Most college males, being young and healthy, haven’t needed to avail of Pfizer’s miracle blue pill. But someday, whether because of age or a colonoscopy gone bad, one in three men will need some “help,” to put it politely. And when that day comes, health insurance will be there, paying the price for pleasure – literally.

Sarah Royce

Yet most women not eager to have babies are required to shell out $40 to $60 a month; many insurance companies do not cover prescription birth control pills and devices. In an effort to end this insurance discrimination against women, state Senators Beverly Hammerstrom (R-Temperance) and Martha Scott (D-Highland Park) have introduced a bill that would force insurance plans to include birth control in their prescription coverage. At the national level, a coalition of 23 senators, virtually all Democrats, have introduced similar legislation that would not only end insurance discrimination, but also encourage birth-control education.

Both bills should go forth, so sexually active couples can choose whether or not to multiply.

Already, medical insurance covers pills that are fully unnecessary – nobody needs Levitra, and billions survived heartburn without prescription-strength relief. Yet birth control pills, which have additional medical purposes beyond preventing pregnancy, aren’t always covered. Often, employers have the privilege of deciding whether their employees deserve birth-control coverage. If insurance companies are willing to cover medications that merely make life more pleasurable for men, they ought to cover those that make life more bearable for post-feminist women.

In Michigan, state legislators have suggested similar laws in the past. All have failed. Now, with senators from both parties cosponsoring the bill’s current incarnation, the entire Legislature should come together to enact it. Birth control is neither controversial nor dangerous. Properly used, prescription birth-control pills are the single most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies – and consequently abortion. If anything, conservative legislators should embrace this legislation as a popular way to curb abortions.

The federal bill will, most likely, never even make it to President Bush’s desk for his veto. That’s unfortunate because the national bill goes even further than the Michigan law, guaranteeing rape victims access to emergency contraception and fixing the problems with tried-and-failed abstinence-only education.

Even though conservative groups believe abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and stem the spread of STDs, evidence conclusively shows that abstinence pledges merely delay teenagers; very few of those who take abstinence pledges actually wait until marriage. Because students receive no formal exposure to the full range of birth control devices and medicines, they fail to make safe choices when they inevitably choose to engage in sexual activity.

The desire to have sex, conservatives must learn, is not unnatural or immoral – it’s genetically wired into us. In the past, these desires of the flesh led to large, unsustainable families and a horrifically high child mortality rate. Luckily, society and medical science have evolved to a point where pregnancies can be planned and health care carefully managed.

Our laws must not hinder medical science from working its wonders. Antiquated and misguided notions about sexuality should not dictate public policy. Both bills in question promise to alleviate sexual repression. Sadly, not everyone favors freedom and liberation – except in Iraq.

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