Do You Live In A Contraceptive Desert?

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Despite the progress we've made in making birth control more accessible, many of us are still having a hard time getting the contraceptives we need.

According to new research from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, nearly 20 million women in the U.S. are living in "contraceptive deserts," areas named for their lack of reasonable access to healthcare sites that offer a range of contraceptive methods.

Though these 20 million women are all eligible for a full range of contraception options (from hormonal birth control to IUDs), only 1 in 50 has "reasonable access." In other words, only one out of 50 women lives in an area where there is at least one publicly funded clinic for every 1,000 women. The remaining 49, then, live in areas aptly called "contraceptive deserts," categorized as counties where "the number of public clinics is not enough to meet the needs of the county’s population." In other words, an overwhelming number of us live in areas that don't have any clinics within close distance.

You can take a look at the access map to see if you happen to be living in or near a contraceptive desert, but here are the five counties where women have the least access to contraception:
1. Johnson County, Texas (0 clinics for 9,290 women in need)

2. Davidson County, North Carolina (0 clinics for a population of 8,810 women in need)

3. Walker County, Texas (0 clinics for 6,000 women in need)

4. Henderson County, Texas (0 clinics for a population of 4,820 women in need)

5. Rockingham County, Virginia (0 clinics for 4,590 women in need)

Though the researchers had limited access to any private practices that might exist (and pulled data using clinics such as Title X clinics, Planned Parenthood, the Indian Health Service, and The National Association of County and City Health Officials, among others), these statistics are still pretty depressing.

While Obamacare has certainly helped us gain more access to birth control, these numbers show that we've still got a ways to go when it comes to making sure that every woman who needs contraception is able to get it.

As studies have shown, limiting contraception access and encouraging abstinence-only sex ed leads to more unplanned pregnancies — in fact, the unplanned pregnancy rate is currently lower than it's been in 30 years, thanks to contraception. And the importance of giving women access to the full range of choices can't be understated, either. After all, every person reacts differently to different types of birth control. Where one person might favor the IUD, someone else might react better to the pill — there are pros and cons and side effects to both, and women need to be able to have options so that they can find what best suits their bodies.

If you live in a contraception desert and aren't sure how to get the birth control you need, check out Bedsider's handy database to search for clinics, over-the-counter contraception, and emergency contraception options closest to you.

For more information, check out the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's data and access map.

The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.
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