A reader quotes another:
I am very frustrated with this comment:
Access to medical, dental, and mental care are true human needs. Obamacare should have focused on meeting all those needs, including the mental and dental coverage that too many employers had failed to make available, instead of opting to cover the pill. Except for its palliative uses, the pill is not a form of healthcare.
First, I would ask, why is this an either/or situation? Why pit this one benefit against other benefits? Physical, mental, dental, and reproductive health are all essential human needs. In fact, I would also add vision coverage, as those of us with very bad vision know we cannot operate in the world without the help of optometrists. Shouldn’t we be advocating for a more holistic approach to healthcare and not elevating one type of care over another?
Secondly, I must strongly disagree with the claim that “The pill is not a form of health care.” This is simply erroneous. I know a number of women who take birth control for reasons unrelated to preventing pregnancy. Most of them use it to treat very painful periods or endometriosis. I know one person who uses it as estrogen therapy to treat Turner Syndrome, a genetic condition resulting from a missing X chromosome. In fact, only 42 percent of women use the pill only for contraceptive purposes, according to a 2011 study by the Guttmacher Institute. Maybe your reader does not consider those uses to be a form of healthcare, but most doctors would.
Finally, even preventing pregnancy is healthcare.
Pregnancy is not an illness, but it is a condition that affects a woman’s health. Pregnancy can put some women at great risk, because they have other health problems. For the rest of us who do not currently want to be pregnant, it is a relatively safe and easy method for us to prevent pregnancy – a method that does not require us to rely on a partner’s willingness to wear a condom. Of course, in theory we should all be having sex with partners who are willing to participate in safe sex, but we know that relationship are very imperfect and sometimes dysfunctional or even abusive. The pill is a way for a woman to have autonomous control over their reproductive health. It is a way to prevent a change in one’s health.
Another speaks from personal experience:
Did you notice that health-insurance companies made not a peep about covering birth control? And that they very quickly figured out a way to cover employees of religious hospitals, universities, and other religious employers with separate birth-control policies that would allow the institutions to save face? It is long-run cost savings for them.
I am prescribed “birth control,” which costs $100 a month and does prevent pregnancy – which, as I am 48 years old, is a good thing for me and for all my fellow policyholders. A pregnancy at this point in my life would surely be a very expensive prospect. But more than that, my “birth control” prescription ended the debilitating deluge of menstrual blood that began in my mid-40s, likely caused by the same condition that required my mother to have a hysterectomy at age 48. So my insurance company and fellow policyholders are shelling out $1,200 a year to prevent pregnancy and to prevent an expensive hysterectomy and the subsequent recovery time, which would cost many thousands more.
I expect to be taking this preventive “hysterectomy control” prescription into my early 50s, when my body should end the deluge on its own, thus avoiding an expensive surgical procedure for my insurance company and fellow policyholders, as well as keeping me on the job rather than suffering through the monthly challenge or the surgery that would have been required to stop it. Those savings can eventually be used to pay for expanded coverage of things like dental care – or at least they should.
Another ties the personal issue to a political one:
If Hobby Lobby prevails, their female employees with menorrhagia would have no choices for treatment except surgery – which leaves you unable to later get pregnant and comes with risks not present with the other medical options. “Birth control” is not just birth control. Would a male legislator who had lived one week out of every month bleeding uncontrollably still think it reasonable to deny women access to this treatment?
(Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)