Thursday, August 7, 2008

"A Chicken in Every Pot" and The Pill on every nightstand

During my last pregnancy, I qualified for excellent, free state medical insurance because of our lower income. My husband is in graduate school for a while. This insurance coverage is part of the state's healthy start program for pregnant women and young kids. I knew the deal was that I’d be dropped like a bad habit at exactly two months postpartum, so I enrolled in a different insurance program that would kick in around that time.

As I settled into a happy relationship with my new insurer, I received an unexpected mailing from our County Assistance Office notifying me that our household data would be examined again for possible medical coverage for me. What? Cool!

So I called my caseworker.

Me: “I got this notice. Does that mean I might somehow still be eligible for comprehensive medical coverage through the state?”

Caseworker: “No, your income is too high to qualify you for complete coverage when you're not pregnant.”

Me: “Right, OK, that’s what I thought. So this mailing was erroneous. That’s all I wanted to know. Have a good day.”

Caseworker: “Well, actually, we would really really like for you to send us your income and household data again so that we can confirm your eligibility for ‘WomanPlan’.”

Me (already suspicious—isn’t it a shame that anything called “woman-something” in the medical community generally means contraceptive and/or abortive?): “And what’s that?”

Caseworker (almost giddy): “That’s our state’s family planning services plan provided free to all low and middle income women. It’s really great. It pays for all your birth control, all the time.”

Me: “Aha. Anything else included?”

Caseworker: “Well yes. ALL your family planning and contraceptives.”

Me: “Thank you, but I won’t be needing that. I’d like to waive it. No need to review our household information again. Please just cancel my case.”

Caseworker: “But, why? There’s nothing to it. It will get you free birth control and everything. All you need to do is mail us your documentation again in the prepaid envelope.”

Me: “Please, no thanks. You can cancel my case. Thank you for your help, though. Goodbye.”

One week later, obviously without having sent in any of the required documentation, I still received official notice in the mail that I have been determined eligible for “WomanPlan” and will be receiving my card in the mail shortly. I am stunned at how difficult it is to get these bureaucrats to process an application for my kids’ medical benefits (I send in everything short of urine samples, yet they still lose the paperwork constantly) and how easy it is (sending in NOTHING) to get free family planning forced upon me.

Maybe I’ve been targeted as a particularly high risk to the state since God has been sending us kids 18 months apart. Or maybe it's just part of a larger scheme to sterilize the lower- and middle-income masses.

We live in a state that was home to many of our country's Founding Fathers. Wouldn’t they be pleased to know that their state has made it a priority to use its limited medical resources to stamp out the most dangerous epidemic afflicting humankind: pregnancy.

8 comments:

Mary Alice said...

Wow, that is really something.

These people obviously don't know your kids, as you fall into the category of a highly successful mother in New York who once told my mother

"The state should pay me to have children!"

Drea (Monkey Monkey Underpants) said...

This is outrageous! This brings back bad memories from college, where everytime I went to the Student Health Center they tried to shove handfuls of condoms at me. Since when does being a college-aged girl with a cold require you to need condoms!?!

Right Said Red said...

Great post Juris Mater. I completely agree with your sentiments. This is so typical. From this story, the connection between contraception and eugenics couldn't be more clear!

Right Said Red said...

oh and I love the title of your post ;-) very creative.

Anonymous said...

I've recently started enjoying your blog and only now feel compelled to comment. I disagree that there was anything wrong - or certainly anything outrageous - about what the agency did. They did not attempt to require you to use contraception; they merely are making it available to you at no cost should you choose to take advantage of it. They have no way of knowing your beliefs about contraception. From their perspective, you are a lower income woman, of child bearing age, who might be interested in free contraception. Moreover, in terms of setting policy (i.e., which former health insurance recipients should be enrolled in the contraception program),the agency likely does not know the details of the home situation of each possible recipient. For all they know, you could be a non-Catholic, abused (either physically or even just emotionally)woman who doesn't want to have any more children at this time but whose husband was there when you talked to the agency on the phone, thereby preventing you from accepting the offered contraceptive benefits. In such a case, wouldn't the agency arguably have actually been remiss in not sending you the material at a later time for you to review and be able to use to your benefit? I understand that in your individual case, it was not desired or perhaps appropriate but state agencies that provide tax-payer funded benefits do not (and, frankly, should not) set their policies based on the unique circumstances of any one recipient. When looked at from the perspective of providing important services to a large number of low income women, I don't see anything wrong with what the agency did. And I certainly don't see how, again, merely providing an option for free birth control should the recipient choose to take it -- not requiring low income women to take birth control in any form -- can be seen as the government trying to control your reproductive choices or in any way be linked to eugenics. They are merely providing you with an option that you can choose not to take. In fact, people on the other side of related debates have, in recent past if not still today, railed against insurance companies and governmental agencies who have refused to cover birth control (while, for example, covering things like viagra) as sexist and/or part of an effort to marginalize women or even keep women in poverty by not providing them with an option to help limit the number of children they have if they cannot afford to care for them.

Right Said Red said...

Anonymous--

I agree that the actions of the agency were not outrageous, but typical. Typical and sad how we as a society PUSH contraception and abortion on the poor.

You said: "And I certainly don't see how, again, merely providing an option for free birth control should the recipient choose to take it -- not requiring low income women to take birth control in any form -- can be seen as the government trying to control your reproductive choices or in any way be linked to eugenics."

So are you saying that gov't policy doesn't affect people's choices? Are you saying that free giveaways by the gov't don't affect people's choices? They make women jump through a million hoops to get health coverage for their children, but if they want something to stop them from having children or kill their children in the womb then that's free with no hoops or strings attached.

If the state offered free abortions to certain women or classes of people (poor, black, hispanic), would you compare this to "Eugenics," after all, they still have the "choice?"

Anonymous said...

Ahh - I just typed a long response and it got lost in cyberspace. I'll try again but may be shorter this time.

I certainly would not (and did not) argue that gov't policies don't influence people's choices. They do every day. While some of those policies are designed to encourage behaviors that the gov't may deem desirable (such as tax deductions for mortgage interest to promote home ownershipt and rebates/tax credits for "green" appliances, etc.), others are simply there to provide services to people who cannot afford them.

It can be (and has been) argued that welfare programs encourage people to remain unemployed and in poverty b/c they are not incentivized to seek employment and otherwise improve themselves. But I doubt you would argue that such is the intention behind all such programs or that the government should not offer such programs because we don't want to influence people's choices in that way.

On your last question, I will start by saying that in no way would I support a program to offer free abortions to low income women. Setting aside my feelings on abortion and answering your question, I would not, however, equate such a program to eugenics. First, under our current form of government, I can conceive of no way in which any such program could be aimed at or offered to merely blacks, hispanics or any other racial, ethnic or religious group. So, assuming it is offered to poor women, I don't see how it can be characterized as or equated to a nefarious plan to improve the human race by selecting who gets to be parents. It would merely be providing a service to some women who might want it (even though we disagree with that choice), not forcibly sterilizing women or aborting babies. Moreover, your question, Red, arguably assumes that low income women cannot make an informed choice as to whether they want birth control or not and so the government shouldn't offer it to them because it would be unduly influencing their choices. Isn't the proper job of government, particularly when it comes to support of low income families, to make available services and resources that may be needed/desired and let the citizens make informed choices on what services are appropriate for them? There are innumerable gov't services that are available to me that I don't choose to take. But the fact that the I don't currently want to open a small business and obtain a loan through the SBA doesn't mean that the government should not offer that service to others or that I would be offended if it's offered to me and I don't want it.

JesusThroughMary said...

"Isn't the proper job of government, particularly when it comes to support of low income families, to make available services and resources that may be needed/desired and let the citizens make informed choices on what services are appropriate for them?"

No, it is not.

"The fact that the I don't currently want to open a small business and obtain a loan through the SBA doesn't mean that the government should not offer that service to others or that I would be offended if it's offered to me and I don't want it."

What actually happened to Juris Mater is more akin to a SBA loan being issued in her name against her will after she told the SBA she didn't want one. The point at issue is not that the government offers free contraception to poor people, but that the government apparently makes the decision that poor people need contraception and enrolls them in a program to receive it not only without their consent, but against their explicit instructions. Are you honestly saying that it's reasonable for the government to assume that every woman who declines free contraception does so because she is being abused by a man who wants to use her as a baby factory? I don't know where you're from, but where I come from, there aren't a lot of men who like their women fertile to begin with.

The much more reasonable conclusion is that the State is simply pushing contraception on poor people because they don't want poor people having babies.

"They did not attempt to require you to use contraception; they merely are making it available to you at no cost should you choose to take advantage of it."

"Making it available" is what the state did by creating the program; involuntarily enrolling someone in that program based on economic status (and assumed economic status at that, since she never sent documentation) is approaching coercion. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that that extra step would cause the state to lose, for example, an Establishment Clause case, if the issue were religion rather than contraception.

"And I certainly don't see how merely providing an option for free birth control can be seen as the government trying to control your reproductive choices or in any way be linked to eugenics."

The connection between contraception and eugenics goes back at least to the founding of Planned Parenthood by the racist apostate Margaret Sanger of cursed memory. The notion that certain classes of people should cease to procreate - voluntarily or otherwise - for the benefit of society (that is, for the benefit of the enlightened class) is of the essence of eugenics. When the state implies that a person too poor to afford contraception is also too stupid to know that she needs it and endeavors to coerce her into using it, especially when the state refuses to provide health care for the children of that same poor, helpless woman, what are we to conclude? It may not be eugenics per se, but it's certainly on the way there.