Kylea Wright – Baltimore, MD
I have felt like a feminist soldier watching as battle after battle has been lost over the past four years. This war not only rages around me, but is fought across my flesh and inside of my body. I have witnessed Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of high-quality, affordable healthcare for women and men, threatened with being defunded because they provide a legal health procedure. I have cringed as empowering moments such as #yesallwomen are derailed by discussions about the male perspective of feminism. I have seen my nightmares turn real and manifest themselves in the shape of Men’s Rights Activist groups.
But not today. Today, I am happy to report a victory. Two states, Oregon and California, have passed legislation allowing women to obtain birth control pills with a pharmacist’s prescription. This means women will be able to walk into a pharmacy, fill out a brief questionnaire with a pharmacist and take home their birth control. Oregon has taken this not one, but two steps further, and allowed the pharmacist’s prescription to be for a 12-month supply of birth control pills and requires insurers to cover the cost.
This legislation is seen as “barrier” removal in allowing women access to birth control without a doctor’s prescription, and I am overjoyed to see this wall fall. Some critics say this legislation is not enough and that birth control should be available over the counter, but this itself is problematic because over the counter medication is not covered by insurance under the new laws. This legislation is a smart way to keep insurance companies covering birth control, though it still leaves the barrier of approval from a pharmacist.
Critics from the other side are concerned women will use this as a way to avoid annual gynecological visits. But they’re forgetting two important things: One – women are adults and they shouldn’t be bullied into going to the doctor by being denied birth control. Let me see a man be denied access to condoms because he hasn’t gotten an STD test or a prostate check in the last year.
And two – According to the CDC, women ages 21 to 65 need to undergo a Pap Smear to screen for cervical cancer every three years. However, if women undergo both a human papillomavirus (HPV) test and a Pap Smear at once – known as co-testing – and their results are normal, they can be tested EVERY FIVE YEARS.
So yes, annual visits are still something you should do for your health, and yes, if you are on birth control you need to keep an eye on your blood pressure, but skipping your annual appointment shouldn’t be enough to exclude access to the pill.
Yes, it’s only two states, it’s brand new and who knows how it will go over in the end. Oregon’s law just went into effect on January 1 and California’s will in the next couple of months.
But to many, this is a huge victory and a torch of hope. Hope that instead of news items about Rush Limbaugh saying no sometimes means yes, (he actually said this: “How many guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that no means yes if you know how to spot it?”), or New Hampshire Rep. Jeanine Notter spreading false beliefs that females have prostates, or Texas Republican businessman Clay Williams saying, “Well, bad weather is like rape: if it’s inevitable, you might as well relax and enjoy it,” will be no more.
Such comments, and the sexism and rhetoric behind them, are the real barriers to women’s health. Only time, conversation and the honest belief that women are equal to men will remove them. But until that day, I celebrate the victory these bills represent and hope they are signs of good things to come.