Saturday, March 3, 2012

it's not just about sex

The war against women in Washington raged on this week, and at the center of the debate was birth control. I'm sure that, by now, you've all heard the sound clip of Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown law student a slut and the backlash that ensued. But let's back up for a second, because I need to address this question that's been bothering me throughout this debate: Since when did birth control become just about sex?

Yes, a majority of American women do use birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I haven't forgotten the days of waiting in line at my college's clinic for that $10-a-month pack of little yellow pills. (Call me a slut if you'd like, but I was only "dating" the man I ended up marrying. Turns out, I could have saved a ton of money on these pills if I'd have known I was infertile.)

After college and marriage, birth control pills took on a different meaning for me. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cervical cancer a couple of years ago, birth control was no longer optional for her. It was part of a drug regimen necessary to keep doctors from having to give her a hysterectomy at the ripe young age of 28.

Then it became necessary for me, too. We still don't know exactly what causes my left ovary to produce cysts. What we do know is that it's a combination of birth control and medication to lower my prolactin that keeps the cysts at bay. I'm on a hiatus from the pills for six months while my RE experiments with my hormone levels, but a typical month of medication costs me $60: $30 for my Dostinex and another $30 for my birth control. I am very lucky to be able to afford this. I am also very lucky that my company allows the coverage of both of these medications.

What would happen if I couldn't afford the birth control pills, or if my employer did not cover them (making me unable to afford them at full cost)?

Eventually, in the next six months, my cysts would most likely return. I would be in constant pain. I would not be allowed to do things that normal, healthy people consider everyday activities: lift boxes or books at work, walk briskly (or participate in any more strenuous exercise). Even sex would be off limits, should a cyst grow big enough to potentially rupture. If a cyst ruptured, I could bleed internally to the point of infection, putting me in the hospital for days - a visit I wouldn't be able to afford. I could require surgery, and a third surgery equals the loss of my left ovary - which, in turn, equals four to six weeks of recovery time.

For me, birth control is preventive care, but it's not preventing pregnancy. It's preventing a situation that would cost my insurance company, (potentially) the government, and me more money should my employer's insurance not cover the costs.

This is part of the point that Sandra Fluke tried to make in her testimony. Instead, the only point heard was the one about SEX. Casting aside the ridiculous notion that college-aged women can't have sex (and yet college-aged men are revered for how many women they take back to their dorm rooms), the women whose reproductive organs are riddled with cancer, endometriosis, cysts, and even the women who are using birth control to help them conceive (see: IVF patients) are somehow lost in the media hype and the controversy of one commentator.

I don't believe for a second that Limbaugh thinks Ms. Fluke is a slut. So why did he say it? For shock value. Limbaugh is getting exactly what he wanted out of this situation. Instead of people focusing their attention on the debate at hand, they are focusing on his crude remarks. Yes, what he said was wrong. Beyond wrong, and he is a coward for saying such an awful thing. But he'll never take responsibility for his actions. Maybe he'll apologize, maybe not. At this point, who would believe him? I'm even willing to bet that he doesn't care about losing advertisers for his programming because of it. To focus this on Limbaugh is to play right into his hands.

The best thing we as women can do to respond is keep moving forward. We keep fighting for the rights that we deserve, whether it's the right to use birth control to prevent pregnancy or to prevent a serious disease. We keep speaking up so that our country's leaders can hear our voices. We let them know that this is important and why it's important. We do exactly what Sandra Fluke is doing now: we stand up and we don't back down.


nurslouisa said...

Amen!!! So well put Katie. I am one of those woman who takes birth control pills to control my endometrosis. I would not be able to function without them.

Erica said...

Thank you for writing this post. I too have become so frustrated by others comments and especially comments on F.B. that are equating birth control to sex. Especially those who use it to being promiscuous.So doggone frustrating!!!

Logical Libby said...

The only good thing about Rush Limbaugh's comments is that he might finally destroy himself for good this time.

KH said...

You, as usual, are so spot on. I have heard so much lately, most of it full of ignorance, in regard to these issues. It drives me mad how people refuse to look at all aspects before running off at the mouth. Very well done with this post!

Kelly said...

Yep. I started BCP in 9th grade and was on them for 15 years for irregular and heavy periods. Had to do a whole song and dance to them covered as "medically necssary", all while the same insurance covered Viag.ra. What?? I didnt realize that Viagra was medically necessary.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I agree 100%. Married people use birth control too! Or people who will die if they get pregnant. Or people who are trying to be responsible and not bring unwanted children into this world. I have needed to take it for health reasons too.

Plus, birth control doesn't even 100% protect the really promiscuous types. They need to use condoms to protect themselves fully.

Ugh. It's so frustrating!

kristin simich said...

I am outraged. Another terrific post, I do say. My anger is about the entire situation. I CANNOT BELIEVE in this day and age that these are even issues we have to address. Freedom is freedom, that means we are free to have sex, buy birth control, have abortions if need be (whatever the reason, whether we agree or not) have things added and/or removed to/from our bodies, change our hair, choose our vehicle's, etc. This is the future folks, this is it. We are waisting valuable time trying to control what Other people want to do with Their lives. I CANNOT BELIEVE some of these goons we are supposed to decide between to "lead us" the next few years. In a time where you can pay to fulfill just about any fetish you could come up with, with the majority of our "leaders" partaking in some way ot another, I can't believe this topic and others are even on the table! I also can't figure out how everyone is doing so well with their own lives that they feel they can get involved in another person's business. Where are you finding the time?!

Rita said...

The idea that birth control pills only equal sex makes me so angry! It's based on total ignorance. Aside from all of the legitimate, medical reasons you and others have named, what about me and my sisters? We have a clotting disorder that is in the same family as hemophilia. One of my sisters has Type II, a more severe form than I have, and if she isn't on birth control, "heavy" doesn't even begin to describe her periods. They are debilitating. People need to get a clue. Birth control pills are not just for birth control--they are an important part of women's health.

Michelle said...

YES! Exactly this.

I wish I could say that I couldn't believe what was said, but really... consider the source.

Rebecca said...


Geochick said...

Great points! All these men only focus on one aspect of bcps instead of the good they do. Personally, I'm happy I spent a good 10 years on them since I had dysmenorrhea and some endo and cut my risk of ovarian cancer. Of course, those guys don't think of these things. You know, if religious organizations don't want to cover bcps then they shouldn't want to cover vi.agra either.