Sandra Fluke, the woman Republicans prevented from testifying at yesterday’s House Oversight Committee hearing, says she was “stunned” at Chairman Darrel Issa’s (R-CA) decision to keep her from discussing the consequences of limiting women’s access to affordable contraception at a hearing focused on Preside Obama’s birth control requirement. “I was so stunned when Chairman Issa made the decision to not allow me to speak…and to say that I was not an appropriate witness and that those women’s stories were not appropriate for this committee,” Fluke said last night on MSNBC’s The Ed Show. “I cannot think of who would be more appropriate for the committee to hear from than the women who are affected by this policy, whose lives were affected.”
The third-year Georgetown Law student went on to tell the story of her friend who couldn’t afford her birth control — at $100 per month — and was refused insurance coverage for the medication, despite its medical necessity. Shortly thereafter, she developed a massive cyst on her ovary and underwent a surgery that may have jeopardized her abilities to conceive a child:
FLUKE: What ultimately happen is she that had to have that ovary surgically removed. As a result of that, of course she would have problems conceiving a child, but even more, it just hasn’t stopped for her. She since the surgery has experienced symptoms of early menopause and her doctors are very concerned that at the age of 32 she is entering early menopause, which means that there will be nothing any doctor can do to help her to conceive a child and it will also put her at increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. And that’s where she was this morning when I was attempting to tell her story to the public and to members of Congress, she was at the doctor’s office trying to cope with the symptoms she’s experiencing.
As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein pointed out last week, Fluke’s friend isn’t the only woman relying on contraception to treat health ailments. “The Guttmacher Institute estimates that roughly 14 percent of birth control prescriptions are written for non-contraceptive purposes, helping some 1.5 million women with issues like ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and endometrial cancer.” Many women currently “do not have access to health insurance coverage to pay for this medication simply because they work at places owned or run by the Catholic Church” and lower-income women too often can’t afford to pay for the medication out of pocket.
A recent study found that insured women paid about 50 percent of the total costs for oral contraceptives, even though the typical out-of-pocket cost of non-contraceptive drugs is only 33 percent. Oral contraceptives can cost $600 dollars a year for women without insurance. As a result, nearly one in four women with household incomes of less than $75,000 have put off a doctor’s visit for birth control to save money in the past year. Half of young adult women report using their method inconsistently because of high costs.
Under the administration’s new rule, all women will have access to a wide range of women’s health services — including contraception — as part of their health insurance plans, at no additional cost sharing. Houses of worship and institutions that primarily serve people of the same faith are exempt from the providing birth control, while nonprofit religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals, and universities can also opt out of offering the benefit. Their employees will receive the medication directly from the insurance company.