'On Minimum Wage, It's a Lot of Money': Poor Women Talk About Birth Control
For low-income women, 'cheap' birth control ain't cheap.
A few months ago, in response to Rep. Tom Price claiming there's not "one woman who has been left behind" when it comes to birth control, we compiled stories from women who'd had difficulty affording birth control at some point in their lives. As we noted at the time, these were the lucky ones—professional women who had support systems and, in many cases, health insurance. Overall, one in three women struggle with the costs of birth control.
Naturally, the political posturing didn't stop there. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to anonymous commenters balked at the notion that contraception was expensive, citing the low costs of condoms and the $9 generic birth control pills at Target. Of course, not everyone's bodies work with any old pills, but the implication was that certain kinds of birth control were so cheap and so readily available that virtually everyone could get their hands on it. Now, the Guttmacher Institute has published a paper that heartily refutes that claim.
The paper reports the average monthly cost of prescription methods for 45 low-income women in Boston was $22; for nonprescription methods, the average was $24. The median cost of a clinic visit to obtain a prescription for birth control ranged from $15 to $200. According to Republican opponents of birth control, these are reasonable amounts. But these ladies disagree: One insurance participant who used the Pill said, “It’s $26 every month...When you’re making minimum wage, it’s a lot of money.” Another insured participant chimed in, “you debate whether you get the birth control or food... I’ll forget about the birth control if it means being able to pay my rent or buying groceries,” echoing more than one of the women we heard from back in February.
The study also underlined the more intangible barriers to birth control—convenience and a tangled maze of insurance bureaucracy—which led more than a few participants to long for an over-the-counter hormonal birth control option. One insured pill user said that over-the-counter access “would definitely be easier than having to go to the doctor’s" and take time off of work to coordinate with a doctor's schedule. Every out-of-touch politician and commentator who assume everyone can handle copays and doctors visits should read the stories of these women for whom every dollar counts. Not only do legislators seem to be in denial of women's reproductive needs, but their financial realities, too.