Hopefully you know by now who won the election.
Well on the one hand I would be overjoyed to move on with my life and not talk about politics again ever. On the other hand, I live in a world with a lot of people in it who think people like me have no rights to the things we need, so. Full disclosure: I’m one of those people whose silly belief in “women’s healthcare” impacts my voting more than any other single issue, maybe even climate change.
So I was online last night, poking around because I didn’t want to go to bed yet there wasn’t really anything else to do, when I saw on Facebook that someone I know had posted a comment about how she was sorry to her Republican friends, which I think was honestly some attempt at baiting them, to which a couple responded. One man specifically said that “women in college don’t need free birth control and free abortions on my dollar”.
So I jumped in. Pointed out that studies show 98% of women in the US use birth control at some point in their lives, that that includes women who are single, married, religious, not. It’s not something you get to decide. if it’s freely available, it’s freely available. And that contraceptives being freely available leads to a great reduction in abortions. That, and many women need contraceptive medication to deal with medical problems. You know…the stuff informed people have been writing about almost as long as uninformed people have been making comments about “legitimate” rape. Well, I was informed by this guy that his issue was with coverage, and he pays several thousand a year for his healthcare to get something as good as he has and so forth, adding that maybe women should use their “lady smarts to control their lady parts”.
Yes, really. Because sexist demeaning is cute when it rhymes.
But here is the real problem with birth control coverage as I see it.
- Men can buy contraceptives in almost every grocery store, drug store, and gas station in the country. They can buy them in economy sized packages at places like Wal Mart if they want, they can get them out of super sketchy vending machines.
- Women cannot. They have to go to a doctor.
- For a pill, they have to get a prescription, make sure they don’t have a blood factor or mental factor that will make the medication dangerous, and then they have to go somewhere and get it.
- For an intra-uterine device, which is longterm (many are from 5 to even 10 years), they have to grapple with insurance, should they have it, and possibly not get it covered at all (I was lucky in that case, my insurance fight only lasted a few weeks).
The very fact that a man can buy his birth control with his milk and toilet paper, while a woman has to go to a health care provider, already tips the scales against her.
Add to it that an IUD can cost thousands uninsured, while birth control pills can cost anywhere from 30 to 60 dollars a month, in my experience, without insurance, and you have a serious financial burden. Approve of their behaviour or not, it will be true that younger women, especially single women, will be the ones most unable to shoulder that cost. If she’s using it as birth control, that leaves her to have to trust whatever man she is with instead, and everyone makes mistakes when it comes to trusting people.
You might say that women should just be more careful and not engage in such behaviour. You could also say that about people who keep getting speeding tickets, people who have cholesterol problems but keep eating fried food, or even people who never remember to get their library books renewed.
But let’s go back again to the other fact here, that many women who are married use birth control for family planning. That doesn’t change whether or not they get it covered by insurance though. So by saying that birth control doesn’t need to be covered by insurance, you are making family planning a class issue. You are saying that women who can afford the cost out of pocket deserve to know when they’re going to have kids and how many, while women with less education, lower-paying jobs, or other extenuating circumstances do not. You are saying that wealthier families have the right to decide how many kids they want, and when they want them, while those struggling to get by don’t. Or that they should just rely on a method that can fail up to 18% of the time, rather than something that fails less than 1% of the time.
For those who say that it’s not about rich or poor, it’s about morals or biblical teachings: There is nothing in the Christian or Jewish scriptures that says birth control is unacceptable. On the contrary, Talmudic commentaries (considered by some to be the “oral Torah”, or oral law) contain some of the oldest known discussions of birth control forms and when it is acceptable for women to use birth control and/or have children; it was suggested in these texts that a woman is not required to have children if she was too young, too weak, or nursing a child at the time already, among other things. Would they rather women didn’t have reason to use them if they weren’t married? I’m sure. But men and women also married far younger than they do now; it’s an entirely different society structure.
Bottom line? There were a number of people poised to take power just two days ago who made it clear that a woman’s legitimate medical concerns were not on their agenda, and a large number of the population stated through their votes that this was an attitude they supported. And I have to say that leaves me almost as perplexed as Sarah Palin is when confronted with a president who wins both the electoral college and the popular vote; the defeat of Akin, Mourdock, Walsh, and all their “legitimate” rape definitions; and, I imagine, people who no longer tease their hair.