While the COVID-19 stay at home orders began and the crowds began stock-piling toilet paper, memes started circulating that joked about the baby boom that would result from the quarantine. For some women, though, the possibility has been no laughing matter. One in three women reported that they struggled to access birth control due to the pandemic. Many women are now facing not only the financial and social strain brought about by coronavirus, they’re also worrying about having an unplanned pregnancy. As we move forward from COVID-19, we must strive to do better in regards to our contraceptive system. There are many ways to make birth control more accessible, and it’s vital that we take steps towards making this goal a reality.
While this is only a temporary fix, women who are able to do so should fill their prescriptions and stock up on as much of their birth control as possible while the times continue to be uncertain. Doctors and pharmacists can also make sure to prescribe and dispense as much as they are able, and insurance companies should consider expanding their coverage to allow for stocking up a few months’ supply. In such uncertain times, full of shut-downs and mandates and job losses, having a well-stocked cabinet of contraceptives can alleviate at least some worry for women.
Choose a longer-lasting form of contraception
Women worried about birth control supply issues due to the pandemic fallout should also consider choosing a form of birth control that doesn’t require frequent prescriptions and refills like an IUD or implant. However, these options can be cost-prohibitive for those without health insurance and some women may find that they are not able to make appointments with their OBGYNs with doctors cancelling non-essential procedures. If you are in this situation, remember that you are your own best advocate. Fight for your right to excellent healthcare, especially in these uncertain times. Your doctor may decide to change his or her policy if you can explain your situation and advocate for yourself and other women in similar situations.
Choose curbside pickup, delivery, or mail
Until very recently, women not only had to make appointments to receive their prescriptions, they then had to make semi-frequent trips to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. With many women still hesitant to leave their homes, they have had to choose between the risk of exposure to the virus or having an unplanned pregnancy. Thankfully, pharmacies are responding with options such as curbside pickup and delivery. Women also have the option to have their birth control mailed to them through certain providers. These advancements should not be temporary; rather, we should expect access to birth control to become as painless as possible as physicians and pharmacies utilize ever-advancing technology to change lives for the better.
Advocate for over the counter birth control
Women’s health advocates have been fighting for years to make contraceptives more accessible to women, especially those who do not have ready access to doctors or insurance. The time is ripe to discuss over the counter hormonal birth control. What if it were possible to eliminate doctors and pharmacists from the equation all together? This advance would be a huge victory for women who do not have insurance plans. Especially during the pandemic, when many people have lost their jobs, and therefore their insurance coverage, over the counter contraception may be more of a need than ever.
Target marginalized and underprivileged populations
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the demographic of women unable to access birth control during the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic communities, with 38% of Black women and 45% of Hispanic women reporting that they had trouble obtaining contraceptives. Only 28% of White women reported having the same issue, in comparison. As the Black community has also been hit harder than the national average by unemployment rates, we must consider ways to bring accessible contraception to these demographics. With hindrances including lack of child care, cancelled doctor’s appointments, reduced access to public transportation and internet, and lost jobs and insurance, finding access to birth control can quickly become an insurmountable challenge. In the midst of this pandemic, and as we move forward, we must work together to help the communities that need it the most.
As we consider all the lessons we have learned during 2020, we should reflect on the state of reproductive health and areas we can improve. The pandemic has made evident gaping holes in our systems. We must not forget what we have learned as the world begins to recover. Instead, let us fight against broken systems and advocate for the women who need it the most. An unplanned pregnancy can utterly change a woman’s life, often making it much more difficult. The inability to schedule a doctor’s appointment or find transportation to a pharmacy should result in the inability to use effective contraceptives. Birth control must be made more accessible to women in every walk of life, and we have the means to make it happen. Let’s do it.