Getting Birth Control Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

by Melissa Cruz

For women who use birth control, it's a well-known but disheartening fact that the pathway to a prescription is often fraught with unnecessary — and expensive — barriers. Doctors visits, co-pays, and the cost of the birth control itself is enough to dissuade many women from using the contraceptive at all. But Lemonaid, a new health app, could help lessen those financial barriers and make access to birth control and a wider range of family planning options more readily available to low-income women.

Lemonaid's mission is straightforward: to simplify and lower the costs associated with birth control. At $15 a visit (a doctor reviews your options online or through video chat), and with birth control options as low as $9 for those without health insurance coverage, the app circumvents costly, in-person doctor visits in favor of a streamlined process. Typically, uninsured patients will pay anywhere between $20 to $50 per month for birth control.

According to Lemonaid, the turnaround on their birth control is anywhere from two to 24 hours, depending on the time of the request. After the $15 visit, doctors write a three-month prescription, and can write a new prescription entirely or fill an old one, depending on the needs of the client. They will then send the prescription to the pharmacy of the client's choice.

Options like Lemonaid offers could especially help low-income women. According to a 2015 report by the Brookings Institute, financial obstacles frequently leave low-income women unable to dictate their own fertility and severely limit their family planning choices. This leads to disproportionately higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, which, as a flawed system would have it, also results in higher rates of poverty, less family stability, and fewer opportunities for a child's success. The lack of accessibility to birth control, in turn — whether it be due to high prices or the conservative politicians who often hold the reigns on those prices — further entrenches inequality in our society.

There is one catch, however. Currently, Lemonaid is only available in seven states — California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. This, of course, limits women's ability to access the app's services. (I tried to use it myself in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C., and was surprised that it was unavailable here.)

But with plans to expand nationwide, the sentiment behind Lemonaid is still powerful — navigating around legislators who often seek to limit, defund, or outright excise women's options for birth control, and putting choice and the power of the purse strings back in the hands of women who need it most.

Images: Lemonaid (3)