A Poll: Should Government Health-Care Cover Birth Control?

Do you owe me birth control? Do I owe it to you or your partner?

Pregnancy, childbirth and infants can cost a hell of a lot of money. Recently, the New York Times reported that nearly half of the pregnancies occurring in the US are unplanned. As Americans face the necessity for reducing health-care costs and warily eye Obamacare, a bipartisan health commission makes a controversial recommendation: contraceptives should automatically be covered as preventive medicine.

Proponents say it would make for massive, vital cost-savings. The Nation reports that every dollar we spend on “family planning” saves us close to $4 in costs associated with unwanted pregnancy. And wouldn’t insurers rather shell out a little money for contraceptives than a lot of money for prenatal procedures, testing and care, and delivery – without even counting the potential costs of any complications, before and after pregnancy? Many insurers already routinely cover contraception.  If it weren’t for those aging baby boomers, maybe we could defuse the financial disaster that is American health care, one averted pregnancy at a time.

Objectors, including, of course, the Committee of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, seem to discard financial considerations for moral ones. They don’t want their tax dollars going towards contraceptives: something to which they are staunchly opposed. Besides, says the Conference, pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a medical condition that needs to be suppressed.  We should be spending our precious health-care dollars on lifesaving care for the poor, not elective procedures or medication. Bishop Daniel Dinardo, who is lobbying congress with the Conference’s view, does  not only want to keep federal dollars away from contraception – he says the government also should not fund any kind of counseling which would educate women about birth control, or encourage them to use it.

I suppose women in families that need government help for “lifesaving care” are still somehow well-enough equipped to handle another pregnancy/birth/mouth to feed.

Perhaps as a female US taxpayer of childbearing age (according to the ads on Facebook, I should be giving birth any day now), I can’t be objective as I should about this issue. Knowing how much the possibility of pregnancy affects me and others, if the US does in fact launch universal health care (whatever its pros and cons) I would happily send my tax dollars toward contraception and reproductive counseling, as a vital part of medical care. If preventing unwanted pregnancy doesn’t qualifies as preventive medicine, what does?

Far-right Republicans are becoming more and more indistinguishable from America’s Christian groups. And this is just one reason I’m guessing that many conservatives will oppose birth control as federally-sponsored preventive care. It’s ironic that some of the same people who want to avoid abortion at all costs also would make it more difficult for women to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Universal health care may or may not be the best thing for the US, but if we’re going to enact it, why must we argue that a giant aspect of reproductive health should be overlooked in the coverage?

Perhaps I’m out too far on my gender-wars limb here, but if pregnancy was something that happened to men’s bodies, and men were primarily responsible for children’s care, I don’t think anyone would be debating whether or not contraceptives are preventive medicine. It offends me that women’s ability to become pregnant, with all of pregnancy’s attendant medical risks and costs, is separated from health care as a whole – especially when this separation is the moral behest of powerful, celibate men. Women’s reproductive health is integral to their total health. If our government is going to subsidize health care, contraceptives should not be exempted due to moral considerations.

But maybe you disagree.

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4 Comments

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  1. Hi Alaina, thanks for this post, incidentally I just stumbled upon this article today:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/02/abortion-counselling, it might interest you. Personally I really liked it.

    • Quite a well written, interesting piece. Thanks for sharing it. The point about conveniently forgetting that babies must eventually be educated, fed etc, is one I’ve heard before, and an excellent point. It’s also true that women’s sexuality and decision-making is all too often subverted and shamed.

  2. Good post. I agree with your statement of “I find it incredibly ironic that some of the same people who want to avoid abortion at all costs also would make it more difficult for women to prevent unwanted pregnancy”. I find it very irritating for big right wing Christian organizations to always try to control women in this way. If abortion is wrong, so is having a million kids you can’t afford to take care of.
    Also, people need to stop whining about taxes. People in other countries pay more taxes than we Americans. I especially hate to see people whine about paying for taxes on things that will actually benefit them.

    • Yes, sometimes I think that most people who are opposed to taxes in general would pitch a fit if their medicare was revoked, if criminals were allowed to run free, if their roads were not paved or their town not cleaned up after a hurricane hits. In my mind, it is one of the ultimate ironies that the political party which claims dedication to individuals’ sovereign rights also consistently seeks to undermine the most basic, personal rights of women.

      Anyway, thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment.

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