Julia Gazdag
writer | producer | photographer

The Affordable Care Act: Why All the Ladies Are High Fiving

This piece first appeared on HG 8/7/2012

The Affordable Care Act: Why All the Ladies Are High-Fiving

So what’s the big deal about this new part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aside from proving, once again, that some conservatives can’t handle big-science words like “menstruation” being uttered on the Senate floor? Well, for one thing, it acknowledges that women have actual health-care needs. More importantly, it does something about it in a very real, useful way. After all, for most of medical history, “the body” was actually just the male body, so things like ovaries and breasts and uteri weren’t really paid attention to all that much. For anyone appalled by the language in that previous sentence, I would just like to say: ovariessssssssssssssssss.

You would think that since women are the ones who make babies, the bodies and organs with which they make this happen would be valued enough to be cared for and not, I don’t know, stifled with all sorts of legislation. I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for individual health insurance, but just having that second X chromosome jacks up rates. If you’re planning on having children anytime soon, that’ll cost you an extra arm, leg, and firstborn child unless you can guess Rumplestiltskin’s name. Your ovaries are just too darn expensive!

Finally, last week, some sense was introduced into the system via the ACA, when its women’s health coverage bits kicked in. For 47 million women this means they can afford regular maintenance of their lady parts without going into debt and stressing over medical bills endlessly. Suddenly, a mammogram is not the Marc Jacobs bag of cancer prevention!

If you’re like me, you like lists. Here’s one with all 8 (EIGHT!) new prevention-related services that the ACA has handed women, that were problematic at best to come by for a giant chunk of  American ladies:

  •     Well-woman visits.
  •     Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  •     Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
  •     FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
  •     Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
  •     HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
  •     Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women.
  •     HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

Of course, religious institutions may not be comfortable with covering all of these services (like contraception-related anything), and they are exempt. I’m going to put away my own thoughts of judeo-christianity’s manifestation in this country and its attitude towards women and sex, and just acknowledge how open-minded and respectful it is of the ACA to purposefully stay out of religion’s business. This, of course, makes those fighting to make any of these services harder to attain for women just look kind of silly. And by silly, I mean monumental jerks.

These services are vital for women. They protect us, our potential children, and enable us to be stronger and therefore contribute to society better. The biggest issue, of course, is contraception, because it always is. As religious institutions and houses of worship are exempt, however, hopefully we can move on to bigger and more relevant topics, such as, I don’t know, job creation and public safety.

One last note, just because it’s a personal pet peeve: the birth control pill needs a new name, you guys. So many women use it for non-contraceptive purposes that such a misnomer is detrimental to all of us. It’s a hormone pill. It treats ovarian cysts (eep), endometriosis (having your period on the outside of your uterus, crazy-painful), irregular periods and intense PMS. I don’t mean intense PMS like eating a whole pint of Cookie Dough. I mean fetal in a corner for days with blinding headaches and vomiting, which some women have and I can’t even imagine doing once, let alone every month.

Aside from the enormous amount of financial ease the ACA has just given women by making access to standard health care available, it also makes a huge statement. Everything, from covering PAP-smear and gyno co-pays to domestic violence counseling is sending the message that women are being taken seriously. The conservative right has been wreaking havoc on our rights in the last few years especially, pushing for invasive and unnecessary tests and, in some states, legally prohibiting doctors from removing a stillborn fetus (because animals do it), thus endangering the mother’s life. I can’t even make this stuff up, you guys, the basis for that law was literally that if livestock can do it, so can women. I don’t know about you, but I am not f*cking livestock, how dare you?

With that kind of attitude, it is a gigantic statement of support that the ACA is paying attention to what women need and making sure they can access it. In a Congress where medical terms like “vagina” and “menstruation” are met with balking, outraged reactions from the right, it’s clear that medical, humane health coverage is closely tied in with archaic patriarchal ideas of gender roles, which, frankly, won’t help much when a PAP smear could save your life but the co-pay cost has to go to feeding your kids. It’s nice to see that at least part of our government is being managed by adults.