Whenever it comes to the end of each month, and I find myself swallowing my last birth control pill, I can already hear my bank account sobbing quietly in the anticipation of having to purchase my next pack.
Some simple mathematics is performed in order to put everything into perspective. The contraceptive pill costs me $55 each month, equaling a grand total upwards of $600 each year. Let’s assume that women taking the oral contraceptive pill do so from the age of 15 until they reach menopause at, let’s say, 50 (with an 8 year gap to start a family, of course). That’s $17,820!
When I last walked out of my local chemist after purchasing another month’s worth of birth control, a thought arose in my mind and picked at my brain the entire train ride home. I am being forced to choose between unwanted pregnancy or excessive contraceptive expenses. Why are powerful organisations profiting from something that is a necessity to me?
Following conception, you are financially responsible for your child’s education, wardrobe and health. A large sum of this money goes straight to the government. Interestingly enough, it is the government again who benefits from you not having a child. If you’re not financially able to support a child, or are too young to be properly equipped for parenthood, you are still forced, through contraceptive expenses, to pay an outrageous amount of money to pharmaceutical companies and the government. Considering the amount of money you are saving the government by not contributing to the population, it’d seem as though they should pay you rather than the other way around.
We encourage youth to either have sex responsibly or not at all. The cost of contraception in Australia impedes this message. The Births Australia 2013 publication shows that 11,420 babies were born to teenage mothers last year. The two most common explanations for falling pregnant were ‘I couldn’t afford contraception’ or ‘I was too embarrassed to go and buy contraception’.
It seems rather preposterous that contraception is not considered a basic human right, and covered by Medicare and other medical insurance organisations. The government, Medicare and pharmaceutical companies should recognise that this generation of young people are generally sexually active, and that contraception should be offered freely.
Free contraception could even pose benefits to society. Young people would be given the opportunity to practice safe sex without having to feel guilty or shameful. Subsequently, it is likely that the number of teenagers that contract an STI or conceive a child would decrease. Statistically, the age bracket of teens to 24 year olds has the highest frequency of transmitting sexually transmitted infections.
Sexual health needs to be higher on our national agenda. The cost of contraception is higher than it needs to be, and our youth are suffering the consequences of that. The government and pharmaceutical companies need to recognise that contraception is a basic human need. Sex is happening, with or without contraception, and this should not be ignored. Young people need to be aware of the importance of contraception; It should be something that is attainable and affordable for all.
Written by Purdy Scuderi
Photographer: Veronica Mellere