Birth Control Pills … Or a Frappuccino?


Written by Leah Berkenwald, a Ms. Magazine blogger

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will require all health insurers to fully cover women’s preventative health services, including birth control. With birth control costing some women hundreds of dollars each year, this measure slightly reduces the financial burden of being a woman.

It may surprise some that in this day and age, birth control (let alone other preventative health care) is still considered a subject of controversy. Yet conservatives protested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations that led to the HHS’ decision. Most notably, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said, “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, they’re not going to use birth control anyways.” So, according to O’Reilly, women only have sex when they’re drunk or high — a time when women condoms as their primary form of contraception? Even ignoring the anti-woman insult, O’Reilly clearly does not understand how birth control works or what insurers would cover (note: it’s not condoms).

Fox News political commentator Dana Perino added, “If you can afford a $5 Frappuccino at Starbucks, you can pay your $5 co-pay.” There are so many things wrong here. First of all, Perino assumes that all women can afford to spend $5 on designer coffee drinks. Second, she assumes that all birth control copays are $5. While some lucky few pay $5 for generic forms of hormonal birth control pills, many pay far more, especially if their best option is the NuvaRing, an IUD or another method. How about $70 a month copay, as one woman reported to us? That’s a lot of Frappucinos.

Yes, even women with health insurance can pay hundreds of dollars a year for birth control in the U.S. While some men do buy condoms, the financial burden of pregnancy prevention rests primarily on women. Factor in another $100-200 per year on tampons and other feminine hygiene products and you start to see just how expensive it is to be born with a vagina. (And I’m not even including the cost of clothes, makeup, hair-removal services, etc. that women are pressured to buy in order to be considered “desirable” or even “professional” in our society.) On top of that, women still earn less than men for doing the same work.

When I first heard the news yesterday, I got excited about the extra $400 or so I would be saving on birth control. I thought about what I could buy with the money: plane tickets, an iPod, or new furniture for my apartment. But when I posed the “what would you buy?” question on Facebook, most women responded that the money would go towards paying bills. Realistically, in this down economy, that’s probably how I’ll spend it too. The sad truth is that itís much more expensive to be a woman than it is to be a man. But in the near future, the cost of preventative and reproductive health care won’t penalize us for being women.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.

Related Stories:

GOP Rep Says Free Birth Control Will End American Civilization

HHS Adopts Recommendations For Birth Control Coverage

Fox News “Expert”: Birth Control Now, Manicures Next? (Video)

Photo from kurichan* via flickr


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago

What a choice!

Betsy M.
Betsy M7 years ago

What sort of strange, imaginary world has O'Riley created in his mind?

Loo Samantha
Loo sam7 years ago


Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg7 years ago

I love the frankness of your writing along with the info. Bill O'Reilly must have issues around sexuality to say such mean things. Bill, not every woman who has sex is a drunken slut. Remember, for you to be on the planet, a woman had to have had sex. Certainly you would not imply that your birth was the result of a woman getting drunk- namely your own mother- would you? Well, then, let's stop the anti-women slurs, Billy, and give your mother- and all women- the respect they deserve.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams7 years ago

Even for insurance companies--birth control is MUCH CHEAPER than unwanted pregnancy.Even if you figure between ten and twenty women covered for birth control to prevent one unwanted pregnancy, the insurance company should come out ahead.

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodrigu

I agree with Hilary A. By the way, has Mr. O'Reilly ever heard of education? You know, that thing his parents paid for to keep him out of their hair when he was a minor.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson7 years ago

In this day and time. anyone who considers Birth control contraversial IS CONTRAVERSIAL.To insure women access to the ability to PLAN their family is ESSENTIAL. We should ALSO cover prenatal,delivery and follow-up. Insurance could include an opt out for women past child bearing to save costs.

Paul Z.
Paul Zio7 years ago

Prenatal care and child birth is also covered.

Ida J.
Ida J7 years ago

Thanks for sharing