Last updated: April 10, 2012 2:46 pm
Don't listen to the naysayers — Obama's birth control reform is positive
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CUP) — As a feminist, I field many awkward questions: “Do you shave your legs?”; “Are you a lesbian?”; “Why are you a feminist — isn’t it over?”
I ignore some questions, but the American birth control controversy is a prime example of why feminism is relevant. The Obama administration has proposed making birth control accessible to all women by having it covered by healthcare companies. So if you’re an employer providing healthcare, contraception must be a part of that care at no extra cost to women. Despite the popularity of this proposal (even 61 per cent of Catholics who were polled in February said they were in favour of it), there has been a huge backlash, with some people saying it’s ridiculous.
Well, it isn’t ridiculous, and I’m going to tell you why.
Contraception is incredibly important for women who want to choose if and when they have children. I’m 18 years old, and I don’t want kids for at least another decade. I imagine other women — even if they want kids sooner — probably want to make that decision for themselves. And let's be honest: the choices available to pregnant women are pretty limited: keep the baby, give the baby up, or abort. Women who have access to birth control are less likely to find themselves in the position of having to make such a difficult and painful decision. They’ll be able to put off having kids until they’re ready.
Contraceptives can also be necessary for health. Sandra Fluke, a law student from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., has been active in this controversy, talking about a friend who needed contraception to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries because she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The woman was unable to get contraceptives because of problems with the insurance, and she actually lost an ovary. If health issues can be resolved simply through access to birth control, it’s clear that contraceptives should be available to women. Did you know that some healthcare companies cover the costs of erectile dysfunction (ED) medication? As far as I know, the consequences of limited access to Viagra aren’t as long-term or potentially devastating as limited birth control. ED is kind of a small matter compared to PCOS.
I’ve also heard that feminists are “hypocritical” for wanting birth control and wanting the government to stay out of women’s uteruses. Birth control lets women choose if and when they have children. The requests that government stay out of their uteruses — and not dictate decisions related to women’s bodies — also let women make their own choices. I don’t see any hypocrisy in these appeals for autonomy.
And then there’s conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh, who made headlines for calling Fluke a “slut” and saying, “[i]f we’re gonna pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex ... we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” Limbaugh has also made headlines for being stopped returning from the Dominican Republic with a bottle of Viagra. June Carbone argues in The Huffington Post that, thanks to the intricacies of the uninsured subsidizing the insured in America, taxpayers may well be paying for that Viagra. I would say, “Hey Rush, since taxpayers are paying for your Viagra, and thus paying for you to have sex, how about you post the videos online so we can all watch,” but I don’t want to sink to his level — also, I’m afraid he would take me up on the suggestion.
You might think that contraceptives aren’t that expensive, but according to Fluke, contraceptives could cost as much as $3,000 over the course of university enrolment without coverage. Foster Friess’s suggestion that women use Bayer aspirin — apparently back in his day, “the gals put it between their knees” — while inexpensive, isn’t exactly a viable option.
You might think taxpayers shouldn’t pay for contraceptives, but as Carbone writes, “[s]ince the Obama administration decision was based on a calculation that this would result in lower healthcare costs overall, it would not raise the premiums paid to insurance companies ... It is infinitely less expensive to fund contraceptive services than to pay for pregnancy and childbirth — or avoidable hysterectomies.” There you go! The birth control reform actually saves money!
I don’t really mind the questions as to whether I’m a man-hatin’, hairy-legged Femi-Nazi — honestly, they just make me laugh. What I’m not fond of is the idea that feminism is no longer relevant, especially with regards to this controversy. Birth control is a means of adding control to women’s lives. Even if you’re against contraceptives for yourself, hopefully you recognize how important this healthcare proposal is.