Barriers to a Choice

Karol Collymore

I received an interesting call at work in the middle of my mid-morning snack. A woman misdialed, thinking she was getting an office that shared information on abortion options. Even though it was the wrong office to call, I was the right person to answer. This woman, fear so evident in her voice, asked if it she had the right number. Hearing her trembling words - as I’ve heard so many times before while working at Pro-Choice Oregon - I knew what she wanted. I told her she had called an advocacy group for gays and lesbians but I was happy to help her in any way. She breathed out and plunged into the reason for her call.

I sent her to my friends at Pro-Choice Oregon, confident that they could give her an answer. She called back for me 10 minutes later. She wrote the number down incorrectly for the Network for Reproductive Options and asked if I had the number. While I was looking, I asked her the usual questions about who she had already called and offered her other options. Her basic issue was this: she could not afford the service and none of the clinics she had contacted were able to allow her to pay in installments. We groused together about the lack of tangible option for women. There are plenty of choices, that is true. But when it comes down to exercising those choices, women are still at the kids table waiting for the adults to tell us we are excused.

My reason for writing about this is two-fold. Her insurance is so strict that it is virtually useless in this situation, not working for her when she needs it the most. Second, what good is it to be a state with effective reproductive options and this woman can’t exercise hers because clinics’ hands are tied and can’t allow her to pay in installments?

Women still have so much more road to travel on our fight for equality. It frightens me that in all battles for justice, many people with a liberal view think that if women, minorities, and GLBT members get a little bit of justice, then the fight is over. But, my feeling is this – no society will move forward until we all have an equal seat at the table. All the things we argue about on this website will be for not if we can’t see our neighbors as partners in this journey.

I’ve helped one person get closer to her seat today, what have you done?

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    I convened a meeting with some peers about setting up a presentation by Planned Parenthood, Population Connection, the Sierra Club and possibly someone from Sightline to talk about population issues on the local and national level. This, in my mind, involves a discussion of access to reproductive health care both locally and nationally. We hope to have an event during World Population Week in October of this year.

    I'd be curious to hear how the person's issue was resolved in the end if you know?

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    Hey Albert, I don't know how her situation was resolved. I did tell her to ring me if she wasn't getting what she needed and I would continue to help her. I'm assuming she got to the right place.

    You are right that population control involves a serious discussion on reproductive health care. I hope that chat happens at the event.

  • Lon Mabon (unverified)

    She called our office and now will carry the baby to full term. Thank you for the referral.

  • PeteJacobsen (unverified)

    Karol, Help me understand the issue here. Forgive my true ignorance. Do clinics allow installment payments on procedures other than reproductive procedures? Do clinics handle payment options differently for women than for men? Was her insurance company discriminating against women? I'm glad you could help her, but I'm not sure what the big picture inequality for women problem was.

  • Sponge (unverified)

    I had dinner with my five children and basked in the glory of their love and creativity. One is a teacher, one is a nurse, one is a lawyer, one is in the military, and one is still a student. They are the hope of our future. The lives they touch everyday are better because of them.

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    Pete, I think the issue is two fold. I think that clinics that specialize in this procedure do not take installment payments. I think the risk of not being reimbusred is not something they can accept. I could be wrong and if I am someone let me know. The woman in question wouldn't give me specifics on her insurance - nor would I ask - but I know that there are companies who do not cover women's reproductive services, including methods of birth control, sterilization, and abortion.

  • Insured (unverified)

    Hey Ladies! Let's have a round of applause for our very own Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon! While their individual plan won't cover birth control (ever) or pregnancy in the first six months of coverage, they will pay to have you sterilized. Isn't that sweet?

    Here's to Washington State for legally requiring prescription drug coverage for birth control.

  • Grayson Dempsey (unverified)

    Hi Karol!

    I am so glad that this woman got you on the phone. I wanted to let you know that if you are talking to women who are in the process of making a decision about a pregnancy, you can always refer them to Backline as well We offer referrals for abortion funding (both statewide and national) and other logistical needs, and are available to talk about the complex range of emotions that can come up when facing this kind of decision (including but not limited to the frustration at the insurance companies!!).

    Thanks again for your continued commitment to women and reproductive rights. You're awesome and I hope to see you soon.

    All good things, Grayson

  • Liz Trojan (unverified)

    Many insurance companies will cover viagra but not oral contraceptives. There have been numerous bills introduced in our state legislature to address this inconsistency but they have all died in committee. This is a HUGE issue for all women of child-bearing age. Monthly costs for birth control exceeds $30 a month. If you want to reduce the need for abortions make oral contraceptives readily available/affordable - that means covered by insurance.

  • LMAO (unverified)


    My wife and I are in complete agreement (she's an independent, I'm a Limbaugh Republican). It is ironic that the promotion of sexual gratification (Viagra) is covered by many insurance plans, but the prevention of pregnancy is not.

    Ultimately, if the purchasing entity (generally the employer/plan sponsor) is willing to pay higher premiums, there's no reason to wait for a government mandate. Once a sufficient number of plan sponsors have agreed to pay higher premiums to cover oral contraceptives, it is likely to become mainstream. If it results in fewer pregnancies, then it might actually lead to lower health insurance premiums over time.

    But don't fool yourself, there are no "free" pills for any of us. They all get paid for by somebody.

  • Loreli (unverified)

    Does anyone know if Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon family plan cover abortion? I'm having a terrible time finding this information. Thanks.

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