Forcing women to pay out of pocket for oral contraceptives will hurt those who rely on the Pill for health reasons, the actress wrote in a powerful New York Times essay.
Lena Dunham has always been honest and vocal about her fight against endometriosis. On social media and in her Lenny Letter newsletter, she's voiced how she has suffered terrible pain for years, and that surgery and medication have helped her keep the condition under control.
But Friday, in a passionate essay in the New York Times, the 31-year-old put her personal experience front and center—appealing to legislators not to roll back the requirement that insurance companies pick up the full cost of birth control pills. Altering this birth control mandate so more employers would be exempt from it is one of the Trump administration's proposals for reforming health care.
It took “a 15-year routine of pain, questions, and nonanswers,” writes Dunham about her struggle with endometriosis. The condition—which occurs when tissue normally found in the uterus migrates to other areas of body, like the ovaries and abdominal lining—wasn't properly diagnosed until she was 27.
"My only savior during much of that time? Oral contraception," she states.
While there’s no cure for endometriosis, “hormonal contraception can control pain and bleeding by stopping or significantly shortening the length of a woman’s period,” she adds. “It helps keep women with the disease happy, healthy and able to work.”
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Dunham believes birth control should be covered for any woman who wants it, even if it's simply to avoid unintended pregnancies. But her essay focused on women whose doctors prescribed it to them for heath reasons.
“For millions of women living with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cystic acne, migraines, uterine abnormalities and a history of ectopic pregnancies, birth control can be a crucial, even lifesaving, medical treatment,” she says.
When it comes to the non–birth control uses of the Pill, Dunham has her facts straight. According to 2011 report from the Guttmacher Institute, 58% of women use oral contraception partly for purposes other than pregnancy prevention, while 14% (nearly 1.5 million women in the US) rely on the pill only for non-contraceptive purposes.
The pill can also ease painful periods and regulate irregular ones and lower the risk of ovarian cancer, among other things. However, as Dunham explains, if insurance providers stop covering the full cost of birth control, millions of women will have a harder time getting access to the pill, along with the medical benefits it provides.
Since birth control can cost up to $50 a month sans insurance, higher-income women will be inconvenienced by this change, “but for women living near or below the poverty line, it would be disastrous, jeopardizing their ability to work and provide for their families,” she writes.
“Low-income women who may not have access to expensive surgeries or other more advanced endometriosis treatments will be hit the hardest because they are the most reliant on oral contraceptives to manage their condition.”
We applaud the actress for speaking up and raising awareness about the proposed rollback, and we're also fans of her article's empowering closing point: “It is not only celebrities with access to the voice of the news media who deserve the chance to be heard on this essential issue.”
“At a time when we have no guarantee of health care or protection from our administration, every woman you love, sick or well, is depending on you,” Dunham writes, addressing elected officials in Washington. “Please do not let us down.”