Researchers Measure The Social Impact Of Birth Control Access

Mar 28, 2017

How does access to contraceptives affect women’s lives? That’s a question researchers at the University of Utah and Planned Parenthood are trying to answer. 

For the past year-and-a-half, researchers at the University of Utah and Planned Parenthood have been offering women in Salt Lake County free birth control of their choice. For continued access over the next three years, they’ll collect data about participants’ educational goals, employment, and relationships.

"We really want to be able to see what type of social and health impacts that free birth control has on people’s lives," says Kyl Myers.  

Myers is a researcher in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Research Network at the University of Utah. When the study, titled HER Salt Lake, closed on Saturday, 4,432 people had signed up to participate.

"The demand has certainly exceeded our expectations," Myers says. 

Laurie Baksh works with the Utah Department of Health in the Maternal and Infant Health Program. She’s not involved in the study but says she will be following their findings, especially rates of unplanned pregnancies.

"You know in our data that we have at the Health Department on women who had an unplanned pregnancy the number of women who said that they had problems getting contraception was low, but it was still there," Baksh says. 

Myers says one of the main populations in their study is uninsured women who fall into Utah’s Medicaid gap. She notes that a hormonal birth control implant could cost an uninsured woman up to $700.

Findings from the study will take time, but Myers and Baksh agree on one thing.

"I think that it shows that there is a need for accessible contraception in Utah," Baksh says. 

Contributions for the cost of HER Salt Lake came from pharmaceutical companies as well as local and national foundations.