I have been a practicing OB-GYN for nearly two decades, caring for the reproductive health of people from all walks of life. People’s reasons for needing reproductive and contraceptive care range from managing medical needs to preventing a pregnancy. It is unfortunate that when educating my patients on their contraceptive options, in addition to medical considerations, they too often have to consider such factors as their access to transportation, insurance status, and ability to pay.
It’s even more unfortunate when you consider that the public supports birth control as a part of the basic health care people need to live life on their own terms.
A recent poll for Thanks, Birth Control Day, which is today, confirmed that there continues to be strong support for the use of birth control. Per the poll, 85 percent of respondents—including 93 percent of independents, 85 percent of Democrats, and 76 percent of Republicans—believe that all people deserve access to all methods of birth control, regardless of who they are, where they live, or their economic status. The poll was commissioned by the organization I’m the CEO of, Power to Decide.
Further, a significant majority of adults (76 percent), believe that birth control is a basic part of women’s health care. One reason for this strong support is that a majority of people have benefited from the ability to delay or prevent pregnancy through the use of birth control. As the data indicates, nearly all women (99 percent) who have ever had sex have used a method of contraception at some point in their lives.
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In addition, people understand the broad benefits of access to birth control. The poll found that more than half of people (including 59 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans) agree birth control allowed them to manage health conditions.
Meanwhile, 67 percent (including 72 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 60 percent of Republicans) agree birth control has helped them work toward educational or professional goals. Finally, 76 percent (including 79 percent of independents, 75 percent of Democrats, and 74 percent of Republicans) are thankful birth control allowed them to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.
Sadly, despite the data underscoring the importance of birth control in people’s lives and the significant support it enjoys as a basic part of health care, access is not guaranteed equally to all people. Today, more than 19 million women of reproductive age live in contraceptive deserts. In these areas, people lack reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods.
Public concern over the lack of access to birth control is also reflected in the data, and it cuts across the political spectrum. Specifically, the poll found Democrats (74 percent), independents (72 percent), and Republicans (55 percent) are all concerned about access to birth control. Critically, the public’s concern over access has grown significantly when compared to polling data from 2020. The concern over access to birth control grew from 51 percent in 2020 to 69 percent this year.
Of course, the data doesn’t tell the whole story. What often gets lost in polls and surveys is the impact of birth control access for real people. In my experience, I have seen how access to quality affordable care has allowed a 17-year-old to finish high school and go on to higher education and a 25-year-old to space and plan her next pregnancy for a time that worked for her and her family.
Having the ability to plan and design your family and trajectory can be life changing. We must not forget that this is not yet a reality for far too many people who live in certain ZIP codes or do not have the ability to pay for the care and services they need.
Their stories are too often about opportunity lost and dreams deferred. From my experience working as a physician in reproductive health for most of my career, I believe there is no more compelling work at this time than increasing access to quality contraceptive care for all.
So today, as we proudly celebrate birth control for affording us the opportunities to realize our goals for ourselves and our families, we must also look for ways to break down systemic barriers and adopt a comprehensive approach to increase access for all. By strengthening the family planning infrastructure and increasing awareness and quality of services, we can help ensure the reproductive well-being for all.
The ability to plan and space out a pregnancy and pursue one’s goals should belong to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live.