I just signed this, for reasons that are, like, 60 percent altruistic and 40 percent selfish. Of course, I believe that more birth control needs to be available for more women. This is a medical issue, it’s an economic issue, it’s a human rights issue. But I super-extra believe that birth control needs to be more available to me.
See, I’ve been doing the the BC merry-go-round for a while now, trying to make the best of a series of not-so-great options. I try to be educated and thoughtful about the things I put in my body and my reproductive health is incredibly important to me. And yet, everywhere I turn, I feel like I’m, at best, being told that it’s somehow luxurious or decedent to want to control the contents of your own uterus and, at worst, that I’m bad for wanting to do the same and therefore deserve some kind of fiscal punishment.
Because I’m poor. Not dire-poor, but the kind of ersatz, college-student poor that a lot of people my age are. I don’t have dependents, I have a secure job, I’m a lot better off than most people. But I still have a hard time swinging most forms of birth control. The Nuvaring, for example, was costing me 70 dollars a month, or as much as my fucking electricity bill. Also, it wasn’t exactly a monthly purchase (every three weeks) so it was even a little more than that.
Dude, you say, just go on the pill, it’s cheaper. It is that. But even then, the pill is usually 20+ dollars a month and can be more, depending on various factors. Plus, there is a reason there are approximately ten bajilleron forms of birth control: they aren’t one-size fits all and most of them can have some pretty gnarly side-effects for a lot of people.
I knew I didn’t want to use the pill. For one thing, is has a margin of human error much larger than I’m comfortable with. Especially when I’m that human being counted upon not to make errors. In a year of taking Prozac, I don’t think I’ve ever once taken it at exactly the same time two days in a row. When things get hectic, I’m lucky to hit every day in a week.
And of course there’s the other thing. With the Prozac (and even without it) introducing an unknown element into my body is a bit of a Mr. Wizard experiment. I knew I wanted to go with something as low-hormone as possible. Originally, I wanted an IUD, but for physiological reasons, that was impossible for me. I seriously considered the depo shot but subsequent research has indicated that is not for me either. In addition to the standard host of potential side-effects, one is also warned about “significant bone density loss.” Yiiiiiikes. I went with the Nuvaring as a temporary measure and I discovered that, not only was it frustratingly expensive, but even its relatively small dosage of hormones made me more emotionally unstable and slightly, but noticeably, decreased my sex drive (which, I suppose is one way to prevent pregnancy. But not, I’m gonna guess, anyone’s preferred method.)
Right now, I’m interested in the Implanon implant and I’m doing some research to see if it would be a good fit for me. I complain at least on a bi-weekly basis that not having babies shouldn’t be this difficult. But, in reality, I’m really, really lucky. For one thing, I have the time and resources to try all these methods and see if they work for me, for another, I have recourse if I’m not able to afford something. It’s impossible to guess how many women there are who are sticking with BC methods that make them sick or unhappy-or going without entirely-because they can’t afford to do anything else.
Not only do petitions like this one matter, but we have to work to stop this implicit cultural idea that birth control is somehow inherently hedonistic or dissolute. Women shouldn’t be shamed or punished for being responsible and proactive about their own health. And this is about health. Quite frankly, pregnancy can be incredibly rough on the human body. Not to mention the fact that US has one of the highest rates of maternal death of all developed nations. No, being up the stick isn’t a disease, but it is a condition and it isn’t exactly safe or comfortable either. And it should be voluntary. Voluntary for everyone, not just those with sufficient income.
And, goddammit, can we stop suggesting that “just don’t have sex” is at all a reasonable counter idea here? You know, just cut an essential and delightful part of the human experience out of your life and your relationships. Just ignore a bodily imperative that humans almost never successfully suppress. Let’s just categorize sex as something that only people with money can have. Seems totally reasonable. In this economic climate, forcing people to wait until they’re fiscally prepared to have a child (the biggest and most long-term expenditure most of us will ever make) before they have sex just isn’t a tenable position at all. Plus, I really believe that removing the moral stigma around birth control might even be more important than removing the prohibitive cost. Because right now, you see a lot of people (young people especially) who feel like it’s better to risk conception than to seek out birth control because BC is like this Slutty Point of No Return and if they just don’t go to the doctor and get a script, it’s like they’re not having sex at all. Let’s increase transparency, let’s encourage people to be active rather than passive about their health, let’s improve access for more people.
Let’s make life better, okay?