Historically, birth control rights and access have been a topic fraught with difficulty for people with childbearing capabilities. However, new advancements in technology have created more ease of access, which is a step in the right direction.
The Planned Parenthood Direct app launched in Nebraska in September and is currently in 27 states and Washington, D.C., for birth control. It also provides UTI services in 20 states and Washington, D.C. The app asks users the same questions a doctor would if they saw a patient in person. A physician will reply within a day to either approve a request for treatment or pills if there are no concerns or refer the user to an in-person clinic, according to the Planned Parenthood Direct website.
The creation and increased availability of the app is a positive advancement because it allows people the privacy, ease and lack of stress they deserve with regards to their reproductive health.
According to a 2018 article from Rewire, doctors can deny certain medical services, such as birth control, based on their religious beliefs. The article also states doctors in private practices can mislead and shame women who come to them asking for birth control. Women in the article said they experienced judgment based on their marital status, as their gynecologists associated sex with marriage.
This is harmful to the health of the patients, not just in a reproductive sense, but also in the sense that it may damage their relationship with their doctor due to the discomfort they feel during appointments to discuss birth control. A widespread restructuring and re-education of all medical professionals in regards to birth control can be costly and time-consuming. The Planned Parenthood Direct app provides a simple and judgment-free alternative for people seeking birth control.
Even if a doctor is supportive and helpful in prescribing birth control, there can still be barriers, especially for low-income people. Depending on one’s insurance, birth control pills cost anywhere from $15 to $80 a month, and the appointment for the prescription can be anywhere from $35 to $250, according to an American Progress report.
The Planned Parenthood Direct website states that a month’s supply of birth control pills will cost $25, with a minimum requirement of three packs, and will be delivered straight to the patient’s house. The app doesn’t allow the patient to use insurance to pay for the pills, but the price is transparent and consistent. This leaves room for the patient to budget their time and money in a way that getting birth control through their doctor may not lend itself to. This can dramatically reduce the cost of the pills as well as eliminate the time and monetary strains placed on a person who is trying to receive a prescription from a doctor. The app greatly increases the ease of access for people seeking birth control but still provides the safety net of a physician overlooking the process to help the patient if there are any concerns.
Though the name implies a singular use, birth control pills have multiple uses for women’s health. A Guttmacher Institute study found that 14% of people on the pill in the United States use it for exclusively non-contraceptive purposes, 42% use it solely as a contraceptive and 58% use the pill for contraceptive purposes in addition to another health benefit. The most common uses of the pill besides pregnancy prevention are period regulation, reducing menstrual pain and side effects, acne treatment and endometriosis treatment, according to the study.
However, if a person wants to take the pill simply to prevent pregnancy, they should be able to. No one should be forced to deal with unintended pregnancies or unbearable period cramps because a doctor denies birth control prescription or because the cost is not manageable. The Planned Parenthood Direct app alleviates both of these issues and gives people more control over their lives, health and bodies.
While the app provides an ease of access for birth control, this may discourage teenagers and young adults from using condoms and lead to a rise in STDs. Planned Parenthood makes it clear on its website that condoms are the only way to prevent STDs. However, the app is not targeted solely to young adults and makes birth control access easier for anyone who wants to control their menstrual cycle and prevent conception.
The Planned Parenthood Direct app is a step in the right direction, and making things as easy as possible for people to do what they want for their bodies is a strong start. According to the website, Planned Parenthood Direct will soon be available in other states.The app sets a precedent for how other companies, such as private healthcare services or university health centers, can best serve their patients who are seeking access to birth control.