HUMAN RIGHTS: The Right to Birth Control in America

Keep Your Rosaries Off Our Ovaries

 

People, get ready for some period talk. If you’re uncomfortable with it, I urge you to push through and keep reading.

 

I first got my period when I was 13 years old. It was your typical puberty story: I was sitting in my 7th grade English class listening to my teacher explain how prepositions work, when I felt some dulled pains in my lower stomach. Frantically, I grabbed the hall pass and fast-walked down the long hallway to the bathroom. Long behold, I saw my first sight of menstrual blood (and it certainly looked nothing like that clear blue liquid shown on the commercials).

I was kind of ecstatic, all my friends had gotten theirs, so I felt like I was finally part of the secret club. I went to the nurse’s office, got one of those good ol’ fashion winged-pads and marched proudly back up to the classroom. I told all my girlfriends about the exciting news, whispering quietly so no boy would overhear.

 

As I matured, my cycle regulated. But, when I was 19 years old, something strange happened. Perhaps it was because of all the new life changes—but I began to suffer from the most debilitating cramps I ever experienced along with very prolonged, heavy bleeding. I had to skip class and call out of work multiple times because I could barely get out of bed.

I was losing a lot of blood and worried I would soon be anemic, I was constantly fatigued, and very emotional. I remember bursting out into tears in front of my best friend, worried that something was seriously wrong with my body.

 

After a month of this, I made my first OBGYN appointment. To my surprise and relief, the tests didn’t show any abnormal results. My doctor told me that sometimes, cycles can just get out of whack for a multitude of external reasons (stress, moving, seasonal changes, weight loss/gain, etc). I was prescribed my first pack of birth control pills, conveniently covered by my insurance in full. After a couple weeks on the pill, my cycle went back to normal timing, my bleeding decreased, my mood stabilized and my awful cramps practically disappeared. I felt normal again.

To think that my access to birth control could have been determined by someone else’s moral beliefs is absolutely horrifying.

 

Without birth control coverage, I could have very well not been able to afford my own prescription with the little college money I did have, and very likely would have wound up suffering much more serious health threats.

 

So, let’s make this clear: to limit women’s access to medication that will not only improve their health but also their sexual autonomy is discrimination. The new ruling by the Trump administration is an attack on women.

 

Below is some research on the benefits of contraception.

  • 62% of women who are of reproductive age are currently using some type of contraceptive method.
  • Research has shown that birth control is highly effective at treating much more than unwanted pregnancies; including acne, cysts, irregular bleeding, bone thinning, endometrial conditions, etc.
  • Contraceptives improve women’s financial and educational well-being, as well as the health of them and their families.
  • The nonpartisan Institute of Medicine has recommended that birth control be a fundamental part of women’s healthcare.
  • Birth control is shown to reduce abortion rate.
  • Contraceptive use is common among religious denominations; over 90% of sexually-mature Christian women use some form of birth control.
  • Over a third of women struggle to afford birth control without coverage; pills alone can range between $15 to $50 per month, which can add up to a total of $600 per year. Other options such as IUDs can cost thousands of dollars.

We are living in very partisan times where almost every opinion is divided into the left and the right. Based on research, women’s right to reproductive healthcare should no longer be debated in political terms.

Whether a woman is trying to treat a health condition or is just not ready to start a family, to think that female birth control is an unnecessary luxury (while erectile dysfunction medication is still covered through insurance) is largely ignorant and sexist.

 

For too long, female anatomy has been hushed, shamed, mystified, and oppressed. Since early industrialization, Western culture views women’s bodies as a profitable property that is to be regulated and controlled by higher forces (usually male). Female sexuality is shame based on moral ideology. We teach young girls to be ladylike and virginal, while we celebrate male sexuality because “boys-will-be-boys”.

I’d like to think that these ideas have become outdated, but the new presidential ruling has shown that they are still alive and well today.

 

How can we combat this? One word: Education.

We need to start having open dialogues about reproductive health in early education. Too often, conversations around female health is hushed by the presence of boys and even men. Much is left unsaid, and this leads to a large misunderstanding when it comes to the health struggles of the opposite sex.

 

Hearing male politicians argue objectively false information against birth control usage exemplifies this misunderstanding. The need to become comfortable having these conversations about menstruation, hygiene, and female sexuality with the males in our life is paramount. We need to accept that sexual education beyond abstinence is necessary for the health and well-being of society.

 

Misconceptions around reproductive health and sexuality must end. You can believe and practice anything you want when it comes to “acceptable” sexual behavior, but limiting women’s access to contraceptive options will hurt everyone: women, men, children, families, and the economy.

 

Talk to the males in your life about your experiences and start being open and honest with children about reproductive health. Well-rounded information will lead to empathy and understanding, which can and will transcend into social policy.

 

“Education is the premise of progress in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan

 

Christine

Christine Lombardo is a recent graduate of Widener University where she studied Psychology and Biomedical Science. She plans to continue her education in a Health Psychology graduate program. Christine is passionate about social activism and strongly believes in promoting education and open-dialogues to better understand prominent social issues. Her favorite things include cats, painting, coffee and Beyonce. Christine welcomes feedback from fellow readers, feel free to connect with her via email or Twitter.

X