Too Many Women Lack Birth Control Access


Too Many Women Lack Birth Control Access

by Ginny Ehrlich
May 22, 2019
A map of contraceptive deserts in the US without Title X

If you’ve ever felt frustrated or angered by the distance, the time, and the choices that people are forced to make when accessing birth control – you’re not alone. We believe you shouldn’t have to choose between a stable income and creating a family on your own timeline. We believe that if you choose to use birth control – for whatever reason – you should have access to it within 60 minutes of wherever you live, regardless of your income.

But for 19.5 million women in need of publicly funded contraception who live in contraceptive deserts this is their reality. A contraceptive desert is a place where women lack “reasonable access” to a health center with the full range of birth control methods available. A conservative definition defines “reasonable access” as at least one health center or provider for every 1,000 women in need of publicly funded contraception.  And we know that there are plenty of women in the US who don’t qualify for publicly funded contraception who also rely on these health centers. It’s likely that 19.5 million is a conservative estimate of those affected by contraceptive deserts.

The landscape of contraceptive access becomes even more dire if we take into account the removal of Title X health centers. Title X is a government program that provides federal funds to health centers that provide low-income women with contraception and reproductive health care services. With the threat of the domestic gag rule and other recent attacks on Title X, we looked at what would happen if these critical health centers went away. If Title X health centers were eliminated, approximately, 19.8 million women would reside in a contraceptive desert and 4.3 million would reside in counties without access to a single health center that provides the full range of contraceptive methods.

A map of the health centers in the US offering the full range of methods with Title X clinics removed

Seeing a provider, accessing trusted information, and finding the right birth control becomes nearly impossible without access. To gain it those living in a contraceptive deserts often face decisions such as, “Do I take an unpaid day off work or do I skip the doctor?” “Can I afford to pay a babysitter during my appointment?” and “Is getting birth control worth taking 4 city buses and walking a mile?”

Check out our birth control access map to see what access looks like in your community and compare it to access in the counties and states around you. As you look consider how the map might change if Title X health centers were eliminated and 2.6 million more women lived in counties without access to a single health center that provided the full range of birth control methods. Eliminating Title X health centers would impact women in all 50 states. In Florida, 132,490 women would lose access, 206,710 women in Virginia would be affected, and 130,630 women in Oklahoma.