Conservative Media Dismiss Barriers To Contraceptive Access

Right wing media have repeatedly pushed the myth that contraceptives are affordable and accessible for all women, denying the disproportionate barriers to access many women experience -- access which is currently facing further challenges in the Supreme Court.

Conservative Media Falsely Claim Contraceptives Are Affordable And Accessible For All Women

NRO Editorial Board: Contraceptives Are “Widely Available And Inexpensive.” The National Review Online's editorial board claimed in a March 24 piece that contraceptives are “widely available and inexpensive,” citing that “a woman who required an emergency dose of Plan B once a quarter would still spend more annually on toothpaste.” [National Review Online, 3/24/14]

Fox's Katie Pavlich Suggests Contraception Coverage Is Not A Problem For Most Women “If The Work For A Certain Corporation.” In a March 24 interview with America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer, Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich argued that the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby -- which challenges whether for-profit businesses can deny employees contraception coverage on their health insurance plans based on the owners' religious beliefs -- would not be “earth shattering,” because “85 percent of corporations” already provide contraceptive coverage:

PAVLICH: Well we have to remember that before Obamacare passed, 85 percent of corporations were already offering contraception coverage as part of their health care plan, so it's really not this earth shattering thing in terms of people you know, somehow, not getting their contraception covered if they work for a certain corporation. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/24/14]

Fox's Sean Hannity: Why Should Americans Pay “For $9.00 Birth Control Pills That You Can Get A Walmart?” On the January 27 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity asked a caller why other Americans should be responsible for paying for contraceptives, claiming that birth control was “inexpensive,” and only “nine dollars a month”:

HANNITY: Why should Americans be paying the nine dollars a month for birth control pills that you can get at Walmart? Why should, and especially Catholics and people of faith and Christians and people of other faiths that this is against their religious teachings. And condoms are relatively inexpensive; you can buy them in bulk on the internet fairly cheaply.


Why are people accused of waging a war on women if they don't want to pay for their birth control, which is inexpensive? [The Sean Hannity Show, 1/27/14]

High Costs Of Contraceptives Are A Primary Barrier To Access

CAP: High Costs Of Contraceptives Have Forced More Than Half Of Young Adult Women To Stop, Delay, Or Not Use Their Preferred Method As Directed.  A 2012 Center for American Progress study explained that high costs “are one of the primary barriers to contraceptive access,” and that “more than half of young adult women say they have not used their method as directed because it was cost-prohibitive”:

High costs have forced many women to stop or delay using their preferred method, while others have chosen to depend on less effective methods that are the most affordable.

  • Surveys show that nearly one in four women with household incomes of less than $75,000 have put off a doctor's visit for birth control to save money in the past year.
  • Twenty-nine percent of women report that they have tried to save money by using their method inconsistently.
  • More than half of young adult women say they have not used their method as directed because it was cost-prohibitive. [Center For American Progress, 2/15/12]

NIRH: High Cost Is “Substantial Barrier” To Accessing Contraception. The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) reported that “many women face substantial barriers to accessing contraception,” citing the “high cost” of contraception as a main barrier to access. The NIRH noted that "[l]ow-income women disproportionately face barriers to accessing contraception:

More than one in five public health care providers report that most of their clients seeking contraception have difficulty paying for their visit. Even with health insurance coverage, many women may find that they are unable to afford the high co-pays. In addition, over-the-counter contraceptive methods, such as emergency contraception and condoms, are not always covered by health insurance programs, and if they are, they often require a prescription. [National Institute for Reproductive Health, accessed 3/24/14]

Guttmacher Institute Amicus Brief Author: More Effective Contraceptives Can Cost “The Equivalent Of Month's Salary For A Full-Time Minimum-Wage Worker.” Walter Dellinger, co-author of an amicus brief filed in the Hobby Lobby case on behalf of the Guttmacher Institute, explained in a Washington Post opinion piece how the argument that many women already use contraception ignores how some of the more effective forms of contraception are often far more expensive:

The cases being heard on Tuesday also implicate equality of access to effective methods of family planning. At issue are challenges to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that health insurance policies cover without cost to the patient all methods of birth control for women approved by the Food and Drug Administration. An exemption is being sought by directors of for-profit corporations who hold a religious belief that they would be complicit in sin if the health insurance policies provided to their employees included coverage of birth control methods the bosses consider immoral.

Some of the arguments exhibit the same conflation of methods of contraception that afflicted the Griswold argument a half-century ago. The cabinet manufacturer Conestoga Wood has argued, for example, that because “89% of women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy are already using contraception,” denying insurance coverage would be no significant imposition on employees.

This argument fails to account for the fact that some methods of contraception are far more costly and far more effective than others. The hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), for instance, is 45 times more effective than oral contraceptives and 90 times more effective than male condoms in preventing pregnancy based on typical use. Initial use of implants or IUDs can cost the equivalent of month's salary for a full-time minimum-wage worker. It is not surprising that one-third of women questioned in a national survey in 2004 said they would change their method of contraception if cost were not a factor. [The Washington Post, 3/23/2014, emphasis added]

NWLC: High Costs Of Emergency Contraception Makes It “Unaffordable, Or Scarcely Affordable For Many Women.” The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) reported that cost is a significant barrier to contraception access, noting that the cost of emergency contraceptives “can be up to $70 in some pharmacies”:

  • EC [emergency contraception] is a relatively expensive medication - the cost of EC can be up to $70 in some pharmacies. The high cost makes EC unaffordable, or scarcely affordable, for many women.
  • Thanks to the new health care law, all new insurance plans are required to provide insurance coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including EC, without cost-sharing. However, plans do not have to cover those brands of EC that are available without a prescription, unless a woman gets a prescription for it.
  • Women enrolled in Medicaid are particularly burdened by problems of cost and coverage. Some state Medicaid programs do not cover EC at all. Even states whose Medicaid programs cover EC may require women 17 and older to get a prescription first, solely for reimbursement purposes. [National Women's Law Center, 4/3/13]

Access To Contraceptives Is Uneven And Unequal In the US

Guttmacher Institute: “Access To Birth Control Remains Uneven And Unequal” For Low-Income Women. As Salon detailed, a 2013 Guttmacher report on contraception found that “access to birth control remains uneven and unequal in the United States, which means that women who are economically disadvantaged or otherwise marginalized don't share in these benefits.” [Salon, 3/21/13]

Guttmacher Institute: “Disparities In Reproductive Health Access” Hurt “Economically Disadvantaged Women.” The Guttmacher Institute review showed that effective access to contraception “is a catalyst for opportunity,” while lack of access has greatly contributed to the disproportionate level of unplanned and teen pregnancies for “those with incomes below the federal poverty level.” The review found that the unplanned pregnancy rate in this population is “five times that of higher income women”:

[E]ven five decades after the advent of the pill, access to and consistent use of the most effective contraceptive methods are not enjoyed equally by all U.S. women. Disparities in contraceptive use are a major reason why half of U.S. pregnancies--3.2 million each year--are unplanned.4 Included in that count are the vast majority of the roughly 750,000 teen pregnancies annually. These unplanned and teen pregnancies occur disproportionately to poor women (those with incomes below the federal poverty level), whose unplanned pregnancy rate is five times that of higher income women (above 200% of poverty; see chart). Disparities in reproductive health access and outcomes have contributed to the continuing challenges faced by economically disadvantaged women in American society. Compared with their higher income counterparts, they have fewer opportunities for educational and economic achievement, for a stable marriage and for helping their children succeed.

Gigantic Gap[Guttmacher Institute Review, 2013]

Guttmacher Institute: Three In Ten U.S. Women In Need Of Contraceptives Are Currently Uninsured. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 30 percent of all U.S. women “in need of contraceptive services are currently uninsured, and that proportion is particularly high among poor women”: 

3 in 10[Guttmacher Institute, March 2014]

Photo Credit: Creative Commons: Annabelle Shemer, 2007