Young people overwhelmingly struggle to access birth control: study




  • In Health
  • 2022-09-26 10:00:00Z
  • By The Hill
 

Story at a glance

  • Young people overwhelmingly struggle to access birth control, according to new national survey data from Advocates for Youth.

  • Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said they experienced so many barriers that they were unable to start taking birth control on their preferred timeline.

  • Of those respondents, 58 percent experienced a pregnancy scare, 20 percent got pregnant when they didn't want to and 16 percent ended up having an abortion.

Young people are particularly struggling to access birth control pills, a critically important medication that can help prevent unplanned pregnancies, ease symptoms of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and regulate periods, among other benefits.

That's according to a new survey from Advocates for Youth, which found that an overwhelming majority of young people, 88 percent, in most states struggled to access birth control. Fifty-five percent experienced so many barriers they were unable to start taking the drug on their preferred timeline.

The results also revealed that young people-especially low-income, people of color, trans, queer and other marginalized youth-found accessing birth control to be unnecessarily difficult, with challenges to filling prescriptions and picking up the medication far from school campuses.

That's partially because birth control currently requires a doctor's prescription in the U.S., though pharmaceutical company Perrigo has applied for the first over-the-counter (OTC) daily birth control pill. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to discuss the new pill next month.

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also mandates that most insurance companies cover birth control, considered part of key preventive services. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that has resulted in roughly $1.4 billion per year in out-of-pocket savings for the birth control pill.

Yet barriers remain high. Close to half of women who have tried to get a prescription for hormonal contraception have reported problems obtaining prescriptions or refills, according to a separate study from Perrigo.

Uninsured and Spanish-speaking women were significantly more likely to report difficulties, including cost barriers, obtaining an appointment or getting to a clinic.

Advocates for Youth aimed to specifically understand young people's experiences with trying to access birth control. It found that of the 55 percent who were met with so many barriers that they could not start taking birth control on their preferred timeline, 58 percent experienced a pregnancy scare, 20 percent got pregnant when they didn't want to and 16 percent ended up having an abortion.

Of those young people who failed to get on birth control pills due to barriers created by the nation's prescription-only system, 57 percent were forced to delay renewing a prescription and 45 percent used emergency contraception, like Plan B One Step.

The survey is consistent with data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found from 2015 to 2017, birth control pills were used by 53 percent of the country's female teenagers who had ever had sexual intercourse.

"The data resulting from our national survey clearly demonstrates what we've long known to be true: young people in the U.S. face unnecessary and unreasonable barriers to access birth control pills, often with harmful and life-altering consequences," said Deb Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth.

"We look forward to seeing the FDA and the Biden administration follow the data and the science by making birth control pills available without undue restrictions and without a prescription."

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