Birth Control: The Ongoing Insurance Debate

For nearly 50 years, family planning has been regarded as a public health matter. From George W. Bush’s term as a Texas representative, to Nixon’s presidency, to our recent Obama administration, the push for birth control coverage has been instituted as ever-present in American politics.

On August 1st, 2011, this debate was put to rest by then-president Barack Obama when he added the contraception mandate to the Affordable Care Act. Under this mandate, insurance companies were required to offer and cover birth control for all consumers. Yet, in today’s political situation, this mandate is under fire yet again.

In October of 2017, President Trump declared his intention to roll back this mandate, allowing employers to decide whether or not their employees will receive birth control as part of their insurance policy. While this was a breath of fresh air for companies such as Hobby Lobby, who had been lobbying against this policy for years due to religious affiliation, the looming repeal caused a panic among many American women.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, only 42% of women use contraceptives for contraception purposes; this indicates that 58% of women surveyed use birth control for a separate, health-related reason. I am a part of that 58% of women that use contraceptives for other uses.

Looking at common reasons why many women I know use birth control, this makes perfect sense. Birth control can solve many problems for women that were deemed previously unsolvable. From managing acne to controlling reproductive (and other) health conditions, the true scope of birth control’s positive effects is hard to grasp.

My freshman year, I became chronically ill with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare and underdiagnosed disorder with no true treatment It affects all aspects of my health, and I soon came to develop an autonomic nervous system condition called POTS, hemiplegic migraines, and celiac disease. As if this was not enough, my hormones spiraled out of control along with my health .

Meeting with numerous doctors, it became clear that I needed to get my hormones under control. I fainted all the time, I was plagued with stroke-like symptoms, and my joints dislocated at any simple touch, all because my sky-high hormones were not compatible with my faulty connective tissue. Then, my doctor prescribed the Depo-Provera shot.

With this simple shot every three months, I was able to control my hormones, and I began to get better. My headaches appeared less frequently, my joints were somewhat sturdier (although try to avoid running into me), and my passing out became less frequent; overall, I was healthier.

I am part of the 58%. I am a disabled American who relies on birth control to maintain my quality of life. I am the portion of the population that this administration disregards when it comes to the birth control debate. There are over 1,499,999 people out there just like me. 

Birth control is a necessary part of our healthcare system. While it may seem unnecessary and clashes with the foundational beliefs of some religions, more than half of the women in America that utilize contraceptives use them for alternative purposes. What would happen if these medications were suddenly unaffordable?

Therefore, I argue that birth control must be at least somewhat covered by insurance companies in order to protect that 58% of women that does not even use birth control for birth control. Just as antipsychotics are often used to treat migraines, birth control can be used for other purposes, and people often lose sight of this reality.

The next time you hear about the looming birth control debate, remember this; it is a necessary part of millions of American women’s lives. It prevents pregnancy in those that are not ready to have a child, but even more importantly, it can give many Americans a better quality of life. No insurance company should deny a person a better quality of life simply because they cannot look past the surface-level purpose of a medication; if even a portion of that 58% of women speaks up, we can continue that quality of life in the future.

~Katy Brennan

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