A whopping 99% of sexually experienced American women have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to Planned Parenthood. Despite this widespread use, a 2010 survey cited by Planned Parenthood found that more than a third of female voters have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives.
But it seems that overdue change on this front may be imminent, largely thanks to Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act's mandate that insurance companies provide free contraception allowed women to save $1.4 billion in 2013 alone, according to a new Health Report study released Tuesday. Though it has clearly been economically beneficial for all sexually active women, this legislation is particularly meaningful for low-income women: A recent Brookings Institution report showed that this demographic is being priced out of the seemingly basic right to reproductive control; while this group is increasingly unable to afford contraception or abortions, they're also 5 times as likely as higher-income women to have an unintended birth.
Beyond the federal policy, states are expanding their own roles when it comes to extending access to birth control. On Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a measure enabling pharmacists to prescribe birth control directly to patients, Jezebel reported. Oregon women are also the first in the nation able to get a yearlong supply of birth control with just one prescription, thanks to another recently passed measure, USA Today reported in June.
The recently released results of a six-year-old program in Colorado clearly demonstrate offering poor women and teen girls free birth control lowered abortion and pregnancy rates among these particularly at-risk demographics.
These encouraging legal advances back up public opinion when it comes to birth control access. A majority of women in the U.S. believe that birth control should be available without a prescription, Pacific Standard reported in 2013. A 2012 Gallup poll even found 82% of Catholics, a group known for conservative views on sex, agree that birth control is morally acceptable. Nationwide, that figure was 89% at the time of the poll.
Ultimately, birth control access is about much more than reproductive control (although that should be reason enough to allow individuals access to it). Contraception allows women to pursue educational and professional opportunities, treats medical conditions and reduces abortion rates. Hopefully, lawmakers will increasingly understand this reality, and unaffordable, inaccessible birth control will be relegated to the pages of U.S. history books, where it rightfully belongs.