Last week NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, along with twelve other social justice organizations in Virginia that make up the Women’s Equality Coalition, announced their legislative agenda for 2016 to the General Assembly. All proposed legislation works to address the disparities in healthcare, safety, economic opportunity, and democratic participation that exist for women in Virginia and across the country.
Today I’m addressing a critical part of the agenda – the push for legislation that allows women to obtain a year supply of birth control at one time instead of the normal monthly pick-up.
After the Agenda was announced, a college intern from The Family Foundation, an extremist right-wing organization that prides itself on being the force behind anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation in Virginia, wrote an article titled “New Front in War on Women: Having to Go to the Drug Store,” and yes, you can roll your eyes.
The intern described her experience with picking up prescription medications while being a college student, stating that trips to the pharmacy should be seen as “study breaks,” and mocked a student from Virginia Commonwealth University that spoke in front of the General Assembly about the difficulty her and her friends have getting to the pharmacy. Aside from assuming that all women have the same type of access as she does, the author misses several points:
First, not all college students have a car. Most colleges and universities, including William & Mary, don’t allow underclassman to have cars on campus and I would even say that a majority of my upperclassman friends don’t have cars for various reasons. When I was a freshman, I would have to find a friend with a car to take me to the pharmacy, since taking the bus round trip in Williamsburg, Virginia is a two-hour commitment that inevitably interferes with classes or other obligations, especially since there was usually only a three-day period I could pick up my prescription without missing a pill. As a student who is able to attend college because of financial aid, paying someone for gas and their time every month was an additional hardship.
Second, college students are not the only people that take birth control. Although the Family Foundation intern belittled college students who have a difficult time accessing birth control as not being “adults,” we must remember that there are plenty of adults who would benefit from a 12-month supply: the mother of three working 50+ hours a week, the woman who lives in rural Virginia where the closest pharmacy is an hour or more away, and so many more stories that we may not personally relate to but must work to ensure they are given the access to control their reproductive lives.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, increased access to birth control is a positive thing! A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who had a 12-month supply of birth control were less likely to get pregnant and less likely to have an abortion when compared to women who had a monthly supply. A similar study out of the University of California at San Francisco found that working women who relied on public programs for their contraception were 30% less likely to have an unintended pregnancy and 46% less likely to have an abortion when granted access to year-long prescription versus the normal one- or three- month supply.
Making a one-year supply of birth control a state and national standard would expand access to contraception, close existing gaps in access that disproportionately affect marginalized communities, and decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions that financially and sometimes emotionally burden women. Why would we not advocate for something like that? It’s clear that the Family Foundation isn’t in the business of making adults, but instead controlling the lives of Virginia women – we are not going to stand for it. Join me in fighting for reproductive justice for all Virginians by supporting the 2016 Women’s Equality Agenda.
William and Mary Campus Representative