News/Opinion: Preventative Women’s Healthcare

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Department of Health and Human services has announced what is an amazing step in women’s healthcare.  They have made it so that, starting August 1, 2012, private healthcare MUST cover preventative care for women.  The big button issue in this is, of course, the pill and other birth controls, but before I get into that, this requirement covers so much more and I want to make sure that gets its time, too.  There are routine check-ups that women need to get that we have to or should go to a gynecologist for.  There are pap smears, mammograms, general check-ups and probably a couple.  And that is just the stuff for before you are pregnant.  There is a whole laundry list of pregnant check-ups.

The problem is that these are not always covered or they come with a co-pay which some women cannot afford.  This means that women only go get checked when they feel sick, often really sick.  A lot of diseases only start showing serious symptoms in later stages or there are danger signs to look out for.   Which all sums up to women who get really sick and have healthcare costs that are much much higher than they ever needed to be.

The health insurances covering these things makes sense to people to us normal people.  It saves peoples’ lives and their mental well-being.  It also seems like it would save the healthcare companies a hell of a lot of money.  You prevent the big diseases and you don’t have to pay for the big treatments.*  Not to mention your client lives longer and can keep paying you.  Anyway, I do not think I have to convince most of you that covering these treatments is a good idea.  If I do, please let me know and I will do so (by tearing you a new one in the most polite of ways).

The birth control side of it does require a bit more time, though.   The Catholic Bishops and other Catholics are avidly against this.  Their big complaint, though, is not that other people have to do it, just that they do and it goes against one of their hot button beliefs.  They may be against it in general, which would not come as a surprise, but the article seemed to say they were mostly trying not to have to do it themselves.

The lawmakers are trying to come up with an exemption, like the ones the church has under tax and equal employment laws.  The problem the church has is that the exemption may be too narrow and may only cover employees in the physical church.  Not the Catholic schools, hospitals** and similar organizations.  Not only does birth control go against their beliefs, they do not believe it is preventative, since they do not see pregnancy as a disease.

This is where I get frustrated.  For some women, it is a disease (you could probably argue all, but I haven’t done the research to support that yet).  Pregnancy causes all sorts of complications.  There is hypertension, gestational diabetes,  postpartum depression, HELLP symdrome and others.  Those are not even touching on the horrifying things that happen during labor!  Women risk death when they get pregnant.  There is a low maternal mortality in the United States, but it is still a risk, in 2005 it was 11 in 100,000.  You could argue that a woman risks death when walking across the street.  But if there was a pill to prevent that, wouldn’t you be fore supplying it?

There are a lot of other good reasons to make birth control easily accessible (voluntary population control, making sure children are wanted, other medical uses), but the preventative measures seem to be the most straightforward one.  However, as we have reached the end of the post, I would like to reiterate that the most important part of this is not the birth control (which I love), but the other preventative care.  An early mammogram can save a woman’s life and every woman should have access to such a simple procedure.



If any of you have good suggestions for news sites to check out, I would be really grateful.  I am not very good at keeping up with the news, so your help in finding sites will hopefully go a long way.

*I know health insurance is a murky and gross industry and they can often wiggle out of paying for a lot of the treatment at times, but let us just keep it simple right now.

**I do want to point out that the article said that doctors in Catholic institutions are permitted to prescribe birth control.  My only concern there is how much of that is official, but not reality?


About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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3 Responses to News/Opinion: Preventative Women’s Healthcare

  1. steve says:

    Hi Tori

    interesting article. It’s good to see precautionary medicine being put into practice although I’m highly suspicious of commercial medicine’s will or ability to follow through. I don’t want to hijack your thread but I have to say the innovations you describe are a routine part of care in the UK’s National Health Service and it was a shock to see the inexplicable opposition to Obama’s intended socialised health-care reforms. My own view is that commercial medicine is one more business and, necessarily, businesses must focus on the most profitable areas of activity to keep their shareholders happy. That would seem to preclude a lot of preventative medicine. I hope I’m wrong.

    As for Catholic objections to birth control, it seems that the majority of UK and Irish Catholics (I’m one) now devise their own pact with their Maker. Following all the familiar revolting scandals the Vatican has just about forfeited all moral authority over here. But I understand that doctors and nurses are able to opt out of birth control and abortion work if it clashes with their convictions – and that seems fair enough to me. By the way. I’ve never before heard pregnancy described as ‘a disease’ 🙂

    You ask for links to news sites. These UK media all give excellent international coverage as well as in-depth UK stuff and are my usual fare: – left of centre UK daily with broad-ranging discussions on politics, social policy and the arts. Check out Polly Toynbee – an outstanding critic of Conservative policies and recent proposals to give away our National Health Service to big business based on the US model. – slightly left of centre UK daily, excellent political and social affairs columnists. – right wing Conservative daily but with some excellent, very challenging US-based columnists – but the Telegraph blogs are drivel. – the ‘gold standard’ in current affairs reporting.

    • Tori says:

      Thanks so much for the recs and the perspective. I like the idea of individuals deciding for themselves. Especially, like you said, in light of the Vatican’s moral difficulties and missteps.

  2. steve says:

    You’re very welcome and I hope you’ll find some fresh takes on the issues which move you.

    As far as individual decision-making goes it’s heartening to see Catholics liberating themselves from the Vatican’s rigid dogma; equally an awful lot of people would benefit from being freed from market dogma – especially in health issues where so many have no choices at all. This is where I’m all for collective action for commonly-owned resources and over here the womens movement has created a pretty good model of achieving improvement. Our NHS has not been perfect but I dread to contemplate the looming impact of corporate culture.

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