Birth control isn't just a women's issue or an American issue—it's a human rights issue. Here's how you can help women worldwide get the contraceptives they need.
Photo: Anastasiia_M/Getty Image
ICYMI, access to birth control is a hot topic right now. While Obamacare made it mandatory for employers to cover birth control, the Trump administration is working hard to roll back that provision and repeal Obamacare altogether. With access to affordable birth control being stripped away by some states (mostly via attacks against Planned Parenthood), it's easy to think of this as a U.S. problem. But the harsh truth is that low or no access to life-changing birth control and family planning assistance is a worldwide crisis. In fact, there are more than 222 million women across the globe who lack access to contraceptives and birth control.
In an effort to decrease that number, PRJKT RUBY aims to make affordable, low-cost birth control available to all women in the U.S. via their website ($20 a month without insurance). But their job doesn't end at the border.
Through the nonprofit PRJKT RUBY Fund and Population Services International, they hope to provide this access to women in developing countries, too. This month, the organization is launching the TakeCare GiveCare campaign, which donates 25 cents to the international fund for every month of oral contraceptives sold online. These funds are used to provide counseling and keep local clinics in other countries stocked with oral contraceptives, injectables, implants, IUDs, and emergency contraceptives, which are made available to women for low or no cost. Basically, every time you fill your birth control prescription, you're helping a sister in another country get hers.
"Having convenient, reliable access to birth control puts women in charge of their own future—allowing them to make plans for education, career, family, and long-term health," says Peter Ax, CEO of PRJKT RUBY. "For many women, preventing unplanned pregnancy through access to birth control can also contribute to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. For women in developing countries, prosperity is impossible until they can escape that cycle."
Not to mention, access to birth control can be life-or-death for many women. An average of 800 women die every day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And education about contraceptive options and usage is sub-par in many areas. For instance, just more than 30 percent of African women of childbearing age use birth control, according to a U.N. survey. Many of these women report receiving no education about contraceptives, and those who do understand and want access are often denied due to strictly enforced religious barriers or to outdated and misguided information (like myths that hormonal birth control negatively impacts fertility) that still permeate the culture in some countries.
For women in poverty, the high cost of many types of birth control makes it simply out of reach, according to data from WHO. "Some contraceptives are still very expensive," says Jagdish Upadhyay, head of reproductive health commodity security and family planning at the United Nations Population Fund, to the New York Times. "To provide [those] kind of resources, which can run into millions of dollars for countries, it's a big challenge."
Despite all of these obstacles, use of and access to birth control is increasing. Today contraceptive use sits at about 60 percent worldwide, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the past two decades. But even though progress is being made, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure that every woman who wants birth control can get it, says Ax, adding that he was inspired by his teenage daughter to join PRJKT RUBY. Because, in the end, this isn't about numbers. It's about taking care of your mother, daughter, sister, and yourself.
For more information on PRJKT RUBY, to sign up to purchase birth control, or to learn more about the TakeCare GiveCare campaign, visit prjktruby.com.