Behind the Price of Birth Control

For the last few weeks, numerous media outlets have been reporting on how the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) is causing the price of birth control to increase dramatically. Signed into law in January 2006, the DRA inadvertently caused birth control prices to rise because of a complicated change in the way drug companies calculate Medicaid-related rebates. The effect, however, is simple: women will no longer be able to access affordable birth control through their college health centers or local non-profit health clinics.

While some conservative commentators fail to understand the gravity of the issue — throwing out abstinence as a simple solution and calling interviewees irresponsible — not having access to affordable birth control is a serious setback for women in the United States. In reality, the inaccessibility of birth control will propel women back one hundred years to when birth control was illegal. The early pioneers of birth control must be turning in their graves — if birth control is not affordable, it might as well not exist.

In addition to sending women back to the time in history before birth control, the birth control pricing issue is about a way of life. By ignoring the birth control pricing problem, conservatives seem to think they are preserving a way of life that limits both government spending and sex. But what they will likely get are more unintended pregnancies, resulting both in more abortions and more children in welfare programs. They will also get something else they are supposed to be against: more governmental interference in their personal lives.

Those of us who would like to see birth control remain affordable are trying to preserve a way of life also – one that values healthy sexual relationships and does not believe sex is shameful. Cristina Page describes this way of life in her book, "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America," explaining that the debate surrounding the pro-life and pro-choice movements isn't about abortion anymore; it's about "birth control and, more to the point, Americans' sex lives."

Even though condoms are an alternative to pricey contraception, women will no longer have the added confidence of knowing their birth control pills back them up. In addition, couples (even married ones) will be forced either to abstain or use condoms, neither of which is reflects the way most people in the U.S. live. Even according to the Centers for Disease Control, contraceptive use is virtually universal in the U.S. and the pill is the leading contraceptive method among young women.

Although the bill was signed into law almost two years ago, the majority of affected health centers are just now running out of their discounted stock, causing those concerned to put pressure on Congress to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the problem remains unresolved as some members of Congress refuse to make it a priority. You, however, can help to make it a priority be contacting your own legislators and asking them to fix the birth control pricing problem.

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  • invalid-0

    And why, exactly, do you believe taxpayers should be forced to pay for your birth control? The women of which you speak are, I assume, adults who can take care of themselves, not irresponsible children. If they deem the benefits of birth control to outweigh the risks of pregnancy, they can buy it on their own. It’s not the responsibility of their fellow citizens to provide it to them at a deep discount.

  • invalid-0

    Why should my tax dollars go towards paying for men’s viagara? I assume the men who would need it would be old enough to pay for it themselves — why is it my responsibility to fund their boners?

    I don’t see much discussion over the fact that erectile dysfunction medication is covered by state and private insurance, but its just as much related to sex as birth control is.

  • invalid-0

    Since the introduction of the pill women have lived longer and experienced freedom not possible without it. I am a young law student deep in debt with barely enough money to pay rent and no insurance. My husband and I cannot afford children and I would not be able to continue my studies if we were to become so. I prefer birth control to becoming a burden on society, and I think CTD should prefer I stay that way as well. Someday I will be able to take care of myself, but as it is when my student health center tripled (TRIPLED) the price of birth control it became even more difficult to get by. Margaret Sanger spent her career as a nurse watching women die as a result of the wear and tear on their bodies from birthing child after child. She fought for this right and we should fight to keep it. If the government is willing to pay to keep men sexually active they should be willing to pay to prevent the obvious results. Considering that in my state (MO) the legislature passed legislation that will effectively shut down every abortion clinic in the state, I think the time is ripe for another choice revolution.

  • dawna-cornelissen

    In response to CTD: Contraception itself is actually highly cost-effective – it is estimated that every public dollar spent on family planning saves “taxpayers” $3 in the cost of pregnancy-related care alone.  If you don’t want to help pay for the cost of birth control, then maybe you would rather share the cost of unintended pregnancies?  Because, if the DRA is not fixed, the number of unintended pregnancies will rise and the abortion rate will likely be 40 percent higher than it is now.  Another reason women (and men) need access to affordable contraception is because private insurance plans provide extremely limited coverage of contraceptives: half of traditional indemnity plans and preferred provider organizations, 20 percent of point-of-service networks, and 7 percent of health maintenance organizations cover no contraceptive methods other than sterilization. 


    In response to Anonymous(X2):  Yes, it is sad that after only a few weeks of being on the market, Viagra was covered by health insurance plans and yet we are still fighting for the passage of the Contraceptive Equity Act.  Thank you for your stories.

  • invalid-0

    Actually, CTD, the women we speak of are in their late teens through late 20s, either still in school, without health insurance, in a lot of college debt, and unable to afford the extra costs of birth control, versus middle-aged men who are the average consumers of viagra and able to pay for it. And, the societal cost of men not being able to get boners is much less than the cost of unwanted pregnancies.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t recall anyone bringing ups viagra, but I’ll say I’m no more happy about being forced to pay for some guy’s dick pills than I am at having to pay for a woman’s birth control. That is, assuming viagra IS subsidized. By whom? Do they hand the stuff out at deep discounts at student health centers? If so, somebody’s missing a great money-making opportunity.

  • invalid-0

    “Contraception itself is actually highly cost-effective”

    I don’t recall arguing that is wasn’t. However, cost effectiveness is irrelevant to the rightness or wrongness of forcing other people to provide it to you. Providing me with a car is certainly more cost-effective than paying for me to take a cab every day. But that doesn’t mean you should be forced to chip in for my car payment.

    “If you don’t want to help pay for the cost of birth control, then maybe you would rather share the cost of unintended pregnancies?”

    No, I wouldn’t. Pregnancy is (and should be) a choice. You (not you personally, the mother and father), and you alone bear the responsibility for the costs of raising the child.

  • invalid-0

    Actually, CTD, the women we speak of are in their late teens through late 20s

    Like I said, adults. Unless we’re re-defining adulthood to begin around 30.

    either still in school

    College attendance is voluntary. If you choose to attend and find yourself having financial difficulties,there are an number of options. You can spend less, or work more hours among other things. How you choose to deal with it is your affair. And by yours, I mean not mine or your fellow citizens’. We should not be on the hook for paying your rent, your phone bill, or your birth control prescriptions.

    in a lot of college debt, and unable to afford the extra costs of birth control,

    I agree, debt sucks. But college debt is, again, taken on voluntarily. I’m sorry if it is burdensome, but it’s not the taxpayers’ problem. It’s yours. (And besides, you typically don’t start replaying education loans until after you’ve graduated.)

    As to the extra costs of birth control, the linked story recounts an example of a woman who chose to forgo birth control because the price increased a whopping $20 per month. Is anyone seriously suggesting that a healthy young woman of sound mind can’t be reasonably expected to come up with an extra $20 per month? Really? In addition, she apparently did not avail herself of the free condoms that are available on virtually every campus in the country.

    versus middle-aged men who are the average consumers of viagra

    Again with the Viagra. Neither I nor the post mentioned it. I don’t know what else to say other than taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it, either.

  • invalid-0

    Taxpayers pay for many things, that is plainly obvious. It is our duty as citizens of our country to pay these costs, and these costs include the health and well-being of our daughters, sisters, mothers, and all the other women in our lives. I certainly hope the Contraceptive Equity Act passes because in no way should funding Viagra be any less related to sex as birth control is (such as a previous anonymous posted). As citizens of the United States of America we have accepted and taken the burden of supporting our country by chosing to live here, yes? And by living here we have the responsibility to pay our taxes, yea? Are you aware than the USA’s pregnancy rate is 60%, or double the rate of other developed countries? This is an issue of protecting our bodies and controlling our bodies without someone else dictating how we should act, dress, or date. We are women, and we have the ability to do something no man can, and that is what makes us women. This is why we must protect our rights of controlling our bodies, and yes that includes birth control. And yes, because taxpayers fund Viagra, they should fund birth control too.
    (it costs a man $10 a month for Viagra, BC is now up to $30 a month for some women. It’s not just our responsibility to “keep our legs shut”. How about you keep it in your pants?)

  • invalid-0

    what’s telling about the CTD’s ‘it’s your problem, not mine’ argument is how completely ignorant it is of women’s real experiences – as well as ignoring the point of this post. the point of this post is to bring attention to the dire consequences of pricing birth control out of the reach of the majority of women who need it – *need*, not ‘want’ like it’s the latest color in nail polish.

    women need birth control for a variety of reasons and ‘choice’ hardly enters into it – to control heavy menstrual cycles, to decrease the effect of fibroids, to counteract acne, and yes, to control their fertility. the control of a woman’s fertility cycle, in this modern time, is more than a choice – it’s a critical part of our health care. without it, a young woman’s ability to get an education is hampered, a working woman’s ability to earn a sustainable living is threatened, a married woman’s ability to care for her already existing family is limited. while barrier birth control is effective for preventing pregnancy, the use of it largely depends on the cooperation of a woman’s partner. the Pill, however, is a method that is solely in the control of a woman and affects her body most acutely.

    whether in college, married and middle class or working in a low-income service industry job (where ‘choice’ hardly explains their economic status, unless you believe that a person’s class is a ‘choice’), women with affordable access to birth control has the best chance for remaining autonomous – just as men are autonomous. physical, social and political autonomy is the basic tenet of reproductive justice, but i wouldn’t expect folks like CTD to get that.