Nikki Haley Is Right About Contraception
Last month, former South Carolina governor and current presidential candidate, Nikki Haley, took to the debate stage and made a logical appeal: “Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available?” In doing so, she echoed the sentiment of nearly 90 percent of Americans who believe that contraception should be legal and accessible.
As the leader of one of the largest contraception access initiatives in the U.S., I agree that contraception should be available, no matter an individual’s economic or insured status. I see the need in the women we serve everyday – from college campuses to the most rural, medically underserved corners of South Carolina. But with the state’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban now solidly in place, we should be asking: how are we preparing for an influx of new birth control patients?
To start, South Carolina needs to invest in training medical professionals to provide reproductive services. Since 2017, my organization has trained over 7,000 clinicians and funded four of the state’s college of nursing nurse practitioner programs to improve their curricula and practicums so that students are better prepared to provide contraceptive services upon entering the workforce. This work has allowed us to provide contraceptive services to women across our state, decreasing unwanted births by 44 percent. In just the first six months of 2023, we have served over 43,000 women. With demand surging, we need to equip our workforce to handle the wave of new patients.
We also need to streamline the process for accessing contraception. In our state, 30 percent of counties have no OBGYN and the average distance to a family medicine practitioner is 37 miles. For women living in underserved communities, simplifying access to contraception is critical; that starts with expanding digital reproductive health services. Through my organization’s “No Drama” initiative, we connect women to telehealth providers and offer mail order birth control. We need to continue expanding these services, making the process as simple as possible for women, no matter where they reside.
Cost must also be addressed by subsidizing low-cost birth control programs. Without insurance, a one-month supply of birth control can cost between $20 and $50 dollars. With only one in six women willing to pay over $20 per month for contraception, and one in ten unwilling or unable to pay anything at all, affordability is a problem. In South Carolina, this is exacerbated by nearly 16 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 44 lacking insurance, nearly double the national average.
Through my organization’s work, 450,000 South Carolina women have received free or low-cost contraceptive services since 2017. To continue bringing affordable birth control to women across the state, we need to invest in contraceptive access programs, year-in and year-out.
In past years, leaders have stepped up to prioritize contraception. In 2022, the South Carolina House Republican Caucus listed contraception access among its legislative priorities. Gov. Henry McMaster supported budget appropriations in 2021 and 2022 to increase access to birth control statewide. Perhaps most notably, state Sen. Tom Davis led a successful effort to make contraception available at pharmacies without a prescription, which will be a massive victory for women when fully implemented. Today, we need their help more than ever.
Words of support like those from former Gov. Haley are nice. Now it’s time to buckle down to meet the growing demand for contraception across our state, empowering every woman to control her own fertility and decide whether or when to become pregnant. We don’t have a minute to waste.
Bonnie Kapp is President and CEO of New Morning in Columbia