Birth control is perhaps the biggest asset to female autonomy in modern history, and the ability to access free contraception should be a right for anyone who wants it. But access to birth control is not simply a “women’s issue” — it’s an economic issue that is in all of our best interests.
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Consider the following:
- Almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. The cost of those births are approximately twice as likely to be paid for by the taxpayer. The total cost is between $9.6 and $12.6 billion every year.
- Significantly reducing unintended pregnancies would save taxpayers an estimated average of $5.6 billion per year.
- Giving women early access to birth control pills accounted for “10 percent of the narrowing in the gender gap during the 1980s and 31 percent during the 1990s.”
- Mothers who were able to control their fertility with contraception had children with higher lifetime incomes and education.
- 51 percent of women surveyed reported that contraception allowed them to complete their education, and 50 percent said contraception enabled them to work.
Since the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to cover birth control at no cost to the consumer, women have saved a staggering $1.4 billion — and that’s only on birth control pills. And the pill isn’t the only type of birth control that’s become affordable — spending on IUDs has fallen 68 percent.
But despite the inroads made by the Affordable Care Act, we have a long way to go in terms of making birth control completely free and accessible. For example, if your workplace chooses not to cover your birth control because of ethical or religious reasons, you’re stuck paying for your contraception out of pocket. With copays ranging from $15 to $50 per month for the pill (and significantly more for long-term, more effective contraceptives such as IUDs), paying for birth control can be cost prohibitive.
This is especially true for women with low incomes — women for whom an unintended pregnancy could be especially financially devastating. And there are other ways to limit access — only 21 states explicitly allow minors to get birth control without the consent of a parent, and many states allow pharmacists to simply refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.
If the necessity for accessible birth control isn’t immediately clear from those stats, how about hearing directly from the women affected? A Twitter conversation started by Planned Parenthood encouraged women to share how birth control helped them. Here are a smattering of replies:
#BirthControlHelpedMe move my career forward by working demanding jobs & moving across the country multiple times. Also yay less acne!— The Happy Feminist (@HappyFeminist) June 22, 2015
#birthcontrolhelpedme Study abroad. Earn a BA. Get married. Go to grad school.— Meredith (@MereBny) June 23, 2015
#BirthControlHelpedMe escape poverty.— Lisa Yarrow (@LisaYarrow1) June 23, 2015
It’s not rocket science. The ability to control one’s own fertility gives women economic autonomy. Birth control increases women’s likelihood of living above the poverty level and enrolling in college, reduces the need for welfare assistance, and significantly lowers the rate of abortions across the U.S.
Access to birth control is an economic necessity, and it’s an issue our country can’t afford to sleep on.