Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Ongoing Tower Work Impacting KUNI 90.9 FM

Iowa's 'contraceptive deserts' will have more access to birth control with new services

More than half of Iowa's counties are considered "contraceptive deserts," which means in those counties, there are women still in need of different forms of birth control without full access.
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition
More than half of Iowa's counties are considered "contraceptive deserts," which means in those counties, women don't have full access to different forms of birth control.

Telehealth company Twentyeighthas launched services in Iowa to help an estimated 173,100 women in need of some sort of birth control in the state.

Although there are active groups in Iowa to provide birth control to this population, co-founder Amy Fan said another option can only help, especially one that focuses on historically underserved women, such as those who are lower-income, live in rural areas or are women of color.

“I really hope that the more telehealth players there are, the more options women have. And at the end of the day, the better access will be," Fan said.

But she said there are still additional steps Iowa needs to take to increase affordability, cultural competency and ease of access.

Nonprofit Power to Decide defined more than half of Iowa’s counties as “contraceptive deserts," which means in those 66 counties, women in need do not have access to all forms of birth control. Of those 173,100 women in need, it estimates about 48,280 do not have a health center that provides all birth control options.

These statistics are relatively similar to other midwestern states like South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Fan added reducing the number of contraceptive deserts can help address other health disparities in the state.

“Black and Latinx women, unfortunately, have a much higher maternal mortality rate than white women in the U.S. And I think it's really stemming from access and providing culturally competent access as well," she explained.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health Maternal Mortality Review, Black women in Iowa have a three to four times higher rate of maternal mortality than white women in the state. Hispanic women are almost twice as likely to die in childbirth.

Fan herself comes from a family of immigrants. They originally came from Taiwan and moved to Canada, which offers universal, publicly-funded health care. Fan moved to the U.S. in her 20s where she found it complicated to navigate the public healthcare system.

"I think [with] my personal experience of recognizing how important health care access can be, and truly believing that it is just a fundamental human right, and recognizing there's an opportunity for us to take a patient-centric approach to make access truly approachable for underserved communities," Fan said about the idea behind Twentyeight.

She started her company in New York and New Jersey and has since expanded to 20 states, including Iowa. Two percent of profits go to reproductive health resources and education efforts. In November, Fan said Twentyeight will also be available in Spanish.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines