A study released by the Brookings Institution found that poor women are up to five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy, compared to the more financially successful women in the world, and this all comes down to birth control.
In the study, 3,885 single women were being watched regarding their fertility, with some being below the poverty line and others being more wealthy. None of the women in the study were actively trying to get pregnant either. What the study from the Brookings Institution showed was that women with incomes below the poverty line were more likely to engage in sex without using any form of protection, including condoms or birth control. Women who were poor ended up not using protection twice as often as the women who made four times the poverty line amount.
This study was not about sex or how much sex poor women have compared to rich women, because the entire study focused on which women had contraception available to them, which women didn’t have that access to contraception, and how access or the lack thereof wound up impacting unintended pregnancy rates. If a woman decides to use a form of birth control like the IUD, it can cost over $1,000, which obviously is something a poor woman could not likely afford. The IUD has a very low failure rate compared to the lower-costing contraception known as condoms, because condoms have a 12 percent failure rate.
When you look at unintended pregnancy rates within the past year alone, only three percent of financially wealthy women reported getting pregnant, however nine percent of women below the poverty line ended up getting pregnant. While abortions are legal in the US, abortions also cost a fairly large amount of money, which is also something most women in poverty can’t afford either. An abortion can cost anywhere from $200 to $500, depending on where you go, and most women in poverty cannot come up with the money to get an abortion before the pregnancy progresses past the legal limit to obtain one. As far as abortion goes, 32 percent of wealthier women chose to get an abortion in the past year because of the unintended pregnancy, while only nine percent of poor women were able to do so.
While the study and the researchers are making a case for equality when it comes to access to birth control, that is only part of the issue. Another part of this issue is that poor women also often times have lower self-esteem, which means they are less likely to care about their health, especially sexual health, and are less likely to have self respect. A lot of the problem when it comes to birth control is getting into the mind of the woman, realizing that some women just don’t care about themselves enough to protect their body from pregnancies or diseases, and this is something that cannot be treated just by equalizing access to the birth control.
If you do not have access to birth control through an employer or when in poverty you can’t afford health insurance, there is always Planned Parenthood and County Health Departments. Poor women can go into Planned Parenthood or the County Health Department and get these services for next to nothing or nothing, so poor women do have the ability to have protection if they want it, most commonly the birth control pill since that is one of the least expensive birth control types out there. Obviously, the IUD and other more expensive contraception might be out of the question, but getting birth control is still easy, even if you live in poverty, and it costs less than $15 a month most of the time. This study shows more than anything that poor women need an easier way to access birth control pills, which can help them feel better about themselves, and also help decrease the income-gap found when a woman has an unintended pregnancy.