This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of Griswold V. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that gave married Americans the right to privacy when it came to birth control. Half a century later, affordable access to birth control is still not a thing for all women -- but Senator Patty Murray and the newly formed Afaxys and Bayer Contraceptive Alliance (or "ABC Alliance") are looking to change that.
The ABC Alliance, a partnership between healthcare companies Afaxys and Bayer, would make two types of IUDs - Mirena and Skyla - available to uninsured or underinsured women served by the private health sector at family clinics, college campus medical centers or community health centers.
“We’re very excited,” Afaxys CEO Ronda Dean told MTV News over the phone. “IUDs are one of the safest forms of contraception available, and less than ten percent of women in the United States currently use them because they don’t have the most up-to-date information on the products or maybe they were unavailable to them because they were just too expensive.”
Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended IUDs as the best form of birth control for sexually active teenage girls because of how well they work: You don’t have to worry about taking pills each day, and once a provider has inserted an IUD, it prevents pregnancy for up to ten years depending on the type of IUD being used.
While cost-effective in the long run, IUDs can be quite expensive up-front (like, more than a thousand dollars sometimes) and negative myths around them keep some patients away.
“There are two commons myths [about IUDs]: that they can only be used with women with children, and that IUDs can cause infertility,” Dean said. But studies done, she said, prove otherwise. “The studies have proven that infertility is not associated with IUD use. One of the products we’ll be making available through the ABC Alliance is called Skyla, and it was actually evaluated in women who have never had children and was found to be safe and effective.”
Most women (like 99%) use some form of birth control, and every woman is different. What works for one woman might not work for another. IUDs aren't for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, the good news is that Afaxys is working to make them available in your neighborhood.
“There are public health providers across the country who can make these products available ... at a price they can afford,” Dean said. “They could be at a Planned Parenthood clinic, or a student health center, or an independent family planning clinic or a community health center. It doesn’t matter where they live or how much money they make.”
Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray has announced her own plan for making birth control more accessible by introducing the Affordability IS Access Act. If what she’s proposing becomes law, it would allow women to get FDA-approved birth control pills without a prescription and have it be covered by insurance.
Senator Murray announced her plan in a press call that included Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood; Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and Ilyse G. Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive healthcare they need, when they need it, without being charged extra, without asking permission and without politicians interfering,” Senator Murray said. “So making approved birth control pills available over-the-counter is another important step forward in terms of women’s access to healthcare."
"But anyone will tell you," she added, "if something is too expensive, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to get: It might as well be on the moon. Because affordability and access go hand-in-hand.”
The Senator called for everyone’s support, saying, “This would be a major step forward for women.”
Cecile Richards summed up why many supporters of women’s rights find the issue of birth control to be so vital.
“As a result of birth control, women’s lives have changed dramatically in the U.S," Richards told reporters. "Being able to access birth control and plan our families is a critical factor. The fact that women are now a majority of college graduates in this country and we have made significant gains in the wage gap: Way to go. In any given year, we are half the work force. Simply put: When we expand access to birth control, we expand women’s economic opportunity.”