9.08.2003

 
I sat around Sunday with the grill warming up and talking about how Planned Parenthood provides low cost oral contraceptives to women without requiring an exam, just a signature on a number of waivers. This topic arose because one friend of mine discussed how her health plan would not cover oral contraceptives, but it will cover Viagra.

What an absolutely disgraceful statement on the way holdover politics from the Eisenhower administration have remained latently embedded in the political climate of the American society, I say.

Now in considering the politics underlining numerous health plans' decisions to refuse to cover oral contraceptives, while I do not agree in the slightest with the conservative motives that have led to such a policy, I can at the very least comprehend them. I understand a number of people have religious or ethical concerns with birth control in general, and that many people still grow up learning that birth control runs contrary to moral standards. Surely I do not need to expound on this matter; at this point all of us reading or writing this site have taken some history classes dealing with political history. Suffice it to say that three decades after the Supreme Court found that married couples had a constitutional right of privacy of contraception, the use of birth control has achieved generally widespread acceptance as a historical trend and a political position. Moreover, while we know that with the exception of surgical procedures, oral contraceptives general constitute the most reliable form of contraception, and when compared with other viable options, probably seems the most convenient and least intrusive method as well.

Meanwhile, Viagra has entered the political scene only recently, and as far as I can remember, it arrived to fanfare and inspired very little politcal outrage. Indeed, Bob Dole, a bastion of conservative politics, signed on to endorse the drug, and across the country people rejoiced that old men could have sex again, certainly a worthy political goal. At the same time, political groups opposed to abortion continued to voice disapproval of birth control. Never mind the fact that so many orphans go unadopted, that ghetto children continue to creep out of the hovels of our cities, families grow beyond their means and all the efforts to control these trends seem to manifest in very few successes. Old men can have sex again, and that deserves a big rousing cheer.

I apologize - in reading through this I realize that I have grown a little too sarcastic. I'm not writing in an effort to show disdain for Viagra any more than I wish to try and convince everyone that birth control and oral contraceptives have replaced sliced bread as the greatest thing ever. I would like to suggest, however, that having a health plan that does not cover oral contraceptives while extending coverage for brand-name (and consequently MUCH more expensive) Viagra is manifestly unjust, unfair and evidences that vestiges of our body politic would still like to harken back to 1900 and feel free to characterize a woman as unfit for education, work or finer human pursuits. And that, to me, is plainly wrong.

In my sometimes humble opinion, these health plans have their priorities mixed up, and I don't entirely understand the policy reasons underlying such decisions. While I think finding a large group of people to assert that we have a population crisis akin to African nations, or that human rights concerns over ghetto children could match the humanitarian nightmare that is AIDS in Africa, to me, problems like unadopted orphans, children growing up in households unable to support them and the apparent inability to remedy these problems nonetheless seem to me viable and important avenues for political reform. Providing contraceptives may help to remedy some of these problems. And while I do recognize the pitfall in my argument that many people in need of these measures do not have access to the types of health plans I currently consider, from a pure policy standpoint, I still think my argument makes some sense. I do not see how the withholding of oral contraceptives can have negative consequences. It may very well have little to no positive effect, but certainly the possibility for that exists, and the possible harm seems, at least to me, non-existent.

But instead we have health plans implying that these efforts cannot measure up to the importance of returning impotent men to sexual viability.

Look, as a man, I'm all for having sex forever. Sex makes me happy and often leads to incredible sleep. But in the grand scheme of things, prolonging the ability of men to have sex cannot measure up on a scale of importance with the social problems that arise from unwanted pregnancy. Call birth control unnatural and against God's way, and I will ask you why men fighting their age or health runs any more in line with nature's way. The arguments simply don't hold up when put in comparison.

I don't wish to imply that all health plans should cover contraception any more than I want to say that health plans shouldn't cover Viagra. I simply feel that covering the latter while refusing to cover the former is not only unintelligent and contrary to what appear to me reasonable political goals, but it is a holdover of a time when women were not deemed fit to make decisions over their lives or their bodies.

We don't live in that era any more, and and I fail to understand why advances in science have given rise to a tendency to try and revert back to it.