Last week, challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers cover birth control in full sprang up as Obama finalized the policy for religious and religious-affiliated employers. As of Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized provisions in the Affordable Care Act that make it possible for all women to access birth control for whatever reason it may be, and no matter who employs them.
I, like many other women in the United States and in the world, take birth control. I personally take birth control not to control my reproduction, but for medical reasons. I’m not alone. And when my opportunities to access affordable birth control are threatened, so is my ability to lead a happy and healthy life.
Not every woman who uses birth control uses it to prevent pregnancy. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, over 1.5 million women in the United States use birth control exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes. Furthermore, 58% of women who take the birth control pill take it for reasons beyond contraception.
As a young woman who has experienced life without the completely necessary bodily regulation that birth control provides, I’m dismayed that this legislation takes religious exemptions more seriously than health reasons. By focusing on “birth control” instead of focusing on what the pill actually has the capabilities to do, people often forget that there are a significant number of people like myself who rely on this prescription for very legitimate medical reasons.
Without insurance coverage, birth control can be quite expensive and according to USA Today can cost up to $1,000 a year for coverage. As a college student who relies heavily on financial aid and loans, I can only imagine what $1,000 means for a low-income woman and/or her family. And for the 82% of teen girls who use the pill for non-contraceptive reasons, if under a parent’s insurance plan that does not cover birth control due to religious exemption, she will have to pay completely out of pocket for the necessary prescription. It isn’t likely that many college-aged women can afford that, and it isn’t okay to expect them to figure out how to.
Just today I negotiated with my insurance company on how to get a “vacation override” for a full six months of my prescription so that I can study abroad next semester in a foreign country. A “vacation override” can only be given after the details and circumstances of my case have been thoroughly reviewed by the company. If I am approved, I can only fill my prescription for the full six months at a pharmacy. However, I currently receive my medication by mail through my insurance company because it is much cheaper than filling it at a pharmacy. Thus, if I have the good fortune of being approved, I will then have to pay much more than I would normally have to for a medically necessary pharmaceutical.
Access to birth control for any reason is necessary for women to have healthy, productive, and enjoyable lives. For one woman that may mean contraception. For another woman that may mean treatment of endometriosis. For me that means regulation for medical reasons. It is ridiculous to expect women to suffer through medical problems simply because people are caught up in the words “birth” and “control” as the title of the medication. Not everyone in this country is religious, but regardless of religion, every person should have access to the medications and medical attention that s/he needs.