Coronavirus Is Making It Harder for People to Get Birth Control

For the last three years, Mikayla Lloyd has gotten her birth control pills from the student health center on campus at Florida State University. Whenever she needed to pick up a refill, she would stop by the health center on a day she had classes, since, to save money, she lives at home with her…

Coronavirus Is Making It Harder for People to Get Birth Control

For the last three years, Mikayla Lloyd has gotten her birth control pills from the student health center on campus at Florida State University. Whenever she needed to pick up a refill, she would stop by the health center on a day she had classes, since, to save money, she lives at home with her family in a small, rural town just outside of Tallahassee. That was her plan when, a few days before spring break, her prescription ran out. But that plan changed when her university notified students that they would be finishing the rest of the school year remotely because of the coronavirus. Now Lloyd, who is 20, is an hour away from school, and frustrated with how difficult it has been to figure out how to get her next pack of pills. “I have other medication on top of birth control that I have to take every day,” Lloyd said. “The difference between how easy it was to fill those prescriptions versus how hard it was to figure out how to fill my birth control prescription was miles apart.” When government officials issued guidance instructing Americans to self-isolate and social distance as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also advised people to stock up on essential medications—cold and fever remedies, blood pressure and diabetes prescriptions, and so on. For people on birth control, this mandate meant navigating a complicated maze to get the medication they need, involving transferring prescriptions to new locations, like Lloyd did; getting an appointment during a time when many doctors are postponing or cancelling them; or figuring out how to pay for the medication after losing their jobs and, therefore, their insurance coverage. This is to say nothing of possible birth control shortages as the pandemic disrupts supply chains, something the Guttmacher Institute warned about in a report published last week. Because states and insurance companies have different policies on how many months of birth control patients can be prescribed at once, people can’t “stock up” on it the way they might other medications, particularly since birth control isn’t sold over-the-counter—a longtime demand from reproductive health advocates and experts. “If people can’t leave their homes or are being advised to avoid health clinics unless they’re really sick, this is the moment that highlights why an over-the-counter birth control option would really help people overcome those barriers,” said Britt Wahlin, the vice president for development and public affairs at Ibis Reproductive Health, the research organization behind the “Free the Pill” campaign. “Being able to get a product off the shelf at the same time as you’re picking up toothpaste, deodorant, or tampons would make access so much easier,” Wahlin said. Accessing birth control can be difficult even under ordinary circumstances. Typically, getting a prescription for hormonal birth control pills involves patients scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician or gynecologist, discussing the best option for them, and then picking up the medication at a pharmacy. It sounds straightforward e
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