Beyond the politics and pandering: Birth control in your own words

Last week, I asked you to weigh in on birth control and oh boy, did y’all deliver. The ensuing 50 or so comments were at turns heartwarming, scary, infuriating, and inspiring. Together you created a picture of real women’s experience with birth control, and that picture transcends the current political discourse and gets at some of the lived realities that relate to this issue. Since the birth control “debate” doesn’t seem to be letting up (in the week since our weigh-in, even more issues have arisen including an Arizona Judiciary Committee voting to endorse a bill that would force employees to prove that they’re not using birth control for sex), I think it’s worthwhile to pull out a few main themes that emerged from that comments section. Together, these themes paint a more complete picture of our experiences with birth control than what’s currently out there in the mediasphere.

Theme 1: Affordability of birth control is an issue for a LOT of people

A great group of you say that mo money equals LESS problems when it comes to BC. Many of you mentioned periods of your life when you could not afford birth control because of a job transition or a move that left you uninsured or broke, and at least one of you got pregnant during that time. Along with this reality seems to come a sense of indignance—that this isn’t how it should be. In your own words (all emphasis is added unless otherwise noted):

Trillion said, “There were times that I did go without birth control because I could not afford it…. It wasn’t that the price of them were high, 20 dollars for a month supply through the Planned Parenthood flex plan, it was more so the fact that my job was low paying at the time…20 dollars can be a lot when you are working minimum wage and trying out yourself through school.”

Molly Driftwood said, “I can’t afford insurance. I can’t afford an IUD, even though I would really like one. I don’t plan to have children, at least not any time in the near future, and I would love to have a sure, long-term method of birth control that I can rely on and not have to think about too much”

Alex says “I’m afraid that one day I’ll mess up and get knocked up because I can’t afford BC. At the 30 bucks a month that they cost without coverage, it adds up. Especially since I’m helping my mom pay bills at home.

Timid Atheist” describes getting pregnant after moving to a new place where she had “no insurance, no family and no hope of paying for birth control even if I wanted to go back on it.”

Alaina says “Even though I have “real” health insurance (for the first time ever), it doesn’t cover much of my BC prescription–maybe $20? I still pay $60/month for my prescription, and I use generic. I’m able to afford it because I budget responsibly and I have a reasonable salary, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I also know that if I made any less, the cost of my BC would be too much and I would have to find another way to get my prescription because being on the pill is beneficial to me, both psychologically and physically.”

Guys weighed in on the access question as well. Jeremyb asked, “Can boys play too? I’ve been through some of this, although always removed from some of the consequences. With my first girlfriend I recall kicking in for the cost of the pill...There were lots of times when we barely had the money, but I almost always found a way to divert money to contraception, though I admit it makes a world of difference that I didn’t have mouths to feed at that time.”

On the flip side, Elle describes the perks of universal access. “I owe SO MUCH to free contraception. I take it for granted far too often, but my adult life would have been radically poorer (socially, sexually, physically, intellectually, financially, everything-ly) without it. What else can I say? It should be a fundamental human right for all of us, not just the privileged Euro-few.”

…Which leads me to the second big theme that emerged from your comments:


Theme 2: Birth control isn’t “up for debate” in our lives

It makes sense that a feminist community would fall on this side of things, but the strength of the response along these lines are still important to note: As a community, we believe we have a right to access basic reproductive healthcare. When there’s a need in our lives, we don’t have any doubt that it should be filled. And we’re pretty mad that this is even a question!

It disgusts me that we even have to talk about birth control access in 2012,” writes KittehWhiskas.

Genevra writes “I’m really pretty sickened by the fact that I have to pay $76.11 a month to avoid getting pregnant.”

Liz described the current situation in North Carolina, where access is scarce, as “scary”.

And K says, “I have been on the pill for several years now, ever since being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  I find it unbelievable that one of the only treatments for this disease, and other diseases, is under such attack.”


Theme 3: Planned Parenthood has served as a strong, helpful, consistent and often lone facilitator of access to bc for our community

Even as Republicans continue to vilify, marginalize, and attack the organization, many of you painted quite a different picture, expressing extreme gratitude and practical appreciation for the services it provides.

Letha Colleen Myers writes “Without PP I would have had nothing. (I get teary eyed just thinking about it. No matter how much money I make in my life I always give them some of it.)”

Anyadnight echoed this “Basically, I have no idea where women would be without Planned Parenthood. It’s served me and many of my friends in times of need.”

Sarah tells her story of struggling to afford BC even WITH the help of Planned Parenthood: “I have been on the pill intermittently (but mostly) since I was 22. I do not worry about the expense at present …At times in my past, however, when I was in between jobs or awaiting a 90-day window to begin coverage from my employer, I have fallen into the large population of women who need birth control and are not sure where or how to get and afford it. I’ve used Planned Parenthood which sold me birth control pills at a fairly reasonable rate – I want to say around $25/month or so. Even then, the cost did add up and was concerning to me…”

And Caitlin estimates “that in the last calendar year, I’ve spent at least $600 on birth control and birth control-related doctor’s visits. And that’s with one of the most kickass health insurance plans, in a liberal state with easy access to contraception and a Planned Parenthood literally right around the corner. I should not be the exception. Everyone should have access to affordable reproductive healthcare.” Word.


Theme 4: Even in the most crappy of circumstances, Feministing commenters have a wry sense of humor and a positive attitude when it comes to this stuff.

Many of you were optimistic and positive about the future. Anne went so far as to crack a joke, writing “If Santorum or one of those knuckleheads is ever elected, my IUD is good for 12 years so they’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead uterus if they want to ban contraception!”

So, there ya have it. From the mouth of babes, as they say. The final word on BC in our community? We need access, we deserve access, we love Planned Parenthood, and we are awesome as people.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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