They say there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. But for women, I think there are two certainties that can keep you down more than anything else: lack of education and lack of access to birth control. Education probably seems like a no-brainer but so is the birth control (and sex ed) element. High drop-out rates and high teenage birthrates are two of the primary forces that hold women in lower socio-economic status back. That’s why services like Planned Parenthood are vital to communities all over America (and not just in the poor parts of town), to enable women to get the facts, get tested and get what they need to protect their bodies. But surprise, surprise, that’s not part of the Bush agenda.
Don’t take my word for it, here’s Annette Magnus, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, who can explain the dire situation much better:
Groceries. Gas. Books. Back-to-school clothes. And now … birth control?
For a college student who has to think twice about paying more than $5 for a meal, or a low-income mother who has to choose between buying groceries and buying gas, the difficulties of living on a limited budget are painfully real. This year, an additional and unexpected expense has been added to many women’s budgets — the higher price of birth control.
For nearly 30 years, federal laws have been in place to help safety-net providers buy birth control at affordable prices, then pass on their savings to needy women and couples. But last year, Congress changed this long-standing law — putting affordable contraception out of reach for potentially hundreds of thousands of women. In a law that went into effect earlier this year, Congress told pharmaceutical companies that they can no longer offer discounted birth control to colleges, universities and some family planning providers, like Planned Parenthood – making it difficult for us to continue to offer affordable birth control.
The Deficit Reduction Act (DRA), passed by Congress and signed into law on February 8, 2006, includes a provision that adversely affects the ability of university health centers and safety net family planning providers, including many Planned Parenthood health centers, to purchase contraceptives at a discounted or nominal price. The provision went into effect on January 1, 2007, and is having a devastating fiscal impact on college students and low-income women around the country. This is affecting approximately 400,000 to 500,000 Planned Parenthood patients alone — and the consequences are catastrophic.
Across the country, college students and low-income women are seeing their birth control prices sky rocket. Some health centers have even had to stop offering birth control to patients at all. On college campuses, many students are seeing their birth control costs rise from $5 to upwards of $40 or $50. Some institutions, like Bowdin College in Maine, have stopped offering oral contraceptives altogether. More alarming, since the price change, many pharmacies are seeing an increase in demand for the over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B — implying that some women are responding by forgoing birth control until after sexual intercourse. One thing is certain: Without affordable birth control, the rate of unintended pregnancies could increase.
What can you do? Well, we need to begin by contacting our representatives, especially Senator Reid, and let them know that we need a fix immediately! We need to protect women’s health by guaranteeing that all women can access affordable birth control. This issue is too important for Congress not to act!