Birth control for teens needs to be affordable and accessible

Graphic of the different types of birth control (Photo: Made on Canva by Georgia Laganiere, The Puma Prensa)

by Georgia Laganiere, a&e editor

Around 750,000 women ages 14 to 19 get pregnant each year in the United States according to the Advocates for Youth, an organization aimed at giving out information and resources centered around youth issues. The rate of teen birth in California is 14 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19, and the national average is 19 births per 1,000 females in that age range according to the Cal Matters website, a nonprofit newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics. While the California birth rate for teens is lower than the national average, it isn’t low enough, and at least on our campus there should be affordable and accessible birth control for students.

In 1916, Margret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in America, and ever since birth control for women has skyrocketed in availability and popularity. From the Pill to IUDs, to subcutaneous implants, to barrier methods, there is a wide variety of birth control options in the modern day. However, many of these forms of contraceptives aren’t readily available to teens. Birth control is unaffordable, with a scheduled-use pill costing $240 per year on the lower end, and is inaccessible to most in the United States, with approximately 19 million women—not just teens—in the U.S. in need of birth control. With the majority of teens being sexually active, it is imperative that birth control is accessible and affordable to teen girls everywhere. 

The Planned Parenthood website shows there are 18 methods of birth control: vasectomy, sterilization, birth control implant, IUD, shot, vaginal ring, patch, pills, condom, internal condom, diaphragm, sponge, spermicidal gel, cervical cap, fertility awareness, withdrawal (pull-out method), breastfeeding as birth control, outercourse and abstinence. These are all listed with percentages of effectiveness; whether it is lifestyle, low maintenance, permanent, use every time or on a schedule; and the most important part, how much it costs. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Center for Health Statistics, it is estimated that 55 percent of teens have had intercourse by age 18. This does not include teens who participate in other sexual activities besides penetration. Most of these 55 percent were practicing safe sex by using some form of contraception or lifestyle change in an effort to prevent pregnancy. The CDC says that from 2011 to 2015—the most recent data recorded—99 percent of females in the 15-19 age range who were sexually active used contraception. Ninety-seven percent of those females used a condom, 60 percent of females used the withdrawal method, and 56 percent used the pill. The number one used method of birth control was the condom which only has an 85 percent effectiveness rate according to Planned Parenthood. 

Not all birth control is created equally in terms of effectiveness, with the most common choices for birth control— the condom, the withdrawal method (which is barely considered a valid method), pill, patch, IUD, and implant— averaging out to only be 90.5% effective. The lowest is the withdrawal method which is only 78% effective. Additionally, the only form on that list that also protects against STD/STIs is the condom, which is still only 85% effective. 

For the “use every time” type, the average cost is $23.75 peruse. The average cost for the low maintenance methods is around $1,300 every few years, and the average cost for the use on a schedule (the best and most accessible method for teens not just looking for contraception, but also period regulation, hormone regulation, and lessening of cramps) is $112.50 per month, which would work out to $1,350 spent on birth control per year. However, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, four million adolescents aged 10 to 18 are medically uninsured, meaning many of these costs won’t be covered and those who are, may not be able to use their insurance because birth control isn’t covered by their plan or they would prefer confidentiality from parents or guardians. 

Again, around 19 million women in the United States are in need of birth control and can’t access it. We should further consider that some parents play a role in stopping sexually active teens from getting ahold of the birth control they may need. According to a 2015 CNN article, 68% of teens say that the main reason they don’t use birth control or even protection during sex is because they are afraid their parents will find out. Attempting to access birth control without parental consent can also be unnecessarily hard. Some young women face a lack of transportation, money, or an excuse to leave the house. 

The ideal solution would be to have free birth control—every option for every teen in the world with complete anonymity and accessibility. However, that is obviously impractical. There does however need to be some kind of resource on the Maria Carrillo campus that provides accessible birth control and contraception. There should be free condoms, free female condoms and pamphlets on how to utilize Planned Parenthood birth control; information on pregnancy, STD/I testing, LGBTQ+ sex; and a simple anatomy guide. This would increase education and normalize discussion of these topics and items. These items could be put in bathrooms (a place anyone can go into for any reason and is sometimes empty), as well as the library, and the front office.  Ultimately, birth control and information about safe and healthy sex needs to be accessible and affordable, yes for everyone, but most urgently for teenagers.

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