Behind the Price of Birth Control

Dawna Cornelissen

Ensuring access to affordable birth control on college campuses isn't just about preventing pregnancy, it's also about understanding women's autonomy.

For the last few weeks, numerous media outlets have been reporting on how the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) is causing the price of birth control to increase dramatically. Signed into law in January 2006, the DRA inadvertently caused birth control prices to rise because of a complicated change in the way drug companies calculate Medicaid-related rebates. The effect, however, is simple: women will no longer be able to access affordable birth control through their college health centers or local non-profit health clinics.

While some conservative commentators fail to understand the gravity of the issue — throwing out abstinence as a simple solution and calling interviewees irresponsible — not having access to affordable birth control is a serious setback for women in the United States. In reality, the inaccessibility of birth control will propel women back one hundred years to when birth control was illegal. The early pioneers of birth control must be turning in their graves — if birth control is not affordable, it might as well not exist.

In addition to sending women back to the time in history before birth control, the birth control pricing issue is about a way of life. By ignoring the birth control pricing problem, conservatives seem to think they are preserving a way of life that limits both government spending and sex. But what they will likely get are more unintended pregnancies, resulting both in more abortions and more children in welfare programs. They will also get something else they are supposed to be against: more governmental interference in their personal lives.

Those of us who would like to see birth control remain affordable are trying to preserve a way of life also – one that values healthy sexual relationships and does not believe sex is shameful. Cristina Page describes this way of life in her book, "How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America," explaining that the debate surrounding the pro-life and pro-choice movements isn't about abortion anymore; it's about "birth control and, more to the point, Americans' sex lives."

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Even though condoms are an alternative to pricey contraception, women will no longer have the added confidence of knowing their birth control pills back them up. In addition, couples (even married ones) will be forced either to abstain or use condoms, neither of which is reflects the way most people in the U.S. live. Even according to the Centers for Disease Control, contraceptive use is virtually universal in the U.S. and the pill is the leading contraceptive method among young women.

Although the bill was signed into law almost two years ago, the majority of affected health centers are just now running out of their discounted stock, causing those concerned to put pressure on Congress to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the problem remains unresolved as some members of Congress refuse to make it a priority. You, however, can help to make it a priority be contacting your own legislators and asking them to fix the birth control pricing problem.

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