Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Political Girl?

In most cases I am not one who shares her personal political views. I discuss politics with a small select few (mainly my husband, with whom I can talk about any issue without fear of ridicule or an attempt to change my mind). I like the idea of an occasional intellectual debate on issues but today everything is SO politicized that I would not care to risk it anymore.

There seems to be no middle ground. Or compromise. And that's too bad.

I don't spend much time watching the news networks nor do I like talk radio. I watch CNN when there is a breaking news story (say, a tsunami or an earthquake) or to get a quick update on political results. I DO watch Jon Stewart's show so perhaps from this fact only you would peg me as a liberal. I read Time Magazine every week. I read lots of various news articles on the Internet. So yes, I am a liberal. Deal with it!

One of our family jokes is that my son and I are the ONLY liberals in a sea of conservatives. In large family gatherings where political topics come up, I stay silent. Coward? Perhaps, but in today's political climate no one seems to ever change his or her mind just because someone offers an opposing viewpoint. It's scary out there!

But the latest hot button issue is contraception. I would like to offer my experience in that area.

I became sexually active in college and even then I was rather late to the game as compared with most of my peers! My college boyfriend was someone I had already known for about one and a half years. We had unsafe sex once, the first time (which was dumb, of course). And then we didn't for several months because I had no way to ensure I didn't get pregnant. It took me a while to discover that Planned Parenthood existed for women like me: not ready to get pregnant and in need of contraceptive help.

My opinion on abortion is this: that is a decision each person must make for herself. Except for that one dumb time I opted to try to make sure that I never NEEDED to make this choice for myself. (My only pregnancy was planned with my husband and it resulted in our son.)

Anyway, back to Planned Parenthood: I found the address of the Santa Cruz branch and made an appointment. They gave me an exam and a prescription for the Pill (I may have even gotten the Pill straight from PP rather than a pharmacy but I don't remember for sure). Very kind, no judgement. I used PP for years. I think there was a sliding pay scale and depending on my current job situation I must have paid some token amount.

In those college days we had not yet really heard of AIDS/HIV and the biggest risk was an STD. But I had the same boyfriend off and on for almost 4 years so that never was a problem for me. Luckily.

Later when I had my first job and a real honest-to-goodness health plan most things were covered; birth control was not. A four week supply cost $20 so I paid a total of $260 extra each year. I did that until 1992 when we decided to have a child and then I used birth control again after my son was born.

At some point I was prescribed some medication for my rosacea and it turned out that it could possibly counteract the Pill so I had to do something else. I got a different birth control device that lasted for 10 years which it cost $400. Again, not covered by my insurance.

Interestingly, the only form of contraception that my insurance plan would cover was sterilization! For a woman that means a minor operation performed at a hospital (the male version of sterilization requires a relatively simple procedure during an office visit).

Also interestingly, I added up all the bills from when my son was born via caesarian section: approximately $13,000, all of which insurance paid except for our portion of 20% (which was a LOT to pay off in 1993, lemme tell ya!).

Comparing the costs of one hospital birth (and the "well child" care that follows for several years) to the costs of several years of contraception, it makes you wonder WHY more insurance companies didn't cover it in those days!

Even assuming I took the Pill for 15 years (which I didn't, more like 6 or 7 total) that's less than $4,000. So if I DIDN'T use contraception, whether as an unmarried college student or a married woman, I probably would have gotten pregnant several times! Let's say 4: a total of at least $50,000 and no additional "well child" care costs!

And THAT's the point I don't get: $4,000 is so much less than $50,000 that it doesn't seem to make sense NOT to cover contraception. And now, when it no longer matters to me, contraception IS covered by many insurance plans. Guh.

Of course, the current argument relates to institutions who morally oppose contraception and whether they should be compelled to include coverage or not. I'm not even sure where that stands anymore what with all the brouhaha lately.

So again I say, there seems to be no middle ground. Or compromise. And that's too bad.

(Note: I am a little nervous posting this. As I said, I usually shy away from politics, but I really wanted to put out a real story about a real woman who happily used contraception to manage her reproductive life. I think that has a valid place in today's world. Don't flame me!)


  1. I have no memory of you going to the Santa Cruz PP! I got my contraception at the health center on campus; I wonder why you didn't go there? Man, I feel like I was there all the time, especially the quarter I took Gyn Phys. (The lady at the appointment desk said that she always knew exactly what we were studying, since 30 girls would come in announcing they had those symptoms.)

    Yep, engaging in a no-win debate is an exercise in wheel-spinning that I also prefer to avoid. Right there with you! And yet another reason I love my solid-blue state.


  2. The Brookings Institution appears to support the cost / benefit analysis of preventing pregnancy. See http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2012/03_unplanned_pregnancy_thomas.aspx?p=1. Protecting against pregnancy is one thing; protecting against disease is another. I imangine that the benefits of the latter far outweigh the costs, as well. One kid costs that much?!

  3. I completely agree with you, especially with respect to the cost of an unwanted pregnancy, whether taken to term or not. I will also up the discussion that if males were the one who HAD to be responsible, there were be no debate about this whatsoever. J.

  4. I really need someone to explain to me the reasoning behind why Viagra is covered by insurance but birth control is not, because it is not for a "medical condition." Where did prevention go out the window as an advised medical practice and who in their right mind does not recognize pregnancy as a medical condition? It's enough to make you want to call upon the Karma Fairy to have her wave her wand on those policy makers so they can live out those 9 months of having an alien (beloved or not) take over your body. While I confess to being a political pacifist, this is one cause that makes me want to rip off my top and share my stretch marks.