Chronicles of Contraceptive Access: A Generation of Success
April 05, 2017
By Jane Haines, National Campaign Intern
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: birth control is popular. With everything happening in Congress lately, it can be easy to forget that more than 80% of people in the United States agree that contraception is a basic part of women’s health care, including Democrats and Republicans alike.
Two weeks ago marked the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that gave 55 million women access to no-cost preventive services, including birth control. This legislation was an important step towards ensuring every person has the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances they become pregnant.
I was just 14 years old when the ACA became law, and a lot has changed since then. Prior to the ACA, women using birth control could spend between 30 and 44 percent of their total health care spending on contraceptives. Thanks to the no-cost birth control provision, I’ve never even had to think about my wallet when deciding which method is right for me. In fact, I’m part of an entire generation of women who have never known what it’s like to pay a dime in out-of-pocket costs for birth control.
Meenal, 21, from New Hampshire says that as a low-income student, she wouldn’t be able to afford birth control without the Affordable Care Act. “I use it for a hormonal issue that otherwise causes me to miss multiple days of work and school each month and has severe detriments to my health.”
For women of my generation, no-cost birth control isn’t just a policy, it’s a normal part of life.
Like me, Becca, age 21, from Virginia was 14 when the ACA was passed. She says, “I was missing so much school due to my irregular and unbearable periods. When the ACA made my expensive [birth control] prescription free, it was one less thing my family had to worry about.”
Since then, she’s tried just about every method to manage debilitating cramps, acne, and ovarian cysts. When Becca entered a serious relationship in college, she sought an easier, more effective option than the pill. “The ACA allowed me to go from thinking about an IUD to having one [inserted] in under a week. There was no confusion with my HMO, no financial burden. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for that.”
Prior to the ACA, an IUD could cost as much as one month’s salary for a woman working full-time at the federal minimum wage. Sarah, 22, from Arizona said she took the plunge to get an IUD only after she found out it was 100% covered by her insurance.
“My pay puts me barely above the poverty line and I knew that contraception without coverage would set me back badly in the future. I was nervous about the cost, but thanks to the ACA, my balance was $0.00.”
Still, some women haven’t been so lucky. Ella, 20, from Ohio primarily takes birth control to treat the symptoms of endometriosis. Even though the pill served double duty after she became sexually active, Ella says, “I had a $50 per month co-pay for a pill called Lo Loestrin, not exactly affordable for a college student.” While she’s still searching for a method that will successfully manage her symptoms, Ella continues to discuss the implant and IUD with her doctor as long-acting, low cost options that could help her avoid the monthly copay. Thanks to the ACA, prohibitive costs are no longer a part of that conversation.
For women like Meenal, Sarah, Becca, Ella, and myself, a lot can change in seven years, but no-cost birth control doesn’t have to. Women using long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) have experienced close to a 70% decline in out-of-pocket costs since the ACA, and we can’t afford to lose coverage now. Removing the no-cost contraceptive provision would disrupt the lives of millions of women—women my age and otherwise—who rely on birth control to help them decide if, when, and under what circumstances they become pregnant. While the ACA remains intact for now, we can’t take it for granted. We’ll keep working to make sure the future of birth control stays available, accessible, and as low or no cost as possible.
For more stories about how birth control has made a difference in peoples’ lives across the country, keep reading the Chronicles of Contraceptive Access and visit our storytelling portal.
(Editor’s note: submissions have been edited for clarity and length).