Fun Fact: Need Birth Control? Just use Google!

Fantastic news for all of you ladies who are concerned about being able to afford birth control: all you have to do is Google it! Problem solved.

The groundbreaking discovery that Google provides women with cheap birth control options comes from Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), an opponent of the much-maligned law requiring insurance coverage of contraception. ThinkProgress had the following exchange with the Senator:

KEYES: What do we say to the millions of women who can’t afford access to birth control?

JOHNSON: My wife actually went online here in Wisconsin and typed in, “what if I can’t afford birth control?” Came up, bam. If you can’t afford it, you can get birth control in this country. That’s a straw-dog argument. There’s no conservative who’s trying to deny women health care or contraceptives. We’re just saying this is an issue of religious freedom. […]

KEYES: What do you mean, “if you can’t afford it you can get it?”

JOHNSON: You can get it. Go online, type it in. It’s easy to get.

Bam. It’s as easy as that! What on earth have we all been complaining about? The answers were in The Google the whole time. I wonder if Google also automatically dispenses these free birth control pills after you hit “enter.” Or is that when you hit “I’m Feeling Lucky”?

I guess that Senator Johnson thinks his argument has legitimacy because his wife Googled it for him, but I’m pretty sure the wife of a senator has never had to actually had to worry about the cost of contraception. It’s not a “straw dog” argument (which technically isn’t a thing). The reason it’s an issue is because, shockingly, IT’S AN ISSUE, not just something our overactive ladybrains came up with in between vacuuming the living room and cleaning out the oven.

Amusingly enough, now if you Google “What if I can’t afford birth control?” the only results that come up, at least for the first four pages (and no one usually dares to go any farther than that) are news stories about Senator Johnson’s asinine comments. So even if a woman could miraculously be able to afford birth control through the Internet Machine, Johnson has effectively prevented her from accessing this magical portal.

Luckily ThinkProgress got to googling before it all hit the fan, and they found the following:

“The very first link explained that the entire process, from the initial exam to a follow-up to the pills themselves, can cost upwards of $210 the first month. The rest of the first-page results included two sites informing women that if they can’t afford contraceptives, “don’t have sex,” four sites attacking Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, and one site explaining how birth control is a lot more expensive than many believe.”

Damnit, Johnson, where are my free pills? Maybe he thinks that women who claim to be poor aren’t actually that poor and can totally afford taking time off work to pay for a doctor’s visit as well as prescription costs. Maybe the 55% of young women who have struggled with paying for contraception are just exaggerating.

The fact of the matter is rich, old white men are in absolutely no position to talk about the affordability of birth control. Rich, old white women probably aren’t either, as they’ve never had to concern themselves with the price of any medications they take. Who can talk about it? The women who actually have to go to the doctor, pay for the doctor, and pay for a monthly prescription, for which the price can vary wildly depending on each individual’s body chemistry.

So yes, all you conservatives and Tea Partiers, there ARE birth control prescriptions out there that cost less than $10 a month. If every woman in the world could take these pills, then this probably wouldn’t even be an issue. But here’s the thing that seems so difficult for you to comprehend: not all women can take the same generic pill. Women are not just walking uteruses. Each one is so very different, with different chemical makeup, different reactions to hormones, and different medical conditions that require different combinations of hormones in her medication. According to Estronaut, generic (which usually means cheaper) pills only have to be within a 20% similarity to the name brand pill in order to be considered equivalent. Even small changes in hormones like this can have an adverse effect on a woman, and she may not be able to take the cheaper brand.

Just scrolling through Jezebel’s comments on this story gives you a pretty good idea of how expensive these prescriptions can be. One woman has to pay $220 a month for her generic pills; another pays $225. Both have insurance. This isn’t on the same scale, but on a more personal note: I had to switch from an approximately $7/month brand to a $24/month brand because the former medication wasn’t working for me. Without a discount card from my doctor it would have been $48/month. I can afford it, of course, but for someone on a tight budget, that wouldn’t have been the most welcome surprise.

This isn’t an issue of a woman needing just needing old white dudes to point out that there are cheaper options. On behalf of all American women: WE ARE NOT THAT STUPID.

More from Senator Johnson:

“There’s no conservative who’s trying to deny women healthcare or contraceptives. We’re saying this is an issue of religious freedom.”

It’s pretty incredible that conservatives are still hiding behind the religious freedom argument, claiming they are not trying to do something that they are passing laws in order to accomplish. They’re not trying to deny women healthcare or contraceptives? Then what are they doing making them so prohibitively expensive that women won’t be able to access them? What are they doing trying to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the only places where women CAN go to get more affordable contraception as well general health services? If that’s not what you’re doing, Senator, then please tell me what it is that you ARE doing? Are you representing your constituents? Because here are some fun facts:

  • 71% of ALL voters, male and female, think prescription birth control should be fully covered
  • This is 60% of male voters and 81% of female voters
  • 72% of Republican women think birth control should be fully covered

So who exactly are you representing here, Senator Johnson? And, if this law does get struck down, as you so fervently wish, how exactly do you propose to help those 55% of women? Google might eventually run out of free pills, and then what?

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5 thoughts on “Fun Fact: Need Birth Control? Just use Google!

  1. As much as I agree with you …….. $200 for a birth control prescription? Seriously? No offense, but if you’re the kind of person who needs a $200 birth control prescription, you should seriously be considering condoms. Or getting the copper IUD, because it will pay for itself quickly. If a woman is taking birth control pills for multiple reasons (balancing out hormones, acne, etc) I’m sure the doctor could find a more cost-effective way to meet her needs.

    When I was first married and getting birth control, I was willing to pay my part for my birth control (cheap!) but if it was too expensive, I don’t care if Mark complains – as long as neither of us is allergic to latex, we’re going with condoms. I believe they have latex-free condoms. And condoms are great because you only use them if you need ’em and they’re basically as effective as the pill when used correctly AND I think they’re easier to use correctly than pills (same time, AND every day? I know, I suck.) AND they’re freaking cheap, especially compared to a $200 prescription, or even a $40 prescription (if you need more than $40 worth of condoms a month, you’ve got lots of other things to worry about.)

    That said, prescription birth control should be covered by insurance (fine, let them choose how to do it, but if a woman absolutely canNOT take the generic brand, they need to make exceptions) and the religion argument from the right is stupid.

    • Oh you’re totally right, if I was told I had to pay $200/month for my prescription I’m pretty sure my response would be “oh hell no.” But don’t forget about the women who have to take birth control for reasons other than contraception. I’m pretty sure at last one of those women mentioned some kind of medical condition. If you have endometriosis and the ONLY pill you can find that helps is one that costs $200, you’re kind of S.O.L. aren’t you?

      The main point here (that I know you get but I’ll just reiterate) is that this magical $9 pill all the conservatives keep talking about doesn’t work for everyone, and their oversimplified view of birth control affordability is ignorant and just plain stupid. HARUMPH.

      • I keep asking my doctor and pharmacist for that magical $9 pill and they keep saying the best they can do for me while preventing babies and cramps is $20. Le sigh. $132/year down the drain, and I have good health insurance.

  2. My religion requires that I take birth control. What do I dooooo!?

    (In all seriousness — @Kamis, I’m the most paranoid person ever ever, and I like to double up on pills and condoms. Two 99%s make me feel better than one)

    • about the paranoia: Same here! My preferred methods of birth control are NuvaRing or an IUD. I SUCK at taking pills so it’s nice to have something that is practically foolproof.

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