As of yesterday, August 1, 2012, women everywhere residing in the United States can receive free birth control as part of the health care they receive from their insurance companies. After the creation of the HHS mandate earlier this year, birth control has frequently become an issue of discussion in the American political sphere. With the implementation of free birth control under the Affordable Care Act, our leaders have been sending a firm message to the American people that birth control is considered health care.
Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation, stated in a video encouraging women to demand that the government pay for their birth control:
Birth control is basic health care, and should be covered like any other health care.
But they’re all wrong. Birth control is not health care any more than my organic oatmeal or your gym membership is. Let me explain.
According to Merriam-Webster, health care is defined as “the prevention or treatment of illness by doctors, dentists, psychologists, etc.” (Emphasis mine.) The logic is actually quite simple. Being pregnant is not an “illness.” It may be a condition some women find undesirable, but it is a perfectly natural state for the female body to be in. In fact, the condition of pregnancy – depicting fertility – has historically been a mark of the most desirable women. Needless to say, the state of pregnancy is absolutely necessary for the continuation of the human race and can hardly be considered an illness that needs to be cured.
Those little birth control pills do resemble the pills you might be prescribed for a sinus infection. But their function contains a crucial difference. They are not treating – or preventing – an illness.
“Oh!” the feminists say, “but birth control promotes the well-being of women!” Well, if anything that promotes the well-being of women can be considered health care, how about a monthly trip to the spa? I’m quite sure that the facials and deep-tissue massages will enhance my health. If promoting an individual’s health is the only requirement for an item to be considered health care, there are a plethora of other indulgences that could be added to the list.
But what about the poor woman who simply can’t afford birth control? Let’s address the issue of cost. Politicians make birth control sound like precious pills of gold, unaffordable to the majority of American women. In reality, an uninsured woman can purchase a month’s supply of birth control at Target for the exorbitant amount of…$9. To put it bluntly, if a woman cannot afford $9 each month for basic birth control, she has bigger problems than staying un-pregnant.
One important clarification should be made: there are women who are prescribed birth control to treat a medical issue, such as Endometriosis. These women are taking birth control for the treatment of an illness, and therefore in these situations birth control can and should be considered health care. While some might argue that this exception creates a blurry line, the distinction is really quite simple: whether or not the birth control is being used to treat a medical issue. Birth control that is being taken solely to prevent a pregnancy is not preventing any sort of physical illness, and should not be considered health care.
Of course, the most significant problem with considering birth control health care is not the illogicality, but rather the blatant violation of thousands of Americans’ religious consciences. If an individual is morally opposed to birth control, that person should not be forced to pay for insurance that includes said birth control. After all, we live in a country that proudly claims to protect its citizens’ freedom of religion. But when the government redefines health care and forces citizens to act against their personal convictions, our country hardly feels like the home of the free.