Demand for birth control and access mismatched, study shows


Caleb Kuntz

Dr. Joseph Potter, professor of Sociology, gives a spirited presentation of his ongoing research entitled, “Contraceptive Access in Austin Texas After the 2011 Funding Cuts: Results from a Prospective Study.”

Nicole Cobler

Texas women prefer long-term and reversible birth control methods but don’t always have access to them, according to new research published by a UT sociology professor.

The Population Research Center’s Brown Bag seminar on Friday showcased sociology professor Joseph Potter’s research, “Contraceptive Access in Austin, Texas After the 2011 Funding Cuts: Results from a Prospective Study.”

Potter said family-planning funding was cut by two-thirds by the Texas Legislature in 2011. Priority for remaining funds was directed to comprehensive care rather than specialized family-planning providers. Planned Parenthood was excluded from the newly established Texas Women’s Health Program.

Restrictions on abortion providers were added by the Legislature during a special session in June, including regulations such as exact specification for widths of hallways. The regulations would force the closure of all but two abortion clinics in the state.

Potter said the Texas Policy Evaluation Project was created to study women’s experiences seeking contraception following the funding cuts.

All women in the study were required to have completed childbearing or were planning to wait at least two years to have another child, Potter said. Four hundred women were recruited from facilities operated by St. David’s HealthCare. These women were interviewed after delivery and then every three months following the birth.

The results showed that 15 percent of the women were using a long-acting reversible contraceptive method, 18 percent were sterilized, 23 percent used hormonal methods such as the pill and 43 percent used less-effective methods such as condoms.

Potter said the study revealed women had a significant interest in long-acting reversible contraception, but found they were harder to access because of cost, limited locations inaccessibility and lack of information.

Government senior Katie Ray, who interns with Potter, said she has been involved in the study by helping Potter update his website and communicate with policy makers. Ray said she feels passionately about the work she and Potter do.

“I’m worried about low-income women in Texas not being able to access the health care that they need,” Ray said.

Journalism junior Maria Roque also got involved in interning for Potter through the Bridging Disciplines Program this semester. Although she has not been a part of the research, she said she believes that access to contraception affects more than just those in Austin.

“It’s an important issue that deserves attention and research, not just from women in Texas but also people all over the country,” Roque said.