Saturday is World Contraception Day, an annual reminder that birth control is far more than a medication — it gives women the power to write their own stories and live life on their terms. When you can reliably control whether and when you’ll have children you have more agency over your career, relationships, finances and the ability to realize your dreams.
But this year World Contraception Day needs to be more than a celebration of the pills, shots, patches and other small things that make so much possible. In an election year, we must remember that women’s ability to decide their futures remains very much under the control of the people we elect and the judges they appoint. The choice to vote and the candidates you choose can determine which choices are available to women for the next four years and beyond.
What’s at Stake
Think we’re being a bit dramatic? Here’s just a shortlist of birth control access issues that are decided, directly or indirectly, by ballots cast:
If birth control is affordable
The Trump administration and a group of state attorneys general are hoping to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and with it the rule that insurance plans must pay for contraception. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg means they’re much more likely to succeed. We’ve come to take it for granted, but until the passage of the ACA a decade ago, insurance plans often charged a hefty copay for birth control.
And earlier this year the administration moved to defund clinics that refer patients to get abortions, taking away federal funding for 1000+ clinics that help low-income women access birth control and other essential reproductive healthcare.
Whether a pharmacist can refuse your prescription
12 states allow some healthcare providers to refuse to prescribe birth control, or allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense a birth control prescription if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The size of your birth control supply
Some states, such as West Virginia, have created or are considering laws requiring insurance companies to pay for a 12-supply of birth control at once (how great would that be?).
If teens can access birth control
27 states and the District of Columbia allow people under 18 to access contraception without their parents’ consent, but in 19 states there are limits on which teens get birth control on their own (they may need to be married, for example), and in other states teens aren’t guaranteed birth control without a parent agreeing to it.
Whether you can quickly get emergency contraception
Only 14 states and the District of Columbia require emergency rooms to give emergency contraception to sexual assault victims if requested, and three states allow pharmacies to refuse to dispense EC altogether.
Source: Guttmacher Institute
Don’t Throw Away Your Vote
So it’s clear that the people holding office at both the state and federal levels have huge power over your access to contraception — and your chance to choose those people is just a few weeks away. Make sure your voice is heard when it comes to contraception and so much more! Here’s how:
- Make sure you’re registered to vote. Visit Vote.gov to check your registration. Deadlines for registering, and details on how and where to vote, vary by state. Vote.org has a state-by-state directory of voting procedures and deadlines and Google puts this info at your fingertips (Just search “How to vote” followed by your state’s name).
- Learn about the issues. Want to understand more about the people and issues you’ll see on the ballot? The nonpartisan League of Women Voters will publish a voter guide based on your address.
- Recruit your friends. Make sure everyone in your circle is registered and ready to vote, and spread the word in your community with help from When We All Vote.
Access for Women in Need
While it’s important to raise our voices for birth control access at the ballot box, we acknowledge that some women can’t wait. This year in particular, when unemployment is high and the future uncertain, many women may feel that reliable, affordable contraception is out of reach.
Nurx has donated to the non-profit Bedsider to give free birth control for a year to women in financial need. If you are in significant financial need* apply for free birth control through our partnership with BC Benefits, a project of Bedsider and Power to Decide.
*New patients only