In light of the recent contraception wars (including the attack on Planned Parenthood), the “war on religion” and women being “raped too much” while fighting in wars, I wanted to write a more serious post about something I am deeply passionate—the health and safety of women. All women. Not just those who are upper middle class and white and can afford their contraceptive co-pay. These are the same women whose doctors tell them that they don’t need to worry about HIV or Syphilis, since it’s not really a problem for their “demographic”.
All women deserve to be healthy, protected and to have their concerns heard and needs met without the rest of society (i.e. the men running it) making them feel as though said concerns and needs are burdensome or costing everyone too much money.
Look guys, we get it. We live in your world. As your wives and girlfriends, we accept that we have to coddle your insecurities. As your co-workers, we accept that we have to hide our emotions so we don’t make you feel uncomfortable (aka “acting unprofessionally”). We also accept (even if you don’t want to admit it) that we will continue to swallow a fair amount of sexual innuendo while not wearing anything too revealing. For centuries, we have been accepting your problems as ours.
Now, at a time when women’s health and equality issues are finally getting the attention they deserve, some men want to sit back with their T-Rex arms and say, “Not our problem.” Or, “I don’t want to pay for that.” Bull shit. Contraception is everyone’s problem and if any men hope to get laid in the next 10 years, they will make it their problem now.
Why Contraception is a Straight “Man’s Problem” Too
When the sexual revolution came and went, women thought they experienced a type of liberation with the advent of birth control. On the surface, it seemed like they were taking control of their lives and ownership of their reproductive health.
But with control and ownership, comes responsibility. Before the pill, if a woman got pregnant, it was largely seen as the man’s problem too. After the pill, the onus was put almost entirely on the woman and pregnancy and reproductive health became largely her problem.
“Are you on the pill?” is still one of the first questions men ask if they are going to sleep with a woman. As if to say, “Are you taking the necessary precautions for both of us?” In the end, the only real liberation was from having to hide the fact that women actually enjoyed sex.
I’m not complaining about this. As women, most of us have accepted this responsibility because we like having some control over “family planning” as it is so politely called. We are shouldering 100% of the physical burden so that no one (which includes men) has to worry, but here’s the rub– now we’re debating whether women should shoulder 100% of the financial burden as well.
Really? Last time I checked with a pregnant woman, a dude was involved somewhere in the process.
The discussion really is; do women have an undeniable and universal right to access contraception. Men have universal access to contraception because buying condoms is not cost prohibitive, and women generally share (and are expected to share) in this financial burden. But buying birth control can be cost prohibitive (it can cost a woman upwards of $90/month without coverage), and since you need a prescription (meaning you can’t just go pick some up at the corner store on your way home), there are very few men who financially contribute to this.
So why not just use condoms? Because birth control is better. Things happen with condoms—they break, they’re not put on correctly, and sometimes men convince their partners not to use them.
“But baby, I don’t like condoms. I’ll pull out I promise.” Bitch, please. There may be curable STDs out there, but children aren’t one of them (save a very expensive, invasive and traumatic procedure).
What about Planned Parenthood or state funded programs? These sources of affordable reproductive healthcare (which include life-saving annual exams) are under attack. Conservative groups are throwing everything they can at Planned Parenthood to shut it down, and the U.S. House of Representatives has voted the last two years to eliminate funding for Title X (the program that provides free or low-cost contraceptives for low-income women). Relying on Title X is also not an option for most women whose income is too high to qualify (and yet too low to afford birth control).
What’s more is that a number of states such as Texas, Montana and New Jersey have severely reduced or eliminated funding for contraception in the last few years, and more plan to follow suit. The options are dwindling and without someone (like the President) to champion women’s reproductive rights, we may soon find ourselves revisiting (and losing) Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose.
Guys, even if you don’t have a girlfriend, wife or “special friend” who would benefit from this, think about going out to a bar. You’re buying drinks, putting in time with some girl and you’re planning to take her home. Don’t you want to increase your chances that she’s covering your bases? If birth control is free, the odds are in your favor.
Trust me, you want this.
How Birth Control Helps Society as a Whole
What I feel is getting lost in the debate, is the fact that free access to contraception helps EVERYONE involved. It helps the women who don’t want to get pregnant, it helps the men who aren’t ready to hear, “Daddy I’m hungry,” and it helps society as a whole because fewer unplanned pregnancies mean less poverty and higher education and lower crime rates (the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis).
Before you start to think, “She’s talking about the ‘greater good’,” and then cry, “Socialism!” (gasp, the horror), let me remind you that we are all part of a functioning society that uses communal roads and sewer systems and shared resources (like the police and fire departments), so things like the crime rate and economic and racial disparity are all of our problems. Even if you’re white, wealthy and are, in the words of Louis CK, without any real problems.
The issues of unwanted or unintended pregnancies and their affect on mothers, children and society as whole have been studied ad nauseum. Here’s how it all shakes out:
1) Studies have linked unintended and unwanted pregnancies to the following:
a) Greater chances of illness or death for both mother and child.
d) Child abuse.
e) Juvenile delinquency.
2) As adults, unwanted children are more likely to:
a) Engage in criminal behavior.
b) Be on welfare.
c) Receive psychiatric services.
3) Unwanted or unintended pregnancy is most likely to occur among women who are young, poor, and/or a member of an ethnic minority, thus exacerbating the economic and racial divides:
a) 53% of births that occur to women under the age of 30 occur outside of marriage.
b) 73% of black children are born outside marriage (compared to 53% of Latinos and 29% of whites).
c) 92% of college-educated women are married when they give birth (compared with 62% of women with some college, and 43% of women with a high school diploma or less).
I’m not even going to touch teen pregnancy and how that affects the mothers, children and society as a whole (that’s a separate post altogether). But let’s just all agree for shits and giggles that it’s not a good thing.
Insurance Companies, Cost and More Claims of Socialism
Alright, let’s say, for the sake of argument, I’ve convinced you that a) all women should have access to birth control and b) as a dude, this access makes your life easier, less worrisome and inherently more fun. Let’s also say that you still don’t want to pay for it, and you’re worried that if the insurance companies foot the bill, it’s going to raise your healthcare costs.
Technically, this would mean you still maintain the “it’s not my problem” stance, and haven’t been convinced at all, but we’ll ignore that.
What this argument boiled down to in one conversation were the comments, “Having sex is a choice, and when you have sex, you have to accept the risks. If the insurance companies have to pay for the contraception, they’re going to raise everyone’s rates to cover the costs, and I don’t want to end up paying for other people who choose to have sex.”
Ok, fine. But assuming that insurance really does function like a shared pool as described above (and I’m not sure that it does), there are a few things I want to point out:
1) You’re already paying for people to have sex—old people to be specific. Insurance covers Viagra for men, which means that if you employ the argument above, you are prioritizing grandpa’s ability to get an erection over a woman’s desire to prevent a pregnancy and all of the previously mentioned societal ills. Hmm.
2) Do you have any idea how much a pregnant woman costs insurance companies? The average delivery costs between $5,000 and $40,000, and that doesn’t include all of the prenatal visits and ultrasounds that precede it or the doctor appointments that follow. Compare that with the cost of contraception at $90/month. Which one do you think will have a more adverse affect on your insurance rates?
3) In terms of rising health care costs, providing women access to contraception is barely a blip on the radar. In fact, it’s almost laughable how small of an impact it would have on the global picture. If you want to blame your monthly payment, co-pay or premium on something, try obesity, bureaucracy, and the insurance companies themselves.
The Hypocrisy of Religion and Myth of Sexual Deviance
I’m not going to lie, I have little interest in addressing the religious argument and how hypocritical it is to use “freedom of religion” as an excuse to impose your religious views on others. Truth is, I don’t think it’s a valid position. Especially if religious organizations won’t be forced to pay for the contraception.
To the religious hell-bent on imposing their arcane views on the rest of us, this is all I have to say:
People have sex for purposes other than creating a child—even the religious ones. Get over it. It doesn’t mean they’re sluts or deviant, and it will not lead to the downfall of society. But if you want to hide your head in the sand and pretend that abstinence education actually works, fine. Just don’t muddy the waters of intellectual discourse with your outdated rhetoric.