By Megan Lieff
My sister is a residential undergrad at a well-respected state university. While she is currently on private insurance, this is unlikely to last, and she’ll be switching to the student health plan soon. Just the other day she lamented that her preferred form of birth control, the Nuva Ring, was too expensive, and she’d have to switch to pills. This was upsetting for me, as I’d like to see her make her best choices, free from economic constraint. But mostly, I was glad – glad that she was making responsible decisions about her health, and glad that she had the resources to do so.
I only have one sister, but there are thousands like her out there. Smart and sexually-active young women, trying to do their best to navigate a byzantine system of access and coverage. For college students who live on campuses, the university health care is often the only game in town. The Preventive Care package of the Affordable Care Act will simplify the lives of these women and their partners. It is the kind of legislation that women like my sister deserve.
It’s uncomfortable to think how different our conversation might have been if she went to one of the many religious colleges in this country where the birth control pill is not the cheaper option, because there are no options. If the push back by Catholic Bishops to prevent the Obama Administration from applying the Preventative care package to religious universities was successful, these women would continue to go without adequate reproductive care. Though my own sister would not be directly effected by this outcome, many of her peers would. Adequate health coverage should not be a lottery.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do to help my little sister, and when I think about the work I do, I think of her. I am glad to be an intern with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, supporting women’s health and reproductive rights in all circumstances, for believers or non of any stripe. The RCRC stands in support of the Obama Administration and Kathleen Sebelius and is “committed to upholding the important goals of reproductive justice and health, empowering women and men to make decisions…within their own moral and religious traditions.” Groups like the National Association of Catholic Bishops do not speak for us, and do not speak for all religious people.
Just this morning, when I asked her for permission to write this post, my sister expressed a quiet joy at the prospect of this bill. But she held back, expressing fear that the outcomes of our upcoming elections could invalidate what work might be done on her behalf. If in a democratic city in a state that went blue in ’08, at a public university no less, young women still can’t trust that their health needs will be met, then what youth can? Clearly there is much work to be done. But the Preventative Care package would be one step forward, and is one we need to support and defend.
Good work to the Obama Administration in making this bold choice, and to all those in the #HERVotes coalition and elsewhere who are speaking out about this issue.
Megan Lieff is an intern at RCRC, working with the IOWG and SYRF departments. She’s working on her under-grad at University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying Women’s Studies and statistics.