Get Real! Should I Feel Bad About Taking Plan B?

Heather Corinna

Worried about your obtaining emergency contraception in light of HHS draft regulations that would limit access to birth control? Teens have questions about EC, too. Heather Corinna explains how the medication works.

Stacey asks:

boyfriend and I have been together for about 2 months and we just
started having sex. He was my first and I am completely in love with
him. We’ve been protected for 4 of the times with a condom, but tonight
we didn’t use one. He was about to pull out right before, but he came.
I’m really scared that I could become pregnant and I know that one of
my friends has the "morning after" pill, but I feel bad taking it. I am
so worried and confused. HELP ME!

Heather replies:

Why do you feel bad about using emergency contraception?

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Just like condoms, how it works is to prevent a pregnancy, and
emergency contraceptive pills (Plan B or the Morning-After Pill) work
the exact same way any combination hormonal birth control works, it
just only needs to be taken after the fact, rather than before, and every other day like the birth control pill is taken.

People have some pretty weird ideas about emergency contraception,
but most of them aren’t based on facts. If you feel bad because you
don’t feel like you could be okay with an abortion, and think EC is
abortion, I assure you, it’s not. If a woman has already become
pregnant, emergency contraception doesn’t have the capacity of being
able to terminate that pregnancy. It’s birth control — contraception,
NOT abortion or termination. Some of why people have inaccurate ideas
about EC is because so many people are ignorant (and some try and keep
others just as ignorant) about how conception occurs, and in what
timeframe. The reason EC doesn’t work after 120 hours — and why
pregnancy can be prevented, not terminated within that time — is that
for a pregnancy to complete often takes around 4 – 7 days: it’s not
something that happens immediately, because there are many steps to
that process which require some time.

Here is the serious lowdown on EC:
if it doesn’t answer all the questions you may have about EC, all the
links within it should. If you want to know more about how pregnancy
happens, take a look at this: Where DID I Come From? A Refresher Course in Human Reproduction.

But maybe you already know all there is to know about the real way the Morning-After Pill works.

Do you have an ethical objection to any kind of birth control? If
so, it might help to know that barrier methods, like condoms, do the
same thing, even though they work in different ways: all birth control
methods prevent pregnancy. Any method of birth control — withdrawal,
which you have been using, included — disrupts some part of the
process of a possible pregnancy, be that by keeping sperm from meeting
an egg (like with condoms, withdrawal or cervical barriers), keeping an
egg from being released (like with many kinds of hormonal birth
control) or changing the uterus so that an egg is unlikely to be able
to implant (like with an IUD). Emergency contraception can also work in
any or all of these ways. If, on the other hand, you have an ethical
objection to any kind of birth control, that’s something else, but I’m
also not sure then that I understand why condoms or withdrawal have
been okay before.

Perhaps obviously, if you do have an ethical objection to
every kind of reliable birth control, then unless you want to be
pregnant and are ready to be pregnant, it’s not a good idea to be
having any kind of sex which creates a risk of pregnancy. Too,
unprotected sex also posts risks of sexually transmitted infections,
and it’s safe to say that almost everyone doesn’t want an STI.

Do you feel like at this point, it’s up to fate to decide? If that’s
the case, what I’d say to you is that unless fate is going to provide
for you and a possible kid, I’d have to question that logic, as I have
before the times when I’ve heard people voice it. First of all, fate
didn’t decide anything here: you both made the decision (presuming you
two were in agreement on this) not to use a condom. That’s you
deciding, or if you didn’t agree, your partner deciding. On top of
that, "fate" or factors out of our control may put us in certain
situations, but that doesn’t mean — especially when those situations
may result in consequences we don’t want or aren’t prepared to deal
with — that when we can have some control at some point that it’s sage
not to take it when we CAN do something to possibly create a better
outcome for ourselves and others. With pregnancy, things get even more
complicated because there’s potentially a whole new person in the mix
who we owe the kindness of being sure we can care for them —
emotionally, practically, etc. — before we make a choice to risk
bringing them into the world, you know?

No matter why you’d feel bad about using EC, if it is not the right
thing for you to possibly be pregnant right now, and/or you know that
isn’t something you want, I’d encourage you to reconsider. Abortions
are far more costly, and even being pregnant for a month or two until
we can get one tends to change our lives, temporarily and emotionally.
Legal abortion procedures are not complex procedures, nor are they
horribly painful, but they are emotionally difficult for many women and
do present some health risks which using EC does not. Suffice it to
say, having a kid is a FAR larger thing than that
in every arena of your life: for your body and health, your finances,
your interpersonal relationships, your life goals, your sexuality, your
mental health, the works. As I mentioned, it also impacts another life:
a fetus and then kid doesn’t get to make their own choices, they rely
on the soundness of the choices you make for them.

So, now it’s up to you as to what you want to do about this, and the
only thing I can encourage you to do is whatever it is that you think
is the most right for you and the whole of your life. And that’s
something only you are the expert on.

No matter what you do this time, though, if you’re going to keep
having intercourse and don’t want to become pregnant, you’re going to
need to find and agree on a reliable method of birth control, and both
commit to using it properly and consistently. We can help you figure
out what method that is here: Birth Control Bingo. We strongly discourage our users from trying to use withdrawal
as a sole method of contraception. When practiced perfectly, it does
have the capacity to be very effective, but that is ONLY for couples
where the male partner has EXCELLENT control over his ejaculation and a
lot of practice having sex to be super-familiar with his own sexual
response cycle. And for younger men, not only do they usually lack that
experience, control over ejaculation is something that younger men
simply are rarely developmentally capable of. In other words, their
bodies can prevent them from practicing it perfectly even when in their
minds, they very much want to. To give you an analogy, the birth
control pill would be a very bad choice for someone who compulsively
vomits: their bodies would keep them from being able to use the pill
properly. Make sense? Too, since you’re the one taking the big risks,
having a method which you have NO control over isn’t always so wise,
and there are a lot of other methods which you can control and which
are far more goofproof.

If you want to reduce your risks of sexually transmitted infections — especially if you are not his first, or if either of you have had any other kind of sexual partnership before this — you’ll need to practice safer sex,
including using condoms. And since it may take you a little while to
get another method of reliable birth control, sounds to me like it
might be smart to just re-commit (both of you) to condoms for now no
matter what, if you’re going to keep having sex.

News Health Systems

Complaint: Citing Catholic Rules, Doctor Turns Away Bleeding Woman With Dislodged IUD

Amy Littlefield

“It felt heartbreaking,” said Melanie Jones. “It felt like they were telling me that I had done something wrong, that I had made a mistake and therefore they were not going to help me; that they stigmatized me, saying that I was doing something wrong, when I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing something that’s well within my legal rights.”

Melanie Jones arrived for her doctor’s appointment bleeding and in pain. Jones, 28, who lives in the Chicago area, had slipped in her bathroom, and suspected the fall had dislodged her copper intrauterine device (IUD).

Her doctor confirmed the IUD was dislodged and had to be removed. But the doctor said she would be unable to remove the IUD, citing Catholic restrictions followed by Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and providers within its system.

“I think my first feeling was shock,” Jones told Rewire in an interview. “I thought that eventually they were going to recognize that my health was the top priority.”

The doctor left Jones to confer with colleagues, before returning to confirm that her “hands [were] tied,” according to two complaints filed by the ACLU of Illinois. Not only could she not help her, the doctor said, but no one in Jones’ health insurance network could remove the IUD, because all of them followed similar restrictions. Mercy, like many Catholic providers, follows directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, tubal ligations, and contraception.

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Some Catholic providers may get around the rules by purporting to prescribe hormonal contraception for acne or heavy periods, rather than for birth control, but in the case of copper IUDs, there is no such pretext available.

“She told Ms. Jones that that process [of switching networks] would take her a month, and that she should feel fortunate because sometimes switching networks takes up to six months or even a year,” the ACLU of Illinois wrote in a pair of complaints filed in late June.

Jones hadn’t even realized her health-care network was Catholic.

Mercy has about nine off-site locations in the Chicago area, including the Dearborn Station office Jones visited, said Eric Rhodes, senior vice president of administrative and professional services. It is part of Trinity Health, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country.

The ACLU and ACLU of Michigan sued Trinity last year for its “repeated and systematic failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions as required by federal law.” The lawsuit was dismissed but the ACLU has asked for reconsideration.

In a written statement to Rewire, Mercy said, “Generally, our protocol in caring for a woman with a dislodged or troublesome IUD is to offer to remove it.”

Rhodes said Mercy was reviewing its education process on Catholic directives for physicians and residents.

“That act [of removing an IUD] in itself does not violate the directives,” Marty Folan, Mercy’s director of mission integration, told Rewire.

The number of acute care hospitals that are Catholic owned or affiliated has grown by 22 percent over the past 15 years, according to MergerWatch, with one in every six acute care hospital beds now in a Catholic owned or affiliated facility. Women in such hospitals have been turned away while miscarrying and denied tubal ligations.

“We think that people should be aware that they may face limitations on the kind of care they can receive when they go to the doctor based on religious restrictions,” said Lorie Chaiten, director of the women’s and reproductive rights project of the ACLU of Illinois, in a phone interview with Rewire. “It’s really important that the public understand that this is going on and it is going on in a widespread fashion so that people can take whatever steps they need to do to protect themselves.”

Jones left her doctor’s office, still in pain and bleeding. Her options were limited. She couldn’t afford a $1,000 trip to the emergency room, and an urgent care facility was out of the question since her Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois insurance policy would only cover treatment within her network—and she had just been told that her entire network followed Catholic restrictions.

Jones, on the advice of a friend, contacted the ACLU of Illinois. Attorneys there advised Jones to call her insurance company and demand they expedite her network change. After five hours of phone calls, Jones was able to see a doctor who removed her IUD, five days after her initial appointment and almost two weeks after she fell in the bathroom.

Before the IUD was removed, Jones suffered from cramps she compared to those she felt after the IUD was first placed, severe enough that she medicated herself to cope with the pain.

She experienced another feeling after being turned away: stigma.

“It felt heartbreaking,” Jones told Rewire. “It felt like they were telling me that I had done something wrong, that I had made a mistake and therefore they were not going to help me; that they stigmatized me, saying that I was doing something wrong, when I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing something that’s well within my legal rights.”

The ACLU of Illinois has filed two complaints in Jones’ case: one before the Illinois Department of Human Rights and another with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights under the anti-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act. Chaiten said it’s clear Jones was discriminated against because of her gender.

“We don’t know what Mercy’s policies are, but I would find it hard to believe that if there were a man who was suffering complications from a vasectomy and came to the emergency room, that they would turn him away,” Chaiten said. “This the equivalent of that, right, this is a woman who had an IUD, and because they couldn’t pretend the purpose of the IUD was something other than pregnancy prevention, they told her, ‘We can’t help you.’”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”


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