Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Pills and Sex and Pills and Sex and have I got your attention yet?

I've been taking a form of the Pill since I was about 16 years old.

I wasn't taking little pink and green and white pills every day because I was promiscuous, or wanted to be. (Okay, I wanted to...I was 16, after all! But for religious and personal reasons, I abstained.)

I took them because I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). You can look it up; it's not the worst of diseases, but it certainly isn't one a woman should ignore. So I feel it's high time to stop calling this medication contraception or birth control. It's hormone therapy. If I hadn't taken those pills regularly from the time I was a teenager, I probably wouldn't be pregnant today.

How's that for irony?

I don't remember if we paid for them out of pocket or if my parent's insurance covered them. Probably they were covered by insurance. I'm glad. After all, insurance also covered penicillin when my sisters got ear infections and green stitches for my brother. That's why we were paying for insurance, right? Those premiums do go for something...we're not just paying insurance companies for hoots and giggles.

So the debate-that-shouldn't-be-a-debate about birth control/hormone therapy being covered by insurance is personal for me, as it is for many women. It's not about us wanting someone else to pay for us to have sex without the complications of pregnancy. It's about basic health care and equality.

So this is a two-part post. In the second post, I'll tackle the "religious objection" side of things, but today, I want to help clear up a few misconceptions about birth control.

1) The "it's cheap enough, so just suck it up and pay for it already" argument. Someone always knows someone whose birth control cost less than $15 a month. As a commenter points out on Rachel Held Evans' lucid and necessary post about the bizarre Christian SUPPORT of Rush Limbaugh's vitrolic comments and lewd requests of Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, (whose excellent comments, transcripted here, have really been taken out of context by those who want to take cheap political shots) birth control isn't always a question of what's cheapest:

" ...formulation matters, ESPECIALLY if you are taking it for health reasons. The one you can get for 9 bucks is absolutely not interchangeable with the $70 one your doctor prescribed you to control bleeding. (This is the problem with our national conversation about birth control- no one seems to understand enough about how it works, why it works differently from one woman to the other, etc. Everyone seems to think buying birth control is like buying condoms- you just walk into the store and pick up whatever's there. It does not work like that, and doing it that way has serious health consequences." (TiffanyBaxendellBridge on rachelheldevans.com)

2) It's also not about sex. The list of conditions for which birth control pills are prescribed includes: endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, acne, and extreme menstrual cycles (from too heavy/painful to none at all).

3) Some of you will say, "yes...but birth control pills are most often used for birth control. And we/insurers/companies with "moral convictions" shouldn't have to pay for other peoples' sex lives."


Jeeze, people, men can get penis pumps. On Medicare, which means taxpayers are footing the bill for what can ONLY be used for sex. (Unless you know another medically relevant reason for erections on demand?) Unlike birth control pills.

Vacuum erection devices, penile implants, vasectomies, and circumcision, as well as Viagra (in some instances) are all routinely covered by insurance. And I don't see any religious people up in arms about this, though there are complaints that insurance isn't doing ENOUGH for men.

Looking at that list, it's hard to understand how we're not looking at unequal health care for men and women. Not one of those male sexual health options listed above is medically NECESSARY. They are medically useful...and, except for circumcision, which is religious/cosmetic in nature, tied to the ability to have sex. As much as one wants (and in some cases, without the fear of an unintended pregnancy). So please, explain to me why we even need to be having this conversation about birth control?

Okay, and maybe someone can tell me why Rush Limbaugh isn't asking men whose erectile dysfunction devices are delivered by Medicare to make him sex tapes? After all, taxpayers really ARE paying for their ability to have an active sex life...


anne said...

Exactly what I have been yelling at the Tv whenever this topic is covered -- all the stuff about the Pill NOT just being used to prevent babies. In fact, the percentage of cases where that is the ONLY reason it is used are fairly small. I spent 4 yrs working for Planned Parenthood -- and yes, many of the clients were on some form of the Pill, but most were on it for reproductive health reasons. Yes, there were parents who were skittish about their daughters being prescribed the Pill for their painful/unpredictable/heavy periods, because WHAT IF IT LED THEM TO HAVE SEX (to which I said: then at least they won't get pregnant-- my experience w/young people being that they would have sex regardless of protection, NOT because they had it)...but by and large, it was viewed as a positive way to deal w/various medical concerns.
AND YES, why isn't anyone fussing about viagra and all the rest of that, for men? We know why. But still, one wishes that we might actually have moved FORWARD and past the whole "sex is necessary for men because of their needs" ideology....
looking forward to your take on the religious side of the question.

Anonymous said...

Like so many things, the govt. has put its nose into something that should only be discussed between a patient and a doctor. -Mom