As you know, birth control and Planned Parenthood have been in the news A LOT lately. Now, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed statistics that show why we need more public clinics, not less. Their contraceptive deserts research stated that in 105 counties across the U.S., Planned Parenthood is the only provider that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. W-o-w, right?!
The topic of birth control came up last week during CNN's Town Hall, when Dana Bash referenced the above stat. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price responded to a woman in the audience who wondered what would happen if Planned Parenthood is defunded. "This is an important question," Price said. "Because the fact of the matter is that the American people have for decades said that they didn't want their tax dollars — their federal tax dollars — to be used for the provision of abortion services. What will happen is that community health centers will spring up to provide services for individuals. In the meantime, there are other avenues to be able to get services for women. There are community health centers. There are county health centers and the like."
Enter The National Campaign. Their additional statistics on public clinics show the importance of creating more clinics versus removing any, like Planned Parenthood. If you think about it, a lack of clinics will affect everyone, women and men. For instance, a lack of birth control services could mean more unplanned babies being born.
"The last thing we should do is weaken an already fragile system."
"For the first time in decades, unplanned pregnancy is declining in the U.S., Rachel Fey, director of public policy at The National Campaign, tells Bustle. "Abortion is also at its lowest levels since Roe v. Wade. Notably, this is the case in states that have passed significant restrictions on abortion and in states that have not, leading researchers to attribute the decline mainly to less unplanned pregnancy driven by greater use of effective contraception. At such a time, and with other potentially destabilizing changes to the health care system on the horizon, the last thing we should do is weaken an already fragile system."
Women who live in "contraceptive deserts" refers to the fact that they lack "reasonable access" to a public clinic with the full range of contraceptive methods, according to The National Campaign. Meaning, "reasonable access" is a county where the number of public clinics, and estimated number of providers in those clinics, are enough to meet the needs of the county's population, aka at least one clinic/provider to every 1,000 women. W-o-w again.
Here are seven additional stats that show why we need more public clinics.
1Many Clinics Lack A Full Range Of Contraceptive Methods
The National Campaign found that there are 3,115,910 women in need in counties without a single public clinic that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. "I think it's important to distinguish between coverage for the full range of contraceptive methods and access to a provider who offers them," Fey says. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and contraceptive coverage provision, millions of women have gained coverage of the full range of birth control methods without out-of-pocket costs. However, the nation's publicly funded family planning clinics have faced tough economic pressures in recent years."
2There Are MANY Women Without Access To Full-Range Clinics
Yes, as the graphic shows, there are 10,457,420 women ages 13-44 in the counties without any access to a single public clinic with the full range of contraceptive methods, The National Campaign discovered. That is a lot of women.
3People Would Love Easier Access To Birth Control
According to a survey by The National Campaign, 77 percent of adults say that more people would use birth control if they had easier access to the full range of birth control methods. Makes sense, yes?
4Many People Are Fans Of Low-Cost Birth Control
The Title X Program provides free or low-cost birth control to people who make $30,000 a year or less — they can't afford it otherwise. According to a poll by The National Campaign, they found that 75 percent of adults favor continuing the Title X Program. It provides funding to a network of over 4,100 clinics, and it has an annual funding level that is $31 million lower ~now~ than it was seven years ago.
"As a result, Title X clinics have had to shorten hours and close some sites, making it harder for women to access the contraception they need and want," Fey says. "More women now have coverage, but particularly for Medicaid patients — where they sometimes have trouble finding private providers who will accept their Medicaid insurance — the need for those publicly funded clinics, like those supported by Title X, is even greater. Geography can also play a role in exacerbating this. Gaining coverage in a rural area may mean you still face transportation and distance barriers nonetheless."
5What About Those Who Oppose Abortion?
Of course, access to abortion comes into play when talking about clinics for women's health. The National Campaign found that 81 percent of people agree that those who oppose abortion should strongly support birth control.
6Some People Don’t Know That Not Everyone In The U.S. Has Access To The Full Range Of Birth Control Methods
Yes, The National Campaign found that 81 percent of adults say, if they knew that not everyone in the U.S. had access to the full range of birth control methods, they would support efforts or advocate for full access. When I asked Fey what she would tell someone who was not aware that not all women have full access, she says, "I think it's hard to conceive of a problem until you can put a face to it. I would encourage them to check out our story bank and to share their own story there, too. The stories we've heard are good ones — how no co-pay coverage meant a woman could finally get the method she needed, but previously couldn't afford. That makes an amazing amount of other things possible for women — greater educational and economic opportunities, healthier babies if and when they decide to get pregnant, etc."
7Many People Seem To Be In Favor Of Policies Supporting Easier Access To Birth Control Methods
As you may have guessed, a lot of people support access to birth control. The National Campaign found that 86 percent of people support policies that make it easier for those 18 and older to get the full range of birth control methods, while 76 percent support policies that make it easier for teens. What about politically speaking? For those 18 and older, it's 76 percent of Republicans in favor and 95 percent of Democrats. For teens, it's 59 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats.
"We have made great progress," Fey says, "but I think I would show someone our contraceptive desert map, and share the stories we've heard about what a difference birth control has made for the women who have access to it, and ask a simple question — 'Shouldn't we all have that?'"
As you can see, there seems to be many pluses to having more public clinics for women, not less. Hopefully, this will prove to be the case, even though the road to getting there seems quite bumpy at the moment. But, with more and more women and organizations across the country participating in marches and causes supporting women's health care, and doing all they can on behalf of it, there is still hope.