A few weeks ago, the Republican controlled House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Comittee members held a congressional hearing on the Obama administration’s proposed birth control mandate to ensure women have access to birth control with no co-pays, regardless of where they work. Republicans refused to let a single woman speak in support of the new birth control benefit during the hearing. In fact, Republicans said that a woman impacted by the policy and who was scheduled to testify wasn’t “appropriate or qualified” to speak on the issues. A photo of five men testifying before the House panel went viral in a matter of minutes.
I, as well as many others, was outraged by the congressional hearing’s explicit exclusion of women over a matter that concerns women’s bodies and lives. Regardless of religious and/or political ideologies, 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control at one point in their lives, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Isn’t the point of representative democracy that the people who make the decisions represent those who the decisions affect?
If I had the chance to speak on the panel, this is what I would argue:
Birth control is basic health care, and its accessibility to all women is vital. It enables women to avoid unintended pregnancies, but according to Planned Parenthood, it can also provide protection against endometrial and ovarian cancers; serious infection in the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus; iron deficiency anemia; and premenstrual symptoms, including headaches and depression to name a few. It also reduces cramps or menstrual pain, regulates menstruation and treats acne. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only 42 percent of pill users have strictly contraceptive
purposes for the pill.
The Obama mandate enables all women to have access to this essential health care. Birth control can be extremely expensive — a woman can sometimes pay up to $50 a month for it, according to Planned Parenthood. This high cost can prevent its accessibility to many women. For example, one in three women has struggled to pay for prescription birth control and as a result used birth control inconsistently.
Many women who use contraception already have children. They have knowledge and experience pertaining to the cost of a child and are making a pragmatic decision based on their own well-being as well as their family’s. However, they may not be able to enact this decision if birth control is too costly for them to afford. In fact, many women who do not have the resources to raise a child might also not have the resources to afford birth control. This leaves some women in an extremely difficult quandary.
Affordable birth control not only benefits women but also the federal government. If insurance companies foot the bill for contraceptives then we are reducing potential government spending on childcare, foster services, welfare services and the list goes on.
Lastly, this is a matter of women having agency over their lives. This is matter of women choosing to rely on themselves rather than their partners in order to guarantee safe and protected sex. This is a matter of women having a say in their futures.
House Republicans are trying to drown out this voice, and therefore we must spread the message: We support the Obama administration’s proposed birth control benefit that ensures all women have access to birth control.
Sari Krumholz is an LSA senior.