Replying to more arguments regarding no-cost birth control

Since writing about birth control access last week, I’ve come across a few more arguments in the comments section of my WordPress blog/my OpenSalon blog that I’d like to address:

  • Condoms aren’t that expensive, why not just use those?
  • $50 isn’t that much money, you can easily forgo excesses and scrape together the money for a co-pay.
  • If you can’t afford birth control and don’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex.

Firstly, condoms are cheaper than a lot of types of birth control. But two methods are always better than one, especially if you’re concerned that a condom will break and you — as the woman — could get pregnant. For me, it’s important to know that I have control over my reproductive health, and condoms alone don’t fulfill that sense of security. It’s also important to know that should a condom fail, you’re taking another form of birth control as an added preventive measure against an unplanned pregnancy.

Secondly, $50 isn’t that much money to some people, but just because you could easily scrape together $50 by going out to the bars less or eating out less doesn’t mean other people could. Some women and families already aren’t doing those things and struggle financially, and to them $50 is a lot of money each month. Also, as one commenter pointed out on a previous birth control blog, some clinics that offer low-cost birth control do so in a lump sum. So the price is reasonable per month, but you pay for everything up front — is $150 as easy to gather just by nixing pizza for a month?

Another problem with this mentality is that scraping together money for birth control each month is not a stable way to ensure birth control access. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you’ll only successfully scrape together enough money for birth control as long as no other unexpected expenses come your way. Say you save $50 for your co-pay, and then your car breaks down. The bill is $300 — how are you going to pay for birth control now? This leaves women using it inconsistently — a major problem that leads to unplanned pregnancies.

Thirdly, the “just don’t have sex” argument is logical but not practical. True, if people don’t want to get pregnant then they could just not have sex. This is the theme of abstinence-only education, which studies show is less effective at preventing pregnancies than comprehensive sex education because just saying “don’t do it” isn’t efficient. What is efficient is giving people the tools and knowledge they need to practice safe sex.

Some people will probably never agree here, because one side sees this as preventive and the other side sees it as enabling. I see it as realistic. Yes, yes, I hear the people in the “actions have consequences and if you can’t handle having a baby then don’t have sex” corner, but that argument just turns a blind eye to how people actually act. People will have sex, and sure, you can punish them by ensuring birth control is inaccessible so either they have to abide by your moral compass or risk an unplanned pregnancy. Or, you can admit that it’s better for everyone involved that we accept people will have sex outside of procreation purposes and that ensuring unplanned pregnancies don’t lead to abortions or unhealthy babies is more important than winning a standoff because you refuse to compromise.

Sounds like a common theme lately in politics …

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  1. Posted July 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think this needs to be added to your argument because birth control as effective contraception is reason enough for the pill to be legitimate preventative care, but I just wanted to add that some women (like me) need birth control for their health regardless of whether they need contraception or if they are or aren’t having sex. I’ve needed birth control for my PCOS for years, and it always bothers me when people think it’s only for contraception. Things like conscience laws for pharmacists to not fill birth control prescriptions piss me off to no end, and I’ve heard people argue that it’s the same as some family owned stores not selling condoms because they believe it’s wrong. All I can think is NO! Birth control is medication, women usually have to go to the doctor to get it, it has to be filled by a pharmacist, it’s not the same at all.

  2. Posted July 27, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Fourth (or maybe secondly: part b): The more effective, longer lasting (and ultimately cheaper) types of BC cost more up front. An IUD is pretty much immune to user error, but you need several hundred dollars in your pocket to get one. Making them available at no cost means women have better access to more effective forms of BC.

    • Posted July 27, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      This is an excellent point — I was thinking birth control pills and rings, but IUDs are a huge upfront cost but last several years and eliminate the inconsistency in pill-taking problem. A lot of people also say they eliminate a lot of the side effects that are common with birth control pills, too.

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