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It’s pathetic. For every step forward we take to improve women’s reproductive rights in this country, we take at least five steps back. The latest example: women who are forced to buy individual insurance plans (i.e., are not on employer-based plans protected by Title VII and who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid) are utterly screwed if they find themselves in a family way in the wrong states:

[M]ost individual health insurance markets don’t cover maternity care. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 14 states have a requirement for such coverage, and the number of plans without maternity coverage continues to rise dramatically. Why? Anthem Blue Cross — which has been actively fighting health care reform — considers pregnancy optional and therefore not necessary to insure.

You read that right. In 36 states, pregnancy is considered optional, even in those areas where abortion providers who haven’t been assassinated are more than a "short ride" away.

Following this logic, one would assume, then, that since insurance companies consider pregnancy optional, they would provide coverage for female contraceptives under these individual plans, as a hedge against those horridly expensive, optional vaginal deliveries. One would assume wrong, of course. Birth control is still not covered under these plans.

(Interestingly, I’m still looking for the amounts insurance companies pay out annually for Viagra and Cialis prescriptions… )

Moreover, the National Women’s Law Center issued a study on the major-league failure by the individual health insurance market to serve women, and it just gets worse: (.pdf link)

Except where prohibited in ten states, or limited in two states, insurance carriers are free to charge women and men different premiums for individually-purchased insurance under a practice known as gender rating. This discriminatory and arbitrary practice creates substantial financial barriers for women seeking to obtain the health care they need. [emphasis mine]

Terrific. Women, who are still paid an average of 75¢ to the dollar, face even greater financial pain because of their gender.  

Oh, and by the way: if your husband beats you because, thanks to this economy, he’s out of a job and the insurance premiums have bankrupted the both of you and he can’t stand listening to the optional baby cry anymore? So sorry. Any injuries you sustain aren’t covered, either, because in 8 states (and D.C.), being an abused spouse qualifies as a pre-existing condition, as well.

Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you’re more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.

In human terms, it’s a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence.

John Lennon got it right:

We make her bear and raise our children
And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother hen
We tell her home is the only place she should be
Then we complain that shes too unworldly to be our friend

Like I said: it’s pathetic. We’ve still got a very long way to go, baby.