More than One-Third of Clinics in Four US States Reduced or Stopped Providing Contraceptive Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Clinics expanded service options, such as telehealth, to increase patient accessibility

Read the full study here. 

Thirty percent of publicly supported clinics in four US states reported reducing provision of contraceptive services for some period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 5% of clinics in these states reported temporarily stopping such services altogether, according to a new Guttmacher study in Contraception. During the pandemic, clinics also expanded some contraceptive services, including through telehealth, to make them more accessible for patients. 

“This study contributes to a growing body of evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on publicly funded sexual and reproductive health care in the United States,” says Jen Mueller, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute and lead author of the study. “Health care providers and patients have shown resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges, and they must be supported in expanding and improving access to sexual and reproductive health care services via telehealth.” 

A 2022 online survey of sexual and reproductive health care providers in Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey and Wisconsin asked about contraceptive service provision early in the pandemic (mid-to-late 2020) and later in the pandemic (late 2021). The study describes the impact of the pandemic on the publicly supported family planning network at the provider level. This analysis is part of the Institute’s larger Reproductive Health Impact Study, a research initiative that analyzes the effects of federal and state policy changes on publicly funded family planning care in those four states.  

Clinics that temporarily stopped providing contraceptive services during the pandemic did so for an average of seven months. More sites reported that they had stopped providing long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs, such as IUDs and implants), Pap tests and HPV vaccinations than other methods or services. 

Conversely, clinics were able to expand some services during the pandemic to make them more accessible to patients. For example, some sites reported extending contraceptive prescriptions for established patients without a consultation, and many clinics expanded the use of telehealth for contraceptive counseling and services. These evidence-based solutions were particularly helpful in the face of a global crisis.  

“Telehealth services filled a critical gap in patient access to sexual and reproductive health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and, if properly resourced, hold promise for providing high-quality, patient-centered care beyond the pandemic,” says Mueller. “Policymakers and providers should consider how such options can be permanently incorporated into routine health care services to improve access for all patients.”  

Read the full study here.


About the Reproductive Health Impact Study 

The Reproductive Health Impact Study analyzes the effects of federal and state policy changes on publicly funded family planning care in the United States. The study focuses on Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey and Wisconsin, and the Guttmacher Institute works with research, policy, grantee and provider partners in each state to document the impact of policies implemented from 2017 to 2022 on family planning service delivery and the patients who rely on this care.  

Emerging findings from this study are building a robust evidence base that demonstrates the disruptions to care stemming from ideologically motivated policy attacks on reproductive health services and the detrimental impacts of these attacks on patients and providers. The study findings also significantly enhance the body of evidence regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health service provision.