Friday, November 11, 2016

The Importance of Birth Control

I am concerned about a lot of things with the election results, but one of my top concerns is women's health. Abortion is the obvious issue that has me fearful.

But I'd like to talk about birth control.

It seems that there are people who feel that birth control is a bad thing. It shouldn't be provided for free. If you have religious beliefs that say birth control is tinkering with God's will, then you should not be mandated to provide it to your employees who may or may not believe the same as you. Some birth control forms are veritable early abortions -- preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. So say these people.

Our new Vice President is one of these people.

I am very, very angry about this stance. If you do not want to use birth control because of your religious views, I say have at it. Do whatever your beliefs mandate YOU to do. But, when you start taking your religious beliefs and pushing them on ME, you are no longer talking religious freedom. You are talking suppression of others' beliefs, because your beliefs shouldn't influence my family planning decisions. I do not have a problem with birth control.

In fact, birth control is pretty amazing for a variety of reasons.

Birth Control Is A Medical Treatment
I was on birth control pills starting at 18, the summer before college. Not because I was having sex at the time (I wasn't quite yet), but because I had periods that felt like they were trying to kill me. They were unpredictable. When they came, they were heavy. As in a deluge that required constant trips to the bathroom and came with cramps that laid me flat (or curled in a ball). It took several tries to get a birth control pill that helped with this, that also didn't give me migraines. Initially, my birth control use was entirely to treat a medical condition. It can be used to treat PCOS, endometriosis, and any irregularity or painful periods. It allowed me to not be a slave to my flighty uterus that could leave me periodless for up to 9 months, and then release a torrent of awfulness. Like the time I took my Physics Regents and had my period, and left once in the first hour to go take care of business and then realized I needed to go again in the second hour and the proctor WOULD NOT LET ME. So I told her I'd leave a puddle in my chair if she didn't let me go, and...she was left with a puddle to contend with. I didn't do so well on that exam, which was partly because of my disinterest in physics and partly because I WAS BLEEDING ALL OVER MYSELF. Something which stopped when I went on the Pill. Right now I am on Depo Provera, to help keep the PCOS nonsense in check. It is a medical treatment course.

Even When It's Not Medical Treatment, Birth Control Creates Freedom For Women
If you would like a divine power to decide how many children you have, that is a choice that you can make. For yourself. For many women, having the capacity to prevent pregnancy through any variety of birth control means freedom. Freedom from having pregnancy after pregnancy and having that be your role. Freedom from the medical risk of many pregnancies, one right after the other (obviously if you're fertile, as some of us don't have to worry as much about this piece). Ability to space out your children as you would like. Ability to NOT have children if that is not what you want. Ability to limit the number of children you have for financial reasons. Without birth control, women are brought back to archaic times when their roles were very limited. Now, if birth control becomes more of a financial burden, I will still be able to obtain it because I am fortunate. But those who can't afford it? They will be more likely to have more children, and I feel like women living in poverty who have many children don't exactly get respect for it. They are often denigrated, whether they chose to have more children or not, for being a burden on taxpayers, for "breeding" when they can't afford it, and on and on. Seems not fair to me. It's called family planning because it allows you to have those children (or not) on your terms, not a roll of the dice (or divine mandate).

I Thought This Part Was Obvious: Birth Control Prevents Abortions
If women are able to afford and use medically sound birth control, they are FAR less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. One that might be wanted if the timing was better, if the financial situation was different. If you have fewer unplanned pregnancies, there's fewer abortions. It's a simple concept. Birth control that prevents an egg from being fertilized or a possibly fertilized egg to implant is NOT actually a form of abortion. Every day there are fertilized eggs that don't implant. If every fertilized egg implanted, I would not have had the difficulty I have had in becoming a mother. I would have A LOT of children, because I had 27 fertilized eggs that passed through me at different stages and everything was set up for the optimum success and STILL those suckers didn't implant. The average fertile couple only has about a 20% chance of getting pregnant any given month. Birth control prevents circumstances that make conception (successful implantation in my mind, otherwise again I've conceived 35 times and embryos I've conceived will be gestated by the couple in the MidWest who have adopted our remaining 8 embryos) possible. It doesn't disrupt a pregnancy. It keeps one from happening. And if you don't get pregnant when it's not the desired outcome, you don't have to make the tough choices. I would think this would be a good thing -- preventing the need for abortions in the first place. It's odd to me to be against BOTH.

Some People Need Birth Control to GET Pregnant
Guess what was part of every IVF protocol I had? Birth control pills. Yes, that's right, for me and countless other women, you needed to be on birth control to suppress your system to get ready to receive embryos that could become babies. It is part of the process, not for all protocols but for MANY. I guess if you don't want to tinker with the divine plan IVF falls under that umbrella so maybe this one isn't so compelling, but IVF is supposed to help create new life! To help out in the whole procreation thing! And if there's no birth control, it doesn't quite work as well. Interesting, no?

It really confuses me, especially when men have such strong opinions on what goes in and out of my body. Or really, when anyone who is not my husband or my doctor is part of the discussion about what I should or shouldn't do with my body. We have choices, and choices are good. I don't have to get an IUD, but friends of mine love the device. I cannot do estrogen-based pills anymore, but I have progesterone-based options, including Depo. Even though my body has failed me in the reproductive arena, without birth control I would be an emotional mess, never sure if maybe something could have happened that could raise my hopes (even though the chances of my getting pregnant naturally are beyond slim, what with my ovaries that don't ovulate most of the time, my one Fallopian tube, my scarred up uterus, and the male factor). It helps me stay sane. It helps treat my medical condition.

Birth control is important. Having access to free or inexpensive birth control options should be a medical right -- just as it is anyone's right to NOT take advantage of it if it is against their beliefs. But restricting it for all women? NOT OKAY. That's not freedom. That's oppression. And I hope with all my heart that it does not come to pass.


  1. AMEN!!!!! I too don't understand what entitles an old man who has zero involvement with my day-to-day existence the ability to dictate my medical and family planning decisions. Hell, let'S extend this to women too. Unless you are my partner or my doctor, you don't get a say. Just as I don't a say in how you run your church services or how you interpret the Bible.

    1. I so agree. I am not telling people how to believe, and I respect their right to make decisions FOR THEMSELVES. I am so worried about the possibility of people who believe themselves to be oppressed because everyone's not doing what they do ACTUALLY OPPRESSING everyone else.

  2. With regards to the anti-birth control ideas, I don't think you can understand them properly in isolation: you need to look at how birth control fits into moral/religious beliefs about family and relationships. It becomes a much more nuanced and interesting discussion at that point. Having said that, I personally have never been able to get behind pro-life legislation: too many other moral and health problems created! Our conservative parties won't touch it with a ten foot pole: I think they are wise not to. I hope your leaders can focus on issues that people can work together on: one can dream, eh?

    1. I completely respect the beliefs that people hold on birth control, and I know there are layers but the people I know personally who believe this do so because God should decide, not them. I know there's the whole Rhythm Method, but for someone like me that would be a complete disaster. :) If someone believes that birth control is not part of the plan, and that it interrupts processes best left to divine providence, then I can completely respect their decision regarding their own personal use or not of birth control. I just don't want someone else's beliefs interfering with my access, or access for those for whom birth control is a saving grace. I so agree with you -- I wish our parties wouldn't touch it, either. I spoke with a friend the other day who is conservative yet pro-choice, and her stance was that "It should never be a political issue." I agree so much. And I hope for that dream you end with!

  3. Excellent commentary, Jess. And once again, we don't need a government just big enough to fit in a uterus.

    1. Isn't that fascinating? Big government is no good until it's applied to women's health decisions, or who can marry who, or who can adopt a child. Keep it out of gun shows, keep it out of monetary policies and environmental policies...too big. But just right for family planning and marriage. Argh. It just seems so filled with irony.

  4. AMEN!!! I know a number of people that are scrambling to get an IUD in before Jan 20th in case health insurance is drastically changed. I know that it will take a while if the new administration wants to do something, but for someone that is currently on birth control pills, I am contemplating an IUD in case pills get too expensive- despite the fact that a conversation with my OB GYN resulted in the news that pills are likely the best thing for me.

  5. BRAVO.

    (Cracked me up to read about all the donations being made to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name. I think it's over 50,000 donations now.)

  6. I 100% agree. Especially with the most obvious point about birth control preventing abortions. But there's no logic to the opponents of this. Argh.