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Millions of Women Live in Contraceptive Deserts

More than 19 million American women live in contraceptive deserts, where their county lacks a health center that offers a full range of contraceptive methods. 

Many Americans, especially lower to mid-income, need a local, reliable source for contraception. Without these centers, they are not able to access birth control consistently. 


Many of them are mothers and wives, living in poverty and unable to plan their families with their partners. Countless families will have unintended pregnancies—leaving them with a child they can't afford. Studies show that without reliable access to contraception, abortion rates increase and American families sink lower into poverty.

More information on contraceptive deserts by state is available below. These numbers are conservative estimates. 

North Carolina

  • Over 600,000 low-income women in North Carolina live in contraceptive deserts. 

    • The counties worst affected are: Bladen, Duplin, Pamlico, Lee, Graham and Polk. 

  • Under a new law, House Bill 96, which went into effect Feb. 1 (2022), pharmacists in the state are allowed to provide birth control pills to people 18 years and older as well as those younger with parent or legal guardian consent. 

NC Desert
  • Some people can also take advantage of the NC Medicaid Family Planning Program or “BE SMART.” The program provides family planning, reproductive health and contraceptive services to eligible men and women, whose income is at or below 195 percent of the federal poverty level, with no age restrictionsThough these laws will improve access to contraception, there is still much to be done. 

  • Learn more about actions North Carolina leaders are taking to protect and improve access to contraception in the state, including the Right to Use Contraception Act.  ​


VA Desert
  • Since 2015, Virginia pharmacists have been allowed to prescribe contraception, which has helped improve access to birth control.

  • Learn more about the future of contraception in Virginia.


  • In Nevada, an estimated 179,940 women live in contraceptive deserts.

  • Nevada law requires insurance to cover an extended supply of prescription contraceptives and protects insurance coverage of contraceptive methods. But it still lacks a policy that would allow pharmacists to prescribe contraception—which would greatly benefit women who don't have a primary care doctor. 

NV Desert
  • Fortunately, Nevada just passed the Right to Contraception Act, which guarantees the right to access birth control across the state. Learn more about how Nevada's legislature is working together to improve and protect access to contraception. 


  • In Wisconsin, 321,830 women live in contraceptive deserts.

  • In June 2023, the Wisconsin State Assembly voted 82-11 in a bipartisan move to allow statewide pharmacists to prescribe contraceptive patches and birth control pills without a doctor's prescription.

  • Learn more about actions Arizona leaders are taking to protect and improve access to contraception in the state. ​

WI Desert


  • In Arizona, 453,430 women live in contraceptive deserts. 

  • Despite expanded Medicaid and legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraception and requiring insurance to cover an extended supply, these deserts persist. 

  • Learn more about actions Arizona leaders are taking to protect and improve access to contraception in the state. ​

AZ Desert
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