BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20
For as long as they have been on the market, birth control pills have been regulated for their contraceptive use. Traditionalist Republican Americans have long been uncomfortable and perhaps even angry with women having sex outside of procreative purposes. This is why many want to decrease the distribution of (and in some cases, outright ban) birth control.
As a result of this attitude, Republican lawmakers want to regulate birth control for its contraceptive use. That is, in the eyes of these lawmakers, birth control for other health care benefits is acceptable. Our fight to keep birth control deregulated should focus on its use as a contraceptive rather than its use as a menstruation-regulating product.
In 1960, Margaret Sanger and a team of researchers released the birth control pill for contraception to the public. Although her research team suggested that the pill helped with a number of reproductive health issues, the leading force behind this project was simple: to provide women with contraception.
But long before the release of the pill, women were shamed for enjoying sex, especially outside of marriage. To them, women should only be having sex within a marriage for purposes of procreation.
Because womanhood has long been connected to maternity, these traditionalists found it silly for women to even consider controlling their pregnancies, even in marriage. If women were married, and if women remained loyal to their husbands, then why would they need to worry about the possibility of pregnancy?
Since its creation, Republicans have been trying to regulate birth control as a contraceptive. Lawmakers have never expressed great concern for birth controlas a form of regulating menstruation — in fact, when the birth control pill was first introduced to the market in 1957, it was only legal for regulating heavy periods, according to PBS. The concern was women completing a supposedly act: having sex outside of marriage.
Under the Trump administration, the birth control pill and other contraceptives have been increasingly under attack. Many Republican politicians, like Paul Ryan, have criticized and disseminated misinformation about birth control. These attacks include the rollback of birth control insurance coverage in Oct. 2017. More recently, Brett Kavanaugh referred to the birth control pill as “abortion-inducing drugs” during his Senate Judiciary hearings in the last two weeks, according tothe Washington Post. While this issue affects not just women, but all people with uteruses, these laws primarily target women. These were attacks on women against reproductive health and rights.
In wake of these regulations, many well-meaning people will claim that Republicans should not ban birth control because women take it for reasons besides preventing pregnancy. They will cite that 14 percent of women take the pill solely for non-contraceptive purposes like acne, menstrual cramps and mood swings, according to Live Science.
While this argument is well-intentioned, it undermines those who take birth control as a contraceptive. The other health benefits are not the only reason to keep birth control deregulated.
When proponents of this argument claim that birth control should not be banned for its other health benefits, they are, perhaps indirectly, implying that it is okay to ban birth control for its contraceptive use. In claiming that the pill is taken for reasons besides birth control, this argument also suggests that health care issues like menstrual cramps and mood swings fall under the category of serious health-care issues, while contraception is more consequential. All reproductive health issues are important, including ones that are specifically in regards to sex. The fact of the matter is that reproductive health, and with that, pregnancy prevention, is just as important as any other form of health care. As feminists and pro-choice advocates, we should focus on contraception, since it is under attack.