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Think Tank

The Sex Wars: Women Are Sluts and Sperm Are People Too

Imagine if Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in 1992 and woke up yesterday. He would probably be amazed at the extent to which our national conversation on reproductive health has regressed in 20 years. 

Abortion is no longer at the center of the debate. It's contraception! While many health care plans cover prescriptions for drugs that help regulate blood flow in the penis (more than half of Viagra prescriptions received health insurance coverage within weeks of hitting the market in 1998), that's not the case for prescription oral contraceptives that help regulate a woman's menstrual cycle, treat medical conditions such as iron deficiency anemia and also provide some protection against colorectal, endometrial and ovarian cancers. 

A 2007 Mercer study of major companies revealed these illogical inconsistencies:

  • 97 percent of large group plans cover prescription drugs, but only 33 percent of those plans cover oral contraceptives
  • Only 15 percent of large group plans cover the five most common forms of birth control: oral contraceptives, diaphragms, IUDs, Depo Provera, and Norplant
  • Women age 15-44 pay 68 percent more for out-of-pocket healthcare costs than their male counterparts, largely due to the cost of reproductive healthcare

When you look at most Catholic-based health care plans, the discrepancy is even more pronounced.

Those are the sobering facts. As for our public discourse around the issue of contraception, it has become a parody of itself. After the Obama administration's birth control policy mandated insurance companies cover contraceptives, a Congressional committee heard testimony from an all-male panel of witnesses who opposed contraception coverage. When women such as Georgetown student Sandra Fluke were finally allowed to testify, she was called a "prostitute" and a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh.

Even some who have condemned Limbaugh's language are still buying into his argument that women like Fluke expect the government to pay them to have sex. It's hard to decide whether this argument is more or less bizarre than Rick Santorum backer Foster Freiss's suggestion that "gals put [Aspirin] between their knees." I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that means. 

In response to all of this, the City Council of Wilmington, Delaware passed a satirical resolution calling on legislatures to pass laws granting "personhood" rights to eggs and sperm. And yet, the real shame is that if Rip Van Winkle were just waking up today and read these headlines taken together, it would be tough for him to tell whether he was reading real news, or the Onion. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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