Mother's Day Reminds Me of The Pill

Cross-posted on The Huffington Post.

On Mother's Day, I participated in my usual Sunday morning ritual: reading the headlines on my Blackberry, checking my @replies on Twitter and scrolling through my friends' Facebook status updates. Among the chatter of "Happy Mother's Day" and dreary "Headed to the in-laws..." was another update -- words from one of my female friends, a musician in a committed two-year relationship. Her status was a "shout out for those of us that have successfully not become mommies."

Her status did more than update me as to "what's on her mind" -- it reminded me of what has been on mine. Not becoming pregnant is, for most non-religious, non-family-building women, a regular source of anxiety. I discuss birth control with just about every female I know. The cost of it, the difficulty getting away from work to get a prescription for it, procedures and pills that aren't covered by health insurance, on and on. These are smart, gainfully employed women who are actively trying not to get pregnant. What becomes of the woman who doesn't have the time or the finances to obsess over these ovarian strategies? Wait, wait, don't tell me -- I know how this ends. She gets pregnant.

In the storied reclamation of our gender, women forgot to claim one thing: our right to control our reproductive systems. While the fight is by no means over, it does seem like the contractions subsided with the invention of sports bras and shoulder pads. What happened to the big push?

When it comes to obtaining oral contraceptives, I get especially infuriated. We're not talking about abortions here -- what's wrong with prevention? The two most effective forms of birth control, after the mythical abstinence, are IUDs and other hormonal options, like The Pill. Why The Pill is not available over the counter is something that no one has been able to successfully answer for me. Certain forms of The Pill which don't include estrogen, called progesterone-only pills, are less likely to cause blood-clots and are often prescribed to women who cannot take higher-doses of hormones. A study done in 2007 by the Contraception Journal showed that a sample of random women could screen themselves for oral contraceptive contraindications nearly as well as medical professionals. Only 6.7% of the women incorrectly thought they did not have any contraindications/risks when, in fact, they did. Even with medical screening under normal circumstances, approximately 6% of oral contraceptive users in the US show contraindications for pill use. The study ultimately concluded that since the percentage of women who incorrectly misdiagnosed themselves is similar to the proportion of actual pill users in the US who are contraindicated for use, the over the counter sale of birth control pills would likely be safe.

Conservatives should get behind the numbers if nothing else. A study done in 2001 by the Institute For Women’s Policy Research showed that making birth control pills available over-the-counter (OTC) would dramatically increase its usage, which could result in potentially $2.08 billion dollars in medical savings from preventing unplanned pregnancies. The same study estimates that the number of abortions would be reduced by 220,000 a year. How's that for Choose Life?

Yet after all of these comprehensive studies, women still take time off of work, go to their doctors, wear see-through gowns, patiently explain they're still with the same partner, remind the nurses they've have been tested for STD's, stare at plastic models of fallopian tubes, pay for co-pays and office visits and wait for our golden tickets.

Those little white hormones packed in foil and plastic aren't the controlled substance here: women are. And if anyone wants to tell you differently, ask them why you can buy condoms and cigarettes in a 7-Eleven. It's our issue. They don't get to make it a partisan issue or an abstinence-only issue. We need to take out our reality TV epidurals and get back to our bra-burning roots. We're not yet mothers, but we could at least do something for the next generation we might one day decide to have.

7 Response to "Mother's Day Reminds Me of The Pill"

  • Anonymous Says:

    What's the big deal? You need to go to the doctor anyway for a checkup and pap smear.

  • dotorg Says:

    Unplanned children are among my own nightmares.

    Personally, I feel that if the state lets you buy a pack of cigarettes, as much Whiskey as you can afford, you should certainly be trusted with deciding the possible side effects of birth control. Doctors will never agree, but I don't trust those pharmaceutical-branded-pen hording weirdos anyway...

    Never trust men who wear white coats...

    I take an "extreme" view that given the reality of population growth vs. planet earth's ability to grow food the greater question is not whether birth control restrictions need to be relaxed, but how are we going to prevent catastrophic shortages 60-100 years out. The first most obvious solution is birthcontrol that doesn't rely on a "be good because god (or Santa Clause, or whatever) knows when you're naughty.

    Its not black and white if you look beyond the now. In fact, I'd argue those oppose birth control are defacto enabling the great pain, suffering, famine of the future -- and probably for *wanted* children, no less. Planet Earth does not have infinite resources, and you have to be on drugs, or a Hannity fan (what's the difference?) not to see that our population's growth is perilous at best, doomed at worst.

    Mother nature is awfully clever when it comes to convincing people to get themselves into situations where they end up reproducing. However, that's among her easier tricks (AIDS, there's a classical mother nature uppercut)

    Point being, Birth Control has a moral obligation to be on the offensive, not the defensive, imho. Whatever problems we have today, more population will amplify them incestually.

    [side note]
    The other option is to require men to sit in hot tubs for 2 hours before going out, but men will probably f#ck that up. HOWEVER, if we require men to sit in hot tubs and get really stoned, I belive it will be the ultimate birth control: the men will end up playing video games, and fall asleep, instead causing trouble about town. This may describe my generation in some ways... Go low birth rates!

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    anon: well, clearly you've never had to deal with this firsthand. while an annual pap smear is rational and not exactly a huge burden, many times prescriptions are not given on an annual basis but a quarterly one.
    dotorg: your taxonomy is fascinating!

  • FUBAR Says:

    Anonymous - clearly you wouldn't be asking what the big deal is, if you'd glanced at any actual data representing any actual facts lately.

    Texas has either the 2nd or the 3rd highest rate in the nation of teen pregnancy. Texas has the highest rate in the nation of teens having a SECOND pregnancy.

    THAT, sir, is the big deal. (and I feel confident calling you "sir")

  • NancyinTexas Says:

    Sign me up! I'm ready to fight for OTC pills.

    There are way too many obstacles, and obstacles always have a bigger impact on the poor. I will never forget hearing Barbara Jordan speak about accompanying her mother on a long errand that involved three bus rides from her home in the 5th ward in Houston to get to a clinic to get a precious package that turned out to be a diaphragm.

    And don't get me started on those pharmacists who object to the morning after pill. They need to leave their field. That simply prohibits a fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus. Lots of fertilized eggs fail to implant and we never know it. There's no way to know you for sure need one at the time.

    Wait a minute, that means education...opps...obstacles there too. GEEEZZZ

    Hey Anon, annual exams with a pap are NOT necessarily the norm for healthy, young women. Since insurance comes with a job and people job hop alot there's that.

    Then there are some people who don't necessarily go by all the "recommendations" dictated to us. Surprisingly, there are probably people who don't floss twice a day either.

  • cactusflinthead Says:

    If men had to go to the doctor with the rubber gloves to get rubbers Trojan would have ceased to be a corporation years ago. If I can go buy nononxynol at 2AM at Wallyworld why can't she get The Pill.

  • Libby at Aurora Primavera Says:

    Thank you Rachel, for the meanest post this year and by that I mean BEST. It recalls a wizened aphorism from the 60s women's movement: If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. It's just insane how reproductive freedom has barely progressed and how male contraceptives have never been developed (while of course, Viagra was fast-tracked and is covered by insurance more often than birth control). It's more enraging than a Dick Cheney talkshow appearance.