How Far We Haven’t Come With Access To Affordable Contraceptives

 How do we not have access to affordable contraceptives by now?

How do we not have access to affordable contraceptives by now?

My first job out of college was at a small, private company in a rural college town. It came with all the trappings of what I thought a full-time job should have: salary, vacation and sick days, and health insurance. My dad called me one afternoon soon after I started: “Hey, honey, I know you’re still at work, but I just want to make sure you have health insurance because your mom and I can’t have you on our plan anymore. You’re at the age cutoff.” This was well before parents or guardians could keep dependents on their insurance until age 26. I was 22 and an independent woman who was doing all the adult things. I assured my dad, “Yes, I have health insurance. Don’t worry.” I felt so grown up.

One day my female boss said, with a flick of her hand, “Our insurance doesn’t cover birth control, but it covers Viagra.” 

She rolled her eyes.

Wait. What? 

This was a record-scratch moment for me. I remembered looking through the insurance plan material and didn’t remember anything about birth control being excluded. A panic set in. I needed birth control. I went home that evening and scoured the health insurance booklet — this was before all the things were on the Internet. My boss wasn’t entirely right. Birth control was covered, but only for medical reasons. She was 100% correct about the Viagra thing.

I was in my early 20s and didn’t know how to do to feminism quite yet, but a rage about injustice started to grow within me. I wasn’t about to let whatever this bullshit was keep me from getting the birth control I needed for none-of-your-business reasons. 

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When it came time for my annual gynecologist visit, I carefully selected a woman nurse practitioner as my provider. I knew a few minutes into my appointment that I chose correctly. 

“I see you’re taking birth control pills, but your insurance doesn’t cover them unless they’re for medical reasons. Do you have cramps during your period?” she asked, in a no-nonsense tone. 

“I do. Sometimes the cramps are really bad,” I responded, not lying. 

She diagnosed me with dysmenorrhea, which is painful cramping during your period — a medical reason. She wrote me a prescription for birth control pills, and I got them filled for a small co-pay. I count myself lucky. My life could have taken a very different path if things hadn’t worked out this way.

But we’ve come a long way in the 16 years since I had to game the system to get the birth control I needed for none-of-you-business reasons. Wait! Actually, no we haven’t. Things are on the cusp of being worse. Trump recently signed an executive order that will allow individual companies to object to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (and therefore not cover it under their health insurance plans) based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “sincere moral convictions.” Well, at least they’re being sincere. 

Hold your uteruses, ladies.  

I listened to an NPR radio show recently on this topic. The show takes callers from all walks of life and all viewpoints. It’s great to hear differing opinions, but this show left me shaking with rage hours after it ended. 

Several callers had OPINIONS about this new, misguided, and utterly asinine executive order. So many misguided opinions. Here are the highlights:

Contraceptives are affordable and easily accessible. Just jog on down to you local university health center and grab yourself a handful “prophylactics.” 

It’s so simple, ladies! Just waltz right in and grab a big ‘ol handful of condoms so you can have the sex with the men. As to how these “free” and “easily accessible” condoms help with your cramps, acne, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or other health conditions that are managed with lady hormonal birth control, well, only time will tell, I guess. But wait, I have some questions. What if my university medical center doesn’t have a bowl full of “prophylactics” sitting out like beacons of bang candy? Should I ask if they have any behind the counter? What if my university has a sincere disbelief in birth control? What if I don’t have a local university health center nearby?! Yikes! Planned Parenthood… oh, right, never mind. And, dammit, another other pesky question: WHAT IF I WANT LADY BIRTH CONTROL? You know, for me, and for me to be in complete control of? I’ll happily pair my birth control with condoms to be completely safe. Wouldn’t want those “free” and “easily accessible” condoms to go to waste, now would we? 

Intercourse is a choice, and taxer payers shouldn't be paying for you not to get pregnant. 

Well, according to you, they’re not going to pay for me to have a baby I can’t afford either, so aren’t we in a pickle? Oh, I’m supposed to not have sex? How’s that going to work with you taking Viagra and me sitting over here with my legs crossed? Well, I guess I can just take care of things myself, but variety is nice. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t maintaining the ability to get a boner still a choice? Maybe I don’t feel like paying for your wood. Sorry, not sorry.

If you have a medical condition that requires contraceptives for treatment and your employer doesn't cover birth control, just find another job. 

Golly, thanks for explaining that to my lady brain. So, I should just find another job? Like, just walk in anywhere and ask, “Do you offer birth control coverage on your health care plan? Good! I’d like a job, please! When can I start?!” Yeah, that’s not how things work. Maybe you should just not be an uncaring asshole. Hmm? 

I don’t know why we’re still debating affordable and accessible birth control or why this administration is focusing on destroying it now when things are literally on fire, and there are so many devastated areas and people in need. But, yes, let’s dive into the real issue: uteruses. This is why we march.


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