Contraception Is Not a Luxury, It’s Preventive Care

As women’s health care providers, we witness firsthand the impact access, or lack thereof, to birth control has on a woman’s life daily. Access to contraception is essential to women’s health and livelihood. Though contraception’s most vital role is empowering women to take control over their reproductive health, it touches every corner of their lives, from helping with management of other health issues to ensuring women can pursue their educational goals and achieve professionally without interruption from unintended pregnancy.

Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act made landmark progress for women’s health care by guaranteeing women’s access to essential preventive care, including contraceptive access with no co-pay. As a result, women went from spending 30 to 44 percent of their out of pocket health care costs on contraception to saving $1.4 billion annually on birth control. This rule ensured that women’s decisions about birth control could be singularly focused on what was best for their health and their academic, professional, economic, and social priorities—not what they can afford.

However, in the coming days or weeks the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is expected to publish a rule that will eliminate the contraceptive coverage benefit. A political move in direct contradiction to the clinical and scientific evidence pointing to the vital role of contraception in comprehensive preventive health care, not to mention the mounting research verifying the profound positive impact increased access to contraception has on women’s economic and professional lives.

Prior to the ACA, cost was one of the greatest barriers to women’s contraceptive access. In many communities like the rural farming community in North Carolina where I was reared, people lived paycheck to paycheck, and many families did not have the privilege of prioritizing health care over basic needs of daily living. By assessing contraceptive choices by cost, we risk making birth control a luxury rather than a part of comprehensive preventive care. The average IUD costs $1000, or a month’s wages for a woman making the federal minimum wage, $7.25/hour, putting it totally out of reach for most of these women, despite being one of the most effective forms of birth control.

Women are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty, and therefore are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy and its consequences. Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to delay prenatal care, resulting in a higher risk of birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight, and neonatal and infant morbidity and mortality.

This week we convened on Capitol Hill to present to a bipartisan group of representatives on maternal mortality and the role of affordable contraception on maternal health. Affordable and available contraception options enable women to make deliberate choices about if, when, and how many children they want to have and plan for pregnancy when they are more financially prepared. It can also be lifesaving for women who already face serious medical conditions. So, we cannot afford to return to a time where women did not have comprehensive reproductive health choices. This most certainly would turn back the clock on women’s health.

This entry was posted in Women's Health and tagged , , by Haywood L. Brown, MD. Bookmark the permalink.

About Haywood L. Brown, MD

Dr. Haywood L. Brown is Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. He received his undergraduate degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, NC and his Medical Degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. He completed his residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences in Knoxville, TN, followed by subspecialty fellowship training in Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine/Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Brown has participated in ACOG activities in District IV, V and VII over his 30-year career in Obstetrics and Gynecology. This includes being the Scientific Program Chair and General Chair (2001-2002) for the Annual Clinical Meeting. He chaired the steering committee for the District of Columbia National Institutes of Health Initiative on Infant Mortality Reduction, the Perinatal and Patient Safety Health Disparities Collaborative for HRSA and serves as the Chief Evaluator for Indianapolis Healthy Start. Dr. Brown is especially committed to the care of women at high risk for adverse pregnancy outcome, particularly those disadvantaged. Dr. Brown has served as Chair of CREOG and has been on the Board of Directors for the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine and is past President of the Society. He is past President of the American Gynecological Obstetrical Society (AGOS) and Chair of the Ob-Gyn Section of the National Medical Association. He also served as a Director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Brown is past president of the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and is immediate Past District IV Chair of ACOG.

6 thoughts on “Contraception Is Not a Luxury, It’s Preventive Care

  1. Haywood, tell me what can I do. I have already actively telephoned and emailed my congressional representatives. I have lots of time and a little energy left and will do anything necessary to promote the continuation of contraception coverage. For women’s healthcare, this is the crisis of my lifetime.

  2. I am a University of Tennessee Medical School (Memphis) graduate Class of December 1974. I am still in the full-time practice of gynecology. I agree 100% with you position on “Contraception Is Not luxury, It’s Preventative Care”.

  3. Dear Dr. Brown:

    I understand the value of contraception to those who desire this treatment. However, contraception is not a right. If you claim it is, please direct me to the source that guarantees that right. But, let’s say for argument sake that this is a right. Why should the public at large subsidize that right? Does the public subsidize other known rights granted in the Constitution? Is the public responsible for providing newspapers funding to exercise their free speech right? Is the public responsible to fund action groups the means to exercise their right to peaceful assembly? And, is the public responsible to provide funding for personal weapons for those who want to exercise their Second Amendment right? Please be careful in your advocacy for contraception as you do not represent all ACOG members. Yes, access to contraception is vital, but it is not my or my family’s responsibility to fund this for my patients.

    Thank you.

  4. ACOG should be pushing for allowing purchase of drugs and devices from foreign manufactures. No way should the average IUD cost $1000..
    US drug costs are out of control, much higher than elsewhere.
    Rather than forcing consumers and taxpayers to subsidize these companies which gouge us, deregulation and negotiation should be used to the maximum.

  5. I understand the value of contraception to those who desire this treatment. However, the public funding for contraception is not a right. If you claim it is, please direct me to the source that guarantees that right. But, let’s say for argument sake that this is a right. Why should the public at large subsidize that right. Does the public subsidize other true rights granted in the Constitution? Is the public responsible for providing newspapers funding to exercise their free speech right? Is the public responsible to fund action groups to exercise their right to peaceful assemble? And, is the public responsible to by a shotgun for those who want to exercise their Second Amendment right? Please be careful in your advocacy for contraception. Yes, access to contraception is vital, but it is not my or my family’s responsibility to fund this for my patients. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so much president agog. In SubsahsranAfrican, there is a direct relationship between unmet need of contraception and high maternal mortality .so GCEM hospital to which I am putting together currently in Nigeria has already taken up the issue of contraception as one of our key project. We intend to increase awareness and accessibility within our community of operation and from there nationally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *