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On the Contraception Coverage Dumped from the Stimulus Bill

January 28, 2009

Christine at Our Bodies Our Blog and several authors at RHRealityCheck did a fine job of addressing the contraception coverage through Medicaid that was originally considered in the stimulus bill and has now been jettisoned, apparently at President Obama’s request. There’s a ton of good coverage/reactions out there, such as from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and from Planned Parenthood, so I don’t need to rehash the arguments here.

Do not misunderstand: I personally wish for contraception to be more cheaply and readily accessible for those who want it. If the government decided to spend money on helping people control their reproduction when desired, I’d be happy about that. So of course I’m disappointed that something that would have helped people access contraception isn’t going to happen.

But, you know, I understand that people don’t get it. People hear the words “stimulus bill,” and they want things that immediately create jobs and put money in people’s pockets. They don’t want money for something that may prevent something that would cost states money if it happened – for money potentially saved down the line. We’re not always a big fan of delayed gratification, which is not entirely unrelated to the current economic situation. And we certainly haven’t, on the whole, demonstrated a lot of respect for women who want to have sex and actually be able to keep working or not get pregnant or otherwise not be punished for having that sex.

It’s certainly tempting to be frustrated and to feel that this is women’s health and reproductive health and access to healthcare and contraception-which-is-not-abortion being tossed aside, again. Again, again, again.

Maybe it is. Christine in her post has links to some coverage of the political football aspects and criticism of John Boehner’s crusade against contraceptives in the stimulus bill, and you should go read that. I certainly think there is an aspect of the whole contraception-as-political-and-divisive thing, which I personally think is ridiculous. But I do wonder if perhaps the current economy will stimulate more serious discussion about healthcare reform – we’ve already talked about how people are skipping needed healthcare, and it’s often much cheaper (to individuals and the government) if we can do prevention instead of emergency patching together and critical care. I’ve personally talked to people about accessing their local Planned Parenthood or county health department for needed care, people who have worked steady jobs for years and years and now find themselves jobless from a closing or in a new job that doesn’t offer health insurance. I suspect that, with businesses closing day after day, more people will start to realize how tenuous their access to affordable healthcare really is.

I certainly don’t think it’s a good thing for people to suffer in the short term, but I’m hopeful that this inspires us to take a serious and comprehensive look at healthcare in this country, and not a patch here and a patch there in various bills. We could do it piecemeal, and it would help people, but piecemeal isn’t going to fix the problem.

So can we get past the “stimulus” bill, and get to work on comprehensive healthcare reform?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2009 8:46 am

    Well, I’m angry about it. The latest figures show this would have saved states $700 million. Yet because the Democrats are unable to get their message out effectively, and the media is still operating under “Republican rules,” we end up with the idea that using Medicaid for contraception is somehow a bad idea. That will make getting this coverage passed in the future all the more difficult. Once again, women lose.

  2. January 28, 2009 8:56 am

    Yes, I’m obviously disappointed, particularly after watching reproductive health be used as a political football for the last – well, since forever. I didn’t think it was necessary for me specifically to rehash all of those arguments – which you allude to in your comment – though, given that there are already some good sources provided for that.

  3. January 28, 2009 9:05 am

    Well puit, Rachel. You’ve said everything I’ve been thinking. Thanks.

  4. January 28, 2009 10:12 am

    My question is this: will Obama ask the Congress to create another bill (or will Congress create it on its own) that will provide the same coverage? That is, is this a retreat on health care for women, or is it a statement that although this must be done, the stimulus package isn’t the way to do it? I have to say that it looks like the former to me, and I’d be a lot more comfortable if one of Obama’s people said something to suggest that it’s the latter instead.

  5. January 28, 2009 10:39 am

    nm, according to a piece at Politico:

    “According to the White House, while Obama ‘believed that the policy of increased funding for family planning was the right one … he didn’t believe that this bill was the vehicle to make that happen,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.”

  6. January 28, 2009 11:09 am

    That’s good … I eagerly await the bill that is the vehicle. Thanks for the info, Rachel.

  7. MomTFH permalink
    January 28, 2009 8:50 pm

    I am still upset about it. It didn’t gain one single Republican vote for the stimulus bill. There are other, more esoteric health related policies that did not get tossed from the stimulus bill like money for encouraging electronic medical records.

    After a week and a half in, I have seen Obama bury overturning the Global Gag Rule and then this. He couldn’t even address the March for Life without acknowledging that abortion is a “divisive issue.” I am disappointed in his approach to reproductive health so far, and I think he is actively reinforcing the the women’s issues = political third rail paradigm.

  8. January 28, 2009 8:55 pm

    MomTFH, I definitely understand the upset about it. I hope you’re wrong about the approach over time, but we’ll see – I’m not ready to reach a conclusion about what we should anticipate over the next 4 years just yet.

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