Contraception Controversy? It's the 21st Century, Right?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | You've heard about the church-affiliated colleges and hospitals recently protesting -- on religious grounds -- the requirement that their health insurance plans cover Viagra. It's been everywhere.

No, that's not right. Religious groups aren't objecting to covering Viagra, that medication that alters time's natural toll, the drug that violates God's gift of impotence. No, it's birth control, reports the LA Times.

Of course it is.

Women's health is an electric epicenter of shoulds and shouldn'ts and morality and accusation, but it rarely, rarely seems to provoke much empathy when it's about the health of women. Hormone-based methods of contraception are used for such diverse purposes as regulating menstruation; controlling migraines; treating painful endometriosis; and clearing acne, in addition to birth control as revealed by a study from the Guttmacher Institute. The reason that FDA-approved medication is prescribed to a woman is between that woman and her doctor, not that woman and every single religious group who decides they have something to add.

The very non-scientific concept of "Original Sin" aside, there is no justification to force women to suffer from the range of hormone-related ailments here in the 21st century. Nor should women pay more for healthcare for the offense of being born female. Women are actual people, and we don't need the imposition of others' ideas of morality on our basic health decisions.

Requiring the coverage of birth control is a tiny step in minimizing the health penalty leveled on women for the mere fact of our biology; try to obtain individual pregnancy coverage as woman of child-bearing age without employer coverage. If a woman can actually get such insurance, as reported by NPR, she will pay an additional premium, even though women are not the only beneficiaries (or causes) of pregnancy in society.

Coverage by a health-insurance plan is really an issue of access. US News & World Report estimates that oral contraceptives can cost between $15 and $50 per month, adding up quickly. If a religiously-affiliated institution can refuse to offer a plan with coverage for this medical treatment, what about far costlier treatments that could raise a religious objection? Heart surgery utilizing pig valves in the case of a Jewish or Muslim organization, for example, or blood transfusions for a Jehovah's Witnesses-affiliated employer.

People, regardless of employer, should have access to all means for optimal health and quality of life that modern medicine offers without the imposition of their employers' morality on the availability of health services. Besides, by limiting the medical treatments available under a health insurance plan - all of which have associated costs -- there's only one clear winner in religiously-based health insurance decisions: health insurers.

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