Oklahoma already prevents women from using their insurance plans to help cover abortion services, but Republicans aren’t stopping there. One state lawmaker wants to continue stripping insurance coverage for reproductive health services, advancing a measure that would allow employers to refuse to cover birth control for any reason — based solely on the fact that one of his constituents believes it “poisons women’s bodies.”
Under State Sen. Clark Jolley (R)’s measure, “no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees.” According to the Tulsa World, Jolley’s inspiration for his bill came from one of his male constituents who is morally opposed to birth control, and wanted to find a small group insurance plan for himself and his family that didn’t include coverage for those services:
Jolley said the measure is the result of a request from a constituent, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher. [...]
Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
“Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”
The bill has already cleared a Senate Health committee and now makes it way to Oklahoma’s full Senate. It is unlikely that either Jolley and Pedulla themselves rely on insurance coverage for hormonal contraceptive services — but if the measure becomes law, the two men could limit the health insurance options for the nearly two million women who live in Oklahoma.
Of course, contraception does not actually poison women. The FDA approved the first oral birth control pill in 1960, and that type of contraception is so safe that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends making it available without a prescription, as it is in most other countries around the world. Furthermore, considering that over 99 percent of women of reproductive age have used some form of birth control, the Oklahoma women who rely on insurance coverage for their contraception would likely disagree with Pedulla’s assertion that it “suppresses and radically contradicts part of their own identity.”
In reality, access to affordable birth control is a critical economic issue for women. When women have control over their reproductive choices, it allows them to achieve economic goals like completing their education, becoming financially independent, or keeping a job. But birth control can carry high out-of-pocket costs, and over half of young women say they haven’t used their contraceptive method as directed because of cost prohibitions. Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly pushed measures to allow employers to drop coverage for birth control.