I have long made a distinction between pro-life people and those who I would call anti-choice. The former truly do believe in the sanctity of life for a 4-celled zygote and thusly are against abortion, but they are also willing to do the heavy-lifting that it takes to lower the abortion rate through increased access to accurate sex-ed, birth control, and helping pregnant people and families with children be healthy and successful. The latter, the anti-choicers, don’t really care about the sanctity of anybody’s life, be they zygote, fetus, or fully born and grown human being. All they care about is restricting the reproductive and life choices of women and pregnant people. This distinction has never been more clear than after the HHS released their new guidelines requiring that birth control, along with other preventive services and treatments, be covered without co-pays by all insurance companies. For both pro-choice and pro-life advocates this should be fantastic news worth dancing in the streets about, but for anti-choice wingnuts its the signal to start trotting out some of the most asinine and hyperbolic soundbites to try to vilify what is unarguably a popular, socially just, and fiscally-wise decision.
According to the HHS’s official website, these new guidelines are simply an addendum to the previously released Affordable Care Act. The Act, which was passed as a part of the health care reform, requires “all new private health plans to cover several evidence-based preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks, and childhood immunizations without charging a copayment, deductible or coinsurance”. The new guidelines add the following services to the list of covered preventative services:
- well-woman visits;
- screening for gestational diabetes;
- human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
- sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
- FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
- breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
- domestic violence screening and counseling.
As you can see, the new guidelines are far more encompassing than just making birth control free. The contraception coverage is only one part of an overall push to help women and their families be and stay healthy through preventing, screening, and catching problems early. By having insurances fully cover preventative services like cancer screenings, STI counseling, and well-woman visits, these guidelines make these services more accessible to more women and thusly more effective because doctors can catch problems before they become a danger to the woman’s health. Meanwhile, screening for gestational diabetes and domestic violence and supporting breastfeeding helps keep the woman’s family safe and healthy. Not only that, but prevention in all of these cases is much, much cheaper than trying to correct or treat the full-blown problem. Attempting to treat Stage 4 breast cancer is vastly more expensive than a breast exam and biopsy and the same goes for contraception. A monthly prescription of the Pill is far less costly than either carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term or having an abortion. Giving women free contraception is estimated to cost insurers about $40 per person, but can save up to $19 billion a year in medical costs.
Not only does no-cost conraception save both insurance companies and women money, they also have a whole host of other benefits to both women’s health and society. Hormonal birth control is used to treat many different health problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, and pelvic inflamatorry disease, as well as reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. The use of contraception also leads to healthier pregnancies by allowing women to space out their pregnancies which decreases the chances of underweight babies and infant and maternal death. There’s also the handy side effect of easily accessible contraception lowering the rate of unplanned pregnancies and thus lowering the rate of abortions which is always a good thing. All in all, when you look at the facts, having insurance companies fully cover contraception (and other preventative services) is a win-win scenario. Women are healthier, families are healthier, and everyone gets to save some money in the process.
Somehow, though, there are people that are upset by these new guidelines. Not because they make women’s lives healtheir or save people money, but because they give women control over their lives and their sexualities. Anti-choicers absolutely hate these new regulations and will lie through their teeth to sway others into agreeing with them that contraception coverage is a horrible idea. Here is a short, but ever-growing list, of the lies, misdirection, and just plain snide remarks they’ve been using to rile up anger over the matter.
Viagra Coverage A-OK, but Birth Control Makes for Irresponsible Sex
This lovely, hypocritical piece has plenty of gems in it, one of my favorite being when Hannity tells Greene that she’s going off track by using facts (how dare she!). There a lot to parse through, especially since Hannity and Co. like to yell over and gang-up on Greene as a silencing tactic, but I’ll try to make some sense of their retheroic. Firstly, their constant mention of the taxpayers is a smokescreen meant to rile up viewers, almost as a dog whistle for the mythical taxpayer funded abortions. The new regulations will not be covered by taxpayer monies, instead they’ll be paid in the exact same way all other covered healthcare services are: with premiums that are spread out among insurance payees. So yes, this does mean that Joe Testicle will be helping to pay for Jane Ovary’s birth control, just the same way that Jane helps pay for Joe’s prostate screening and Viagra. Speaking of the magic blue pill, Hannity says he is willing to have that covered because its for a medical condition, but not birth control because that’s purely and only a sexual lifestyle choice. Birth control, though, is used to treat medical conditions like the ones I listed up above, as well as to optionally prevent another one called pregnancy, which, yes, is a medical condition that can result in serious health problems and even death (but usually just adorable babies, thankfully). There’s also a lot of talk about how birth control promotes irresponsible and unsafe-sex. Last I checked, using contraception was the hallmark of safe and responsible sex, and would actually be what kept drunken or high sex from resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Having sex without contraception is what is risky, not making sure everyone has the ability to have safe-sex when and how they want. Lastly, their points about money are totally off-base. We most certainly can afford fully covering birth control, even in this depressed economy, because these new regulations will actually save us billions in healthcare costs. Billions!
Birth Control and Domestic Violence Screening Fully Covered? Why Not Mani-Pedis?
So this one, has a lot of misinformation and misdirection in it. The fact is that right now many women cannot afford birth control even if they have health insurance. The women who tend to have $9 copays are on very expensive insurance plans. Right now my own birth control costs about $9 a month with Tricare (which as my husband humerously pointed out, has been providing taxpayer funded birth control to servicewomen and military families for ages, oh noes!), but I’ve had it cost anywhere from $15 to $60 a month. Cost can be and is prohibitive to many women, especially for the more effective contraceptives that tend to be much more expensive, but more fool-proof and longer lasting (like depro-vera, IUDs, and voluntary sterilization). Having these contraception methods be fully covered makes them more accessible so that the women who want to control their fertility can, which as it will more than likely turn out, is most women. Its just that until now they haven’t had the resources available to keep up with their birth control (perhaps having to skip a months worth to pay the electric bill), or find a method that suits them and their bodies (some forms can have side effects that make it difficult to take, but switiching to a different method that has less side effects can be more expensive). Also, did Rios really just compare birth control and domestic violence counseling to a mani-pedi? Seriously?! That’s basically saying that women’s health, and by extension women themselves, are frivilous, not worth spending money on, and most certainly not something that should be taken seriously despite the large impact women’s ability to control their fertility has on their lives and our society and economy. Talk about some seriously internalized misogyny.
Birth Control Will Cause Extinction of Civilization
This one is shorter than the other two, but it definitely packs a doozy. Apparently these new regulations will cause the end of civilization as we know it!! We’ll prevent a whole genration from being born with these new regulations! Yea, no. Rep. King here is being deliberately misleading (or at least I hope someone that stupid isn’t really a member of congress) by saying that we’ll be preventing a whole generation. Birth control allows women to control their fertility, meaning it allows them to control when they’ll have kids. It doesn’t magically make them not want to have kids or makes them infertile (well, unless you want it to), it just gives them control over their lives. And really, that’s the crux of the problem for these people: women having control over their lives.
It scares them that we’re about to have unprecedented access to the one thing that gives us finite control over our reproductive capacities and frees us up to do whatever else we want with our lives. So they make up mendacious lies and distort the facts to try to scare their viewers into fighting back against what is so obviously a win-win for everyone. Healthier women in control of their fertility makes for healthier and more stable families, which in turn makes for a healthier and more stable society and economy. But they’d rather focus on fear-mongering about drunken girls having irresponsible, taxpayer funded sex with untold numbers of pervy, older men. They gloss over the facts that these regulations cover far more than just birth control; that birth control is in fact medicine used to treat medical problems; that easily accessible birth control means that safe, responsible sex will become the norm for more and more people of all ages; and that unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and abortions will go down. This backlash to the HHS regulations is absurd, sexist, and fundamentally dishonest, but it does at least expose their ideology for what it is: anti-choice and anti-woman.