Birth control and the economy (they get along famously)
Wow. We probably don’t need to tell you that birth control has been in the news a lot lately. And though unfortunately we can’t say the attention has been all positive, we’ve actually seen a whole lot of good publicity coming out of the discussion overall. The latest theme we’ve noticed is media attention to birth control and the economy—and let’s just say birth control comes out looking pretty fantastic (no make-up required). A few favorite points in birth control’s favor:
Women benefit. The New York Times published a piece yesterday (which The Washington Post riffed off of) on how the pill has affected women’s ability to contribute to the economy. A teaser:
A study by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein and Amalia R. Miller helps assign a dollar value to those tectonic shifts. For instance, they show that young women who won access to the pill in the 1960s ended up earning an 8 percent premium on their hourly wages by age 50.
Such trends have helped narrow the earnings gap between men and women. Indeed, the paper suggests that the pill accounted for 30 percent – 30 percent! – of the convergence of men’s and women’s earnings from 1990 to 2000.
Taxpayers benefit.On Sunday, The Times published a piece on “Pregnancy Prevention and the Taxpayer.” The article highlighted a recent study that found that there are a few things the government can pay for that will save taxpayers many, many dollars over the long haul. According to the study, “[t]he biggest savings would come from increasing the amount of subsidized birth control available to poor women. At a cost of $235 million a year, such programs could save $1.32 billion annually.” Sounds like a good deal to us…
Consumers benefit (from more information about their birth control options). Okay, maybe that heading’s a stretch, but we wanted to include an article from U.S. News Money on “The Real Cost of Birth Control,” which sought to be “a guide for people who want to consider the health of their bank account when making their birth control decision.” We love that they wanted to make the cost of different methods easier to understand, though it doesn’t look like they fully accounted for health insurance coverage (or health reform, which will eliminate co-pays on birth control, or other programs to make birth control cheaper or even free…) They also seem to have used slightly outdated effectiveness numbers for the different methods.
Must also note that their conclusion that the diaphragm is the most cost-effective method rings a bit hollow considering that with normal use of it, 12 in 100 women will get pregnant within a year of relying on it—U.S. News quotes that proportion as 15 in 100, which would be even more of a reason not to recommend it for folks who are watching their finances. As the article itself notes, an accidental pregnancy can be harder on a bank account than any method on the market. No offense to the diaphragm intended, but considering that the IUD, for example, is often quite affordable with insurance and also incredibly effective (same story for the implant, which didn’t even get a mention, as well as sterilization), we definitely would’ve picked a different winner.
Insurance providers and their customers benefit. And last but not least, way back in February, TIME published an excellent explanation of “Why Free Birth Control Will Not Hike the Cost of Your Insurance,” complete with illustrative anecdotes:
Think of it this way: If my married daughter lays out a $15 co-pay for birth control pills, she doesn’t save a dime. True, she protects herself against the emotional cost of an unwanted pregnancy, along with the hefty costs of raising a child. But in terms of the costs to give birth to the child, she is not much better off, because if she does become pregnant, her insurer, like many, would pay the bills above and beyond the co-pay.
By contrast, if an insurer makes birth control totally free for all of its customers, it avoids having to reimburse them for countless unplanned pregnancies and births. Overall, then, it’s cheaper for the insurer to pay a little upfront to save a ton down the line.
The Birth Control Solution: Education + Re-Branding
In Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times column today he writes, “What’s needed isn’t just birth-control pills or IUDs. It’s also girls’ education and women’s rights — starting with an end to child marriages — for educated women mostly have fewer children.” Clearly, Mr. Kristof had women and girls worldwide in mind when he wrote that.
But as we are one week away from the official launch of a nationwide public service announcement campaign for Bedsider—including TV, print, and web ads—which will be the first time such a campaign runs in the U.S., we are reminded that education is needed here too. But the education needed is regarding all the options of birth control available and how to use it correctly and consistently.
Among single women in their 20s, more than 7 in 10 pregnancies are unplanned according to The Fog Zone, a nationally representative survey commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and conducted by the Guttmacher Institute.
Young adults care about avoiding pregnancy. The overwhelming majority say they really don’t want to get pregnant right now. But, they don’t put this into practice very well. If we look at those in a current sexual relationship who are not pregnant or trying to get pregnant, nearly one fifth use no contraception at all!
With Bedsider, we’ve tried to address the real issues and hurdles that women face, and give them tools they can actually use to stick with their plans to not get pregnant before they’re ready. Part of it is education, for sure. But it’s education in a voice that makes sense and comes from the point of view of the women to whom we’re speaking.
Bedsider re-brands birth control. And through this re-branding we hope to make birth control a normal part of healthy lives and, ultimately, healthy families.
Lawrence Swiader is an observer and pundit of digital media and how it educates and influences us all. He is on Team Bedsider and the Senior Director of Digital Media at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.