Lobbying Visit Pushes Reps on High Birth Control Prices

Nonie Wainwright

Birth control is not a lifestyle drug -- affordable hormonal contraception is essential to women's health. That was the theme of a recent lobbying visit to Capitol Hill.

Birth control today is used for many purposes aside from preventing pregnancy. As a competitive swimmer, I began to use birth
control at a young age as means to regulate my cycle. I later became a collegiate athlete at the University of
Nevada, Reno, leading my team to win two consecutive conference

Before the dramatic increase in birth control prices, I was paying $15 for my
monthly prescription. I now pay $50. As a college student and athlete
with no time to work and a small budget, this prescription is difficult to
afford. This has forced me to make numerous choices and sacrifices. Do
I pay for groceries or for my birth control?  A male athlete would
never have to face these types of choices.

This issue has really hit home in Nevada, where 145,000 women can not afford their birth control prescription. Nevada first one in the nation for the highest rate of teenage
pregnancy. I knew something had to be done.

I traveled from Reno, Nevada to Washington, D.C.,
as a guest of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to lobby to
restore access to affordable birth control for low-income women and on college
campuses in April with little progress. So on September 9, I came back, to
try once again to push this issue before the congressional session ends.

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In D.C., I met three other students with
compelling personal stories demonstrating why affordable birth control must be
restored immediately. A single mother who
worked full time and was a full time student at University St. Louis had returned to school to finish her degree so she could create a
better life for herself and her son. Another in our group was a student from
University of Michigan who needs birth control in order to keep herself
healthy.  She had to go on her parents’ insurance just to afford the
prescription — but this insurance does not provide coverage for the
prescription her doctor recommends for her. I also met a George Washington University student, working two jobs and paying for
her own education, who was lobbying on behalf of herself and her twin
sister, both of whom can’t afford to pay an extra $30 or $40 dollars a
month for a prescription.  Our stories were different, but our
message was the same: birth control is basic health care for women, not
a luxury item and is necessary to live and lead healthy lifestyles.

As a group we met with many senators and
representatives from the states of Michigan, California, Missouri and
Nevada. All the members we met with agreed on the importance of this
issue. Critical to our message was educating them about the importance of birth control for women’s health. Most of them, as male representatives, only see birth
control used to prevent pregnancy. Although that is one of the major
uses, we represented all of the ways birth control can be used. One of
the biggest highlights of the day was meeting Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid. Although this was my second time meeting with the Senator on this
issue, I was still nervous. He was very receptive of our message and
said we have his support on this issue.

Our stories spoke for over three million women
across the United States and we can only hope this issue is fixed for
once and for all.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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