I realize some people continue to take stabs at Sandra Fluke personally and it is their right to do so, but let’s stick with the testimony she gave. Fluke mentioned prescriptions used for contraception can and are used for other reasons. Jim Vicevich mentioned this many times on his show this week.
I’ve already linked to her testimony, but I’m including it in full at the bottom of this post for reference. Let’s first point out 14 percent of women, about one in seven, rely on contraception (the pill) exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes. You may think I selectively picked out that article to find a low number, but in reality I went to the same Guttmacher Institute quoted by Fluke in her testimony. As noted, Jim’s mentioned other medical uses on the air and did you know – according to Fluke’s own testimony – Georgetown’s student health insurance covers the use of contraception for these purposes?
Read that again.
With that noted, wouldn’t Fluke think that would be a good compromise? Not at all, she demands coverage for all with no strings attached, and uses a couple examples of students being denied coverage, and some being interrogated. There should be, and quite certainly are, appeal methods in place for these situations. There is no appeal for religious institutions and Catholic employers once the government mandates the coverage.
If the use of the pill for non-contraceptive purposes was the primary problem for Fluke, why did she use the the words contraceptive or contraception 12 times in her testimony? She used the term 11 times before she got to her first example of using contraception for other purposes.
There is an obvious solution to this issue, an issue that has been exclusively caused by President Obama’s health insurance mandates, and legislation that required we pass it before we found out what’s in it. Get the federal government out of the mandate business that has resulted in hundreds of waivers and excruciating First Amendment issues. Getting the federal government completely out of the health care business all together would even be better.
The problem, as they say, is then solved. A perfect, real compromise would allow families and individuals to select the health insurance plan that meets their needs. If their employer does not provide health care insurance or provide specific coverage (birth control) they want, they are welcome to purchase a supplemental policy directly from an insurance company that provides the coverage they are looking for. Looking for birth control? Target offers Sprintec and Tri-Sprintec for $9 per month (28 days) without insurance. (Yes, I know there are “formulations” that may cost more.)
But that is not what Fluke, Obama and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want. They want mandated coverage for all, no matter what the reason, and paid for by someone else even though that coverage may diminish the rights of someone else.
True rights exist simultaneously between people, and exercising those rights can not diminish the rights of another. Read that last sentences again and commit it to memory. I’m working on a T-shirt since it won’t fit on a bumper sticker.
So there I proposed a compromise. I’ll still be called an idiot by some, and we have not even discussed the federal mandate to cover abortifacients which we won’t discuss here since Fluke never brought it up. Now let’s take a look at Flukes testimony, in full. In some areas I may add emphasis and comments.
Leader Pelosi, Members of Congress, good morning, and thank you for calling this hearing on women’s health and allowing me to testify on behalf of the women who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage regulation. My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third year student at Georgetown Law, a Jesuit school. I’m also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. I’d like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies and all of the student activists with us and thank them for being here today.
Georgetown LSRJ is here today because we’re so grateful that this regulation implements the nonpartisan, medical advice of the Institute of Medicine. I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraception coverage in its student health plan. Just as we students have faced financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously affiliated hospitals and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens. We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women. Simultaneously, the recently announced adjustment addresses any potential conflict with the religious identity of Catholic and Jesuit institutions.
No, it does not. Even though the non-compromise compromise was announced, it was not written into the federal regulations that were published after Obama’s announcement. People keep claiming it’s in place, and that’s a total lie.
When I look around my campus, I see the faces of the women affected, and I have heard more and more of their stories. On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman from Georgetown or other schools or who works for a religiously affiliated employer who has suffered financial, emotional, and medical burdens because of this lack of contraceptive coverage. And so, I am here to share their voices and I thank you for allowing them to be heard.
On a daily basis she hears these tragic stories? I highly doubt it. But then she’s going out looking for these stories and this cause takes a significant number of her waking hours. She may be hearing daily stories, but my guess is they are from the same few women every other day.
Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy. One told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn’t covered, and had to walk away because she couldn’t afford it. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception. Just last week, a married female student told me she had to stop using contraception because she couldn’t afford it any longer. Women employed in low wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice.
As noted before, if they really tried I’m sure they could spend more than $3,000, but why mention the absolute worst case senario you could find when a simple visit to Target’s website shows Sprintec and Tri-Sprintec for $9 per month (28 days) without insurance?
You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Women’s health clinics provide vital medical services, but as the Guttmacher Institute has documented, clinics are unable to meet the crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing and women are being forced to go without. How can Congress consider the Fortenberry, Rubio, and Blunt legislation that would allow even more employers and institutions to refuse contraceptive coverage and then respond that the non-profit clinics should step up to take care of the resulting medical crisis, particularly when so many legislators are attempting to defund those very same clinics?
She pays no attention to the true rights of other people and religious groups. She’s demanding other people – who may have a religious reason not to pay for someone’s contraception – pay for it.
On a side note, Obama wrote a letter to the Afghan president including an apology, and apparently promised disciplinary action, concerning the inadvertent burning of Qurans. Where is the letter of appology to the Catholics? Why does Obama treat radical Islamic fundamentalists with more reverence than American Catholics?
These denials of contraceptive coverage impact real people. In the worst cases, women who need this medication for other medical reasons suffer dire consequences. A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy.
That’s right, her prescription is covered by Georgetown since its use is not to prevent pregnancy, but to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Under many religious institutions’ insurance plans, it wouldn’t be, and under Senator Blunt’s amendment, Senator Rubio’s bill, or Representative Fortenberry’s bill, there’s no requirement that an exception be made for such medical needs. When they do exist, these exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.
It’s simple Ms. Fluke, get the federal government out of the health care mandate business and you’ll be able to purchase a policy meeting your requirements. When the president mandates stuff, you’re going to get push-back and more legislation that may well make it even more difficult for you to find the coverage you need.
No more comments from me since everything else is covered at the beginning of my post.
In sixty-five percent of cases, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed these prescriptions and whether they were lying about their symptoms. For my friend, and 20% of women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription, despite verification of her illness from her doctor. Her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted the birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay, so clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy. After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that in the middle of her final exam period she’d been in the emergency room all night in excruciating pain. She wrote, “It was so painful, I woke up thinking I’d been shot.” Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary. On the morning I was originally scheduled to give this testimony, she sat in a doctor’s office. Since last year’s surgery, she’s been experiencing night sweats, weight gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovary. She’s 32 years old. As she put it: “If my body indeed does enter early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children. I will have no chance at giving my mother her desperately desired grandbabies, simply because the insurance policy that I paid for totally unsubsidized by my school wouldn’t cover my prescription for birth control when I needed it.” Now, in addition to potentially facing the health complications that come with having menopause at an early age– increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis, she may never be able to conceive a child.
Perhaps you think my friend’s tragic story is rare. It’s not. One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but it can’t be proven without surgery, so the insurance hasn’t been willing to cover her medication. Recently, another friend of mine told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She’s struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it. Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown’s policy, she hasn’t been reimbursed for her medication since last August. I sincerely pray that we don’t have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.
This is the message that not requiring coverage of contraception sends. A woman’s reproductive healthcare isn’t a necessity, isn’t a priority. One student told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that, something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health. As one student put it, “this policy communicates to female students that our school doesn’t understand our needs.” These are not feelings that male fellow students experience. And they’re not burdens that male students must shoulder.
In the media lately, conservative Catholic organizations have been asking: what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school? We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success. We expected that our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of cura personalis, to care for the whole person, by meeting all of our medical needs. We expected that when we told our universities of the problems this policy created for students, they would help us. We expected that when 94% of students opposed the policy, the university would respect our choices regarding insurance students pay for completely unsubsidized by the university. We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that if we wanted comprehensive insurance that met our needs, not just those of men, we should have gone to school elsewhere, even if that meant a less prestigious university. We refuse to pick between a quality education and our health, and weresent that, in the 21 st century, anyone thinks it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.
Many of the women whose stories I’ve shared are Catholic women, so ours is not a war against the church. It is a struggle for access to the healthcare we need. The President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges has shared that Jesuit colleges and universities appreciate the modification to the rule announced last week. Religious concerns are addressed and women get the healthcare they need. That is something we can all agree on. Thank you.