of birth control that aren't going to directly threaten your health? By this, I mean condoms. They're cheap in comparison. Sure, sex might not be quite as "enjoyable" for either party, but what's more important? I can't imagine being stupid enough to have unprotected sex because I can't afford the pill, while obviously taking the risk of pregnancy (which is much more expensive than a box of condoms, whether you get an abortion or go through with the pregnancy). How irresponsible.

And as for abortion...incest, rape, and cases where the woman's health is at risk are separate issues. The majority of people who have abortions are using this procedure as a method of birth control. That's awfully expensive birth control, and I don't think the government or the taxpayers should have to pay for it. People need to start thinking before having sex. It's not like we're animals with no sense of self-control. If you're not ready to get pregnant, use condoms. If you can't afford condoms, abstain. It kind of sucks, but that's life.

A footnote...before I get attacked for being some religious zealot, I thought it would be worth mentioning that I'm agnostic. I just believe people need to start taking responsibility for their actions rather than having someone else pay for them.

Debrah R.
Debrah R9 years ago

Thanks Fay, you said most of what I was thinking when I read the comments! I will add though that the rhythm method is out of date--that went by dates only--Fertility awareness teaches how to understand your cycles and when you are most and least fertile--such as checking vaginal secretions and taking basal body temps. Absolutely everyone should know how the female body works wether or not they choose to use this as bc. Too many girls/women (and guys) have no clue about basic anatomy and physiology. I used this method in combination with barrier methods(condoms and diaphragm) for many successful years because I could not tolerate hormonal methods and had too heavy bleeding to consider an IUD (not because of sex negative attitudes). Happily, I am now menopausal(yeah!) and don't have to worry about it --but I do have daughters who do. I am thankful to and support Planned Parenthood because they do more to prevent pregnancy than any other group since they supply birth control on a sliding scale. They also supply basic health care for many women who otherwise could not afford it.

Fay T.
Fay T9 years ago

I have to comment on a few things here.

1. There is nothing wrong or dangerous with home-births, most home birthers have received prenatal care and most are under the care of a Midwife during pregnancy and delivery. Also not all home birthers have 18 kids and counting or are religious freeks.
Midwives have had training and have a back up plan in case of an emergency.
Pregnancy and birth is not a medical condition it is a natural part of life. Women's bodies have been doing this for centuries. The main reason that death rates have gone down during childbirth for both mother and baby is because birth attendants began washing their hands.

2. No one has a right to tell anyone how many children is too many or too little.

3. Like all other birth control options the Rhythm method is not for everyone.

4. Denying teen parents or any other parent in need temporary assistance will only make issues worse. This will not make pregnancy rates go down but it will put both mother and children at a higher risk.
What we NEED is more education started much earlier.

That all being said denying a woman birth control based on Religious beliefs or making it unaffordable and therefore unattainable is absurd and irresponsible. Keep your religion and your morals out of my bedroom and medicine cabinet!

Amber T.
Amber T9 years ago

Parents: People who believe in the rhythm method.

Sarah D.
Sarah D9 years ago

We don't need any more Michelle Duggars. Children are wonderful but they're economical disasters. Birth control could really help the economy.