A young woman named Gabby -- a fellow Texan -- wrote to me from her home in Austin to tell me that she recently had to choose between paying for her birth control and getting her car repaired. Actually, for Gabby, there was no choice at all. Without the car, she can't make a living. So she did what she had to do. She skipped her shot of Depo -- a long-acting contraceptive -- paid the mechanic, and took her chances.
That's a gamble no woman should have to take.
But hey -- the great news is that on Monday, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a valentine to women across America. Under the Affordable Care Act, women's preventive care will be covered with no co-pays -- and this includes birth control.
This is extraordinary news that will provide millions of women who will soon have insurance the ability to get the birth control that today they may not be able to afford. So Gabby, and millions of women like her, won't be choosing between birth control and car repairs.
There are 34 million reasons that this new policy is a good one -- that's the number of women will have access to birth control without co-pays come 2013. But today -- here's my Top Ten.
WHY BIRTH CONTROL WITH NO CO-PAYS IS A GREAT THING!
10. Everyone uses it! Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in America have used it to prevent unintended pregnancy.
9. Birth control does lots of good things for women, in addition to helping them plan their families! Some forms of birth control are used to prevent anemia and endometriosis, and can help prevent ovarian and endometrial cancers.
8. Too many women in the U.S. have unintended pregnancies, and a big part of it is lack of access to birth control. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy among the world's most developed countries, and half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.
7. Birth control can be expensive! Even with insurance, many women end up paying $50 a month for birth control pills, and much more for longer-acting methods like the IUD. More than half of women in the U.S. between ages 18 and 34 say the cost of birth control has made it harder for them to use it consistently.
6. It's good for the budget! Today, unintended pregnancy costs the U.S. taxpayers $11 billion a year. For every $1 we invest in making birth control accessible, taxpayers save nearly $4 in the costs of unintended pregnancy.
5. Birth control access in the U.S. is unequal -- just like health care access -- and it's time that every woman had the ability to plan when to have children. For example, nearly 60 percent of young adult Latina women and more than half of young adult African-American women have struggled to pay for prescription birth control.
4. Affordable birth control means better birth control. When cost is not a concern, women are more likely to choose more effective birth control methods. Imagine -- making your birth control decision based on what fits you rather than what fits your wallet!
3. Women with unintended pregnancies may end up with less education, earn less, and have a harder time supporting their families. Their children may be less likely to finish high school.
2. And it's not just birth control! The announcement by HHS also includes coverage without co-pays for cervical cancer and HPV screenings, counseling and screening for HIV, counseling for STDs, and other important preventive care.
And the #1 Reason: No woman in America should ever have to choose between groceries and birth control again!
Planned Parenthood has been the leading provider of birth control services and education in America for 95 years, and we celebrate this historic step forward for a basic American value -- the ability to plan your family.
HHS is also taking comments on this new ruling for the next 60 days, and it is weighing the inclusion of a "refusal clause" that would allow some religious employers to deny women access to this vital preventive health care. This move could keep many women from getting coverage for birth control -- simply because their employer doesn't believe in it.
Now is the time to let HHS know that we fully support their decision to help ALL American women have better access to preventive care, and that ALL women, regardless of their employer or insurer, should have timely access to affordable birth control if they want it or need it.
Visit this link for more information and to make your voice heard.
What are your top reasons that affordable birth control makes sense for women and for America? Now's the time. Speak up and let HHS know that Birth Control Matters!
Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cecilerichards