Birth Control Relief for Low-Income, College Women

Nonie Wainwright

The 2009 omnibus appropriations bill has a little-noticed provision will restore access to affordable birth control for nearly four million college students and low-income women.

The 2009 omnibus appropriations bill
has a little-noticed provision that will have a huge impact on college
women. It’s called the "affordable birth control fix," and is aimed
at restoring access to affordable birth control for nearly four million
college students and low-income women! 

In 2005, Congress passed the Deficit
Reduction Act, which tightened regulations about who was eligible for
nominally priced drugs.  In doing so, Congress inadvertently cut
off every single college and university health center and other safety-net
providers from obtaining birth control at a low cost, and passing on
those savings to their patients. Women like me are now paying up to
10 times more each month for basic birth control. 

Birth control is not just about preventing
pregnancy it serves many purposes in women’s lives; my doctor prescribed
birth control because it has helped me regulate my cycle.  

As a competitive swimmer, birth control
played a vital role in ensuring I could compete to the best of my ability
year round – like my male counterparts.  In fact, my early swimming
success led me to the University of Nevada, Reno, on scholarship where
my swim team won two consecutive conference championships.   

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Access to affordable birth control helped
me take control of my future and achieve my dreams as an athlete. 

In 2006, my birth control prescription
more than tripled, going from $15 a month to $50.  As a student
athlete on scholarship, I was unable to work, was living on a small
budget – as most college students do, and birth control was increasingly
difficult to afford. I recall having to decide between paying for groceries
or for birth control – decisions no male athlete would ever have to

I am not alone. In college, all my friends
took birth control for a number of reasons. It is estimated that this
provision has adversely affected three million college students and
hundreds of thousands of low-income women who take oral contraception.
The decision to use birth control allows women to plan for their education,
career, and family on their own terms.  

Last summer, I was fortunate to be invited
by Planned Parenthood to travel to Washington, DC, to talk with Sen.
Harry Reid, my senator from Nevada, about affordable birth control.
It was a little intimidating to talk to a U.S. senator about birth control,
but Sen. Reid was great. He understood the issue immediately and saw
the common sense in making prevention services like birth control affordable,
especially to college women who don’t have a lot of money.   

The U.S. has the highest rate of teen
pregnancy among the most developed countries of the world.  If
our nation is serious about reducing the unacceptably high rate of unintended
pregnancies, Congress needs to fix an unintended loophole, which is
keeping affordable contraception out of reach for millions of American

That’s why I’m excited that – with
leadership from Sen. Reid – this common sense provision is about to

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