Thursday, July 21, 2011

Department of Health and Human Services to decide on new birth control measure

I have always wanted to have a baby. Lots of them. Call me unrealistic or old- fashioned, but I've always wanted a big family. My parents were each the second child of five, and all of my aunts and uncles had at least two children. Many of my cousins now have at least two children. My brother has two sons and another baby on the way, and my sister has two children also. I have a very large extended family with lots of small children and babies and I love it. I've always wanted the same kind of family for my kids.

But only when I'm ready.

I've been on some form of birth control for 6 years. When I was 17 and started having sex with my boyfriend, my parents made me go on the pill. I would have done it myself, but I was too scared to approach my parents about it (I knew they'd be pissed, and they certainly were) and I was too embarrassed to go to the Planned Parenthood clinic in my small town, because word would get around. (Evidence: the first time I bought condoms from our local drug store, the next day in my gym class everyone was talking about it.)

My boyfriend at the time and I always practiced extremely safe sex- with condoms and the pill. We both understood that a baby would deter us from many of our goals and aspirations. I also really didn't want to end up like the majority of my female classmates, 10 of whom had kids or were pregnant at the time of graduation and at least 50% have 1-2 children now. Most of them were unable to go to college and stayed in our tiny hometown. They didn't get to travel, to explore and be young and independent. Some of them chose it, but I can't help but think that some of them were trapped.

I have always been very lucky with my birth control. Planned Parenthood is a wonderful and absolutely necessary organization, providing a vital resource for women and girls of all ages. Between their services, their "Family Planning Program" that I was able to enroll in, and my parents insurance, I never had to pay for my pills. When I made the switch to an IUD almost two years ago, I didn't have to pay any out of pocket costs or copays for that either.

At the time I first started taking the pill, I was also working at a pharmacy. I watched as many women came in every month and paid up to $40 for the pills I was getting for free, because their insurance forced them to pay outrageous copays- more so than most other prescriptions, be it heart medication or narcotics. I remember how I dreaded having to pay that much for my pills, and I didn't understand why I was getting it for free, but for employed women with health insurance had to pay so much money. Luckily, this may be changing very soon!

A new measure to be decided by the Department of Health and Human Services would mandate that birth control be placed on a list of services for women that would be covered by insurers with no copays. Even though organizations like Planned Parenthood and other clinics have been working hard to provide free or inexpensive birth control, they can't possibly reach every woman (especially when some of their funding is no longer given) and it is time we acknowledge this as a nation and set a precedent. Everyone deserves the right to make their own choices with regards to their reproductive health. 

I say I am lucky because I was aware of and able to use the resources at hand to make sure that I was able to protect my body and make responsible choices. But not everyone can do what I did. It's not always about waiting to have a baby or preventing teen pregnancy. Sometimes it's about the health and safety of the mother and the child. We need more resources widely and readily available to provide women with birth control.

For more info, please visit the National Women's Law Center site. You can find info there on the Blog Carnival (happening now!) and a petition you can sign. Let's work for progress in women's health issues!!

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