A friend who was dealing with depression in her family once told me that when one family member has untreated issue it will eventually make the whole family feel crazy. I believe it. If you’ve ever had to tip toe around anyone who was nutty as a Snickers, you know the feeling. You live a clenched life, trying not to set them off and feeling too exhausted to try to improve things. They don’t even need to be crazy — bullying, irrational and narcissistic will do. Live with a dissonant song in the background and soon everyone’s life is out of step.
Anxiety is my mental health issue, my personal bag of nuts. My mind is a Costco of worry: miles of elephantine, probably-pointless what-ifs that I can’t help buying into sometimes. One of my current spaz-inducers, thanks to the world of politics, is whether the contraception without co-pay (and attendant counseling) will be included under the Affordable Care Act.
This worry is probably as baseless as that 20595 I’ve got my eye on (cuz you never know). The Institute of Medicine recommended the inclusion of contraception and contraceptive counseling along with several other preventive health services for women in a study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will decide what to include in August.
Besides the recommendation, there are numerous sane, wise reasons why access to contraception should be made easier. The Guttmacher Institute says that unwanted pregnancies cost “U.S. taxpayers roughly $11 billion a year,” (that’s billion, with a B), and their 2009 survey found that 30 percent of low-middle income women put off a birth control doctor visit to save money and half wanted to delay or limit their pregnancies for economic reasons.
Then there’s the fact that almost half the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Almost half.
That’s a more humiliating figure than anyone has ever endured on the public scale at a Weight Watchers meeting. If half our Driver’s Ed students left class and drove straight into a brick wall we’d tweak the program, right? How unlucky, unrealistic, uninformed, unconcerned or drunk do you have to be to botch something so important half the time? You think it won’t happen to you...but that’s what every woman crying over a positive EPT thought, too.
No contraception method has a failure rate as shitty as half (though some are wildly better than others). This ARHP guide shows 18 methods and their rates of effectiveness, but it also shows a differential that might be a clue to solving the “half” problem: perfect use of the methods versus typical or overall use. For example, with perfect use oral contraceptives have only a .3 percent failure rate; with typical use it’s 8 percent. Maybe they’re putting the pills up their coochies… I don’t know… but it does suggest why contraceptive counseling needs to be covered as well. You can give someone a clarinet but unless they get some classes all they have is a $700 backscratcher.
Finally, people believe in this. Sharon Lerner of The Nation says, that a poll by the “National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association found that 84 percent of respondents — including an impressive 73 percent of Republicans — support birth control as preventive care.” And 99 percent of women have used it.
So, if it’s such a no brainer, why am I so anxious it might not work out?
Well, remember that one family member whose irrationality makes the rest of the family unhealthy? In the American family there is always a segment that freaks out like Chicken Little or Tweek over any issue where sex they don’t approve of might occur. Naturally some people are against the sanity of contraception without co-pay.
Two excellent stories on the detractors are those by Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon and Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check, who has a list of misleading arguments the anti’s make. The main naysayers this time around seem to be the Christian organization the Family Research Council and, surprise, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Arguments like the equation of contraception with abortion and not wanting to pay into birth control-promoting programs out of conscience are shown in both stories not to hold up well. As for the Bishops, church kibbitzing in government policy and its effect on my health care doesn’t hold up either because they’re supposed to be separate. Like eyebrows.
So why do I have such anxiety? Maybe I’m punch drunk from the attacks on Planned Parenthood, the political version of a sudden ‘episode’ with that irrational family member or friend that makes you unlikely to take safety and sanity for granted. As a taxpayer with a working womb I’m worried that despite the obvious good that can come of easier access and better understanding of contraception, despite fact-based endorsements and public support that we might get the rug pulled out from under us. It happens. I want to believe in the common sense of the HHS but politics often subverts common sense. I’m worried that the irrational, narcissistic faction of the family, the one who thinks their beliefs are more important than the public health, education and welfare will play its dissonant, unrealistic tune and, as too often happens, we’ll all end up miserably dancing to it.
For more on the importance of birth control for fertility control and family planning, visit EdenCafe.com.