Being able to decide whether and when to become a parent is an essential foundation of health and self-determination. The advent of the birth control pill in 1960 revolutionized society and led to gains in social, political and economic equality for women.
Something for everyone
Six in 10 U.S. women use a contraceptive method and nearly all women have used birth control at some point. Cisgender women, transgender men and nonbinary people who are able to become pregnant may all need birth control at some point in their lives. Safe and effective FDA-approved methods include internal (“female”) and external (“male”) condoms, birth control pills, the patch, the ring, implants, injections, IUDs and permanent surgical sterilization. There are also two kinds of emergency contraceptive pills, known as the “morning after pill,” that prevent pregnancy if taken after sex. There is no one “best” method — the best birth control is the method that suits an individual’s unique circumstances, medical needs and preferences.
Obstacles to care
Yet many people are not able to afford and obtain the birth control method that fits them best. The most effective methods are only available from a health provider, so people who don’t have health insurance, can’t afford or can’t get to a clinic may be blocked from getting birth control. In addition, many immigrants are barred from health insurance programs (27 percent don’t have health insurance), and transgender and nonbinary people face discrimination in health care that can make it difficult or impossible to get contraception.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, over 55 million women now have coverage for birth control without a copay. Low-income women and underserved populations may also turn to Title X providers, a network of federally-funded health centers that serves roughly 4 million clients seeking family planning services each year.
Unfortunately, both the Affordable Care Act and Title X programs are under attack by the Trump administration, and even these programs together don’t ensure that all people can get the birth control they need. Protecting, expanding and building on the Title X program and the gains of the Affordable Care Act would help to make the promise of safe, effective, affordable birth control a reality for more people.
Brigitte Amiri, Deputy Director, Reproductive Freedom Project, ACLU, [email protected]