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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18 Responses

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  1. Alex
    May 09, 2013 - 08:40 AM

    I’m mostly for birth control (I guess I’m somewhat of a liberal conservative), but even I think this was in bad form and taken in the wrong light. There are many complicated points surrounding this issue and it’s not as simple as yea or nay. The current economic climate and factors from various groups must be taken into account addressed first, instead of merely pandering to the popular vote to distract us from more pressing issues, like saving the job market and the housing debt crisis. mirena iud

  2. free thinker
    Oct 19, 2012 - 06:46 PM

    This is crap. There are many women for whom the $9 generic isn’t possible for their medical conditions. One of them is me. The generic they sell at Target and Walmart doesn’t keep me from having debilitating cramps or prevent ovarian cysts – that requires a higher dose of hormones and many women like me have to try several different brands and ring/patch/oral delivery to find one that battles their symptoms effectively. Nobody should be able to tell you what type of medicine you get to have for a medical condition – and many women have reproductive systems that aren’t absolutely perfect. The birth control I use costs $60/month with insurance, and far more without it. Allowing women to have insurance coverage for ALL medical conditions, regardless of her employers or other taxpayers preferences, is an economic issue as well. If I didn’t have this BC, I’d be in curled up in a ball crying and screaming 3-5 days of the month, unable to work for my paycheck, and would likely be fired for not being able to sit at my desk for prolonged periods. You also ignore the cost of the doctors visit – out of pocket my OB would cost $200 without insurance, and since you all want to destroy Planned Parenthood and it’s the only clinic within driving distance you’d effectively cut low income women off from access to a doctor here. That’s sick. Sad, and sick.

    • free thinker
      Oct 19, 2012 - 06:50 PM

      Also, Durex condoms don’t fit on everyone, certainly not on my bf, and I had to take Plan B once in college because two of them broke in a row. If you’re buying Durex, your sex life must be very sad.

  3. Jessica
    Oct 19, 2012 - 05:19 PM

    I love this article. Thank you so much! I think it is rediculous how birth control is made to be such a big deal. I believe a woman should have the right to use birth control or abstain from sex. If you can’t afford birth control or a child don’t have sex. Simple as that. It’s honestly not that expensive for some of the pills or condoms. Plus of you go to college you most likely will be able to get condoms for free or at a discount.

  4. Michael Brand
    Oct 19, 2012 - 04:09 PM

    Excellent break down. This truly shows how big of a lie this whole issue is.

  5. Anne
    Oct 08, 2012 - 02:04 PM

    So many strawmen. The PPACA has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, and the birth control debate has nothing to do with not being insured. What is at issue is the question whether Catholic employer health plans should be forced to cover birth control when it is against their religious convictions. Such plans would likely already cover doctor’s visits, so it is indeed just a question of the $9 per month for the pills themselves (or whatever alternative). And the note says $18,000 FOR BIRTH CONTROL; no mention of other health issues.

    What people like this don’t seem to realise is that these religious organizations cannot (so far) be forced to provide a health insurance plan, so if they decide the birth control mandate is untenable for them, they can simply drop the whole plan, The – ahem – “penalty” is probably less than the current costs, never mind all other other costs arising from Obamacare, and this is (so far) still a free country. What you will end up with is more uninsured people, not fewer.

  6. Ceecee
    Oct 04, 2012 - 04:49 AM

    To go to Wal-Mart or Target to get “The Pill” for $9.00 a month you first need a prescription from a doctor’s office. Many women cannot afford health insurance these days. Even if one is lucky enough to have a job, many employers just do not offer health insurance any more (it is too expensive). I should know, even though I work full-time at my job of 2 years, my employer does not offer health insurance. These days a trip to a doctor’s office is just too expensive without health insurance. That is where Planned Parenthood comes in. Not only can a woman get an annual pelvic exam and cancer screenings and prenatal care at a reasonable price, but she can also get birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The 1973 Hyde amendment prevents Planned Parenthood from using federal funding for abortions. In fact, only about 3% of all of Planned Parenthood’s patients have abortions. The other 97% of patients use Planned Parenthood as a low cost alternative for their health care needs. You look like you must still live at home with Mommy and Daddy. Try living in the real world awhile before you pass judgment on others that are less fortunate that yourself. You don’t strike me as being very Christian in your attitude toward others. In fact, you seem very arrogant, rude and callous with a Holier-than -thou attitude. I don’t think Jesus would be very impressed. Maybe you should reflect on your attitude.

    • Gilbert fernandez
      Oct 19, 2012 - 05:36 PM

      Here goes the entire fortunate whining game again. If you have enough money for the latest I-anything then you can afford to go see the doctor. If you have the latest anything then you can afford to go see the doctor. If you are so poor that you qualify for medicaid, you can go see the doctor. This is not something that is solely due to the money you make it’s also about the decisions you make, and if you’re poor, the last thing I want to see anywhere in your home is a flat screen tv, any jewelry or any sort of luxury item. Because if you can afford any, and I do mean ANY of these items you can afford to go see the doctor. I am tired of being made a villain because I waited until I got married to have kids, or I …gasp… bought condoms before I had sex…gasp what an idea. If it seems that I am being very sarcastic, it’s because I am so tired of so many resources being made available to the poor, poor, pitiful poor.

  7. Jared Cowan
    Oct 02, 2012 - 01:37 AM

    Methinks there is a misuse of terminology. $18000 could be conceivably what the cost would be if the ACA was repealed when it comes down to health insurance covering not only birth control, but general women’s health. And this is also probably assuming Romney would remove all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is where a decent amount of reduced cost preventative healthcare for women occurs.

    I’d agree that it’s deceptive of the Obama campaign to do this, but it’s also just an oversimplification, since they’re focusing on one issue that exists among multiple ones of women’s health as relates to insurance coverage, which I’ve figured out as relates to dental coverage, basic medical insurance covers pretty much nothing, so I’m paying out of pocket to get a basic wisdom teeth removal procedure, when at least one of the 4 teeth is horribly impacted.

    Birth control, if we understand it as merely the contraception, is one cost, but the idea seems to apply to a wider range of women’s healthcare, which is what is related to the lowered costs the ACA would provide.

  8. John Kelleher
    Oct 01, 2012 - 11:51 PM

    I love your article but I would LOVE for you to also look into Planned Parenthood selling babies from teenagers who are forced to give up a baby (PRESSURE) etc.

    • Ceecee
      Oct 04, 2012 - 04:51 AM

      That statement is just wacky.

  9. thomas delcano
    Oct 01, 2012 - 09:18 PM

    that total probably includes an abortion or 2

  10. Chuck P
    Oct 01, 2012 - 05:58 PM

    Great stuff!

  11. Sean L
    Oct 01, 2012 - 11:30 AM

    “According to Planned Parenthood.” Well, that explains everything, doesn’t it?



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