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Hanna Sherrill's picture

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I worry a lot about the language being used surrounding women’s health care.

Many people have argued that women should have to pay a higher price for insurance to cover the unique services we require. That we alone should bare the burden of reproductive healthcare costs such as prenatal care and childbirth, as though men have not benefited from a woman receiving care during pregnancy and birth, as though we had a choice in what body we inhabit.

I also hear a lot of politicians saying that unmarried responsible consenting adults should not be having sex if they aren’t willing to have a baby because of it. That stance does not acknowledge the very real fact that sex is often a healthy and important part of a relationship, even when the people aren’t married. I worry that the motivation behind all of these comments is a desire for women to be punished simply for having been born with two X chromosomes.

As a graduate student making very little money in a very expensive major U.S. city, there was a time when I had to choose between my reproductive health and my mental health. The $20 co-pay for each of my two prescriptions was a surprisingly large burden the year that I had to save an extra $2,000 for a down payment on an apartment and moving expenses. I had to choose which prescription was more important to my well-being, and I chose my reproductive health.

At a time when I had just enough to buy food, pay rent, and get to and from lab, nothing would be less welcome for me, or my long-term partner than worrying about an unplanned pregnancy. But an unplanned pregnancy was not the only reason I chose to fill my birth control prescription instead of my anxiety medication. Hormonal contraception keeps my moods stable because my hormones no longer fluctuate wildly. Because of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandating that contraception be considered preventative medicine, I no longer have to choose between two medications that dramatically improve my quality of life.

But wait! It gets better: Just this week, I was finally able to get a long term hormone-based method, without having to first come up with the initial cost of $600, which was prohibitive for me before the ACA. It’s such a relief to no longer have to worry about disrupting my education because now my reproductive health is completely within my control. I should not have to feel lucky for having access to affordable medical care, it should be a right that all people have.

But alas, I do feel lucky. I'm lucky to have gotten to graduate school, I am lucky to receive great health insurance through my graduate fellowship, and I'm lucky that the ACA passed.

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