Free birth control could be on the way

Dad Days of Summer: While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. You can e-mail him at

A health panel has recommended that birth control be free for females in the U.S.

The physicians who joined medical professors on a National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine committee were asked to recommend preventative services that women should have access to – without co-pays, deductibles or out-of-pocket costs.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

Now the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which asked the group to make recommendations, will decide whether or not to approve them, and any changes will be part of health care reform.

To reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies in the U.S., the panel recommended making all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods free for females.

The report says: “Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy.  Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.”

If you choose to use contraception and have private insurance through your company or another group health plan, it’s a cost that you probably have factored into your budget.

We paid the co-pay for the birth control pill – Lori remembers that it was about $25 a month. Other procedures, like IUDs, cost several hundred bucks.

These recommendations have caused controversy, particularly among religious and conservative groups. And while this could be free for patients, it also is still to be determined how this would impact the cost of your health premiums, which are likely to rise.

What do you think about the recommendations?

If you’re a female, have you ever decided against birth control, lactation counseling/equipment, annual preventative doctors’ visits, and screenings because of the cost? If you’re a male, has your spouse made these decisions?

Do you think that include all FDA-approved contraceptives will help reduce the large number (49% nationally, according to 2001 data) of unintended pregnancies in the U.S.?

- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

40 comments Add your comment


July 21st, 2011
7:17 am

I really wish there were more options for male birth control. Yeah yeah, I know, wear a condom, get a vasectomy or abstain. I want as many options as women have and at the same costs.

But I applaud free birth control but would insist on a parents approval for a minor (let’s say under 16?).


July 21st, 2011
7:31 am

Yes, but what do you do about the young girls that think having a baby is so cute, and can’t wait to be a mommy…even though they have no idea of the challenges? Add that to the perpetually aroused young boys, who oblige these mommy wannabes in their pursuit and disappear, only to do it again with another girl.
I think this group is more responsible for the problem, but hey, look at their examples in life…probably have` no father figure, 4 half-siblings, and 4 absent step-daddies to help mold this behaviour. The “mom” has “uncle” Bill living in the house and “watching” over the young girls in the family, so “mom” can work two shifts to buy him some beer.


July 21st, 2011
7:42 am

Low to moderate income people can already get birth control for free at the health department or at reduced rates at Planned Parenthood and other organizations. Those with higher socioeconomic status are not typically the problem. They either take precautions and pay whatever they need to or get pregnant and have the resources to take care of their kid. I stopped taking birth control when my co-pay went from 25 – 75 dollars (just because I was mad) but my husband and I used other methods and were very careful. IF we had “accidentally” gotten pregant at that time it wouldn’t been ideal but our child would have been cared for.

There will always be unwanted and unintended pregnancies because some people will always be irresponsible and many, many pregnancies are only said to be “unintended”. Do you know how many teen and young adult girls get pregnant on purpose? If I had a dime for everyone who told me “I got pregnant on the pill” or, “the condom broke”. Yeah right. Birth control is like 99.5 percent effective but you and the other 50,000 girls who walk into the DFCS office are just the unlucky ones.

Now, I will say, if birth control was to be literally handed out at food stamp and medicaid recertifications or at well child check-ups. If you could just pick it up at the closest Quick Trip… Maybe, maybe it would make a difference. It would have to be very accessable, like, “in your face”, here it is. Or maybe our government can offer a free scratch off lottery ticket for every packet of birth control handed out. Yeah, that might do it. But the women probably still wouldn’t be responsible enough to take the pill everyday.

Here’s a better idea. I just paid a 35.00 co-pay for a sterilization procedure in my doctors office (Essure). My husband and I decided our family is definately complete so..35.00 and 1 hr in the doctors office and it’s done. Easier than a vasectomy. I would have no problem with the government paying for certain people to have this procedure. THAT would make a difference.

When I started working at DFCS 18 yrs ago, a veteran worker told me, “these people have nothing to do all day and no money. Bottom line, sex is free”. You can’t change that.


July 21st, 2011
8:04 am

Homeschooler, I can’t remember which one, but I read about a country years ago that pushed birth control as strongly as you’re describing and even had a reminder to women to take the pill that played on the radio and on subway intercoms at the same time every day!


July 21st, 2011
8:16 am

I think it’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist. People don’t decide not to use birth control because of the money. People don’t use birth control because they don’t think it could happen to them — they get carried away by the moment, the situation or the booze, and the next thing they know — oops. Even the ones that DO have birth control — you can give it to them free, but if it’s something like a pill, they have to remember to USE IT.

If you are a responsible and careful person in the first place, your birth control is simply another factor in how you run your life. Not ready for babies = taking measures to make sure you don’t have any. That’s for men and women, too — any man can decide “No babies for me”, have a condom handy and use it properly. But do they? The couple of times I’ve watched “16 and Pregnant” on MTV, I’ve always been struck at how every time, the kids had unprotected sex because they just didn’t think it could happen to them.


July 21st, 2011
8:25 am

Another thing. The “morning after pill” is available at every pharmacy, with no prescription for 50 dollars. This needs to be advertised on every college and high school campus. There are, otherwise responsible, teenagers and young adults who may get carried away at a party and want to do something about it the next day. It wouldn’t solve the problems we mentioned above but it would definitely eliminate a small number of (truly) unwanted pregnancies.
And please don’t get started about “life begins at conception” 24 hrs is barely time to concieve!


July 21st, 2011
8:31 am

Also — this could easily become a very polarizing class-warfare issue: In many countries where the government tries to institute free birth control or even provide incentives, the suspicion grows that birth control is simply a means to “control the lower classes.” In one country, they tried to encourage women to take birth control pills by giving out food with the pills. The women would simply go to several outlets, get food, grab the pills and then throw them in the nearby river. It happened so much that the fish in the river were affected! It’s a short hop from providing free birth control to requiring free birth control in order to have access to resources. One country provides free birth control — but no free education if the mother has more than 3 children. It gets very difficult to keep politics out of such a personal decision once the government starts handing out freebies like this.


July 21st, 2011
8:57 am

@Homeschooler: That’s the thing about the morning-after pill. There should be no issue about conception, because the pill is supposed to prevent the conditions necessary for conception in the first place.

One book that people might find interesting is “What The Dog Saw”, by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, there’s a chapter on the inventor of the birth control pill, John Rock, and why the birth control pill was ultimately condemned by the Catholic Church. If anyone is interested in reading the chapter, they can find it here:

Basically, the creator of the Pill was Catholic, who strongly believed that the Church would approve the Pill because it was a “natural” form of birth control because it used hormones that occurred naturally in the body. In fact, the Pill was approved in 1958 by Pope Pius XII as a remedy for painful periods, regulating cycles, etc. Ultimately, it was the Pill’s inventor decision to create a Pill that allowed for a monthly menstrual cycle instead of a less frequent one that caused it to be interpreted as “unnatural”. The chapter deals with fascinating correlations between the frequency of periods vs. cancer rates, etc. and concludes, ironically, that if the Pill had been touted as an anti-cancer drug, it would have been embraced immediately.

Ah, politics, both church and secular . . . :-)

Andy Johnston

July 21st, 2011
10:16 am

I’m bothered by this stat: 49% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unwanted or unintended. Do you think that’s true? Since the data they used is from 2001, could it be even higher these days?


July 21st, 2011
10:21 am

@Andy: If by “intended” you mean a responsible, committed couple with stable jobs, financial resources and a desire to have children sits at the kitchen table with their calendars and says, “OK, looks like it’s time for (another) baby, let’s throw away the birth control and see what happens.” — then yes, I would suspect that half of the pregnancies are UN-intended. :-) If the survey question is: “Did you actively plan to have this baby at this time?”, then I’m sure that half the women would probably say no.


July 21st, 2011
10:30 am

“Unintended”….I can say that I have a very responsible friend that is married and they can afford to support their children. She and her husband have had THREE “unintended” pregnancies. Not that they didn’t want their kids (she has been very excited all three times), but they weren’t actively trying to have one any of the times.


July 21st, 2011
10:32 am

No, no, no. Nothing is FREE. The taxpayers and or those actually paying health care premiums will be footing the bill. I don’t want to pay for anyone’s birth control. And many of those that really should be on birth control…won’t bother with it anyway as mentioned by other posters.

And no, I never decided against birth control, lacation counseling, etc due to the cost.


July 21st, 2011
10:51 am

Good God – when wil people quit using the term “free”. Nothing is free. Yet another “program” that will be paid for (i.e., not FREE) by the taxpayers.


July 21st, 2011
10:52 am

Unintended??? Kind of like the girl and boy “unintended” to take their clothes off.

Most Of You Agree, So Get Off Your High Horse

July 21st, 2011
10:59 am

I’m all for free abortion of low income women too. I actually encourage it for women that have several baby daddies sitting out waiting for Mother’s Day (aka the 1st of the month). And I mean this for all groups, white, black, Hispanic, Asian. It’s not racial, so don’t get it twisted.


July 21st, 2011
11:02 am

This would be a huge aid for the urban and poor rural communities. Maybe this would decrease the amount of unwanted babies, or at least the amount of babies born to baby-momma’s or baby-daddy’s who cannot afford them.


July 21st, 2011
11:05 am

I rather have my taxes pay for birth control then support the multiple children someone may have. That said, even if birth control is free, the woman has to take the step to get a prescription. The question is will these women take the step? As for me, I pay $20 a month for birth control and would love if it was covered under preventative. I am saving my insurance company money by not becoming pregnant.


July 21st, 2011
11:06 am

Paying for someone’s unintended pregnancy and the resulting child is a lot more expensive than the birth control to begin with; I do think people should be self-supporting but we don’t live in a world full of responsible people and we’re paying for a lot of those unintended pregnancies anyway.

I think the key to this study is that they are pushing the longer-term birth control options with no out of pocket expense. The pill isn’t that expensive ($10-25 per month for most generics- cheaper than a box of diapers) but it’s also not as effective as a long-term birth control option (IUD for example which can cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket). And I say effective not based on studies when used correctly but on the normal, day-to-day effectiveness of women taking the pill vs. having an IUD b/c the IUD doesn’t require you to remember to do something daily.

I also think that women who are on welfare or have a baby while on Medicaid should be required to go on birth control when they go back for a 6-week check up.

I’m also with Jeff – why in the world aren’t there more male contraceptive options?


July 21st, 2011
11:13 am


I rather give someone 75cents in tax money for a condom now, then $30,000/year it costs to take care of their ‘unintended’ child when some of them are in jail.


July 21st, 2011
11:14 am

Norway did this, and it halved the termination (abortion) rate. I’d say it’s worth a try, give it one year and see if it makes any difference.


July 21st, 2011
11:34 am

@ Jarvis. What does it mean to “not actively try” to have a baby. IMO if you are having sex, unprotected, than you are “trying” to have a baby. Glad you’re friend is responsible enough to take care of her unintended kids but it cracks me up when people say “we weren’t trying but we weren’t trying not to”.
@ those who would rather pay for birth control than someone’s unwanted baby, you wouldn’t be. You’d be paying for the average middle class person to have free birth control that she would have paid for anyway. The rest of the bottom feeders of society would still be having unwanted and “unintended” babies. You would then be paying for both.

@Andy, 49percent does seem like a lot but visit the health department or the DFCS office or Walmart for that matter. Pretty much every child you see is “unintended”. Very scary that these are the type of people who are rapidly multiplying in our society. Educated, responsible people fall way behind. I know it sounds cynical but it’s true. We need some sort of intervention but free birth control is not it.

Let me state again. Birth control is ALREADY FREE for a large part of the population.


July 21st, 2011
11:35 am

I have never wanted kids and take great measures to prevent that. If it means having to spend 15 bucks a month then so beit. Lot better then 30k a year or going thru adoptions. what they need to do is require some form of bc, like the pill, or IUD, or getting “Fixed” before they hand out foodstamps and public assistance. Seriously folks? there should be no reason these days for more then 3 kids to an unwed mother on public assistance. 5, 6, 7….seriously? keep your damn legs closed.

Jackets '10

July 21st, 2011
11:39 am

If you are going to give away BC like that and want it to work, we need to implement sex education as early as middle school… and not some useless sex ed, real and informative sex ed so that kids understand the implications of taking or not taking the pill. Knowledge is power, especially here. Being a religious indiviual and a conservative, I see and hear everyday the absolute non-sense that some people spout off about how kids shouldn’t be allowed to hear this that and the other. The idea that abstinance is the only way to teach sex ed goes completely against the reality of what is going on. If you want to make a real difference in a child’s life, then teach them what they need to know about their own bodies. The parents can teach whatever they want in their home, but the school should provide a service to the community, and in this instance it should be how to effectively use bc. The film *Lets Talk About Sex* spells it out quite nicely.


July 21st, 2011
11:44 am

@anon.. very interesting article but, again, most teens and young adults can get birth control free in America. I was from a middle class family and got free birth control from age 17-22 at the health department and then paid about 10 dollars a month for it at Planned Parenthood for years. I agree that free birth control would decrease the abortion rate because the same kids of people who take advantage of the free birth control would be the ones to get abortions if they ended up pregnant. That problem has been taken care of already in America.


July 21st, 2011
11:51 am

Ever watch “16 and Pregnant” on MTV. Darn near everyone of those girls claimed to be on the pill when she got pregnant. They all either forgot to take it, were taking some kind of contra-indicated medication that interfered with it, or it just didn’t work. Handing a 16 year old or any irresponsible person a pack of birth control pills and saying, “well now I don’t have to worry about her getting pregnant” is madness.

And let’s get away from the term “free”. Someone always pays, its just about foisting the cost on someone else.

Jackets '10

July 21st, 2011
11:56 am

I agree with Chip, which is why information also needs to be given with these pills. And free for them certainly do not mean free to me either, I will most certainly be fitting the bill for this one, or helping to in a very small part.


July 21st, 2011
12:04 pm

This is the first of many “free” additions to health care.


July 21st, 2011
12:06 pm

I make the argument that these “low income” surprise babies are really no surprise at all. However, given a survey question, I am sure they would answer “unplanned”. There is NO way that giving them free(which means we pay for it)oral contracepives (or any other free contraceptives) would make a hill of beans.

The ONLY way is culturally, starting at home, and I know that in this day of celebrity, athlete, etc… role models, that is not going to happen. It has, and will continue to, perpetuate across generations.


July 21st, 2011
12:09 pm

Over 41 years I have managed to get pregnant the one time I wanted to and remain pregnancy-free the rest of the time….and since reaching the age of maturity I have had more than my fair share of sex. If you don’t want to get pregnant you do what is necessary to prevent it – if you don’t care, if there aren’t any real adverse consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, then you won’t make the effort to prevent it even if the tools are handed to you. We already hand out education “for free” and a large percentage of the population chooses not to avail itself of it…what makes you think “free” birth control will be any different? Stop supporting those who have unintended pregnancies and you’ll see the numbers drop.


July 21st, 2011
12:15 pm

How many 15-17 year olds are making appointments with the health department for ‘free’ birth control? And whoever said girls under 16 should require a parent’s permission is nuts. The reality is these kids are no much more going to walk in and buy a pack of condoms from Walmart than tell their parent(s) they’re having sex and need birth control. No one wants to make birth control so accessible that it encourages teens to have sex but it’s too inaccessible to many. You can spew the argument that they shouldn’t be having sex if they can’t talk about it or walk in and buy condoms but the reality is that it’s still happening regardless of whether they should or shouldn’t be having sex.

And quite frankly this argument that the middle class will benefit and the rest of us with private healthcare will pick up the tab is a asinine. If the middle class is also having unintended pregnancies, guess what? Those pregnancies are also covered by healthcare which makes my cost just as high if not higher than if I were paying for a $500 IUD (or whatever it is, I honestly don’t know) but it’s got to be a lot cheaper than the average cost to have a baby.

Male Birth Control

July 21st, 2011
1:05 pm

Looks to me like male birth control has been blocked in India and US by Drug Companies. 10 year reversible injectable gel has been studied since 1993. Few side effects but the ones they did have seemed to have blocked this study and treatment for over 18 years. If one shot last 10 years, how can the Drug Companies make any money. Google male birth control India


July 21st, 2011
1:12 pm

My 19 year old daughter went on the pill last year and started through her insurance with a co-pay of $30/mth. Since she pays all her own bills she decided to go to the health dept. and is now recieving them without a cost to her. Why can’t it be mandatory that the insurance companies cover this costs? Her father pays over $400 a month to cover her so I just don’t get why this falls back on the government level ie, our taxes. Would the insurance company rather pay for childbirth and then the child’s healthcare? Seems that way but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.


July 21st, 2011
1:14 pm

@Techmom how would you make birth control (pills) more accessable to 15 and 17 yr olds or to anyone? They are going to have to make an appointment somewhere. You can’t get them without a Rx. If they are not going to make an appt. than that is just more evidence to argue that “free” birth control is not going to help the problem. Middle class people who have health care will not make the decision to go on birth control b/c it’s free vs. a 25 or 50 dollar co-pay. I’m sure the cost of an IUD is minimal with a health care plan also. What responsible person is going to decide to take the chance of having a baby vs the minimal cost of birth control? I have never met anyone who says “we didn’t intend to get pregnant but my co-pay was too much to pay for birth control”. You either care about preventing pregnancy or you don’t. When you do, you do what is necessary.


July 21st, 2011
2:10 pm

@Homeschooler, I don’t know what the answer is to that honestly except that either the parents have to be more involved and not so judgmental when their kids do as they did or there has to be less barriers to getting the birth control. If one of the barriers is that you go monthly to get pills versus getting an IUD once in 5 years, then maybe that’s part of the solution.

I had free healthcare (my dad was military) but there was no way I could make an appointment, drive on base and get a monthly prescription filled without my parents knowing but I sure as hell wasn’t going to admit to them that I was having sex either (until it was too late and I was pregnant of course).

I wish it was easier for teenagers to understand that it’s a lot less of an embarrassment to ask /seek birth control than to walk around school pregnant.


July 21st, 2011
2:38 pm

Wow?!?!?!??!? @ homeschooler

Your 1:14 p. m. post completely negated your other post, or vice versa. I literally read the 1:14 post saying “What responsible person is going to decide to take the chance of having a baby vs the minimal cost of birth control? I have never met anyone who says “we didn’t intend to get pregnant but my co-pay was too much to pay for birth control”. and thought wow – they should read that other post, and then I looked and saw who it was and it was you?!?!!?

“I stopped taking birth control when my co-pay went from 25 – 75 dollars (just because I was mad) but my husband and I used other methods and were very careful. IF we had “accidentally” gotten pregant at that time it wouldn’t been ideal but our child would have been cared for.”

You literally DID stop taking your birth control b/c your co-pay went up $50 bucks a month. Even at a ridiculous $600 a year for the pill it is still FAR LESS than supporting a child.


July 21st, 2011
2:55 pm

I was lucky and had a big sister who showed me the ropes and helped me get an appt. at the health dept. If she hadn’t, I would have just used condoms (I was an unusual teen who thought that everything bad was going to happen to me.) When my mom came to me a year after I started having sex and, very uncomfortably, asked if I needed help getting on birth control, I told her I had already taken care of it. I don’t know if I needed parental permission or not. For some reason, I remember telling them that I lived with my sister. Maybe I brought a note from her??? Don’t remember. Anyway, teens should really be encouraged to use condoms anyway b/c of STDs and because, LISTEN UP BOYS, girls lie about being on the pill. I wish we could just slip birth control into school lunches. Of course then the high school drop outs would still be having kids. :-)It really is a “no win” situation.

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a reader

July 22nd, 2011
10:13 am

On the original issue – why every FDA approved method? That just encourages the expensive non-generic, highly tv advertised pills that are $$$ and likely just as good as the ones that are cheaper.

This isn’t just an issue of our health insurance premiums paying for this (either for ourselves or others) but of subsidizing the drug companies for expensive products and advertising. UGH!


July 23rd, 2011
8:53 am

all kids arent stupid about birth control. as soon as my daughter knew she was going to be sexually active she immediately bought a huge box of condoms and got birth control from her doctor…and always used the ‘pull out’ too lol..she was very dedicated to not getting pregnant until she wanted to. and she had no qualms whatsoever about going to walmart and buying condoms. she even bought a huge box to take to her prom to hand out to everyone so they wouldnt ‘be stupid’. its a good thing she used all the precautions becase as soon as she decided to get pregnant she did…i know lots of kids who are diligent like that. i have to say i know some who arent….