Female contraception is not talked about enough. Women account for roughly half of the human population and it is still taboo to openly discuss their sexual health. Speaking publicly about female sexuality, anatomy, and pregnancy usually results in sexist narratives that do nothing to educate society, and instead perpetuate the belittling of women, the importance of their health, and their needs (medical and physical).
There is a misconception that there is complete equality among men and women when it comes to healthcare, but this is simply not true. The American healthcare system is an intrinsical gender-biased institution that has repeatedly, and continuously, fallen short in providing women with premium care, particularly when it comes to accessing contraceptives.
Although legally, plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace must cover contraceptive methods for women, they do not cover everything. If we look at the Affordable Care Act for example, which promises “free contraceptives for women and adolescent girls under most health insurance plans”, I would tell you that the main word to pay attention to is “most”.
When it comes to health, the word “most” does not cut it. You do not want to be “mostly” vaccinated, have a “mostly” healed broken arm, or be “mostly” cured of cancer. The same goes for medications, you do not want your life-saving prescriptions to be “mostly” covered, and contraceptives are no different. They should not be held to any standards less than those of other medications, because in reality, the threat of pregnancy is a life or death situation for certain individuals.
I recognize that some may say it is bold of me to claim contraceptives as equally important as life-saving drugs or that the entanglement of pregnancy with death is morbid, however, I believe that the problem at hand is only emphasized under these conditions. I acknowledge that there are many other medications that fall into the same trap, and as a result of not being covered cost extreme prices, however, that is a larger-scale problem. It is one that must be addressed, but one I will not discuss due to my ignorance of its intricacies. I am particularly focused on female contraceptives.
Contraception is a personal choice, but certain law requirements limit your right to obtain your desired method. Although contraceptives are mostly used for pregnancy prevention, we should not assume that is the only reason they are prescribed. They are also used to treat certain hormonal imbalances and conditions and it is important that the correct drug/ contraceptive is administered.
Name brands are often not covered, leaving generic versions as the only option. These medications, despite their similar chemical, makeup, often contain fillers and slightly altered ingredient lists which can cause more severe side effects/ reactions. In addition, new contraceptive methods are not automatically incorporated into the federal list of required methods that insurers use to guide coverage methods.
If a contraceptive is not included on a plan’s list of approved methods, they require prior approval from insurers before they can be prescribed by a provider. This approval requires documentation that the product is medically necessary and often demands that there first be several other methods tried before its consideration. The whole process is tedious and frustrating. I have experienced it myself and have only been left with feelings of anger and defeat. Who is anyone to tell me what I do with my body?
It is upsetting to me that people do not understand the toll this takes on the female psyche. The type of contraceptive you use should not be determined by anyone but you, and it is sad to see that a woman’s experience of finding one that works is so strongly dictated by an outside source. The body is not a toy that is meant to trial multiple hormonal drugs and devices. The pill is not candy that can be popped and changed monthly until you find one to settle for. Getting an IUD in and out is not a fun and exciting day out. These things have real consequences, ones that impact the body.
Whether or not things will change in the future is beyond my knowledge. But, with more discussion and self advocacy for medical care, hopefully, things will be subject to some reform. However, until then, the American healthcare system will continue to encourage us to “keep our legs closed” and subject our bodies and choices to their power.