Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil, recently announced his plan for universal birth control for his country. His program would cost $51 million to implement, but would cost the consumer only 20 cents for a month’s supply of pills.
Who knows if the plan will come to fruition. But the very idea of it excites me!
A few years ago, I was experiencing irregular bleeding and tests revealed that I had some ovarian cysts. Having had a 12 pound fibroid tumor removed from my uterus a few years before, part of me scoffed at a tiny cyst, while another part of me feared what might develop if they went unchecked. My doctor suggested I start taking birth control to shrink the cysts and control the bleeding.
At first, I opted for the patch, which I knew wasn’t covered by many insurance companies. When I called my insurance company to see what the cost would be, I was shocked to find out that my plan didn’t cover birth control!
Viagra yes. Birth control, in any form, no. What kind of sense does that make?
Then the person who answered the phone at my insurance company, who was sitting behind a desk with no medical degree, asked me WHY I was going on birth control. “Are you using it as birth control, or for medical reasons?” Truth be told, I was using it for both reasons, but my doctor had suggested it for the cysts. I opted for that answer and was told that I could have my doctor write a letter and fill out some form for exemption, blah blah blah.
Fortunately my employer was switching to a new insurance plan for a host of reasons unrelated to my birth control needs. But the new plan did cover birth control, although the choices were limited. I didn't like the patch, so I switched to the pill.
My mother had breast cancer when she was in her late 20s. At 32 years old, I am particularly concerned about this. But my insurance doesn’t cover anything but a few generic pills, not one of which is a low-dose estrogen pill which medical studies have suggested for people with my family history.
Because of my current financial situation, I opted for the pills my insurance covers. At least they don’t adversely affect my sex drive like the first pills I took several years ago! (Which was actually perfect birth control – you can’t get pregnant if you never feel like having sex!!)
What would stop our country from offering such a revolutionary birth control plan like the one proposed in Brazil?
First of all, there is the general health care crisis in this country. We are the richest country in the world, and yet, not all of our citizens have health care. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should have access to health care. Governmentally subsidized birth control seems like it wouldn’t be at the top of the list, given how screwed up health care is in this country.
Second, birth control is still perceived as a “woman’s health issue,” even though it takes a man AND a woman to make a baby. Unfortunately, women’s health issues take a backseat to more “important” issues like erectile dysfunction. Men can buy a condom or get snipped. All of the things that screw with our hormones, which causes myriad other issues, are reserved only for women.
Third, there are too many people in this country who are against birth control – and birth control education. The Vatican has been against the pill since its inception. And for some reason people get all bent out of shape if we teach kids anything other than abstinence, which didn’t work for me as a teenager and continues not to work for many teens today. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a good idea, no matter how you look at it.
Fourth, we glorify having children in this country. We give tax breaks for it. Politicians debate “family values.” The American Dream includes 2.2 children, a dog, an SUV, and a house in suburbia with toys strewn across the driveway. There is not an acceptable alternative dream.
It will be fascinating to see what happens in Brazil. If it succeeds, it will be interesting to figure out why. Maybe someday we could do something similar in this country. It seems to me, it would go a long way toward solving some of the problems that continue to plague us.