The HHS Requires Insurance Companies To Offer Birth Control Without a Co-Pay

 The HHS will require insurance companies to start offering contraception without a co-pay. What does this mean for American women? Also, North Carolina adds itself to the list of mandatory ultrasound states.

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MTV explains the internet in 1995

HHS making birth control free

Chris Hayes celebrating

Sandy Rios argues that women should just not be having sex

North Carolina passes an ultrasound bill

Ultrasound bill explained

The brief moment of veto

Steve King is on again about how women won’t reproduce without force

On this episode of Reality Cast, lots of coverage of the new HHS regulations that will, amongst other things, make birth control free to millions of Americans.  Also, North Carolina joins the mandatory ultrasound club, despite a governor’s attempts to veto.

Nona Willis Aronowitz made my day recently by posting a 1995 MTV News segment about this new-fangled internet. Some of it is hilariously wrong in what way things were going, but some of it remains true to this day.

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What was really weird was hearing Newt Gingrich’s full-throated defense of online porn.

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Shortly thereafter, he tried to impeach the President for having adulterous oral sex, and then himself was shamed out of office, in part because of his adulteries that were going on during the impeachment.


Hard as it may be to believe, but this podcast has some genuine, for-real good news to share with you.

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Remember all that coverage I’ve been doing about the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for the HHS in terms of what should be classified as preventive medicine and therefore made available without a co-pay?  Well that ended up working out quite well. The HHS adopted all of the IOM”s recommendations, which resulted in nationwide headlines about the most controversial recommendation the free birth control one.  But it’s a little more complicated than that.  ABC News had the details. 

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The emergency contraception thing is being hung out to raise controversy, but it’s actually a super good thing. One study on the benefits of making emergency contraception free showed an 88% rise in usage after that happened.  Which is enough to quell my irritation at the way emergency contraception is treated like some horrible sign of female immorality, as if a lot of the usage wasn’t due in part to how often women have sex that wasn’t well negotiated or even consensual.  This report glosses over one of the most remarkable aspects of this, which is that it makes IUDs and sterilization free, as well.  Currently, those forms of contraception can run into the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and aren’t always covered by insurance.  Now they’re going to be free, which is a huge boon to women looking for long-term or permanent options.

The media response was an exercise in opposites.  MSNBC was pulling out the party favors and the condom balloon animals.

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On Fox News, however, the news was treated like it was the beginning of Slut-a-ggedeon, wherein a communist army of fornicators would be orgasming us into the Soviet Union.  That was certainly Sandy Rios’ take.

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There you have it: we can’t let women use birth control because they’ll be screwing in the streets.  Rios also portrays babies as these things that exist to keep women from going over their sex limit.  I personally wasn’t aware that there was a sex limit, but there you have it—Rios is worried women will have unlimited sex.  I’m guessing her limit is pretty low, but I have to ask, what happens when you go over the sex limit?  Do you like, have your 100th orgasm and the gates of hell open up and swallow you?  What’s weird is Rios keeps claiming she’s speaking for “reality” and not “fantasy” in this clip, but I’m here to tell you, this mythical sex limit is a fantasy.  Nothing bad will happen to you if you cross some arbitrary line where Sandy Rios determines you’re having too much sex.

Then you have the god-bothering stuff on Fox News.

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It’s not messing with God, it’s messing with sperm.  But I suppose in right wing land, the two are the same thing.

The good news is this entire thing is getting anti-choicers to freak out, and they’re going off-message.  They know that they’re supposed to talk about babies and fetuses and souls and crap, but this isn’t about abortion.  This is about contraception.  And so they’re going off book and basically saying what they meant all along, which is that they oppose women’s reproductive rights because they oppose women having control over their lives, and their bodies, and they really really don’t like it if women, heaven forbid, have some sexy good times without being severely punished for it.

Next up, Emily Stewart from Planned Parenthood will be on to talk about what these HHS regulations mean for you.


insert interview


The assaults on abortion rights haven’t really slowed down much this summer, even if coverage has because of so many other stories crowding out this one.  And another state has crossed the line into completely inexcusable and condescending restrictions on abortion.  This time it’s North Carolina.

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Yes, it’s really frustrating news.  The state legislature of North Carolina passes a really aggressively sexist ultrasound law, the Democratic governor of the state vetos it, and then the legislature overrode the veto.  Not to sound like a broken record on this, but they went through all this trouble during an economic crisis when the voters are just begging for jobs.  North Carolina has 10% unemployment, but the legislature is more interested in trying to make women who have abortions feel guilty than they are fixing their economic woes.  And this ultrasound law is an especially misogynist one.

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The assumption of these laws is that women are stupid, and if you don’t tell them that’s a human embryo growing in there, then they’re going to believe they’re growing flowers or puppies.  I particularly love the anti-choice belief that women don’t choose adoption because they don’t know it’s an option.  You would literally have to live under a rock in our society to not know that, and if you’re living under a rock, it’s actually kind of hard to get pregnant, because the rock is not conducive to sexy times.  And the notion that ultrasound images change minds is just nonsense.  Research has shown that ultrasounds don’t change minds, probably because if you come in to the doctor to terminate a pregnancy and they say, “You do know you won’t be pregnant after this?”, your response will be, “Oh good, that’s why I’m paying you money to do this.” 

This is all very much a problem.  People who believe women are this stupid are ill-informed, and they shouldn’t be writing legislation about women.   Our legislators should be well-informed before they craft legislation, and what we have here is a tendency of legislators to be aggressively ignorant.  Gov. Perdue’s explanation of her veto of this bill actually reflects basic realities of what medicine and women’s lives are like.

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The reality is that abortion doctors generally do sonograms already and often give the patient the option to look.  And some patients want to!  It makes them feel better after enduring anti-choice propaganda that would have you believe there’s a full grown baby in there.    But that has to happen on a case by case basis.  The whole reason that we’ve created the doctor-patient relationship is so a doctor can look at a patient and assess her as an individual, instead of applying the same standard across the board.

Unfortunately, Gov. Perdue’s veto has been overturned and so soon women in North Carolina will be needlessly delayed and harassed about a perfectly legal and moral decision.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, excellence in hyperbole edition.  While the general tenor of criticism of the new HHS contraception regulations was hysterical, leave it to Rep. Steve King of Iowa to take it to the next level.

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I’m wary of anyone who really believes women won’t reproduce without force. Their view of women’s rights appears to be that women don’t have rights, full stop. The funniest part of this is King wound up to this by complaining about the “nanny state”.  Well, I can’t think of a stronger example of a nanny state than the one King is proposing, where women’s sexuality is strictly controlled and women are forced to give birth whether they like it or not. 

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte