It always comes up. Usually the argument goes as follows: why do men get Viagra paid for by their health insurance, while women are stuck paying out of pocket for birth control? Senator Janet Howell’s recent proposal to require a rectal exam and cardiac stress test prior to offering prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs in order to highlight the invasiveness and over-reach of a Virginia law that proposes to require a woman undergo and view an ultrasound is the most recent and creative iteration of this theme.
While I heartily agree that a state legislature has no place telling doctors which procedures their patients must undergo, and I recognize that the Senator is trying to make a point in a political theater, I think in the end making comparisons such as these do us a disservice. They minimize what a pregnancy truly means in the life of a woman.
Sexual dysfunction is a serious matter that can affect a man’s emotional and sexual well-being in important ways. However, pregnancy affects women in a more profound way. It affects not only a woman’s emotional and sexual well-being, but also her general physical health, and her financial health. If she continues the pregnancy and gives birth it affects every minute of her day for many years to come.
The idea that medical treatment for male sexual dysfunction is a fair analogy to medical treatment to prevent or treat undesired pregnancy has always bothered me. It minimizes the profound impact pregnancy has on women’s lives. I can’t think of any event common to the male experience that compares. And perhaps that is exactly the problem.