Legislature overrules, women pay

Earlier this week [Sept. 12, 2012], the Replubican-dominated Missouri Legislature overturned Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that allows employers to deny coverage for birth control to women, if offering it violates the employers’ religious beliefs. So now, if you’re a woman in Missouri, and you work for a Rick-Santorum-like boss, you’re not going to get your birth control paid for by your insurance plan. And, if you insist on thwarting the reproductive will of your boss’s deity, you’re going to have to pay for it out of your own pocket.  Now, what, exactly, will that cost?

The bill was initially introduced by  Republican State Representative Mark Lamping from Ladue, a wealthy St. Louis suburb. Lamping has said that the now-uninsured women will simply have to pay for their birth control “out of their personal wherewithal.” Apparently, he thinks that women can take these costs out of petty cash. And, while that would be a nice scenario, a post at Fired Up Missouri clearly shows that—particularly for lower-income women, that’s not at all realistic.

“Reproducing, Ladue-style,” tallies up the costs of getting a prescription for birth control [including an exam from a physician], and compares insured vs. uninsured costs. For example:

Birth control pills must be prescribed by a physician. A person with health insurance pays between $10 and $30 in co-pay for the required gynecological exam. A person paying for those services…will pay between $35 and $200.

The post goes on to demonstrate how much paying out of one’s own “personal wherewithal” would impact the financial situation of low-income women.

Minimum wage in this country is $7.25 an hour. A person earning minimum wage who would like to experience intimate relations (as my mother might say) with a loved one and not get pregnant is spending two hours working to earn the money she needs to visit a doctor and obtain a month of birth control pills, assuming her health plan covers birth control pills.

If her employer or her insurance plan chooses not to cover birth control pills, she will be working 7.6 hours in order to have the money to access that same set of services and products. About a day’s work. Go ahead and multiply this out over a year…

The figures are worth looking at. These specific costs may be from Missouri, but there are undoubtedly parallels in other states. And remember that Missouri’s own U.S. Senator Roy Blunt was the sponsor of a national birth-control “conscience law” just last year. [Thankfully, reason prevailed and the bill failed.] But anti-choice legislators don’t give up easily, so  this punitive and religiously based approach to birth control could be coming soon to a state near you.

The moral [if morality is a word that can be associated with this law] of the story, says Fired Up Missouri is this:

Nobody, but nobody, is a fan of abortions. Pro-choice, pro-life. Nobody. Even in Missouri, we can agree on this. So why in the world would a financially well-off securities broker lead our state representatives to engineer a health care system that makes it far more likely that the women of the working poor will be conceiving unwanted pregnancies?

Mothers and daughters with sufficient personal wherewithal will almost always reproduce when and as we choose. Shouldn’t the right to exercise individual moral and religious freedom extend to everyone?