The Case for Free Birth Control


Sarah McCarthy

In 2009, the Affordable Care Act reformed the American health care system. With its passage came a provision that all insurers had to cover co-pay free birth control of all types for all women with medical insurance. For many women, co-pay free birth control allowed them to choose when and if they want to become mothers without worrying about the cost of birth control.

According to Planned Parenthood, the birth control pill, patch, and ring generally cost $20 to $50 per month, in addition to an exam to get a prescription, which costs between $35 and $250. On an annual basis, it costs between $275 and $850 per year for the average (cisgender) woman to have control over her own body. Multiply the annual cost of birth control by the number of years most women are fertile and sexually active (somewhere between 20 and 30 years), and without insurance, many women will spend between $5,500 and $25,500 on the luxury of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. According to Mother Jones, one in three women have struggled at some point with the costs of various birth control methods.

If cost is not enough to convince the reader that birth control should be covered, I propose that birth control allows for greater equality between men and women, gives women control over their own bodies and lives, and is fundamentally a medication. Taken all together, it seems ridiculous that women should have to continually prove to conservative men that what they do with their bodies is a choice between a woman and her doctor, not the government.

In the 67 years since the FDA approved the pill, the lives of women have changed dramatically. While complete equality is far from a reality, women and men are far more equal than they were in a large part due to reproductive freedom for women. According to Fortune, the wage gap has narrowed —today (white) women on average earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns, up from 60 cents. Women also earn more undergraduate degrees than men as well as about half of all graduate degrees, in a large part due to the ability to delay pregnancy. In 1970, women who had access to the pill enrolled in college at a rate 20% higher than women without access and were more likely to graduate. All of these increases in equality are fundamentally good for the United States both economically and socially.

Birth control allows women freedom. Abstinence before marriage, the staple of conservative sex education, is an unrealistic goal. It fails to account for couples who are married and elect to either not have children or wait for reasons that they choose. Even more problematically, though, abstinence takes away choice. While there are certainly some women who do make the choice to be abstinent, it should be just that—a choice. On the most fundamental level, women should have control over their own lives and their bodies.

In the view of Courtney Porfido, Class of 2018, “I need to be in control of my physical and financial future. It’s not just about not having a baby—it’s about giving myself autonomy.”

However, on an even more basic level, birth control is a medication. There is no other medication that is so politicized. Aside from preventing pregnancy, birth control has dozens of uses such as regulating ones period, reducing the symptoms PMS and menstrual symptoms, fight acne, reduce menstrual migraines, and reduce the symptoms of various reproductive disorders such as endometriosis and PCOS. Most importantly, though, because birth control is a medication, the choice to use it is one between a woman and her doctor. It is not the business of anyone else, and especially not the government.