No Choice Without Access

When I was twenty, after years of ridiculously unpredictable periods, painful and debilitating cramps that left me curled up in a ball around a heating pad, and mood swings that scared me and everyone else I interacted with (all of which had started out as almost nothing and gotten worse as I got older), I realized I didn’t have to deal with these issues that sometimes forced me to skip classes so and stay in bed for a day or two at least.  While I was home for a weekend, I visited the local Planned Parenthood and left with a prescription for the Pill. I had never had sex – I didn’t even actually have a boyfriend. Now, a little over two years later, that’s not the case. You know what is? I have a Bachelor’s degree, will be starting grad school in August, and I couldn’t have done either one if I had wound up with a kid I didn’t want and couldn’t care for.

The Institute of Medicine recently recommended to the Department of Health and Human Services that insurance companies be required to cover contraception – with no co-pay. My instantaneous reaction to this discovery was an overwhelming sense of relief, but as I considered the actual implications of this recommendation and the opposition to it, my optimism began to fade.

That’s not to say I don’t support this method of increasing access to birth control. I do. All women should have access to understandable and accurate information about any form of birth control they are interested in. That’s the thing about birth control – while hormonal birth control might work for one woman, it may cause side effects that another can’t or doesn’t want to deal with. Another woman may choose to avoid any chemical form of birth control based on personal beliefs. All three of these women deserve ACCESS to fact-based information regarding all the options available to them. Without access to accurate information, these women are already being denied a choice.

The IOM’s recommendation is by no means a guarantee that no-cost birth control will happen. If it does, there will be logistics to figure out – including what counts as “birth control” that is covered. Does this include information about natural forms of birth control? When it comes to reproductive health, the key is choice. Control of a woman’s choices must be hers alone, but without access to information or to birth control, those choices are limited. I sincerely hope HHS will take the IOM’s recommendation seriously and make no-cost birth control a reality. Even a $5 co-pay can prevent some women from being able to make that choice – higher co-pays make it even harder for women to be able to make that choice.

I was and am incredibly lucky. I can easily afford my $5 co-pay, though my insurance coverage is lacking for actual appointments in my area. Many women aren’t so lucky. I will not take my good fortune for granted, and I will fight to make sure all women have the same options I have. Without access, there is no choice. Without choice, there is no freedom. Denying freedom to at least half the population is unacceptable.

Support no-cost birth control? Sign the petition here

See the other posts in the “We’ve Got You Covered” Birth Control Blog Carnival here