Birth Control as Birth Control

The summer before I left for college, I went to ask my doctor about starting birth control. I figured I'd plan ahead, odds were that I'd be sexually active, and I wanted to have time to adjust to the pill before I had to leave home.

She was a young, mousey brunette, in a cotton maternity dress, though I couldn't tell if it was just for comfort or actually covering a pregnancy. I didn't want to ask. She leaned towards me, scrutinizing my face, and said, clicking her pen, "Actually, I can prescribe you a gel that will help with your acne more effectively."

Firstly, my face is just fine. When I tried to explain that I really just wanted contraception, she cut me off and asked me if I was sexually active. I said, "I guess, technically, not right now?" For a brief, sarcastic moment, I considered joking about pregnancy, but I didn't want to call attention to the possible baby bump. "Let's just wait on that," she told me.

We don't always like to think about women having sex. We don't like to think about women enjoying sex. Which is why so many of the arguments against the Hobby Lobby Decision, which allowed companies to deny access to contraceptive care on the basis of religious freedom, focus on the fact that contraception use isn't always related to sex. In the National Journal, reporter Lucia Graves argues, "Even if these women never have sex once in their lives, they need to be on birth control." And she's got a point; birth control can be very important for the health of many women. But we can't ignore the 99% of sexually active women who have used the contraception as contraception. The Guardian urges people to stop making excuses. Women are people. And many people like sex. And that's good. That's wonderful. That's healthy. That's human. And that should still be covered by insurance.

People who support the decision started the hashtag #CloseYourLegs, and argued that "whores" who want to sleep around should pay for their own contraception. Sluts should keep their legs closed. Yikes. (Side note: Hobby Lobby continues to cover vasectomies. Double-standard much?). Also, it's not even true; a much higher proportion of married than of never-married women use contraception (77% vs. 42%). But even if it was only us "unmarried sluts" using birth control, that's still not how health care works; Slate has an article that explains it well, but the basic idea is this: the Department of Health and Human Services mandate involves women paying for their own contraception, using insurance benefits they earn by working. 

The decision won't just prohibit the pill, it prohibits all contraception counseling. For a doctor's visit to be covered by the health insurance, the doctor couldn't talk about sex or contraception, and that's terrifying. ThinkProgress addresses this well, "Counseling and education about contraception has been a basic part of a medical visit forever, even before the methods themselves were covered. Before we had prescription drug coverage, we certainly had coverage for the visit to your doctor, and there were never any limitations about what you could talk to your doctor about.”

People are going to have sex. Surprise. So having available contraception and understanding how to use it is the most effective way to stay healthy and lower unwanted pregnancy rates. A study found that birth rates among the teens who received free birth control had less than a fifth of the national teen birth rate (just 6.3 births per 1,000 teens, compared to 34.3 per 1,000 teens nationwide in 2010). Abortion rates were less than half of both the regional and national rates. Dana Singiser of Planned Parenthood says it well: “To prevent unintended pregnancy, women need full information, full coverage and full choice for what type of birth control works best for them.”

Let's just think about that for a second. Hobby Lobby is against abortion. So they're limiting contraception and counseling. They're literally restricting the most effective resources AGAINST unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

The biggest problem with this ruling (which all three female justices ruled against), is the precedent it sets. Feministing points out that a boss "could cry "religious freedom" and get out of offering coverage for anything he disapproves of — from vaccinations to AIDs treatment". In her dissent , Ruth Bader Ginsburg admits: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.” This article elaborates; the exemption could extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), antidepressants (Scientologists), medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus). Which shouldn't happen, right? We know that sounds wrong, because we know it's not ok to dictate another person’s medical decisions. Fun fact, that still applies even when that medical decision regards a woman’s reproductive health care.

I got a new doctor, I've been on the pill for awhile now, and I still feel ok about it. I'm human.

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