The Family Planning Problem

*The opinions in this piece do not reflect the official stance of Her Campus or Stephen F. Austin State University*

Contraceptives have a long and interesting history. It was well documented in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, as well as Ancient Greece. Some forms, like Queen Anne’s Lace, have proven to have some contraceptive qualities. Others, like Crocodile poop, not so much.

In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed in the goal to prevent the distribution of materials deemed obscene. It prevented the use of the U.S. Post Office to send among other things, contraceptives and many states made it a misdemeanor to sell, give away, or possess any of the “obscene” materials, effectively banning birth control. The court case Griswold v Connecticut (1965) overturned the contraceptive law for married couples on the grounds of marital privacy, (this case also established the right of the individual to privacy) but it wasn’t until Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) that it was overturned for non-married individuals. Contraceptives are completely legal and, in theory, available to anyone who wishes to use it. However, the Trump administration recently rolled back a mandate requiring employers to cover contraceptives in their insurance policies, allowing employers to no longer provide insurance coverage for birth control on the basis of “sincerely held moral or religious convictions”. Which can make it difficult for women to afford their birth control. It can cost anywhere between $50 a month for the pill to $6000 for female sterilization without the assistance of insurance.

According to the CDC, approximately 62% of women aged 14 to 44 were using some form of contraception. Recently, the Trump administration rolled back a mandate requiring employers to cover contraceptives in their insurance policies, allowing employers to no longer provide insurance coverage for birth control on the basis of sincerely held moral or religious convictions. About 13% of teenagers aged 15-19 and 75% of women aged 40-44 used contraceptives, the pill being used more often by younger women where female or male sterilization was more common with older women.

There are many different forms of birth control. There is sterilization, hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, hormonal shots, patches, vaginal rings, cervical caps, fertility mapping, various barrier methods, the pull-out method, the morning after pill and the hormonal pill. Women employ the use of birth control for a variety of reasons, the pill in particular has many different uses. It can be used to manage chronic acne, to manage pain associated with periods and diseases like endometriosis, to regulate period flow and cycles, and of course, to prevent pregnancy. There is no right or wrong reason for using birth control.

There are a number of arguments against the use of birth control, however. Most of them stemming from a religious or moral standpoint that views birth control as inherently wrong for reasons such as believing it encourages behavior deemed immoral - extramarital sex or sex for pleasure instead of reproduction, it encourages risky behavior, again, extramarital sex, it is unnatural to interfere with conception or is anti-life for preventing the possibility of conception, or that it causes abortion.

The abortion argument is most often thrown at emergency contraceptives. The morning after pill is not an abortion pill. It is a hormonal medication, commonly levonorgestrel, that does one of three things: prevent the release of an egg from an ovary, prevent the fertilization of the egg, or prevent a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterus. A person is not considered pregnant until a fertilized egg has attached to the uterus and at that point the medication does not work. It prevents a pregnancy from happening, it doesn’t terminate one. Thus, not an abortion pill. Another form of emergency contraceptive is the implantation of a copper IUD and it comes with the added bonus of protection against pregnancy for up to 10 years. Copper IUDs make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg and, in the case of emergency contraception, typically prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

On the issue of encouraging risky behavior - extramarital sex, well, people are going to have sex. Telling people not to do something doesn’t mean they won’t. Texas has an abstinence-only policy in regards to sex-education and it has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Accurate information about sex and access to birth control is proven to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Telling people not to have sex is not. As well, according to the Guttmacher Institute, at least two-thirds of married women of reproductive age were using contraceptives in North America (77%) in 2010 and of the 13% of teenagers using birth control, 59% of them had either never had sex or hadn’t in the past 3 months. The fact that someone is using birth control doesn’t automatically mean they’re sleeping with someone outside of marriage. As well, having sex with one’s spouse doesn’t automatically erase the other risks associated with sex such as STDs and STIs.

In regards to it being wrong to interfere with conception, many women use birth control for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. I use it to help manage pain that would otherwise debilitate me on my period. My friend uses it to regulate her cycle so she has it more regularly, instead of a for month straight and then a six month wait before her next one. Besides, what is so wrong with wanting to prevent pregnancy? Many people aren’t ready to or don’t want to have children, married or otherwise. Just because one has the ability to produce 19 children and counting doesn’t mean you should, you want to, or that you have the ability to provide for them. Many women who use birth control are low income. They don’t have the financial ability to provide for a child. As well pregnancy is an extremely dangerous thing for many women. Health care has dramatically improved over the years, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away. In fact, the United States’ has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

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Pregnancy isn’t something that should be forced on someone because they had sex. Birth control allows people to wait until they are ready to have children before conceiving.  

Birth control positively impacts millions of people’s lives. It allows women to have control over their reproduction. To decide when, or if, they want children. It can help with pain, acne, and can improve your quality of life. It can even help prevent ovarian and endometrial cancers. It’s an issue of health and safety, not moral debate. Your employer shouldn’t be able to decide whether or not you can afford a medical decision that is between you and your doctor.

 

For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr060.pdf