Tag Archives: pregnancy

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.

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Skins and Teenage Pregnancy (Part 2)

*Spoiler alert for all series of UK television show, Skins (up to series 6, episode 6).  You have been warned.

Last week, I explored the portrayal of teenage pregnancy on the second series of Skins. My intent was to critically read this media display of a certain social issue to see whether Skins takes a political stance on teenage pregnancy (and if it does, dissect what that stance is).

We’ve already discussed the pregnancy plot in the first generation Skins. While Skins’ second generation does feature a teen mom, she is only present for one episode and is not one of the central characters, so I am going to skip discussing her for today.


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Skins and Teenage Pregnancy (Part 1)

*Spoiler alert for all series of UK television show, Skins (up to series 6, episode 6).  You have been warned.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of British television series, and the gritty and controversial drama Skins is no exception. For those who may not be familiar, Skins began in 2007 as the brain child of a father-and-son duo, Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain. The show’s success is often attributed to its writing team, which has an average age of 21. ¹ The show rotates its focus every two seasons to a new “generation” of eight or so teenagers attending college in Bristol as they deal with love, family, sex, drugs, mental illness, addiction, and of course, pregnancy.

I would like to engage in a critical analysis of how Skins has dealt with pregnancy in each of its three generations and what we can glean about the contemporary political and social youth climates that these plots represent. I was motivated to write about this after watching the latest episode of Skins (series 6, episode 5), which deals with a pregnancy plot in a very different way than previous series of Skins has. I also want to juxtapose Skins to a show that is often compared to it, but is different in many ways. The Canadian teenage drama Degrassi: The Next Generation also deals with rotating generations of young people and has also dealt with multiple pregnancy plots in its generations. I want to argue that Skins mostly depoliticizes its pregnancy plots while Degrassi uses them to make pedagogical moral statements.

In the first generation of Skins (series 1 & 2), we are introduced to Jal Fazer, the sensible, intelligent clarinet player. By the second series, Jal develops a friendship with the group’s goofy pill-popping party-boy, Chris. Their friendship soon develops into something more, of course, and Jal finds herself pregnant. Stressed over her audition for music college and drama within her family, Jal puts off telling even her best friend Michelle, and can’t seem to break it to Chris. We see Jal visit a pregnancy counselor, who tells her she must make a decision soon. As Jal is leaving through a waiting room full of screaming babies, we see her drop a pamphlet titled “It’s Your Abortion!” as tons of little faces look up at her. This may be the only moment that could be construed as a political scene, but I don’t think it is. Though the children are seen looking at Jal’s abortion pamphlet, Jal does not meet their eyes. She walks out defiantly, listening to distraught mothers yell at their little ones.

Later, we see Jal in her home examining her stomach in a mirror. She speaks to her reflection: “I can’t…. Can I?” She then sits on her bed and begins practicing a sad clarinet song as she begins crying. Jal later admits her pregnancy to her family, which causes her usually absent mother to show up and encourage Jal to make a choice. Then… PLOT TWIST! Jal returns to Chris’s apartment intent on telling him about her pregnancy, but finds Cassie there instead, who drags Jal with her to the hospital. Unbeknownst to Jal, Chris has inherited the same neurological disorder that killed his only brother. As Chris is falling into unconsciousness before his surgery, Jal tells him about her pregnancy, but he doesn’t hear her.

In the next episode, Cassie talks to Chris, who has just been told by Jal about her pregnancy. Chris is understanding and tells Cassie that he couldn’t be a Dad and that Jal can’t have a baby because of her music career. While the recovering Chris is being nursed back to health (with a little marijuana) by Cassie, he suffers another seizure and dies at home.

Since Skins covers so many characters, we aren’t shown exactly when or how Jal finds out about her boyfriend’s death. The next time we see her, Jal is seen being comforted by her friend Michelle. Jal admits to Michelle that she had the abortion.The gang attends Chris’s funeral and Jal makes a moving speech about him. Jal’s abortion is not spoken about again.

Jal’s pregnancy plot is interesting because a very common fan response to her abortion is a sadness that she decided not to carry Chris’s child even after his death. There is speculation that Jal has planned to keep the baby, but decided to abort after finding out about Chris’s genetic disorder. While I think these are valid responses to the emotions that the Skins writers portray in their characters, I believe that Jal would have always had an abortion. The Skins writers are generally skilled at keeping with their character development. Jal is the responsible one of the group, the one who always had future in music college. It would be out of character for Jal to do anything else.

(In the next two parts of this discussion series, I will discuss Skins pregnancy plots in generations 2 and 3 and deal with the Degrassi comparison. Stay tuned!)

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