More than 100 million women* around the world use some form of contraception, be it the NuvaRing, patch, or IUD. But since the pill was finally approved by the FDA in 1960 (albeit only for married couples until 1972), it’s become the preferred birth control method of 25% of the population* of female American contraceptive users.
Unfortunately, access to the pill has a long, sordid history of blockades, from politicians attempting to limit access to “conscience clauses” at drugstore chains, which allow pharmacists to refuse a woman looking to purchase birth control. The American Civil Liberties Union even has a section* on its site dedicated to the latter, saying that “a pharmacy’s or pharmacist’s refusal to sell birth control does not violate a woman’s federal constitutional rights… a woman has no federal constitutional right to receive contraception. Although the Constitution protects a woman’s right to contraception, it does not ensure that women can access reproductive health services.” The Supreme Court agrees. On July 8, 2020 in a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a Trump administration regulation* allowing employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of providing cost-free contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As many as 126,000 women may lose access to birth control as a result of this ruling.
Luckily, there are various apps and services women can use to access contraception, whether they’re being plagued by insurance problems, unhelpful pharmacists, or just have limited time to make a trip to a doctor’s office. See which one might work for you.
The 411: Available only in California and New York, users can select a preferred birth control method, take a survey, and send in identification that’s reviewed by a team of doctors who can prescribe you oral contraceptives, and, in California, Truvada for PrEP (which can help protect against HIV infection). Users can even get Plan B overnight. Drugs are delivered shortly after by USPS — or by a bike courier if you’re in San Francisco. For insured users, the service is typically free, and for those sans insurance, medication starts at $15. The company tries to send three months of medication at a time, insurance coverage permitting.
The 411: For $20 a month, users can access oral contraception or emergency contraception. A questionnaire and medical assessment helps the site and its team of physicians review your selected birth control. Meds are delivered for free as soon as a doc signs off on your order. You can even set up an auto-refill, and for every monthly order placed, a 25 cent donation is made to help women in the developing world access contraception via Population Services International (PSI), a tax-exempt, nonprofit global health organization.
The 411: Women 18 and older can select their choice of pill (or take the site’s recommendations if they’re unsure), answer health questions, and upload a photo before a doctor reviews your order and it’s sent to the pharmacy of your choice. Pills start at $9 with a $15 charge from Lemonaid due before the doctor review. Note that women 35 and up are limited to progestin-only pills. Bonus: You can also get medication for UTIs, acid reflux, acne, the flu, and sinus infections through the service. Available in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington
The 411: Available only for women 18-34, the service charges $54 per visit for 24/7 service from nurse practitioners. The NPs create a custom birth control selection that’s sent to a pharmacy. Available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia
The 411: Users can consult by video chat with nurse practitioners or doctors: a 10-minute virtual appointment typically costs $18 to $35. You can text with medical providers to get a birth control prescription from the privacy of your home.. Available in most states.
The 411: The classic women’s reproductive services organization offers online prescriptions for women in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Washington State, and many more. A basic info survey is followed by a video appointment and a prescription. Depending on the method, PP mails prescriptions to users in “discreet packaging.” Those in California can get a prescription for up to 12 months of pills.