You Want $18,000 for Birth Control? Those Must Be Some Fancy Condoms

An e-card was recently released by the Obama campaign depicting a note from a daughter to her mother asking for $18,000 to cover her birth control costs if Mitt Romney repeals the Affordable Care Act. (Romney, of course, only opposes the stipulation in the ACA that forces religious institutions (like my school) who doctrinally oppose contraception to provide it, but I digress.)

The $18,000 figure is a jaw-dropper. That’s a lot of money!  That’s more than the total cost of one year at a lot of colleges and universities. That’s the price of a car. It may seem shocking, however, because it’s not even remotely accurate.

Most girls reach fertility around the age of 12, and the average age of menopause is about 51 years old. That leaves women with about 40 years of life where they could feasibly become pregnant, or about 14,600 days where she’s at risk of pregnancy.

Because our letter-writer has been reduced to asking her mom for money, we’re going to assume that she’s not very well off and she’s a bargain hunter. On Amazon.com, one can purchase a fishbowl filled with a variety pack of 144 Durex brand condoms for $25.89. Assuming she’d use one condom per day every single day between the ages of 12 and 52, that only equals $2,624.96 for 14,600 Durex condoms. For those of you who aren’t great at math, $2,624.96 is far less than $18,000. She’d have to be using around four or five condoms a day for 40 years for that number to even approach $18,000.

Suppose our cash-strapped friend prefers to use the birth control pill instead of condoms. In 41 states, she can get the pill for $9 a month at a Target or Walmart. That totals $108 per year, and $108 multiplied by 40 is $4,320, which still winds up less than $18,000. In the nine other states, the cost per month is around $30, which reaches around $14,400 over 40 years. These figures assume that our letter-writer plans on using birth control pills over the full length of time that she is able to get pregnant.

Perhaps our letter writer would rather use a diaphragm. According to americanpregnancy.org, the maximum costs a person can expect for a diaphragm total around $65-$250 for the actual device, and around $7 to $18 for a tube of spermicide. I’m not sure how long a spermicidal tube lasts, but I’m willing to bet it’ll be good for at least a month or two. If the tubes are $7 and she gets one a month between the ages of 12 and 52, she’ll have spent $3,360, plus the cost of the device. If the tubes are $18, she’ll have spent $8,640 over 40 years, plus the cost of the device. Still, those numbers are far less than $18,000.

I’m now beginning to wonder why our heroine didn’t consider getting an IUD. An IUD is generally pretty effective and can last for over a decade. According to Planned Parenthood, the suppliers of the original $18,000 lifetime cost, an IUD is “the most inexpensive long-term and reversible form of birth control you can get.” An IUD costs about $500 to $1,000, including doctors visits, and is good for 12 years. That means she’d only have to trouble her mother for about $2,000-$4,000 for IUD money and she’d be all set!

I ran all of these figures assuming that our new friend is sexually active and trying to prevent pregnancy from the ages of 12 to 52. This, obviously, isn’t actually happening for the typical American. The legal age of consent in most states is 16, the average American woman has sexual intercourse for the first time at age 17, and most women don’t want to completely suppress their fertility their entire life. People generally want babies and families. If the letter-writer doesn’t, I’m not sure why she didn’t just get sterilized—a procedure that costs less than $6,000. It’d sure save her mother a lot of money.

This also begs the question as to why she’s not paying for her own birth control—especially when she’s between the ages of, say, 25 through 52. If our letter-writer is 30 and asking her mom for birth control money, well, that’s just pathetic. I’m not sure why the Obama campaign has reduced themselves to flashing big scary numbers to attract female voters, but it can’t possibly be a sign that things are going smoothly over at Obama HQ. The truth must prevail this November—and this number is a straight-up lie.

Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @Crousselle

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