Over the last few weeks birth control access across the country has been hotly debated- sadly mostly inaccurately. Just last week Rush Limbaugh implied that women need access to more birth control because they are having more sex. Clearly, Rush missed high school health class because women take birth control every day regardless of how often or if you have sex, not to mention many women use if for reasons other than just a contraceptive.
Which leads me to the second inaccuracy that has been perpetrated- sadly by my Uncle- US Senator Ron Johnson. He stated, “Any woman in America can get free contraceptives if they can’t afford to pay for them through county health services, through a variety of places. This is about an assault on freedom.”
I just wish that Uncle Ron could see the importance of women’s health care and that he would listen to me and other women in our family. The truth of the matter is most women do not have access to free birth control which is a significant barrier to consistent and effective use of birth control for the majority of women who rely on birth control. In fact, Governor Walker’s recent cuts to women’s birth control programs in the Fox Valley have made affordable birth control access even more challenging. Even our local paper acknowledged that women’s access to preventative care, including birth control, is at a tipping point because of ideological attacks limiting access to this common sense health care. This is the very reason why President Obama has moved to include birth control in the list of preventive medications covered by the Affordable Care Act.
The facts here are pretty simple. Women of all faiths — even Catholics — use birth control. Catholic women use birth control in the same proportions as all other women. And virtually all women use birth control. It’s preventive health care, as well as an economic issue. Birth control is also a matter of individual choice. Women rely on birth control to control polycystic ovarian syndrome, relieve the symptoms of endometriosis and to regulate their periods. If a woman is lucky enough to have health insurance coverage for birth control it can cost as much as $50 a month in co-pays. So to suggest that women have unfettered access to contraceptives is just plain wrong.
Not all families are like ours- have the financial ability to pay hundreds of dollars in out of pocket co-pay’s for birth control. The typical woman spends five years pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, and 30 years trying prevent pregnancy. This is a common sense issue for women. Moreover, the Institute of Medicine recommended that birth control be included as a preventive health care benefit, because it is fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families. It saves lives, helps prevent unintended pregnancies, improves the outcomes for children, and reduces abortion.
That’s the amazing thing about this benefit; it will make birth control more accessible and more affordable. That means more women can plan their families; more women can have healthy pregnancies; and more women can have healthy children.
And that Uncle Ron, is something I would think we could agree on.
Callie Otto is the President of the Catholic University Students for Choice and a member of Catholic University of America’s Class of 2012. Callie is also the niece of U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.