Dark Age Medical Care for Women
Recently unnerved and angry about conservative rhetoric surround woman’s reproductive rights, I decided to further educate myself with a quick YouTube surf session. I initially heard about Rush Limbaugh’s reprehensible, misogynistic comments from my morning attempt to wake up by reading news on my phone. Then of course I turned to The Daily Show and Colbert Report (like any good 18-35 year old) for analysis. Today I watched Sandra Fluke’s testimony and follow-up video, I Have a Say: Sandra Fluke. I was impressed with Fluke’s testimony, particularly that there was little that was unreasonable about it. The story she shared about her friend who used oral contraceptive to treat ovarian cysts illustrates the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce the cost of expensive medical treatment that can be prevented by covering the less expensive preventative treatment. The more moderate conservative reaction in the Wall Street Journal took Fluke to task by claiming that she exaggerated the cost of the pill. Their argument was that Georgetown students can get a $4 prescription filled at Wal-mart or Target, but they seem to have not done any fact checking on that because that only applies to special programs and those with insurance that covers the pill. My insurance will cover oral contraceptives, but like all of my other prescriptions, only after I’ve met my very high deductible, which means at Target and Wal-Mart, these would be $4-$9 once I’ve paid $5000 for the year in medical expenses. The second argument in this article is that condoms are a cheaper birth control alternative, or that women should get men to pay half. Besides that combining them is a great way to prevent pregnancy, they seemed to have not listened to Fluke’s testimony at all, because she spend a good deal of her testimony discussing other medical needs for the pill than birth control. Which gets back to the point at hand. Why is this particular prescription being singled out as drug that everyone but a woman and her doctor have a say on? There are hundreds of drugs that could affect a woman who is pregnant or could be pregnant and we trust women and their doctors to make decisions about these.
What struck me in Fluke’s follow-up statement her second story about a woman who recently had a baby and her doctor prescribed birth control because there could be potential health consequences for the woman and fetus if she were to get pregnant too soon after giving birth. In the video Fluke comments that she was taken aback by this story because the woman in it was doing what the church expected of her and still couldn’t receive enough respect from the church to receive the healthcare recommended by her doctor.
Both this story and Fluke’s reaction illustrate the problem with the birth control discussion. Women, doctors and insurance companies agree that providing access to this preventative drug is beneficial to women’s health and will reduce healthcare costs. Panels of men have told them that universally providing this medication infringes on religious freedom, the same conservative politicians that tout tort reform as a cost cutting measure because it could reduce malpractice insurance rates, balk at this one which could reduce health insurance rates. And finally, conservative personalities (no not just Rush) personally attack Fluke, for what I can only assume is her gall to put together a well thought out and passionate appeal to reason, and then they claim (mistakenly) that tax payers pay for her sex. First, tax payers pay for everyone’s sex: when they spread sexually transmitted diseases that call for public health intervention, when they get pregnant and increase insurance rates, when they have children which increase enrollment in schools, and taxpayers pay for teen abstinence programs, which also lead to sex. Second, employers and insurance companies would actually pay the proposed costs, employers already pay for maternity leave (this starts with sex), employers pay for Viagra which leads to sex, and insurance companies pay for the higher cost of insuring a pregnant woman. An impassioned plea for fair treatment of male and female student health coverage (as far as I know Georgetown’s insurance plan doesn’t deny medications only used to treat men) is met with personal attacks, misdirection of the issue, and a bogus claim that religious groups have the right to discriminate against women. I say this because religious employers are paying women less. By not providing equal medical coverage (that is to say picking an choosing what they wish to cover for women, and not for men) they have provided a lower total benefits package to a woman than a man, for the same role. Under Title VII, the ADA, GINA, and the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment (with the exception of religious ministers), including:
- hiring and firing;
- compensation, assignment, or classification of employees;
- transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
- job advertisements;
- use of company facilities;
- training and apprenticeship programs;
- fringe benefits;
- pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or
- other terms and conditions of employment.
Why then, can employers with church affiliations compensate women less? The counter argument could be that all women are not required to take birth control, therefore you’re not universally discriminating against women. But the only objection the church has is to a medication for women, therefore only women are affected by this lack of coverage.
The real point is, I’m tired of hearing really good points from women and healthcare professionals about the usefulness of universal coverage of oral contraception as a preventative measure only to have them matched against the opinions of those whose opinion I would never consider for any of my other medical needs. So while Limbaugh is busy watching the colonoscopy tapes of all the representatives that were paid for by tax payer dollars, I’ll be looking for advocates I can support with my time and money. Because even though the sign in the picture expresses how I feel, I’m not about to let women’s equality slip away under the guise of religious freedom.