Birth Control: Helping Us Plan When, and If, We Have Children

Birth control (also called contraception) is medicine that makes it so someone can’t get pregnant as long as they keep taking it. There are many different kinds of birth control. Some types are pills. Other types are shots that a doctor gives. Other types are tiny medical devices that go inside someone’s body. 

People take birth control for many reasons. Some people take birth control because they do not want to get pregnant. Other people take birth control because it helps with their disabilities. Some types of disabilities make menstrual periods very painful, for example. Birth control can help make menstrual periods less painful.

There are many different types of birth control. It is important that all people who need birth control, including people with disabilities, get to choose the method which works best for them. For example, someone whose disability affects their memory may have a hard time remembering to take pills. They may not want to choose a type of birth control that means they have to take pills. But another person might have a fear of needles. They may not want to choose a method of birth control that relies on shots. 

Birth control helps people control when and if they have children. This is important for people with disabilities. Taking care of a child is expensive! People with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to not have a lot of money. So it is important for us to be able to plan when and if we have children. 

But many people assume that people with disabilities don’t need birth control. Doctors who prescribe birth control may believe that people with disabilities can’t or don’t want to have sex. Doctor’s offices may not be accessible to some people with disabilities. For example, an exam table may not be accessible to a wheelchair user who can’t climb onto it. Or, doctors think we cannot consent (say yes) to getting birth control. 

If we are under guardianship, our guardians may try to prevent us from getting birth control. Or, they might force us to get birth control that we don’t want. If we live in a group home or other kind of institution, we may not be allowed to go to the doctor to get birth control. Or, we might be forced to get birth control.

ASAN and the National Partnership for Women & Families wrote a paper together about birth control and people with disabilities. In the paper, we made some suggestions for how to improve birth control for people with disabilities. The suggestions are:

  • Doctor’s offices and hospitals should make sure they are accessible to all people, including people with disabilities. They should talk to people with disabilities to see how they can make themselves more accessible.
  • Training for doctors and nurses needs to include talking about people with disabilities and how to properly meet our needs.
  • Doctors and nurses need to build trust with communities of people with disabilities. This includes building trust with people of color with disabilities.
  • Elected officials need to pass laws that make it easier for people to get birth control. These laws need to include people with disabilities.

Elected officials need to support people with disabilities’ right to supported decision-making.