Leave it to the Republicans. Only the Republicans would have the *temerity* to call an oversight hearing to discuss the birth control mandate and, in two full panels of testimony, offered two women. Two.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called the hearing and determined who was qualified to offer testimony and who was not. Apparently, women are not qualified to offer more than just a token opinion on the balance of personal health care decisions and religious exercise. But that’s hardly a surprise now is it?
Among the witnesses rejected by Issa was Sandra Fluke a third year student at the Catholic Georgetown Law School who proposed testimony on the cost of contraception without insurance coverage (at least $3000 a year) and the struggle to keep up with that cost.
And then she wanted to share stories like this:
“A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy. At many schools, it wouldn’t be, and under Senator Blunt’s amendment, Senator Rubio’s bill, or Representative Fortenbeny’s bill, there’s no requirement that an exception be made for such medical needs.”
“When they do exist, these exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are good enough and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.”
“In sixty-five percent of cases, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they need these prescriptions and whether they’re lying about their symptoms. For my friend, and 20% of women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription, despite verification of her illness from her doctor. Her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted the birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay, so clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy. After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that in the middle of her final exam period she’d been in the emergency room all night in excruciating pain. She wrote, “It was so painful, I woke up thinking I’d been shot.”
Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary. She’s not here this morning. She’s in a doctor’s office right now. Since last year’s surgery, she’s been experiencing night sweats, weight gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovary. She’s 32 years old. As she put it: “If my body is indeed in early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children. I will have no chance at giving my mother her desperately desired grandbabies, simply because the insurance policy that I paid for totally unsubsidized by my school wouldn’t cover my prescription for birth control when I needed it.” Now, in addition to facing the health complications that come with having menopause at an early age– increased risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, she may never be able to be a mom.”
Really, Congressman Issa, why would you want to hear from this witness when instead you can hear from the Most Reverend William Lori, the Reverend Dr. Matthew Harrison, moral philosophy professor C. Benn Mitchell, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and ethics professor Craig Mitchell instead? Because there’s no way a female law student at a Catholic university could be as qualified to speak to the issue of insurance coverage for contraception and religious exemptions as a panel of celibate men.
Photo from gage skidmore via flickr.