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The Contraception Gap Is Getting Bigger—These Telehealth Companies Are Trying To Bridge It

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsJune 25, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Jack Hollingsworth

Gaps in birth control knowledge and access have riddled American history since “the pill” became legal in the United States in 1960. BIPOCs and the LGBTQ+ have been hit the hardest by this disparity, and 2020 research suggests that COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. A recently released study from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization focused on reproductive health and rights, indicates that one in three women have had trouble accessing birth control and/or reproductive services this year.

A closer look at the findings reveals that many women felt compelled to cancel their 2020 sexual and reproductive healthcare visits to minimize their chances of contracting COVID-19. Consequently, they no longer have prescriptions from their doctors to fill at their local pharmacies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, these barriers affected Black (38 percent), Hispanic (45 percent), and queer women (46 percent) at a much higher rate than white women (29 percent of whom reported jumping hurdles for access to contraceptives).

“Many women reported feeling increased worry about their ability to pay for and obtain contraception and other SRH services because of the pandemic.” —The Guttmacher Institute

As America faces record unemployment numbers, the question of how to pay for birth control is also a topic on many minds. “Many women reported feeling increased worry about their ability to pay for and obtain contraception and other sexual reproductive health services because of the pandemic,” writes the Guttmacher Institute. “These impacts have been unevenly distributed, and the pandemic appears to be perpetuating existing inequities, although telemedicine offers a new means for some women to obtain birth control.”

Indeed, telehealth services like The Pill Club, Nurx, and Simple Health have all played a role in revolutionizing contraceptive access in the last few years. First, by offering online or text appointments with medical professionals who write prescriptions. And second, by delivering a woman’s choice of birth control anywhere in the United States for free with insurance or for as little as $15 without it. OB/GYN offices—like The Association for Women’s Heal—th Care in Chicago—are also offering online appointments for those who may want to have a more nuanced conversation about contraceptive methods.

Even with the impact of telehealth services that are fighting for contraceptive accessibility, we still have a long way to go in making birth control easy to understand and access for everyone. Nearly 5 percent of reproductive-age women experience an unintended pregnancy each year, and Black and Hispanic women account for most of these pregnancies.

We have a lot to learn from The Guttmacher Institute’s new batch of research, but if you take away one thing about contraceptive access, make it that you have options even if you don’t feel financially or physically able to go to the doctor’s office today. And if you are someone with deep-enough pockets to not have to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to access and afford birth control in the coming months, consider donating to The Contraceptive Access Fund, The Center for Reproductive Rights, or National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.

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