birth control
Women use birth control for a myriad of reasons, most of them being health related. (Illustration by Alexa Finkelstein, Pratt Institute)
College /// Thoughts x
birth control

For the past few months, states have tried unrelentingly to overrule Roe v. Wade. Now, they are targeting birth control, too.

It is 1973: Abortion procedures are criminalized. Access to birth control is limited. Victims of rape are required to bear their trauma for nine painful months, only to stare at the gaping wound taking on the face of a life they are now responsible for — compliant or not. Women are property more than they are people.

Except this is not 1973 anymore. It is 2019 and the United States government is going so far back in time it’s giving Marty McFly a run for his money.

The Problem

This past spring, states such as Ohio, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and, soon to follow, Louisiana, passed a “heartbeat” bill outlawing abortion as soon as a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected. These bills are a futile attempt by conservatives to counteract the allowances made by Roe v. Wade granting women the right to privacy.

Following the unfortunate success the aforementioned states have had in criminalizing abortion, conservatives are taking these so-called triumphs as initiative to further unravel the precedent set in 1973. Currently, the Ohio legislature is debating House Bill 182 which “prohibits offering insurance for abortion services.”

This bill might seem irrelevant to women who are not pregnant or planning on getting pregnant; however, it could not be a bigger threat in relinquishing women of their freedom of choice.

According to House Bill 182, “abortion services” are defined as “drugs or devices used to prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum.” In layman’s terms, this bill is literally outlawing birth control.

Many women only have the means to acquire their birth control through their insurance, with very few paying for prescriptions and reproductive health appointments out-of-pocket. Uninsured, oral contraceptive refills can be upwards of $50 per month. This does not account for the doctor’s appointments required to attain the initial and sequential prescriptions costing anywhere from $80-$100.

House Bill 182 is a barricade between women’s health and accessibility to birth control, and upon successful enactment, other states might get the idea that this maltreatment of women is acceptable.

The Targets

Nearly two-thirds of all women in the United States use some form of contraception, with the most abundant use attributed to women ages 20-29. In other words, this bill is targeting predominantly college-aged women and millennials.

Birth control is increasingly common amongst women in college, though not for the oversimplified reasons assumed by lawmakers. For most women, birth control is not exclusively a contraceptive granting them the liberty to go around and have sex all day (though, even if that might be a reason a woman chooses to employ birth control, who’s to tell her she can’t?).

Birth control has various health benefits not exclusive to reproduction, which many women tout as the primary reason they decide to start taking a form of birth control.

Why Birth Control?

In questioning several college-aged women about the reason they use birth control, all replied with an explanation involving alleviation of a health complication. All also attested to the vitality of birth control in maintaining their health and quality of life.

Many college women experience such severe menstrual cramping they are forced to either use birth control to check the pain or alternatively, skip classes, thus causing them to miss out on their highly-valued education.

Some women are burdened with a heavy flow, disabling them the same way cramps do, making everyday tasks significantly more difficult than necessary. Other women use it to regulate their periods for a more predictable cycle.

And some use it to counteract acne, granting them the confidence to simply walk out the door and smile without feeling the need to hide.

A more profound and undisclosed health complication affected by birth control is ovarian cancer. Studies show that women using oral contraceptives for five or more years lower their risk of acquiring ovarian cancer by as much as 50%.

In addition to relieving health-related difficulties through birth control, these college women have also reported that taking a contraceptive ensures more security over their bodies in sexual experiences, consensual or not.

It is no secret that sexual assault runs rampant on college campuses. The adverse truth is some women begin to take birth control in college not only to have safe sex, but to also take preventative measures against the possibility of rape and a potential child.

The Future

These women are driven and inspired. They enrolled in college knowing they will sacrifice anything to get their degree, and for many, a child is not envisioned throughout that process. Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, allowing women to take precautions and have a tight hold over the futures they work incredibly hard toward.

Despite the reason one chooses to take birth control, there is one commonality amongst these causes: the opportunity for women to have control over their own bodies.

Women are people, too. Women are just as deserving of autonomy as anyone else. Women are not disposable incubators whose sole purpose amounts to fostering a child.

What people — be it cis women or men, trans women or men or non-binary individuals — choose to do with their bodies is their business and their business only. The body of another is not our own. That ownership belongs solely to that person. Bodily autonomy is an inherent right granted to every single individual, and to ignore that right is to disband someone’s value and self-worth.

At the end of the day, the argument these anti-abortion lawmakers fabricate is flawed. They are steadfast in their belief that a “fetal heartbeat” is inherently worth more rights than a woman. They forget to acknowledge their obligation to the prevailing women and constituents of this nation.

Time only moves in one direction: forward. It’s time for us to do so, too. Though angry and confused amidst this chaos, I remain hopeful. Our generation will be the one to incite change through understanding. Though these challenges to abortion rights make it seem like we are going nowhere, we are. We are moving toward acceptance. Toward a future embracing equality. A future of powerful women.

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