[TW for menstrual issues and abortion]
When I first got my period at the age of 12, I was super excited. I was one of the last of my friends to get it and I felt like I was finally a "real woman." (I would, of course, learn later on that one's biological processes do not a "real woman" make, but that's another post for another time!) That excitement soon turned to fear, pain and frustration as month after month, year after year, I dealt with cramps that felt like a vise grip around my abdomen and an extremely heavy flow that lasted for a good five days, with my entire flow lasting about ten days total that eventually culminated in moderate anemia. I finally started taking birth control pills when I was 18 years old in order to control the cramps and the flow, and because of those pills, I was able to get my anemia under control. I truly feel that those pills saved my health, if not my life.
I was also able to get through college without getting pregnant. Yes, that's right folks, not only was I using birth control for medical reasons, but this feminist was also using birth control for exactly what it's supposed to do: prevent pregnancy. I began a relationship with someone not too long after I had started taking the pills, right at the very beginning of college, and it's thanks to those pills that I was able to graduate Magna Cum Laude with a 3.8 GPA and multiple honors in the four years it was supposed to take me to graduate. Thanks to those pills, I was able to focus on my education instead of on whether or not I was pregnant. Thanks to those pills, I didn't have to, and won't have to, miss classes and/or work once a month due to unbearable, blindingly painful cramps, and I will be able to maintain a healthy, stress-free sexual relationship with my current boyfriend and attend graduate school without having to worry about having an abortion or raising a child at the same time. Thanks to those pills, if I ultimately decide never to have children, I won't have to have them anyway.
I'm privileged enough to be able to pay only ten dollars per packet of pills every month, thanks to my insurance, but even that ten dollars adds up. If the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) includes prescription birth control as a preventative health care service that will be covered in full, i.e. without a co-pay or any other out of pocket costs, that's already $120 extra in my pocket every year. If I had had free birth control during college, I would have saved $480 over those four years. For women who are unemployed or underemployed, free birth control can make the difference between forgoing eating in order to afford their pills, thereby preventing an unwanted pregnancy which would put further financial strain on them in one way or another, and being able to eat properly all month. By preventing pregnancy, these women won't have to worry about starving themselves in order to afford the abortion or the costs of raising the resulting child along with any other children they may already have. And with abortion becoming less and less readily available to women, it's imperative to make preventing pregnancy easier and more affordable. As a matter of fact, by making the prevention of pregnancy more affordable for women, it will reduce the need for abortion, as well as make it easier for women with menstrual-related problems to obtain relief. Women do not need to suffer every month just on the basis of being women, and every woman should have the right to prevent pregnancy for as long as she desires.
This is exactly why the HHS needs to include prescription birth control as a preventative health care service that should be covered in its entirety by health insurance plans. If Viagra, the pill that helps provide the erections that help produce children, can be fully covered by health insurance, then prescription birth control, which prevents unwanted pregnancies, helps relieve all sorts of menstrual-related illnesses, shrinks ovarian cysts, etc., should be covered as well. Prescription birth control is one of the most ultimate preventative health care services for women, regardless of whether or not that reason is reproductively or medically related. HHS needs to do right by women and fully cover birth control.
This post is part of the National Women's Law Center and Planned Parenthood's Birth Control Blog Carnival. You can read the rest of the amazing posts at the link!