Reproductive Freedom Isn’t Free

February 18, 2015
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No, we do not have equal access to medicine in our country.

What do we mean when we say “reproductive freedom?”

I think most of us are familiar with the usual conversation. The discussion usually about women’s rights and access to medicine and some old guys in Congress trying to take those rights away from her. And that part of the conversation is all well and good, and it’s not the thing I want to talk about.

I just want us to be able to finally admit something?

We aren’t really talking about reproductive freedom. That’s a misnomer. We are talking about something entirely different. It’s not about equality or free access or anything like that.

Because when it comes to reproductive medicine, there is still much about it that is not free, equal and accessible.

On the Brink

A year ago, Cheri and I were facing financial meltdown.

For a few years, we had chipped away at our bank account with some small infertility treatments. Our quest to become parents was not going according to plan. What happens naturally for most was going to cost us some time, some money and some visits to a specialist.

It was all out of pocket, but the costs were small enough that with a few sacrifices, we could make it happen.

The expenses stacked up, but without success. So we decided to take a bigger risk. We plunked down more money and jumped head first into in vitro fertilization. Cheri had an unexpected reaction that landed her in the hospital for a week, and our costs ballooned, more than double our original budget.

But we finally got pregnant, but of course, the bills were not finished. It costs money to actually give birth, so we added another few thousand dollars for another hospital bill.

Added all up, Cheri and I spent a chunk of money about equal to a modest college education on just having a baby.

This week, the doctor prescribed Cheri birth control to get her body back on track.

We picked up the prescription.

Total cost:

Zero.

No Such Thing As a Free Baby

Our society has done much when it comes to the availability of birth control, probably with too many positive and negative results to name here. I’m not saying that women should not have access to birth control (though you and I might disagree about what constitutes “birth control.”)

But Cheri and I realized that we were part of a fortunate few. In trying to have a child, we were playing a very “middle class” game. Had we fewer financial resources, there would be no way that “reproductive freedom” would be available to us. Had we been in a lower income bracket, the doors of modern medicine would have been shut to us. Our “reproductive freedom” would have been restrained because most healthcare coverage does not include fertility treatment.

I realize that there is a huge difference between the cost of infertility treatments and the costs of birth control. But this is the reality in America. We have put a huge priority on ensuring that everyone can easily prevent the birth of any unplanned children. But we have all but ignored the segment of the population who actually desires to have children. And I think you have to wonder what kind of effect that is having on the way we think about life.

Babies’ Falling Stock

To put things in perspective, any couple in France can get up to six rounds of in vitro fertilization, paid by the public health system. Say what you want about socialized medicine. In France, everyone is paying for everyone else’s birth control, but everyone is also paying for the few couples who actually need help conceiving. And guess what? French parents also don’t worry about expensive daycare. That’s covered through their taxes too.

In our culture, flocks of people listen to Dan Savage as he says that abortion ought to be compulsory for thirty years to get the population under control. American children have seen their status greatly diminished in our modern culture. They are considered by many to be little more than an economic burden, at best a hassle, at worst a disaster, like a plague. We see babies in terms of numbers.

It’s true, babies make life difficult, especially for single working moms, and I cannot possibly relate to their plight. But it is a tragedy that we have made a national priority of preventing life, rather than improving and celebrating life. Cheri and I got through our little economic disaster. And at least we have something to show for it. But the medicine we had access to just is not in reach to many people, and that’s the way our culture would rather keep it.

I’m not complaining that anyone has cheap or free birth control. I’m not even complaining that our child cost us so much money. I just want us to admit that what we mean by “reproductive freedom” is not really about reproductive freedom. 

Can we just admit that we don’t really believe in reproductive freedom? Can we admit that we aren’t really willing to talk about equality? Can we admit that we are more interested the numbers and it’s just cheaper to stop life, to prevent life, rather than to celebrate life?

It’s time that we raised the value of life in our culture, not just the means of preventing it.

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