About a year ago I was frustrated with the hoops I had to jump through just to get a birth control prescription for something I had taken for the better part of 3 years. I wasn’t having unprotected sex, it wasn’t really an issue, so I went off birth control. Recently I decided to get back on for a variety of reasons, but discovered that despite having both health and prescription coverage, no history of high blood pressure, no history of STIs or abnormal paps, a recent (less than year old) medical exam on file, and not smoking I could not easily obtain birth control.
My student health center required me to make a “women’s” appointment which was not available until June. The health center that provides my primary care required “family planning counseling” before they would refer me to a OB/GYN for an exam and a prescription — this is a multi week process requiring and the counseling basically assumes I am not capable of making my own decisions about my body. Finally I made an appointment with a women’s community clinic, but their earliest appointment was in mid-May, about a week after my next period so that I would lose a month waiting for the app. and a second month waiting to start the pill.
Fed up with the system and certain that there is another option I called my student health center again and requested a family planning appointment. Again I was told that one was not available until June. Then I tried something new — using my best Russian accent, my immigrant background, and my very best scared little girl voice I explained that my boyfriend hates condoms and I am very very scared of getting pregnant. I was transfered immediately to Urgent Care.
The Urgent Care nurse who answered started with “it’s ok honey” and then told me about how my boyfriend can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do. In case he already had, she told me I should come in on Thursday of next week (one week from the day I called) to take a pregnancy test and talk about my “options.” She then confirmed that this would be before I expect my next period so that I can start birth control right away. She explained Family Pact, a California family planning provision that would provide me with free birth control if I’m not pregnant and prenatal and maternity care if I am, and said someone would meet me 15 minutes before my appointment to help me fill out the forms. Did I need a Russian speaker to help me? No, I think I can do this in English. Can I avoid unprotected sex until next Thursday? Yes, I’ll try to do just that.
Did I lie? No, not outright. I am a non-native English speaker. I do have a low income because I am a graduate student. I am sleeping with someone who dislikes condoms, and I am scared of becoming pregnant. I never said I was having unprotected sex or that my boyfriend had done anything beyond disliking condoms in some abstract fashion. But did I misrepresent my socioeconomic background? Oh hell yes.
When I was presenting as organized, composed, articulate, and safe I was unable to get an important medication for at the earliest one month and was asked to pay between $15 and $60 per month for it. When I presented as victim, scared, unsafe, and a non-native English speaker I was able to get an appointment on one week turnaround and free access to the medication I need.
Is it just me, or is this messed up?