At any given time, 70 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. Of this group, 98 percent have used some form of birth control. This widespread use and need of contraceptives indicates that they comprise one of the largest groups requiring preventive care for women in this country.
Also, the cost of preventing pregnancy is high for many women. The average American woman spends 30 years avoiding pregnancy, which is no small expense. If she wants two children, she will spend roughly five years trying to get pregnant and being pregnant.
Many people, including women's health advocates and some employer groups, think contraception should be one of the required free services.
Planned Parenthood believes that all people deserve access to preventive health care, including life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and contraception. In fact, more than 90 percent of the care Planned Parenthood health centers offer nationwide is preventive.
This fall, the expense part of avoiding pregnancy may change. The health care overhaul may require new health plans to begin providing preventive health services at no cost to patients. Many health plans already cover prescription contraceptives. Twenty-seven states have laws that require some level of coverage. Improving access and coverage even further could help reduce the estimated three million unplanned pregnancies per year.
Among other health benefits, women who plan their pregnancies are more likely to get necessary prenatal care and avoid closely spaced births, which can put a strain on their bodies and their parenting skills, and may result in low-birth weight babies.
One of the reasons for unintended pregnancies is the cost of contraception, say experts. Even if a health plan covers contraceptive services, women often face hefty co-payments, ranging from $20 to $50 per month for birth control pills to several hundred dollars for a longer-acting method such as an intrauterine device.