I am oddly prudish about discussing anything female-related and discussing sex. I am way too old to feel this way. Even discussing these things with my Chosen Tribe, I find myself whispering and looking over my shoulder to make sure no-one else can hear – to their great delight, I can assure you.
Having said all that, after hearing the oral arguments yesterday before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby (“HL”) case, I feel compelled to discuss a few things about my own medical history. I’m flabbergasted at how often it is
overlooked ignored that thousands of women use contraception for medical reasons unrelated to controlling birth.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a lesbian. I’m also a lesbian in a long-term, committed relationship. Obviously one of the benefits of such a life is that neither of us should need to use birth control. However, I have an IUD, one of the most expensive forms of contraception available. And I have it for medical reasons.
When I was 33, I went to my doctor due to specific and extremely problematic issues I’d been experiencing. An ultrasound and other examinations revealed I had developed polyps in my uterus along with a very rough (I forget the medical term) uterine lining. The polyps were removed and the lining was scraped. Luckily for me, after the torturous three day wait on the testing, the polyps were benign. However, my doctor and another agreed that over time, the same things were likely to develop again. I was presented with four options:
(1) Hysterectomy – I was 33, M was a little girl, I was nowhere near ready to say I absolutely for certain didn’t want more children. Plus, that’s an extremely expensive and invasive procedure with other long-term effects. It was also unnecessary because I had the next three options.
(2) Birth Control Pills – I tried, I did, but I didn’t do well on those at all. Some made me nauseous and others gave me migraines, which then made me literally vomit. I learned that some women just don’t do well on birth control pills. I was one of them.
(3) Progesterone – you know what makes a woman so exhausted during her first trimester of pregnancy? The progesterone hormone suddenly coursing through her. I was a full time lawyer raising a young daughter. I already fought fatigue. Living that way perpetually was not a realistic option. By afternoon, my words were practically slurring I was so exhausted.
(4) IUD – Intra-Uterine Device. It keeps the lining of the uterus extremely thin and has very little side effects (actually none that I’ve been able to tell). The problem? Without insurance, it costs approximately $1000. Luckily, my insurance covered it or I simply would not have been able to obtain this. It is a medical necessity for me – unless I want to have a hysterectomy.
I had many thoughts while reading the transcript of yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments (yes, I do that. I’m a con law nerd to the highest degree). I’ll list four here. First, just thank God for female Justices. They were amazing. Second, how is it we could be listening to a Supreme Court Justice note that HL is only objecting to three or four birth controls (again, IUDs are two of them) and then ask “that’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?” Wow. Love how informed Justice Scalia is on the facts, not that he generally allows facts to get in his way, of course. Luckily for my blood pressure, General Verrilli responded that IUDs were the most effective but also most cost-prohibitive forms of contraception. $1000 is not something I could have even come close to shelling out last year when it was time to have my IUD replaced (which hurts like absolute hell, by the way. The joys of being a woman.). Third, a bit of an aside, I appreciated Justice Sotomayor’s reference, albeit briefly, to HL’s hypocrisy in that prior to the ACA, HL’s employee insurance plans actually covered two of the very contraceptives they’re complaining about now. After the ACA requirements went into effect, it specifically changed its insurance plan to exclude those. This resulted in its no longer coming under the ACA’s grandfather clause, which would have allowed it to avoid the requirement of covering the other two contraceptive methods about which they now complain. Then they brought their lawsuit.
Fourth, and most importantly, I am exceedingly concerned that there was not one single mention during oral arguments that birth control is often used for MEDICAL PURPOSES – the precise reason people have health insurance in the first place. I had a specific medical problem and in order to avoid an unnecessary surgery, I use an IUD – a decision I reached with my doctors after considering various medical options. It is astounding to me that, depending on the summer’s ruling in this case, a corporate owner’s religious beliefs could trump that decision and force a woman in my situation to have a hysterectomy when an IUD is available and would prevent it. Frankly, I have a religious objection to that.
Surely we can do better than this absolute nonsense.
There are a dozen more legal issues wrapped up in this case, too many to address here. But I do want to mention that the possibility a corporate owner/shareholder/managing member could assert their religion in order to avoid compliance with federal laws will spell hell for the LGBT community.
As always, predicting a ruling based on oral arguments before the Supremes is a fool’s errand. So, it’s yet another June wait.