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No controversy: 5 fantastic arguments for better birth control access

Good for women, good for taxpayers, good for businesses... winning!

99% of women who've ever had sex have used birth control at some point. Doesn't sound very controversial, right? Yet somehow a whole lot of folks seem to be “discussing” birth control lately—and they don’t always have the facts straight.

You may have noticed birth control is what we’re all about, so we wanted to share 5 facts we think everyone should know about birth control in the U.S.

1. It's a win for taxpayers and businesses.

2. It reduces abortion.

Earlier this month, two studies—one from researchers in St. Louis and the other from researchers in Iowa—provided solid evidence that access to effective birth control can make a difference in this arena. Both studies made super-effective birth control methods available and affordable to local women over several years—and both studies resulted in major decreases in unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

On the national level, almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. were unplanned as of 2006—and 43% of those unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion. Of all the women in the U.S. who are having sex and not trying to get pregnant, two-thirds of them use birth control consistently and correctly—and those birth control superstars account for only 5% of unplanned pregnancies. The other 95% of unplanned pregnancies were to the third of U.S. women who weren’t trying to get pregnant but weren’t using birth control or were using it incorrectly or inconsistently.

3. It's got some serious benefits for women.

The most obvious benefit of birth control is that it allows folks to control when and whether they become parents—kind of a big deal. This amazing benefit leads to some other perks, too—for women, their partners, and their families.

  • A toast to your health. Pregnancy is always risky business but it can be riskier when it’s not planned. Women who aren’t trying to get pregnant are less likely to have prenatal care early in their pregnancies (partly, no doubt, because they may not realize they’re pregnant), and their children are more likely to be exposed to harmful stuff like tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine in utero.

  • A toast to your wallet. Fortunately, this particular birth control benefit isn’t exactly a secret these days. In a survey released in September, U.S. women credited birth control with allowing them to take better care of themselves or their families (63%), support themselves financially (56%), complete their education (51%), and keep or get a job (50%). 65% of those women also said the number one reason they’re using birth control is because they can’t afford a baby right now. It’s not just opinions, either; research shows birth control has meant major economic benefits for women in the U.S.

4. Access can be a problem.

People have lots of opinions about how accessible birth control is in the U.S. The fact is that while condoms may be easy to buy and generic versions of the pill may be relatively cheap at your local supermarket or drugstore, almost all birth control methods—including the most effective options—require a visit (or several visits) to a health care provider.

For women who need a special brand of birth control or who want a more effective, lower-maintenance method like the IUD or the implant, birth control can cost a lot more than a trip to Starbucks. 55% of 18-34-year-olds say they've struggled with the cost of prescription birth control.

5. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference.

This isn’t first time we’ve talked about why the ACA rocks. It’s already making a difference for:

  • Young folks, who can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26; and
  • The 47 million women who will be eligible for full coverage of any FDA-approved birth control method (not to mention birth control counseling, STI screening, and a bunch of other awesome preventive services) without having to pay deductibles or co-pays.

More and more people should be benefiting from the ACA over the coming year and we’ll be asking around to see how it’s affecting people now and in the near future.

Access and education FTW!

Back to that study in St. Louis for a moment... It was called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project and they provided almost 10,000 local women with birth control counseling and access to any method they wanted for free. 75% of participants chose a super-effective method like the IUD or the implant (that’s compared to about 8% of the general public). Because the Project participants were using such effective methods, their rates of unplanned pregnancy—and, by extension, abortion—were way lower than the national average. Participants who chose the super-effective methods were also happier with their birth control overall.

Research shows that programs to help low-income women get affordable birth control could majorly reduce unplanned pregnancy rates in the U.S. (and save taxpayers billions, to loop back to section 1)—and that the public supports those programs. By providing affordable birth control, publicly-funded “Title X” clinics helped women avoid almost a million unplanned pregnancies in 2008 (which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions). Still, millions of U.S. women who are at risk for unwanted pregnancy can’t access or afford effective birth control.

The take-away.

Policies like Title X, Medicaid, and the ACA are already doing lots to help women in the U.S. to get the birth control method that's best for them regardless of their economic or health insurance status. Building on these policies could have awesome results for women, their families, and the nation as a whole.

Will you do your part by making sure the people in your life have their facts straight?

This is a great resource for talking to people who may not have all their facts straight :)

2012-10-23 12:01:52 UTC

Connor Davies

I think it's "awesome" that a non profit seeks to advocate for political causes.

2012-10-23 13:52:52 UTC

tiredofmisuseofnonprofits

Thanks for the great overview! It's nice to see all the facts in one place.

2012-10-23 20:44:24 UTC

Choice Washington

The National Campaign has always advocated for policies that help reduce unplanned pregnancy, along with individuals doing their part to avoid unplanned pregnancy. We also think it’s important for folks to have the facts straight--nothing political about that!

2012-10-25 13:56:55 UTC

Bedsider Staff

"Almost all birth control methods...require a visit to a health care provider" Really? What about condoms, a very common birth control method? Have I been doing something wrong by not visiting a health care provider?

2012-11-11 20:12:26 UTC

Lube

Also, what ever happened to the concept that if you want something, you should pay for it? No one needs to have sex, it is as elective as elective can be. And birth control is not expensive at all. I can understand that providing birth control to truly poor people makes sense, but the rest of us can just go out and buy it at the store, or visit the doctor and buy the birth control from them (perhaps society should cover the doctor visit, but people who are not dirt poor can afford to pay for the birth control themselves).

2012-11-11 20:17:25 UTC

Lube

I don't know about you, but when I spend ridiculous amounts of money on health insurance, I'd like to to cover the things that I'm likely to need. That includes prescription drugs. My sister doesn't need to take thyroid medication--her body's not about to shut down--but her body works better with it. I don't *need* to take SSRIs--I'm not on suicide watch--but I do if I want to be happy. Why is birth control one of the only medications that seems to garner such a defensive response from society? Come to think of it, anti-depressants can often fall under a cultural requirement to defend yourself and your medical choices. Sorry, but my medical decisions are between me, my doctor, and sometimes, my insurance company. As for your next comment: Read the first sentence over again. Then read the first word. Still feel the need to make the snarky remark, or has your grasp of syntax kicked in yet? If you are interested in refreshing your understanding of other methods that don't require going to the doc, you're on the right site to get it.

2012-11-12 21:17:58 UTC

superdaisy

It says "almost." Almost is not indicative of every form of birth control, just most of them.

2012-11-14 21:23:34 UTC

Tav

Don't forget how dangerous and unnatural it is to put those hormones in your body. Don't forget to mention the risk of cancer, infertility, heart attack and stroke, and the fact that women on birth control are polluting our water and mutating our fish and other wildlife every time they pee.

2012-11-15 14:54:34 UTC

Ashleigh Thress

That's part of why it's important to support and increase awareness of hormone-free methods like copper IUDs. Withdrawal and FAM aren't as effective and are definitely not as foolproof, but they may fit with your own risk comfort level. Male birth control in development is hormone-free. For the record though, industry pumps out more hormonal pollutants than women on birth control pee out.

2012-11-15 20:35:08 UTC

superdaisy

It's sad and depressing that healthcare is seen as something so political.

2012-11-15 20:35:54 UTC

superdaisy

Birth control isn't only for sexual purposes. A lot of women that aren't sexually active also use it for health purposes, and to stabilize hormones.

2013-07-12 17:46:56 UTC

Sumin Yi

Condoms are the most frequently misused form of birth control that ever existed.

2013-07-12 17:50:51 UTC

Sumin Yi

Birth control isn't only for sexual purposes. A lot of women that aren't sexually active also use it for health purposes, and to stabilize hormones.

2013-07-12 17:46:56 UTC

Sumin Yi

Condoms are the most frequently misused form of birth control that ever existed.

2013-07-12 17:50:51 UTC

Sumin Yi

Hi Ashleigh - as we mention in this article (http://bedsider.org/features/199), we think its great when anyone considers the environment when deciding on a method of birth control, but really, any method of birth control is better than no birth control when it comes to helping the environment. You might also want to check this article for more information about birth control risks (http://bedsider.org/features/168). It's true that women with some medical conditions shouldn't use certain types of birth control. But for most women, most birth control methods are actually quite safe.

2014-02-09 21:53:20 UTC

Bedsider Medical Advisor

Hi Ashleigh - as we mention in this article (http://bedsider.org/features/199), we think its great when anyone considers the environment when deciding on a method of birth control, but really, any method of birth control is better than no birth control when it comes to helping the environment. You might also want to check this article for more information about birth control risks (http://bedsider.org/features/168). It's true that women with some medical conditions shouldn't use certain types of birth control. But for most women, most birth control methods are actually quite safe.

2014-02-09 21:53:20 UTC

Bedsider Medical Advisor

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