Archive for the ‘government’ Category

On being peaceful but not pushovers in a Trump Administration

January 20, 2017

I live in downtown DC and have my windows open this Inauguration Day, and I can hear the whirring of helicopter blades ebb and flow as they circle back and forth to monitor protestors. The pops of flash bangs thrown by the police. Sirens have been breezing past all morning and afternoon. I know most of the protests in DC were peaceful, but the one outside my door unfortunately was not.

I have had a lot of ideas about what to write re: Trump, but this seems top of my mind for me right now: Let’s keep our protests against Trump civil. Throwing rocks at police, breaking car windows, and lighting trash cans on fire in the middle of the street threaten to feed Trump’s desire to show how terrible the country is. By lighting that match, folks are quite literally fueling the fire that feeds into the narrative that Trump is spewing to the public, and we don’t need to be doing him any favors. 

It’s not just that protest downtown that count my eye today. I saw an article in The Washington Post today about a 10-year-old boy who was holding a sign with a picture of an aborted fetus, handing out anti-abortion flyers, who was shoved and taunted by protestors. His dad brought him to DC. An anti-Trump protestor ran over and comforted him, saying she didn’t want his experience in DC only to involve hate. What will this impressionable boy leave DC thinking? That those liberal protestors are horrible and cruel, and he is even more confident and resolute in fighting their agenda? That Trump is right about them? These protestors don’t define all protestors we’ll see this weekend, but how can you carry signs that profanely decry Trump as a monster and then adopt his hateful bullying tactics in the next step?

I know not everyone believes in peaceful protest. I know that liberals have been criticized for bringing knives to gun fights, told they are too soft and not willing to do whatever it takes to win. I don’t think liberals can always take the high road, so to speak, if we want to protect progress.

There’s a lot to be angry about as the next administration and Congressional majorities threaten to take away the Affordable Care Act that has helped the poor, the elderly, the extremely sick; to deport 11 million immigrants, some of whom have called the US home for most or all of their lives; to put more guns in schools; to toss violence against women away as unimportant.

Already, the new administration has scrubbed the White House website of pages relating to climate change and LGBT rights. As we watch the administration eliminate the environment and equality as priorities of the president, and as we anticipate further gutting of issues we think are crucial and important, we cannot be pushovers if we want to preserve the progress we’ve made and still can make. We cannot be silent. We cannot do nothing. But the foundation of our fight cannot be violence, unless we want to set that as a precedent – which I sure hope we don’t want to do.

 

Manti Te’o’s hoax overshadowing legit deaths of women

January 17, 2013

An important read by one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Irin Carmon, this piece details how the Manti Te’o scandal has overshadowed the death of an actual Notre Dame student — a suicide reportedly tied to intimidation by football players regarding sexual assault allegations.

Media-wise, it’s similar to the recent murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. Horrific as it was, the way it was spun by many sports outlets was even more horrific — what a terrible tragedy that this football player killed himself, rather than — what a terrible tragedy that this football player murdered his girlfriend and the mother of her child.

And all this Manti Te’o hoopla, mixed with Lance Armstrong nonsense, has likely overshadowed that the autopsy for the Belcher shooting came back a few days ago. His BAC was twice the legal limit, and he had actually been found by police hours earlier sleeping in his idle car. According to Missouri law, they could’ve booked him on driving under the influence. Instead, they let him “go inside a nearby apartment to sleep it off.”

The apartment he wanted to go to was his mistress’s, who he had been with the night before. Instead, he went to a different apartment, slept a few hours, returned home, fought with his girlfriend, and then shot her nine times. Nine.

It’s a terrible disservice to Kasandra Perkins and Lizzy Seeburg that their tragic deaths are overshadowed by a story like this, of an imaginary girlfriend — that they just didn’t have enough shock value to keep people’s attention.

But along the lines of Carmon’s piece — she states “no one should be surprised” by the oversight of Seeburg’s suicide — maybe the saddest part is that these deaths aren’t that shocking considering the circumstances. Football players from a violent game being aggressive and/or violent off the field isn’t much of a stretch. But for some reason, that doesn’t make us any better at predicting the aggressive behavior.

What else can we get better at predicting? Drunk people have poor judgment, so they shouldn’t be let off for drunk driving with just a warning. Offenders will likely offend again, so incidents shouldn’t be quickly dismissed for the sake of a sport. Let’s focus on these cracks in the system — which affect tons of people — instead of one guy’s catfish/ill-fated sob story.

VAWA and why 2013 is already a lot like 2012

January 7, 2013

In addition to stressing out less and purchasing a cat condo, another big New Year’s resolution is blogging regularly again. And why not? Politicians haven’t resolved to stop screwing over women, so there’s plenty to write about!

While everyone’s focused on falling off the fiscal cliff, I’m worried about the Violence Against Women’s Act non-passage. VAWA has been routinely passed without a hassle since its inception in 1994 (thanks, Joe Biden!), but this year Republicans and Democrats deadlocked on some of the additional provisions. SUBDUE YOUR SHOCK.

VAWA has been really, really, really helpful for survivors of domestic abuse — it helps them find housing in case their residence is compromised by stalking or abuse, provides legal assistance, provides funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines, and works to improve awareness about domestic violence.

So what’s there not to like about a program that educates citizens, law enforcement, and the judicial branch about domestic violence while also providing much needed resources to victims?

One of the criticisms — and pardon me if my brain actually implodes from typing this bullshit nonsense out — is that same-sex couples are not legally recognized by the federal government as couples, so LGBT peoples shouldn’t be covered. Ah, yep, I think my brain melted a little bit because that is just absolutely asinine and illogical — the “w” = women, thought that was pretty clear and inclusive.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) calls it a “side issue” that should be based on how the government decides to categorize same-sex couples. Heaven forbid reality — that same-sex couples can be in abusive relationships — dictate the law so people get help they actually need. 

Also, there’s the proposed law’s expanded jurisdiction to Native American tribes. Rapes among Native American women and the total lack of resources — both legally and socially, in the form of education throughout the community — leave sexual assault scarily as the rule rather than the exception.

Read this article about the topic. It’s troubling that both the DOJ and tribal governments don’t do much to make women feel safe in reporting sexual assault or justice in convicting those who do it.

So… why are we still selectively protecting women’s rights? Just when I’m all excited that birth control is free thanks to Obamacare and Planned Parenthood isn’t going to be erased from the planet by a new president, 2013 serves a swift kick in the ass — and a much-needed reality check that there’s still plenty to be done on the equality front.

But perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope from the last round of elections and all the failed candidates who felt obligated to talk about rape as if it was a blessing/deserved/not that big of a deal. Voters didn’t agree. Voters don’t like violence against women. Maybe it’s time to listen to the constituents?

Santorum: Life-saving abortion not OK (unless it’s my wife)

January 7, 2012

I’ve been a bit zoned out of this race for the Republican presidential nomination, but I’ve known one thing for a very long time: I don’t like Rick Santorum.

He’s sexist (thinks women should stay at home and not work; he wants to eliminate federal funding for contraception; and don’t worry, his stance on abortion is the meat of this blog post); he’s racist (saying just last week in Iowa that he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money”; he also said last year that Obama should be anti-abortion because he’s black, which could be taken in several racism-driven directions); and he’s homophobic (he wants the tax code to reward traditional, heterosexual married couples; he’s compared homosexuality to loving your mother-in-law, incest, adultery, polygamy, and bigamy).

Keeping with his tendency to spout complete bullshit out of his mouth that makes no sense at all, it’s impossible to ignore his stance on abortion. That it should be banned even in cases of rape and incest; that he thinks exceptions to save the life of the mother are bogus; and even that abortion is to blame for Social Security problems.

Which is why I find it so interesting that his own wife suffered pregnancy complications that threatened her own life, leading to the induced delivery of a fetus that was not, and would have never been, viable. There is debate on whether this was an abortion (his wife went into early labor, and doctors induced further rather than trying to stop the labor), but I agree with Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan on this: The real problem here is extremists who outright condemn something like, say, taking any medical steps to save the life of the mother if those will harm the fetus — that is, until that fetus is harming someone who they care about.

Because really, it’s easy to stand at a podium and say abortion is murder, but it’s more complicated than that. Many abortions, especially late-term abortions, are because of medical complications that threaten the mother’s life and/or make the fetus inviable. Karen Santorum’s fetus was actually becoming an infection that would inevitably become fatal, so how would letting her die be some heroic move? How are all-out abortion bans anything but a manifestation of stubbornness, an unwillingness to admit that, yes, unfortunately, the body can naturally struggle with a pregnancy? Things go wrong, and the priority should be ensuring that the mother doesn’t die in the process.

But it’s different when suddenly it’s not some un-wed teenage mother trying to get an abortion — suddenly, it’s your sister; your wife; your friend; suddenly, politicians are faced with the shocking fact that pregnancies with complications can happen to them, and that women — who have only been seen as baby incubators in campaign speeches — actually have names, faces, families, and futures. That life-saving procedures aren’t just “tactics” to foil abortion bans, but they are “tactics” to save lives.

I think that’s about the end of my rant — anti-abortion politicians aren’t my cup of tea, but those who want all-out abortion bans, even when the mother’s life is in danger, really baffle me. But I think when actually faced with a situation where these politicians’ relatives and loved ones were the women who might die without medical intervention — which would subsequently end the pregnancy — they wouldn’t be singing the same tune.

As Ryan said it best, this is called “hypocrisy,” so I’ll add yet another thing to list of reasons why I don’t like Rick Santorum: He’s a hypocrite.

Report confirms abstinence-only & anti-Planned-Parenthood arguments are illogical

August 24, 2011

This review from the Guttmacher Institute about unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S. has some really interesting, telling statistics. Not only is there basic info about unintended pregnancy rates per capita, but it also includes numbers — by state — on percentages of total pregnancies that are unintended, how much it costs the state, how many were publicly funded, and how much the rate would increase in the absence of clinic services, a la family-planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.

These statistics tell important narratives in the face of attacks on reproductive rights and comprehensive sex education. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, recently was asked by a reporter why he advocated abstinence-only education when it obviously isn’t working, as Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Perry’s response was basically, “Nuh-uh!” But taking a look at these statistics, it’s very clear that Texas has a problem with unintended pregnancies generally.

Texas has the second-highest number of unintended pregnancies in the country, which is no surprise given its large population. Per capita, its rate is 11th highest, overshadowed by states like Mississippi, California, Delaware, Nevada, and also the District of Columbia. Texas, however, is the second-highest spender on public funds when it comes to births from unintended pregnancies. It’s obvious that abstinence-only education is not only inefficient, but that the unintended pregnancies resulting from lack of education about or access to contraception really takes a toll on the budget.

The report says that women who use contraception consistently account for 5 percent of unintended pregnancies. So if 95 percent of unintended pregnancies are from women not using contraception consistently or at all, doesn’t it make sense to focus on education and access to contraception? Yep. Wouldn’t it be more fiscally conservative to educate people about contraception so that they can better prevent these unintended pregnancies, thereby also saving the government money? Yep.

That’s where these ideas of being fiscally conservative smash into moral ideology — which is more important, legislating your personal religious beliefs or adopting a curriculum that best guarantees lowering these rates and consequently the funds spent on them? I’d say the latter.

Another statistic that really struck me was how much the number of unintended pregnancies would increase without family-planning clinics. States where legislators have succeeded in denying state funding for Planned Parenthood — Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin — could see their rates of unintended pregnancy increase by 50, 38, 34, 32, and 55 percent, respectively. And these attempts to defund are attempts to shut down these clinics because 3 percent of what they do is abortions. Can you really look at these numbers, see how dramatically rates of unintended pregnancy would increase without these clinics, and tell me that closing them is a great idea?

The Guttmacher report is only five pages long, and it’s definitely worth reading even if just for the charts and graphs. If you think there are a lot of unintended pregnancies now, just think how that number will skyrocket without clinics like Planned Parenthood. Vermont’s rate would jump 116 percent. Alaska’s would swell by 96 percent. If legislators want to “make a point” by defunding family-planning clinics, these numbers show they’ll definitely make a point — that they are incompetent.

What do shoes, Frappuccino and birth control have in common?

August 5, 2011

That unlike many women in this country, Fox News commentator Dana Perino can afford all three, or at least that’s what I infer from this tidbit:

Now, I might be for [free birth control], if I didn’t see a lot of people out there able to buy a new pair of shoes. I mean, we have to be able to make some choices here … How are we going to define poor? Because who is not in that category now who can’t get free birth control anyway? … If you can afford a $5 Frappuccino at Starbucks, look, you can pay your $5 co-pay.

Where oh where to begin? I guess I’ll just make a list:

  1. Sometimes people need new shoes? Is Dana Perino’s definition of poor that you need to be walking around barefoot and unable to afford a pair of shoes, and then she’ll consider that you need free birth control? People just don’t look poor enough to her yet. Maybe she means that she sees a lot of people buying shoes, and knows they are buying Louboutins instead of a Nuva Ring? Maybe the “lot of people” you see buying shoes aren’t the same ones who can’t afford birth control. Just a thought.
  2. We do have to be able to make some choices! Like the choice not to get pregnant! But it’s unfortunate when things like income don’t cover or just barely cover bills, basic necessities, etc. That often takes away women’s financial ability to afford birth control, which takes away her choice to prevent unplanned pregnancies. I know, I know, maybe she just shouldn’t have sex. Shouldn’t a woman have the choice to engage in intercourse though? How about with her husband? I guess this point is moot if you think sex is only for procreation, as you probably wouldn’t want women to have the choice to have sex for pleasure at all.
  3. You know, free birth control currently doesn’t just fall from the sky. When you try to take away government funding for family-planning clinics like Planned Parenthood or shut down family-planning clinics by re-regulating them as hospitals, you are attacking the very institutions that give out that free birth control. So yeah, thanks for suggesting women already have places to go for free birth control while simultaneously trying to shut those places down. That makes a lot of sense.
  4. You know, this “you aren’t poor unless you can’t afford to put shoes on your feet” definition for low-income is a bit ridiculous. There are plenty of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, and birth control isn’t “free” for them using a sliding scale like Planned Parenthood does when deciding how much patients will owe for birth control. There are a lot of women who fall into this “I make too much money to qualify for free birth control,” but “I don’t make enough money to afford expensive co-pays” category.

    Also, being poor doesn’t mean that free birth control magically appears on your doorstep. Being eligible to “get” it and actually having the means to “get” it are different. You have to travel to get it. Sometimes, you have to travel really far to get it, because there are only one or two places in your entire state where you can get free birth control. That takes time, a mode of transportation, and the money to use that transportation. I guess you could walk a few hundred miles to get there, just don’t let Dana catch you buying new shoes for the journey.

  5. Does everyone really think birth control only costs $5? Some generic, really popular forms do, but not all birth controls are made alike. Women react differently to different kinds, health histories would steer your doctor away from prescribing you certain kinds, and they can cost $50 or more per co-pay. That’s a lot of foregone Frappuccinos.

    Not all forms are taken orally, either. Nuva Rings and IUDs are very effective, but Nuva Rings cost $50 or more each month, and an IUD is an upfront cost of $175 to $500. Now if I just stop drinking my daily frappuccino before work, I can afford an IUD in … five months. Oh, that’s assuming I have enough money to enjoy an expensive drink at Starbucks everyday, but really, who doesn’t?

And she wasn’t the only one with something to say about birth control. Also on the panel was Andrea Tantaros:

Most poor people can [afford birth control], it’s already provided. Why should taxpayers have to fund breast pumps, birth control — look, women should be responsible for their own ovaries. That is the bottom line.

I think we already covered that not everyone has access to and/or should be taking the free or relatively cheap kinds of birth control. Taxpayers should fund it because birth control for all women serves a greater community purpose. Fewer unplanned pregnancies, less strain on government assistance, less people needing to forego an education to take care of a child — all good things.

But I’m so glad to see Andrea talking about women being responsible for their own ovaries! Women should be responsible for their own ovaries, in fact, their entire uterus and all those other reproductive organs, too. Which is why they want to take birth control, but there are financial barriers that make it difficult to do consistently or at all. So this removal of co-pay only facilitates responsibility!

All this talk about women having choices and how their ovaries are their own responsibility makes for great pro-choice arguments! Thanks for the talking points, ladies!

(Thanks to Ms. for originally blogging about this.) 

 

 

College-aged veterans 6 times more likely to attempt suicide

August 4, 2011

Today USA Today reported that college-aged veterans are six times more likely to attempt suicide than other college students, and are at an even higher suicide risk than veterans who go to the Veterans Affairs (VA) office for help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

As the article notes, research on veterans and PTSD is usually done on veterans in general, but not focused on young, college-aged people specifically. Though the results of this research are jolting, they aren’t necessarily surprising. Studies show that the brain doesn’t fully mature until a person reaches their mid-20s, and that adolescent brains have more difficulty dealing with stress than adults whose brains have fully matured. Coping with trauma is that much more difficult for a younger veteran.

And it’s unclear whether colleges have the health services needed to help treat PTSD symptoms. Some colleges have VA offices, and the VA has a program called “VetSuccess” to help veterans transition back into civilian life, complete with an on-campus arm, but this program is only at eight campuses nationwide. Student health services alone can’t be relied on — at my alma mater, the counseling services available carried a two- or three-week wait time and were only free for the first few visits.

Aside from a lack of treatment options, trying to assimilate back to civilian life at college — possibly away from your support system — heightens the feelings of isolation that already come with PTSD. Luckily, there are chapters of Student Veterans of America (SVA) across the country, which help fight that feeling of isolation and the stress of adapting to a new environment by connecting student veterans on campus and providing other college- and career-related resources.

Some cities do have specialized programs for young veterans, such asVetSTRONG in San Francisco, and in 2008 the Department of Labor started the “American’s Heroes at Work” project to help veterans with traumatic brain injury and/or PTSD find jobs after returning to civilian life. More attention is being paid to young veterans, especially as they are re-deployed for multiple tours of duty, but a lot of these organizations are still in their infancy. This means the programs themselves might be smaller and less accessible to some vets, or that young vets might not be aware they exist.

So while there has been progress recently (likely in response to research that said one in five veterans returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have symptoms of PTSD), many college campuses still simply don’t have the proper tools to deal with combat-related PTSD. The authors of the study suggest colleges increase screening for PTSD if students have been in the military, possibly catching signs of suicidal tendencies or behavior early on. That, along with a widespread and dedicated attempt to raise awareness about student veteran support groups and access to treatment resources, will be key to lowering this high rate of attempted suicide among college-aged veterans.

Do you think you might have PTSD symptoms, or know someone who does? Click here and read about the symptoms of PTSD.

Do you think someone you know is suicidal? Click here and read about suicide prevention, and pay special attention to signs of suicidal behavior that are specific to veterans. Click here for more information and resources about suicide prevention.

The VA has a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline that you can call if you are either contemplating suicide or a family member or friend might be contemplating suicide: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Click here to start your own chapter or affiliate a current student veteran organization with SVA. 

Find your local VA center by clicking here.

Replying to more arguments regarding no-cost birth control

July 26, 2011

Since writing about birth control access last week, I’ve come across a few more arguments in the comments section of this blog/my OpenSalon version of this blog that I’d like to address:

  • Condoms aren’t that expensive, why not just use those?
  • $50 isn’t that much money, you can easily forgo excesses and scrape together the money for a co-pay.
  • If you can’t afford birth control and don’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex.

Firstly, condoms are cheaper than a lot of types of birth control. But two methods are always better than one, especially if you’re concerned that a condom will break and you — as the woman — could get pregnant. For me, it’s important to know that I have control over my reproductive health, and condoms alone don’t fulfill that sense of security. It’s also important to know that should a condom fail, you’re taking another form of birth control as an added preventive measure against an unplanned pregnancy.

Secondly, $50 isn’t that much money to some people, but just because you could easily scrape together $50 by going out to the bars less or eating out less doesn’t mean other people could. Some women and families already aren’t doing those things and struggle financially, and to them $50 is a lot of money each month. Also, as one commenter pointed out on a previous birth control blog, some clinics that offer low-cost birth control do so in a lump sum. So the price is reasonable per month, but you pay for everything up front — is $150 as easy to gather just by nixing pizza for a month?

Another problem with this mentality is that scraping together money for birth control each month is not a stable way to ensure birth control access. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you’ll only successfully scrape together enough money for birth control as long as no other unexpected expenses come your way. Say you save $50 for your co-pay, and then your car breaks down. The bill is $300 — how are you going to pay for birth control now? This leaves women using it inconsistently — a major problem that leads to unplanned pregnancies.

Thirdly, the “just don’t have sex” argument is logical but not practical. True, if people don’t want to get pregnant then they could just not have sex. This is the theme of abstinence-only education, which studies show is less effective at preventing pregnancies than comprehensive sex education because just saying “don’t do it” isn’t efficient. What is efficient is giving people the tools and knowledge they need to practice safe sex.

Some people will probably never agree here, because one side sees this as preventive and the other side sees it as enabling. I see it as realistic. Yes, yes, I hear the people in the “actions have consequences and if you can’t handle having a baby then don’t have sex” corner, but that argument just turns a blind eye to how people actually act. People will have sex, and sure, you can punish them by ensuring birth control is inaccessible so either they have to abide by your moral compass or risk an unplanned pregnancy. Or, you can admit that it’s better for everyone involved that we accept people will have sex outside of procreation purposes and that ensuring unplanned pregnancies don’t lead to abortions or unhealthy babies is more important than winning a standoff because you refuse to compromise.

Sounds like a common theme lately in politics …

Replying to my mom’s concerns about no-cost birth control

July 21, 2011

This blog was submitted to the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood’s Birth Control Blog Carnival (BCBC) — view all the BCBC posts here.

While discussing birth control access and the upcoming decision on whether birth control copays will be eliminated, my mom made the following three points:

  • Birth control is cheaper than the cost of a baby.
  • Can’t women get birth control at free clinics?
  • But taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for other people’s birth control.

My mom is always useful for providing a mainstream, moderate voice to counter my oftentimes liberal voice (you may remember reading about her disgust at my using a menstrual cup). So if word on the street is that women just need to do a better cost-benefit analysis, find a free clinic, and stop thinking they can mooch off taxpayers to get free birth control, then it’s time to set the record straight.

Firstly, yes, birth control is undoubtedly cheaper than the cost of a child. But if cost is what’s stopping women from taking birth control, then likely women are simply risking unplanned pregnancy to spend that birth control money on other bills and expenses. It’s like if you can’t afford insurance — yes, you are well aware that the cost of renters insurance is cheaper than the cost of, say, replacing everything you own if your apartment burns to the ground, but the chances seem so slim and your money is needed for immediate expenses. When faced with immediate repercussions versus future consequences, we often focus on the immediate.

So that argument does well from a, “Well, you should have done your research,” chastising standpoint, but it doesn’t really seem to grasp that people know there are risks but simply have to choose how to allocate their limited finances. That’s why no-cost birth control — which eliminates out-of-pocket costs for women — would be such a breakthrough for birth control accessibility and unplanned pregnancy prevention.

Secondly, women can get birth control at free clinics — assuming that they are close to where they live and aren’t currently closing because of state laws aimed to shut down family-planning clinics that provide abortion services. For instance, Planned Parenthood has a free birth control program, but these programs are in danger thanks to state and federal attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. And some states only have a few of these clinics, so traveling there for free birth control would take a sizable amount of time and money.

You can go here and find a list of family-planning clinics that offer reduced but not necessarily free birth control, though these are Title X funded and could be in danger depending on legislative attempts to deny Title X funds to family-planning clinics. It’s easy enough to say, “Just go to Planned Parenthood,” but low-income women are going to run out of places to turn for affordable contraception if politicians keep trying to defund and close down these clinics. Yet another reason no-cost birth control is so important.

Thirdly, you’re already subsidizing other people’s lifestyle choices. On the list of preventive services already covered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there are items regarding obesity, tobacco, alcohol, STIs — you could craft an argument for most of the list that your tax dollars are enabling someone else’s poor decision somewhere along the line. This also sounds like the argument some elderly people make for not wanting to pay for school levies — they have no connection to the school system so why should they pay for it? Well, because education has a greater community purpose.

And birth control serves a community purpose, too. By planning pregnancies, women (and men) can better focus on getting an education, following career goals, and ensuring that if they do want to plan a pregnancy, they are in a solid place financially and emotionally to make that decision. Healthier babies, fewer abortions, less need for government assistance, people being able to get an education and jobs — these all benefit society as a whole.

Want to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to put birth control on the list of preventive services? Sign the petition here.

It’s time to repave the bumpy road to birth control access

July 20, 2011

This blog was submitted to the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood’s Birth Control Blog Carnival (BCBC) — view all the BCBC posts here.

If the obstacles to birth control accessibility were like potholes in the road, things like social stigma and conscience clauses would be cracks compared to the sinkhole that financial barriers are to women seeking contraception. A great help to smooth this road to accessibility would be its inclusion in preventive services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a move that would mean women no longer need to pay copays for birth control.

I actually used to think copays weren’t so bad — I was on my dad’s insurance plan in college, and I was prescribed a birth control that had a generic, $5 form. Five bucks every month? Even as a college student that was affordable. Then I graduated, got dropped from my dad’s insurance plan, and to boot my OB/GYN was concerned about the brand I was taking. My periods could be lighter, shorter, why don’t I try something new?

Sure, I thought — what could be bad about that? And then in addition to my prescription, I got a coupon to use at the pharmacy. You know your birth control is expensive when your OB/GYN hands you a card that will cap your birth control copay. It cost me $24 for this brand, which didn’t have a generic form. This pill had too many ill side effects, so I got switched to another no-generic brand that cost $35 per month. Somehow, the cost of my birth control managed to increase 700 percent in less than a year.

I was lucky in that, despite a three-month bout of unemployment, I never had to go without birth control to pay other bills or expenses. But that isn’t the case for everyone — in fact, the cost of this preventive health measure actually prevents a lot of women from either starting to take or regularly taking birth control because of high copays.

Some people want to argue about the merits of calling birth control “preventive,” that it implies pregnancy is a disease — those arguments are nothing but games of semantics that, by the way, ignore that some items already included as preventive services under PPACA are not directly preventing diseases, either. Birth control is the epitome of preventive — it prevents unplanned pregnancies, prevents the risks then associated with unplanned pregnancies because women don’t know they’re pregnant, and inevitably prevents abortions.

I’ve had experience with the other accessibility roadblocks, too — a friend of mine couldn’t get a prescription from any doctor in her doctor’s office because one of the doctors had religious objections to birth control (and for some reason it was OK for the entire office then to deny writing the prescriptions because of this?); I have felt awkward asking for birth control because I was young and felt my OB/GYN would stun me with judgmental eyes. But to avoid or breakthrough these roadblocks just to be met with a copay that could exceed $50 every month? A copay that could equal or surpass, say, your electric bill? A copay that for other preventive health services doesn’t exist? It’s like staring at the road wondering, “Why are they filling all these other potholes and just ignoring this huge one in the middle of the road?”

And it’s essential for women’s health that this pothole be filled because a different one is rapidly growing, courtesy of politicians who have set their sights on attacking women’s health. Their attempts to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood — which overwhelmingly works to provide low-income women with affordable contraception and health services like breast cancer screenings, pap tests, and STI testing — serve as the latest obstacle to affordable birth control and healthcare. In this atmosphere, a detour in the form of eliminated copays is welcome and necessary — Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan put it best when she said that this possibility seems like “a glimmer of hope that maybe the government doesn’t actually hate us after all.”

The Institute of Medicine has recommended to Department of Health and Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that birth control be included as a preventive health service, and I really, really, sincerely hope that it is. Cost is a huge roadblock for people who want to take but can’t always afford preventive measures, so lifting this barrier would be a monumental for women’s healthcare and contraceptive access.

Want to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to accept the IOM’s recommendations? Sign the petition here.