Health care subtractions denies women rights over their bodies

Katien and Katien

Feminism is alive and well. I know this, because I am a feminist, and this past weekend hundreds of other young men and women just like me gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss choices.

But the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference we assembled felt rather tense. As the Feminist Majority Foundation did its best to inspire student activists and their campus organizations, members kept a close watch on Capitol Hill. Health care reform was happening, but not the way they had hoped.

Private insurance, as it stands, is flawed, especially for women. We are forced to pay more because we run the “risk” of becoming pregnant. Maternity coverage can sky-rocket a policy. However, protection from pregnancy is expensive too. It’s a lose/lose situation and I, for one, am tired of being a loser.

As an empowered female who fully believes in my right to choose, I am familiar with the many steps one can take. Let’s examine three theoretical scenarios that illustrate the expense of trying to stay child-free in 2010. Remember, I am guaranteed the freedom to pursue all of these options by the United States government. Each is my right as an American citizen.

We’ll start with birth control. While there are several types, ranging from shots to patches, I opt for the oral contraceptive. Obtaining the pill requires a trip to the local pharmacy. When I make my request for my monthly prescription, there’s no need to take my insurance card out of my wallet. Many providers prefer not to cover birth control. I then pay anywhere between $50 and $150, depending on the brand and the hormone dosage, as I choose to keep my body my own.

Oral contraceptives are about 99 percent effective. And we all know it’s not hard to take a pill, it’s just so easy to forget. No worries. I am promised emergency contraception will be available to me over the counter. Again, I visit my pharmacist and keep my insurance card tucked away or at home. Another $50 and I can rest easy as I supplement the hormone dosage I missed within that 24-72 hour time frame. My cycle will keep on cycling.

Now its been a few months since my Plan B experience and I’m feeling good. Until I miss a period. A positive result on the early pregnancy test (EPT) reminds me I was taking an antibiotic a month ago, which made my birth control less effective, and now I’m pregnant. But I still have a choice! I decide to pursue my legal right to an abortion. However, not one cent of my insurance policy covers a medical procedure I am guaranteed access to by the 14th amendment.

Seriously. At this point, what am I even using that card for?

Speaking of health insurance and women’s health, I would also like to point out that one in four women have been exposed to HPV, the sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. Gardasil is a defense offered to younger women to protect them. The shot is given in three doses, each costing about $200. Don’t think this is covered by insurance, because usually, it’s not. Aetna, for example, our student insurance provider, does not cover the vaccination.

However, Viagra, the popular cure for erectile dysfunction, often is covered. So what’s going on? This is discrimination on the basis of sex, plain and simple.

Both the existing Hyde and the proposed Stupak amendments prohibit spending federal money on abortion. This means a woman can exercise her right to choose, only if she can fund it from her own pocket. Paying the price becomes increasingly difficult when you consider women earn about 20 percent less than men when performing the same jobs.

But a larger percentage of women tend to hold lower-paying jobs, like in the service industry, and they have been hit disproportionately by the recession. Think of waitresses and house-keepers. Now think about the health insurance options these occupations typically offer. These are the women who carry minimal coverage with insufficient benefits. That is, until they are “let go” and no longer eligible.

Female unemployment and under-employment have led some to refer to the current economic climate as a “her-cession.” When you can’t meet your basic needs, you turn to the government for help. But what if assistance is being limited by an anti-abortion agenda?

Feminists are concerned that the financial stipulations of these amendments will limit the freedom secured by Roe v. Wade nearly 40 years ago. Women are already making difficult decisions about how to budget their income. For many, their choice is restricted by a monetary barricade.

However, some are arguing the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill was merely a jumping off point. There is still time to tweak the specifics of coverage before 2014. We should have confidence that our pro-choice President will uphold our interests before the legislation goes into effect.

But we cannot wait. We must be visible and we must be heard. I encourage every woman who values her reproductive rights to let her representative know that this current bill is unacceptable. I would also ask every constituent of every gender to voice their concerns about exchanging our existing rights for those we still desire. A trade-off cannot be perceived as a gain. If it happens once, it could happen again.

Let’s take a stand and remind the Obama administration that when we were promised change, if was for the better.

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