United States President Joe Biden’s Administration recently proposed a rule that would make free birth control and other contraceptives more accessible under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The proposal would reverse former U.S. President Donald Trump’s regulations that allowed employers to opt out of covering the contraceptives of those who menstruate for religious or moral reasons.
Under the new regulation, the provider would offer contraception at no cost to the employee. The insurer would reimburse the provider, who would receive a credit from the government. Providers would not face any additional costs for administering comprehensive reproductive care.
The rule also would no longer allow moral objections as grounds for exemption, but religious reasons would remain valid.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, which provided birth control at no additional cost. Since the signing of the ACA, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark court decision of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Biden Administration is continuing to push protection of access to birth control at no cost.
A birth control pill isn’t the only type of contraceptive that is in need of governmental protection, though. Other popular contraceptives include birth control implants, IUDs, injections, vaginal rings and hormonal patches.
Types of female contraceptives
The most effective forms of birth control are implants, IUDs and sterilization, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Sterilization, or tubal ligation, prevents a woman from getting pregnant permanently. Implants and IUDs are 90-99% effective and can be more expensive to maintain than other options. This procedure is irreversible.
Vasectomies, similar to tubal ligation, stop the supply of sperm to semen, preventing future pregnancy. Although they are claimed to be reversible, sometimes the reversal doesn’t work, according to Planned Parenthood. The success rate depends on the type of procedure and the skills of the doctor. Still, more than 500,000 men get vasectomies each year in the United States.
Other options include a birth control pill, patch, female condom and injection. Although the pill is the most prescribed form of contraceptive in the U.S., it is about 91% effective and can cost up to $50. Of these few, the female condom is the least effective at 79% effectiveness. The patch and injection are about 91-94% effective and can cost up to $150.
The least effective forms of birth control are spermicide and the sponge. Twenty-eight percent of those who menstruate reported unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use. The sponge, a small piece of white plastic foam, is inserted before sex to prevent pregnancy, similar to the insertion of a tampon. This method is only about 76-88% effective.
Local safe sex resources
The Student Health Center offers contraception and sexual health services for students who live on- and off-campus. Their options include the birth control pill, the injection and the NUVA ring. They do not offer IUDs or implants.
Michelle Barron, a nurse practitioner in the Health Center, estimates about 90% of the population who visit for contraceptives choose the birth control pill. About 7% of patients use the Depo-Provera hormonal injection, while the rest (about 3%) use the NUVA ring.
The Health Center supplies free condoms as well as a “gumball” machine of condoms that can be found near the waiting area.
As for other sexual health services, they offer STI testing, pap smears and other gynecological exams. Test samples are picked up from the Health Center every Tuesday and Friday, which allows students to receive their results in a reasonable amount of time. They also provide counseling and education about safe sex, birth control and general sexual health.
Adagio Health in Butler and New Castle is an off-campus resource that Barron recommends to patients who want something that the Health Center does not offer. The Community Health Clinic in Butler is also available for those who either do not have insurance or have private/government insurance.
Healthy Outreach through Peer Education (H.O.P.E) provides fellow students with peer-to-peer education, including topics like sexual health. H.O.P.E offers safe sex supplies in their Protection Connection office, like condoms, dental dams and lube.
H.O.P.E peer educators also provide education about how to use a condom, sexually transmitted infections, safer sex and contraceptives. They also have condom vending machines in various locations on campus.
Research for male birth control continues
Options for male contraceptives currently only go as far as condoms or vasectomies. However, according to NPR, men may soon have hormonal and non-hormonal birth control to choose from.
Stephanie Page, a researcher from the University of Washington, said the hope is for couples to have an equal, shared responsibility when it comes to contraception. Page’s lab is currently working on a topical gel—a combination of testosterone and progestin—that would be applied daily to men’s shoulders.
The gel is supposed to lower levels of testosterone. Since testosterone is required for sperm production, there is less and less sperm created, imitating something similar to the effect of women’s birth control.