IUDs Are Not The Silver Bullet for Poverty

Copper IUD on white background

An article in New York Times explores how access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs, like IUDs and implants) is related to reducing poverty. Yes, access to reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control is crucial to women’s economic security. But this article takes that connection beyond its true bounds and implies something far more pernicious: that LARCs are the solution to poverty.
In short, some LARC advocates would have you think that if only unintended pregnancies didn’t happen, women could control their financial future. This completely fails to acknowledge the systemic barriers to economic security that women face, and particularly how sexism and racism create even greater barriers for women of color.  Sure, an IUD can help someone prevent pregnancy, but it can’t change real problems that disproportionately impact the lives of women of color, including school push out, sexual harassment, and unequal pay.
Ignoring sexism and racism and how they intersect in the lives of women of color is a gaping hole in the “LARCs solve poverty” rationale. But on top of that, it means that this rationale also fails to acknowledge our country’s long, sordid history of reproductive coercion that targets women of color. Without addressing that history or our current reality head-on, the “LARCs solve poverty” rationale really begs the question, “whose unintended pregnancies are being talked about here?” It then becomes clear that this rationale is actually about the unintended pregnancies that women of color experience, and how the poverty women of color experience is their fault because they failed to prevent those pregnancies.  Instead we need a holistic approach that not only addresses the barriers to birth control that women of color face, but also seeks to dismantle the racist and sexist systems that do not support women or their economic security.