The Life-Saving Power of Birth Control as… Birth Control


Read more of our coverage on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases here.

On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear Kathleen Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, which will decide whether a for-profit company is allowed to deny health-care coverage to cover contraception, as required by the Affordable Care Act, under the guise of religious rights.

Obviously, Hobby Lobby—despite the amount of glitter and crepe paper it supplied me with for middle school projects—is in the wrong. A major for-profit company should not be allowed to impose its “religious views” on its employees, particularly when those beliefs—assuming a corporation can be said to hold “beliefs”— adversely affect its employees’ health and most private decisions. But while I could hate on Hobby Lobby all day long, I unfortunately can’t focus my ire on just one side of this debate.

Throughout the discussion surrounding the Affordable Care Act—which, among other things, mandates that all health insurance plans cover contraception at no extra cost—the right has attacked birth control constantly. In response to these attacks, some advocates for birth control coverage have tried to be tactical. Some have framed birth control as something a person may need for medical purposes—rather than, you know, a method to prevent pregnancy. It’s been said over and over again that birth control is “life-saving” for some women, who need it to aid conditions such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts. And that’s all fine and dandy. Yes, some folks use birth control for health conditions, and I recognize that it is indeed often life-saving for them; my younger sister uses it to regulate her polycystic ovary syndrome. It’s important these people have access to birth control.

But people also, overwhelmingly, use birth control to do exactly as its name implies: to control their fertility. Increasingly, the “medical condition” argument has been used as a tactic to divert attention from the reason birth control exists—the “slutty” reasons that don’t make an appealing sound bite. And I have some issues with that, in part because I use birth control for “slutty” reasons, and it’s been pretty damn life-saving for me.

I currently pay for college and my living expenses on my own, through a combination of working and scholarships. My family is of limited financial means, but they’ve always been incredibly supportive of my academic endeavors. Not to toot my own horn, but I hustle and I work. Now in my third year of college, I’ve been rather successful thus far. I want to be the first in my family to earn a PhD, and I have big plans for my future.

I’ve also had sex with multiple partners, some of whom could potentially get me pregnant. By having access to birth control since I became sexually active, I’ve been able to avoid an unplanned pregnancy that would wholly disrupt the life I wish to build for myself. Birth control is saving the life I want.

Those who are fighting for the right to affordable birth control shouldn’t leave me, or other individuals who use birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies, out of the discussion.

And trust me, I understand politics. I know that sometimes you have to frame things in a certain way. Sometimes I smile my nice girl smile, and put on my pearls, and play the game. But this is not the time to play the game of “other medical reasons” to divert attention from birth control’s main purpose, as it only weakens our advocacy.

What’s more, this tactic may not even be effective. When Sandra Fluke tried to testify about birth control to Congress, her testimony centered on a friend who suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (the same disease my sister has). Her main narrative fell under the “medical reasons” category for birth control usage, and it wasn’t even her own story. Yet conservative media lambasted her, most famously Rush Limbaugh, who called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Even when having the “appropriate” narrative, Sandra Fluke was grossly slut-shamed just by her association with birth control. It doesn’t matter if we don’t use birth control purely as birth control. Our opponents will still call us greedy whores who just want “taxpayers to pay [us] to have sex.”

I fight for those who need birth control for medical conditions and life-saving reasons. But I also fight for the life-saving power of birth control as birth control, for the reason I use it: to control my fertility and enact control over my life.

So let’s fight for everybody, and stop hiding some of the lives we fight for under a “tactical” shroud.

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  • jruwaldt

    Maybe women just need to start saying, “Damn right! I’m taking it so I can fuck without getting pregnant!” I think some of that has been going on already, with women not just talking about how they need it for POS and other conditions but also so they can have active sex lives. Conservatives will keep wringing their hands, of course, but maybe arguments about how contraceptives just open women up to male exploitation will carry less weight, since the open secret that women enjoy sex will get a little less secret.

    • lady_black

      Yeah I never made any secret of the fact that I wanted to screw without worrying about pregnancy, and tough shit if anyone doesn’t like it. I certainly didn’t have my tubes tied for shiz and giggles.

  • Mindy McIndy

    I am a lesbian, but I am on depo provera to stop my periods. Without it, I would have two full, heavy, seven day periods every month. This started when my menses began at ten, and no birth control pill was strong enough to slow the bleeding down. Really though, I don’t care why you need it, whether it’s for health conditions like mine or for pregnancy prevention. It’s no one’s damn business. There’s no reason in the mind of any sane, rational person that it should be exempt from health coverage. It is preventative medicine. Paying for a gyno exam every year and birth control costs the insurance company far less than prenatal visits, child birth, and the health costs of said child, so people should be pushing for birth control coverage even on that grounds alone.

    • Shan

      Yes. It’s only the doctor’s and patient’s business what the physician prescribes for the patient’s care. If the scrip is for a het woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant or it’s for a woman of ANY orientation who wants to not have debilitating menstrual periods, that’s between the physician and the patient.

  • lady_black

    I know women use birth control as medication, even those who aren’t sexually active. My daughter took it as a teenager for menorrhagia. Otherwise she’d bleed two weeks of every month. But I really hate that argument, because it implies that there are “worthy” and “unworthy” reasons to take birth control. It is ALWAYS prescribed for the woman’s health, and it’s nobody’s business what the reason is.

    • Shan

      Exactly. Physician-patient relationship. There shouldn’t have to be a box the physician checks that says “for non-contraceptive purposes” to get BC covered because there are SO many reasons that have nothing whatsover to do with the bossman, up to and including birth control.

  • anja

    Access to birth control is important & necessary because it IS birth conttol. The other uses are just bonuses and really shouldn’t matter when slamming the religious bigots for their idiotic actions to stop its use.
    The only negatives I can see with birth control (medical) are the need to be compliment to avoid hormonal side effects and the propensity for weight gain. These are trivial when compared to its benefits and all other arguments fail.
    The “religious liberty” argument is just not valid as it violates both the religious freedom of others and the seperation of church and state. To even consider it is wrong.

  • xuinkrbin

    “A major for-profit company should not be allowed to impose its ‘religious views’ on its employees” — While I might agree with the sentiment, the Objectors in these cases are not seeking to “impose” any belief on Anyone; They simply argue the Religious Freedom Restoration Act guarantees Them the right to not pay for the contraception which is distinctly different. “Imposing religious views on Employees” would be requiring Employees to never use contraception at all; yet the Objectors are not seeking such an authority.

    • Jld33

      So their employees (who benefit their company greatly, I would assume) don’t pay any premiums for their insurance? Hobby Lobby pays for it out of the goodness of their hearts?
      I would love nothing more than Hobby Lobby to have to close their doors over this crap. The owners have the rights to their healthcare on their terms. and their employees who pay their premiums out of their low wages do too!