An en­ti­tle­ment men­tal­ity on birth con­trol cov­er­age

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Krista Kafer

My dad never com­plained about the co­pays for cancer care. He had well over 100 ra­di­a­tion treat­ments plus med­i­ca­tions, surg­eries and chemo, so it added up. He was just grate­ful for the ex­tra two and a half years of life. My friend who takes high blood pres­sure medicine also never grum­bles about co­pay­ments. Who wants a stroke in midlife?

Same goes for friends with di­a­betes, cys­tic fi­bro­sis, and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis –-- no com­plaints about ex­penses. The care is worth the cost. I’d say the same of the ten thou­sand dol­lars I’ve paid out-of-pocket for five ortho­pe­dic surg­eries in the past 10 years. I’m grate­ful for the in­sur­ance’s par­tial cov­er­age and am glad to pay my share. It’s my body, my re­spon­si­bil­ity for its health and up­keep, and my choice to try and cor­rect its painful de­fi­cien­cies.

With this per­spec­tive, I find my­self per­plexed by the en­ti­tle­ment men­tal­ity of some women over birth con­trol cov­er­age. They ex­pect to re­ceive free birth con­trol from their health in­surer. In fact, they de­mand it. So when the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­cently ex­empted em­ploy­ers with moral ob­jec­tions from pro­vid­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age for birth con­trol, th­ese women seethed at the sup­posed in­jus­tice. More than seethed, they’re su­ing. You’d think they were be­ing forced to wear a bon­net and sub­mit to sex slav­ery in some grim, dystopian regime rather than the prospect of pay­ing a few ex­tra dol­lars for their own health care.

The new reg­u­la­tion re­stores choice and re­spon­si­bil­ity in re­pro­duc­tive health care. Fore­most it pro­vides re­lief to em­ploy­ers who ob­ject to pay­ing for con­tra­cep­tion or types of birth con­trol that act as abor­ti­fa­cients. Abor­ti­fa­cients do not merely pre­vent con­cep­tion; they kill the tiny grow­ing baby by pre­vent­ing im­plan­ta­tion. The reg­u­la­tion does not ban abor­ti­fa­cients or con­tra­cep­tion — they are still widely avail­able — it sim­ply states that busi­ness own­ers who mo­rally ob­ject do not have to in­sure their use.

The Supreme Court rec­og­nized the right of busi­ness own­ers to act in ac­cord with their be­liefs in two re­cent de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby. The new reg­u­la­tion takes the next step in pro­tect­ing con­science by broad­en­ing the ex­emp­tion beyond nuns and fam­ily-owned, “closely held cor­po­ra­tions” to women and men who run other types of busi­nesses.

The reg­u­la­tion does not pre­vent women from pur­chas­ing non-cov­ered birth con­trol meth­ods on their own. Women can buy birth con­trol pills, for ex­am­ple, for as lit­tle as $15 a month. Here in Colorado we can get a pre­scrip­tion through our lo­cal phar­ma­cist rather than through a doc­tor’s of­fice, an­other cost sav­ings. Women take birth con­trol pills for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons — all per­fectly valid — from avoid­ing preg­nancy to treat­ing hor­monal de­fi­cien­cies as in my case, ir­reg­u­lar men­stru­a­tion, acne, or en­dometrio­sis. Why should th­ese me­dial con­di­tions be priv­i­leged over oth­ers such that their treat­ment must by law be free? Men, af­ter all, face out-of-pocket ex­penses for va­sec­tomies, erec­tile dys­func­tion treat­ments, and their pri­mary form of birth con­trol — con­doms. Some out-of­pocket ex­pense should be ex­pected for any health care choice. Like all things of value, they cost money.

The idea that women should not or can­not be ex­pected to con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to their sex­ual health is per­ni­cious be­cause men are ex­pected to do so. That women must be given “free” things in or­der to thrive un­der­mines the very prin­ci­ple of equal­ity. “I am wo­man, hear me roar, but pay for my birth con­trol” is not a state­ment of power but weak­ness. We are not en­ti­tled to free things by virtue of our sex. Es­pe­cially in light of the fi­nan­cial bur­dens en­dured with­out com­plaint by men and women with chronic or ter­mi­nal health problems, that sense of en­ti­tle­ment is em­bar­rass­ing.

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