Outliers

at 12:35 AM

I used to take it for granted that birth control was not particularly scandalous. After all, more than 99 percent of American women use contraception at some point. California law requires insurers to cover contraception if they also cover other prescription medications, but there are loopholes, and as an obstetrician gynecologist I find many of my patients struggling to pay for the most effective methods.

Last fall I had the opportunity to speak with many of California's legislators in Congress about this. They agreed that closing gaps in coverage was essential for the health of women and their families. Then, in February, a significant advance in women's health was announced, a national requirement that insurers cover all contraception with no cost-sharing. I decided to call those same legislators to thank them for their support, and something disturbing happened. The aide at one Democratic office said she would be sure to pass my message along, since her boss liked to know about "outliers." I thanked her and hung up, and then it hit me.

Outlier? I know that I was speaking for millions of Californians that day. But our legislators were bombarded with calls from a more vocal group, outraged at the perceived violation of their religious liberty and threatening to derail this landmark legislation.

Those of us who understand that contraception is fundamental health care know that women deserve equitable insurance coverage. This is not controversial and we are not outliers. But we are being outworked, and we only have ourselves to blame.

There's a breezy cynicism about what influences our representatives, in Sacramento and Washington, that causes too many of us to do nothing. In this case, I discovered it's not a cynicism shared by the opponents of this critical benefit.  Our legislators are paying attention, literally counting every call, email and tweet. I was too busy and complacent to speak up before -- but now I've learned that it is so important and actually fun. Don't let anyone call us outliers ever again.

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With a Perspective, I'm Carrie Frederick.

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Carrie Frederick is an obstetrician gynecologist and Fellow in Family Planning at Stanford University Hospital.

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