After several sponsors jumped ship in the past few days, Rush Limbaugh has apologized (well, sort of) for his comments on the character of law student Sandra Fluke, but the war of words over contraceptive health care coverage rages on. The debate over contraceptive coverage began as a discussion about what obligations and freedoms religious-affiliated organizations should have in providing this type of coverage to their employees. That argument was worth having, and it resulted in changes to the law that would better accommodate employers who have religious objections to birth control. However, thanks to media figures like Limbaugh, the debate has now morphed into one that is far more dangerous, because it is based on a rejection of the fact that birth control is a valid part of comprehensive health care coverage for women.
Some pundits have labeled the use of birth control as a “lifestyle choice” that should not be covered by insurance plans. However, this is not about “getting paid to have sex”. It is a simple matter of making sure that health care insurance does not play favorites by ignoring certain issues that are unique to women’s health. Although so many in the media (including Mr. Limbaugh and his fellow right-wing mouthpiece, Glenn Beck) have voiced concern that employers are supporting “loose morals” by providing contraceptive coverage, this is a distraction tactic that does not ring true. Women who are married need and use contraception just as much as single women do, and framing it as “paying for promiscuity” shows a certain ignorance of how important birth control is to all women who are trying to be responsible for their own good health.
It amazes me that those who are making the most noise about this topic are the very people who seem to understand it least. Question for the middle aged white guys out there: shouldn’t you have at least an elementary grasp on a topic before you go off and rant about it in public? Oy. Alrighty then, it’s time for some basic facts about women and birth control. Yes, I realize this a lot of this will seem obvious to many of you, but bear with me here, people. I’m laying it all down for those who somehow missed Biology 101 (and the past 40 years of public discussion about contraception).
As has already been pointed out in numerous discussions about the issue, some types of birth control are used for the treatment of legitimate medical conditions, including endometriosis and perimenopausal symptoms. But aside from those therapeutic uses, other arguments can be made for the role contraception plays in women’s health. Just as regular mammograms are understood to be a basic preventative health care tool, contraception should be looked upon as an essential preventative measure as well. Women who look out for their own health must be careful about when and how often they become pregnant, and they need birth control to help regulate these pregnancies.
Also, older women must be more cautious about becoming pregnant. After a certain age, many women run a much greater risk of dealing with difficult or dangerous pregnancies, or birth defects. Birth control is an essential preventative tool for them to use in order to responsibly maintain their own health to the best of their ability.
Women often choose to use oral contraceptives rather than other forms of birth control, because research has demonstrated that they can be beneficial in other ways, as well. The use of birth control pills has been shown to reduce the occurrence of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers. It helps to lower the chances of anemia, and it helps to correct bone loss and increase bone mass, among other documented health benefits.
It defies common sense to suggest that women should not expect coverage for medication that assists them in leading healthier lives. Many insurance plans cover preventative prescription medication for conditions including high cholesterol, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. In order to provide truly equitable care for women, any plan that covers such medications should also include contraception in their coverage.
While each side rages over their selected talking points, the facts remain unchanged. Contraception is commonly included in the comprehensive health care coverage provided by most insurers, and there is a legitimate reason for that. Birth control helps all women – married and single, religious and non-religious – to better maintain their long-term health and well-being. Regardless of your individual faith or political affiliation, it makes no sense to deny the fact that contraception plays a valid and valuable role in preventative health care for women. Unless, of course, you’re a conservative talk-show blowhard who benefits financially from saying laughably ignorant things to provoke people and get ratings. In that case, it makes perfect sense.