Thank goodness for email! Two days ago I saw an email in my inbox from Planned Parenthood asking me to participate in their blog carnival. They have teamed up with the National Women's Law Center to increase momentum for passage of a healthcare bill that would allow American women free birth control as part of a comprehensive package of preventative healthcare. Count me in.
The link to the list of bloggers participating is here in case you want to see what others are saying. Read on for my two cents.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing are all things that, like it or not, disproportionately affect women around the world. I'm not denying that there are some very stand-up guys who choose to be intimately involved in these activities, but ultimately the life-altering issue of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies falls to women to deal with. Culturally speaking, this amounts to some degree of gender discrimination, given the time, effort and expense necessary to deal with such pregnancies.
If we are to offer women equal opportunities to participate in society, we need to afford them the opportunity to plan their pregnancies. Birth control methods in this country are effective, safe, and inexpensive and to exclude them from insurance coverage ends up costing us all more in the long run. Many of the children born to women who weren't planning for pregnancies end up taxing families financially, potentially putting them in a position to utilize social services they wouldn't otherwise need. Others are born to single mothers who don't possess the resources to care for them.
There are a great deal of women for whom regular access to birth control is not an option. For many of them, continuing a pregnancy is financially unthinkable as well. Women who cannot afford preventative health care such as birth control are even less likely to be able to secure low-cost obstetrical care during a pregnancy. Many of these women choose abortion as the best way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. It is my sincere belief that providing free birth control would eliminate the need for scores of abortions annually.
Women who choose to continue unplanned pregnancies find their lives forever altered. Pregnancy is hard on a woman's body and, even if they ultimately choose to give the child up for adoption, the physical toll pregnancy and childbirth take on a woman can be significant. In the meantime, they may find themselves unable to perform tasks that their job requires, paying for healthcare they cannot afford, and dealing with difficult emotions about giving up their child. Those who decide to keep the child face decades of hard work, not to mention the expense of raising a child.
In a country that espouses freedom, justice and liberty to pursue happiness, it seems like a no-brainer to provide birth control at no cost. Beyond the obvious benefits of reducing the number of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies and saving on healthcare costs for the entire country, it offers American women the same opportunity to pursue their livelihoods that American men have. The birth control pill is not used for frivolous reasons. It is not as though American women are asking for insurance companies to pay for botox injections. This is a safe, inexpensive way to ensure that more women and their partners are able to plan their families reliably in order to fit their own needs.