On Tumblr earlier today, I posted a short piece against health insurance coverage for birth control. Mind you, I was not opposing birth control as such, or the idea of women who can’t afford it, getting birth control paid for. What I was saying, was that birth control is not a health issue, and therefore should not be covered through health insurance.
So why is it not a health issue? I acknowledge that it is, in some cases. For example, some women use birth control to prevent premenstrual symptoms or to lessen the risk of ovarian cysts. However, most women use birth control for its intended purpose, which is contraception. And while the right to prvent pregnancy, is a women’s right, it is not a health issue.
So what is it? It’s a matter of reproductive justice and of sexual liberty. Women (and men and people of all genders for that matter) have a right to consensual sex however they please, and this is the reason most people use birth control, and have every right to do so. Making sexual rights about health, however, distracts people from the real point of the discussion, which is that people of all genders have a right to do sexually as they wish as long as they obtain consent from the other people involved. Too often, liberals and feminists, indeed, use tragic examples of the health uses of birth control to draw attention to the need for coverage, but these needs can easily be met without having to admit that every woman has a right to birth control.
Then there is the thing that contraception should not be covered by insurance. The reason behind this is more based on what insurance is for, which is to cover the costs of unforeseen risk. Birth control is, however, there to deal with in most cases a calculated risk. (I know that in cases of rape and incest, this is not true, but these make up the minority of birth control uses.) Women know whether they want to get pregnant, so when they purchase health insurance, their need for birth control is known to them. Besides, we have insurance systems to cover relatively small risks, while in the case of birth control, 99% of all American women have used it in their lifetime, if we have to believe Sen. Gillibrand, which I do. That’s such a substantial number that it’s not something insureable.
On my Tumblr, people commented that men get Viagra paid for through the health insurance industry, too. I at first found this a valid argument, but my husband, with whom I discussed my Tumblr post and its responses, reasoned otherwise. He said that erectile dysfunction is not natural, while getting pregnant after unprotected sex is. I am not sure I agree with this logic, which is based in what it’s meant to be a functioning human.
However,the Viagra comparsion goes awry in one respect, which is what I mentioned above: erectile dysfunction is much less common, and much less calculable, than pregnancy after unprotected sex. Therefore, even if you reason that it’s not a medical problem and therefore doesn’t need health insurance coverage, it could still fulfill the other principles insurance is based on, and people may for example opt to buy additional coverage for this purpose.
Note, again, that I never said that women should have to pay for birth control out-of-pocket just because it’s not an insureable risk or a health matter. My husband proposed, and I agree with this, that there should come some kind of low-income fund, which would pay for birth control for women who can’t afford it otherwise. After all, I am totally for birth control to be affordable to all women.