Commentary Contraception

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

Katherine Gwynn

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. But people also, overwhelmingly, use birth control to do exactly as its name implies: to control their fertility. Let's stop hiding some of the lives we fight for under a “tactical” shroud.

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.

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

DONATE NOW

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.

Load More