Tag Archives: birth control

The Ultimate Birth Control Myth

There is a myth about birth control, perpetuated primarily by persons who have never had to obtain it, that it is readily available to anyone who might need it. This is one of the most pervasive and harmful pieces of misinformation used by politicians and pundits to claim that the mandate for insurance to cover the cost of birth control is not needed.

I have previously critiqued the ignorance that Lee Doren (of HowTheWorldWorks) displayed in his video on the mandate. Doren makes the assumption that condoms can directly replace any other form of birth control. While condoms are a reliable form of contraception as well as STI prevention, they do not allow a woman to be in control of her own body. Relying solely on condoms as contraception is a patriarchal system that places reproductive decisions in the physical hands of men.

Since writing about Doren’s commentary, I have been thinking about the other ways in which birth control decisions are distanced from women.

For example, the requirement of a prescription for women under seventeen to obtain Plan B from pharmacies directly contradicts an FDA ruling that the drug is completely safe and should be available to anyone who needs it without a prescription. This decision was made for political and cultural reasons that go against the advisement of medical professionals.

Stephanie Mencimer writes about how the financial needs of doctors and pharmaceutical companies create medically un-needed hoops that women must jump through in order to obtain a birth control prescription. Doctors may require pelvic exams or in-office consultations before they will renew a woman’s existing birth control prescription. For a person struggling to pay for their birth control each month, the added burden of a co-pay to renew their prescription can often cause them to skip or defer a month of birth control. Studies show that if birth control pills are not taken perfectly (at the same time each day for consecutive months with no breaks in between) the risk of getting pregnant jumps from a 1% chance to a 9% chance.

If these two issues don’t infuriate you, let’s talk about IUDs. Intrauterine devices are the most effective form of reversible birth control for sexually-active women. They are effective for long periods of time: 5 years for the hormonal IUD, Mirena, and 10 years for the copper IUD, Paragard. While the one-time cost of insertion can be steep, many insurance companies cover the procedure, and Planned Parenthood offers help affording IUDs for uninsured women. So, why have so many women not even heard of this form of birth control? American doctors are wary of IUDs, believing outdated studies about their safety. Physicians fear law suits over the small amount of women who may become infertile from complications of the device.  While many experts have approved IUDs for use in teenage girls, many doctors still believe that they can only be inserted in women who have had a child. The misinformation of doctors keeps women from accessing a reliable form of birth control.

Condoms are the only form of reversible birth control available to sexually-active men, and they are available in virtually every drug store, grocery store, and gas station in America. Condoms do not allow women to take their own precautions and protect their own bodies from pregnancy, and the methods that do allow this are being held hostage by misinformed doctors, judgmental pharmacists, and politicians who care more about religious morality than scientific facts. This is what we mean by the war on women. A nation that does not allow every person to have control over their own reproductive capabilities is a nation that does not respect the bodily integrity of its citizens.

About these ads

2 Comments

Filed under feminism, gender, politics, reproductive rights, sexuality, social justice, Uncategorized

The Contraception War Against Women

This Valentine’s Day, we’re going to talk about women’s rights and why this man’s argument is wrong. Lee Doren, who vlogs at the YouTube channel HowTheWorldWorks, makes an admirable attempt to remove the issue of religion from the current debates surrounding Obama’s contraception mandate for all healthcare plans. I encourage you to watch the video above and get a sense of his argument before reading further.

Now, Doren’s main argument revolves around this. “There is not a person in America, living anywhere in America… who a) has a job, b) has health insurance, and c) has no access to contraception. That person does not actually exist.” Doren’s assertion is based on the fact that everyone in America has access to condoms, and that condoms are the most effective form of preventing both pregnancy and  STD/STIs.

Condoms, while they are one of the most effective forms of contraception, are male contraception. In order for a woman or a gay man to benefit from the usage of condoms, he or she has to have a sexual partner that actually uses them. Even if you are sex positive, educated person who carries condoms on your person at all times, there is no guarantee that your partner will agree to use them or use them properly. Many people are allergic to latex and cannot use condoms. Many people are simply in monogamous sexual relationships where pregnancy prevention, not STD prevention, is the main concern. Essentially, Doren’s argument for condoms as a substitute for government mandated contraceptive coverage privileges men and harms women. The beauty of the birth control pill and other forms of contraception for female bodies is that is puts pregnancy prevention in the hands of women and allows them to control their own bodies rather than relying on a partner to do so.

Doren also ignores the fact that many women use birth control pills for health rather than reproductive reasons. This includes menstrual regulation and the treatment of ovarian cysts. These women who are on healthcare plans that do not cover birth control costs on religious grounds are disadvantaged by having to pay out of their own pockets for a medically necessary drug.

Image

Doren buttresses his argument with the fact that you can buy condoms off Amazon for every day of the year for less than $100. Wow, that’s awesome. Wouldn’t it be nice if female contraception was that cheap? Let’s take a look at some statistics for the price of birth control methods– only two forms of female birth control (besides abstinence and fertility awareness, which are free), are cheaper than condoms for a year. The most common forms of birth control for women exceed the price of condoms for a year, meaning that women, especially low-income women, are at a disadvantage. They will be less likely to be able to pay for a form of birth control that they are in control of, and more likely to have unplanned pregnancies as a result. Take a look below at the cost of varying forms of female birth control over a five year period:

Image

Doren claims, “You literally have…entire aisles of contraception that are available to just about anyone.” I’m sure many women can tell you that if you are simply walking into a drug store looking for contraception, the only alternative to condoms that is available over the counter to women is spermicides. Many women and men are allergic to the chemicals in spermicides. They are also one of the least effective methods of birth control– when used alone, they are only about 85% effective.

Doren’s argument is patriarchal and it is detrimental to the state of women in our society. It assumes that all men will be compliant to the usage of condoms at all times. It assumes that there aren’t abusive sexual partners who won’t care what their partner says about contraception.

Why are there more men engaging in this debate in the media than women? To put religion back into the issue, Catholic bishops have been the most outspoken opponents to Obama’s birth control mandate. Women cannot be Catholic bishops. According to the CDC, 98% of Catholic women admit to using birth control. There is a gendered distance in this debate. Why are we not hearing from women? Why are we allowing men (of whom most, just to remind you, cannot get pregnant), discuss this issue for us?

Leave a comment

Filed under feminism, gender, politics, privilege, religion, sexuality, social justice