This Birth Control Business Is BS

Do all women have trouble getting birth control? Is it harder to get birth control than it is to get a gun?

I know that’s a loaded question, and I’m mostly being facetious… but I’m going to tell you a story about The Pill.

Yesterday, I went to pick up my birth control at the Kaiser pharmacy. They told me there was an error in their system and I’d need to come back today.

I went back, waited in line, and told them my name once they called my number. Again, there was no birth control prescription waiting for me.

The pharmacist explained to me that THE DRUG COMPANY that releases the birth control I’m on just raised their prices to $300/pack.

Wait, let me get this straight… a FOR PROFIT pharmaceutical company is in charge of my birth control?  WHAT?

Kaiser was attempting to switch me to an equivalent but different brand of birth control pill with the same formula that has a lower price so I wouldn’t have to pay $900 for a 3 month supply… but there was a delay in Kaiser’s system.

The pharmacist tells me that they have problems every single day with women picking up their birth control. Sometimes insurance doesn’t cover it so they have to pay out of pocket ($900+!). Sometimes a doctor needs to refill it, which takes several days. Sometimes a patient needs to be seen for a pregnancy test and a physical exam before a refill of hormonal birth control, even if they’ve been using the same brand for months.

I had to go to a second pharmacy to pick it up. Crisis mostly averted, but not without a headache.

I can’t believe the health care system in the US makes everything so complicated. I can’t believe our health care system is set up to make money off patients instead of helping us with our health care.

Male pharmacist: “I can’t believe you have to go through all of this to not get pregnant.”

Same, dude.

I am super grateful for the existence of the birth control pill. I know there are so many couples that are trying to get pregnant and can’t, so I hate to whine about this, but I think it’s a topic that many of us have on our minds.

As long as men and women have been making babies, they’ve been trying not to.

Sure, we could just not have sex—but where’s the fun in that? This is 2018—we’re sex positive!

Plus, I’m married.

So, birth control. Availability of the pill has had an impact on various aspects of social life, including women’s health, fertility trends, laws and policies, religion, interpersonal relationships and family roles, feminist issues, and gender relations, as well as sexual practices among both adults and teens. It gives women power of their bodies in a society that treats our bodies like commodities.

And you know what? I want power over my body.

On May 9, 1960, the FDA approved Enovid, the first oral contraceptive pill that regulated women’s hormones to prevent them from getting pregnant. By 1965, almost 6.5 million American women were on “The Pill,” the enduringly vague nickname, perhaps named from women requesting it from their doctors as discreetly as possible. In 1972, birth control was deemed legal for all. By 1973, 70% of married women between the ages of 15 and 44 were using some form of contraception.

Because of birth control, sex became separate from its reproductive consequences. Once sex is detached from pregnancy, it becomes a leisure activity, which sounds pretty good to me. Birth control lets us decide when to get pregnant.

Today, a staggering 98% of American women of childbearing age report using some form of contraception at one time or another.

There are other safe and effective forms of birth control besides the pill, from DepoProvera and the NuvaRing to the contraception patch and the intrauterine device (IUD), which is considered by many health care experts to be one of the best forms of birth control available. Most women I asked on my social media have an IUD.

I like the idea of women and their partners having choices for family planning, and that women have power when it comes to the prevention or the pursuit of pregnancy.

In the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, it was declared that, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

Access to birth control lets women control the timing and size of their families, so they have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready (which, seriously, is better for everyone). Plus, having a child is super expensive, costing approximately $9,000 to $25,000 a year.

But the cost of not having a child is high too: the cost of birth control is high, particularly for the most effective, long-lasting forms. These costs are significant, given that the average American woman wants two children and will thus need contraception for at least three decades of her life. For instance, it typically costs over $1,000 for an IUD and the procedure to insert it. Prices vary depending on whether you have health insurance, or if you qualify for Medicaid or other government programs that cover birth control pills. For most brands, 1 pill pack lasts for 1 month, and can cost from $0-$500. For some low-income women, that’s not an option. Abstinence then? Sure, whatever.

The Affordable Care Act helped expand contraception coverage to around 55 million women with private insurance coverage and allowed women to get birth control for free… but now that’s over with.

I’ve been on birth control for many years and I’ve tried nearly every birth control method available. The shot was fine, until I’d been on it longer than recommended. My body physically rejected the copper IUD. The Nuvaring was uncomfortable and wouldn’t stay in place. The patch irritated my skin. So I went back to the pill. I don’t know what these hormones are doing to my body, especially after being on them for so long.

I’ve been looking into a fertility tracker, where you take your temperature every day at the same time, to indicate when you’re fertile or not. If you’re fertile, you use a backup birth control. Or you get pregnant. I’m told that is the “old-fashioned way” to plan pregnancies.

I am not ready to have kids. I don’t even know if I WANT kids. I like the idea of having a mini, but pregnancy and giving birth terrifies me. So does having an infant. And not sleeping for two years. And having a toddler. And a teenager.

My husband and I talk about it regularly, and we’re just not ready yet.

I’m not sure if there’s an answer to any of these questions. I just know I’m annoyed at the health care system because I want everything to be easy, free, and universal.

Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

One thought

  1. Oh honey I only know of rejections & oh yesh 1 pregnancy 🤦‍♀️with the copper IUD!
    Nothing but the Mirena for me😉
    Tried the 3 mo pill packet and then suddenly the Pharmacy filled it with am “equivalent” which hmmm causes weight gain 😬
    Sooo I’m going uncovered now but it’s pretty darn likely that my 40++ yr old body can’t get pregers anymore. 3 step kids, 1 biological 2 dogs snd I am out 🤪
    On the very off chance we find ourselves with child, we’ll celebrate the unexpected blessing (aka “whoopsie” ) and with a second c-sec I WILL make sure that my tubes are tied!!!
    Thanks for explaining the price hike that caused the product substantially equivalent swap 🤬


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