Emergency contraceptive requests up 90% in Texas, doctor says

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FILE – In this May 2, 2013 photo, pharmacist Simon Gorelikov holds a generic emergency contraceptive, also called the morning-after pill, at the Health First Pharmacy in Boston. The plaintiffs in a legal battle over emergency contraceptives say in a letter Wednesday June 12, 2013, the government has failed to comply with a New York judge’s order to lift all restrictions on sales of the drug. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas women are tough. And for millions of them, so is getting a doctor’s appointment. More than 1.7 million Texan women live in areas lacking comprehensive health centers. These areas are known as contraceptive deserts and they’re more common in Texas than most realize.

Dr. Cassandra Cashman with Nurx, a digital practice for women’s health, says women trying to reach in-person medical care in Texas is a big issue.

“Contraception deserts are really a huge problem for patients all over the country, but especially in larger states with a lot of rural areas and limited healthcare access, just like Texas, because women cannot get to a physician or healthcare provider to access contraceptive services. They may be at risk of a pregnancy that they weren’t planning on, which can increase the health risks for the mother,” said Cashman.

Because contraceptive deserts are prevalent in Texas, Cashman says Nurx has seen a jump in requests to receive emergency contraceptives through the mail.

“We have seen since the initiation of Senate Bill 8 a 90% increase in emergency contraceptive requests in Texas and all of our other states have stayed essentially flat. So, it is a big increase, almost double,” said Cashman.

She says many of her patients have experienced long wait times at pharmacies too.

“One of the things that we have noticed since the pandemic is that patients who are getting their prescriptions, even at a local pharmacy, have had difficulty accessing that pharmacy because they’ve had either shortened hours due to work shortages,” said Cashman “I had a patient yesterday actually told me she was on hold for 40 minutes and still never got anybody to pick up at her chain pharmacy. So, a lot of patients using local pharmacies are having difficulty even getting, you know, not only to the pharmacy but then having the medication there because of supply chain issues. Having difficulty getting people to answer the phone, the lines are very long.”

As of this year, a quarter of Texas women don’t have any health insurance, which is about double the national average. Dr. Cashman points out all these things added up can be challenging.

“Between the decreased access to contraceptive services, potentially the inability to pay for the services, and even if you can get an appointment with an in-person, doctor, we know that but even prior to the pandemic, it was about a 24 day wait on average, to get enough physicians appointment. And then you know that with the travel time and the parking and the cost, and the two hours in the waiting room, it’s a significant barrier for many people to be able to reach in-person medical care,” said Cashman.

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