Saturday, August 6, 2011

5 Perspectives on the Recent Birth Control Ruling

Imagine how happy I was to find this message sitting in my inbox Monday morning:

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will require all new insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays under the new health reform law. This is one of the biggest victories for women’s health in a generation.

It feels like we're part of history here, doesn't it? This ruling is a huge, exciting deal, and it's been fun to see the feminist community alive with celebration these past few days. The fight for women's rights is a long, brutal one, but victories like these make it all worth it.

Since the "birth control conversation" is often restricted to the twenties-and-older sphere, I wanted to get some younger perspectives on this momentous ruling. Naturally, I turned to my feminist blogger friends!

Perspective #1: Talia P. (Star of Davida)

I don’t think I have to tell any American how much medical insurance stinks nowadays. Between the poor economy, unemployment rate, and increasingly expensive cost of living, among all the other blechy, costly stuff we have to deal with, most people are forced to view medication as a luxury. One of my mom’s doctors told her that he had prescribed Lipitor for another patient, and the patient told him that it was a choice between buying food and paying for the prescription. Thankfully, women will no longer have to make the Hobson’s choice between necessary items and birth control.

Birth control is an absolute staple of a truly feminist society. If women don’t have easy access to birth control (whether in the form of a diaphragm, pill, or whatever else), then they aren’t able to effectively control their bodies, the ultimate feminist goal. So if a woman has to pay some ridiculous co-pay for it (one of my mom’s meds is $180), that sort of defeats the whole purpose. That’s why this ruling is absolutely awesome  women now have a real choice. I know a lot of people think the term “birth control” is a euphemism, but I really think it’s a great description of what it really is: controlling if/when you want to try to have a child with your significant other.

No co-pay birth control is also important for women who need the Pill to treat cramps during their periods. I’m lucky, since all I need are a couple of Advils and I’m a happy camper, but a number of my friends would be climbing up the walls in pain if they weren’t on the Pill. I’m sure that it’s a relief for them, and all the other dysmenorrheal women out there, not to have to pay co-pays for it anymore.

So, I think it’s absolutely awesome that there are no longer any co-pays for birth control. Even if I didn’t, it would be too bad  the ruling was already made!

Perspective #2: Randi S. (The Radical Idea)

This ruling has truly been an amazing victory, reaffirming a woman's right to control her own fertility, something that has been battled over for 50 years. The United States, as a leader in global family planning programs, has set an important example with this decision by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. They have also struck an incredible blow against opponents of Planned Parenthood by reaffirming the immense importance that women have access to preventative healthcare.  

But moreover, this is an important step in ensuring that women all over our country continue to have access to birth control, even as the battle over the organizations that distribute the Pill are waged. Because this announcement comes from the federal level, it sends a message to the states that they need to look out for women and protect women's health.  Especially at a time when it seems like there is constant fighting over Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations, it is reassuring to know that at least some parts of our government (HHS, the Dept of Justice) are still looking out, not for their political careers, but for the American people.

Randi is doing a similar post on her blog, The Radical Idea. If you'd like to submit your opinion about the HHS birth control ruling or the recent victory for Planned Parenthood in Kansas, please email her at!

Perspective #3: Becka W. (Becka Tells It All)

So the Department of Health recently announced that all insurance providers in new plans must completely cover birth control  which means that the Department of Health (and the Obama Administration) is an advocate for women’s health and freedom. Here’s why:

  • Birth Control isn’t just for pregnancy prevention. Birth Control also helps regulate a woman’s period, ease crippling cramps, and prevent diseases like ovarian cancer and anemia. 
  • This enables all women to feel free to live their lives the way they choose. It’s no secret that birth control can get expensive. Many women pay $50+ a month for birth control. That’s $600 a year  minimum. 
  • More than half of women in the U.S. ages 18-34 say that these high costs make it difficult for them to use birth control consistently. And it’s no secret that birth control access, like health care, is unequal. Nearly 60% of young adult Latinas and more than half of African-American women have struggled to pay for prescription birth control. 
  • Even abortion can carry a huge price tag or be difficult to obtain in many states thanks to changing laws, and women with unintended pregnancies may end up with less education, earn less, and their children are less likely to graduate high school. 
  • It’s actually going to help balance the Federal Budget! Accidental pregnancy costs taxpayers $11 billion a year  and that’s a conservative estimate.  
  • The new law doesn’t only require birth control coverage  it also covers co-pays for cervical cancer/HPV screenings, counseling/screening for HIV and STDs, and other important care. 
  • This is a huge deal, and one of the biggest successes in women’s sexual health and freedom since Roe v. Wade (which has been challenged by conservative opponents more often than not in the past 30 years). Making health care for women a priority is a definite victory for us for years to come.

But  the fight isn’t over yet. The HHS is considering the inclusion of a clause that allows some religious employers to deny women access to this care. They are taking comments on the ruling for 60 days, and now is your chance to speak out and tell them you support ALL women receiving the care they need! 

Perspective #4: Sophie R. (Grrrl Beat) 

Though obviously a very happy victory, the news of the HHS’s requirement for insurance companies to provide no co-pay birth control was a surprise. From Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics closing across the country, to the much less serious premier of a pro-life horror film called The Life Zone, this year has not been so good for women’s reproductive health rights.

The HHS’s decision is a huge step forward for women’s reproductive health, and an equally huge blow to the Republicans' “War on Women." In addition to birth control, the no co-pay coverage will also include yearly preventative-care visits; STI, HPV, and HIV screenings; gestational diabetes testing; and more. Yes, women will still have to pay for insurance (unlike some countries that distribute birth control completely free of charge), but even so, this decision is a huge improvement for women’s healthcare in the U.S.

As with anything that acknowledges a woman’s right to have control over her body (god forbid!), there has been a lot of criticism. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said in response: “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, they’re not going to use birth control anyways.” Beyond being completely offensive, this statement ignores the fact that insurance companies will be providing birth control pills, not just immediate-effect contraceptives like the ones O’Reilly refers to. Fox News political commentator Dana Perino added: “If you can afford a $5 frappuccino at Starbucks, you can pay your $5 co-pay.”

I don’t think that one is worth refuting.

What these misguided (and quite amusing) critics don’t acknowledge (along with facts and common sense) is that the question of no co-pay birth control is one of equality. When women are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for reproductive health care a year that men don’t have to pay, that tips the already unbalanced scale even further against women. With the HHS’s decision, that scale tips a little closer to equilibrium.

Perspective #5: Catelyn B. (Throw Back Rag)

I think this is great! every woman should have access to birth control no matter what! "It's our birth control and we want it now!"

Further Reading:

Want to know more about the HHS ruling or contraception in general? These resources were provided to me by a representative of the National Women's Law Center!


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