when birth control isn’t for birth control

WARNING: This post is long and rambly, and there is discussion of lady parts and sex and birth control ahead. Dad, you should just go ahead and click that little red X in the top-right corner now.

(I’m kidding. My dad knows my blog exists, but he’s read it a grand total of once, when I wrote Catie’s birth story. He said, “That was more than I wanted to know.” And he hasn’t read it since. Fair enough, Pop.)

I don’t normally talk about politics here, but my blog is my place where I sort of dump out the stuff that’s rattling around in my brain, and I admit that this whole Supreme Court Hobby Lobby thing has been taking up a lot of my brain space lately.

So, here’s my take on it, and I’m sorry this includes personal anecdotes and backstory.

After Lucy was born, my cycles were a mess. My understanding is that this is common after you have a baby, especially a second (or third or fourth) baby. I had debilitating cramps, my mood swings were crazy to the point of borderline-psychotic, and my period lasted for well over a week. It was awful.

I went to my OB/GYN to talk about my options. She said the best solution for the problems I was experiencing would be to get on one of the hormonal methods of birth control, because that generally alleviates all of these symptoms. It didn’t matter that my marriage had just broken up a couple months prior, and I was in no way even remotely sexually active, nor did I have any need whatsoever for contraceptives. Birth control was the best solution.

After going through the list, she suggested the Mirena IUD. There’s a long list of reasons why (I have digestive issues that rule out taking an oral birth control pill, I’m allergic to the adhesive in the patch, etc.), and honestly, I had a Mirena IUD between Catie and Lucy, and I liked it. So that seemed like an easy pick.

Three years later, I still don’t need my IUD as a method of contraception. I’m in a committed relationship with a man who’s had a vasectomy. I have no need for birth control, per se. And yet, I love my Mirena IUD. My cycles are super-light (I spot for a couple of days, that’s it), I have no cramps, and I might be slightly more irritable, but it’s miles better than it used to be.

And this is where the Hobby Lobby thing gets me. They don’t want to cover the IUD because they say it’s an abortifacent. And I say bullshit. Yes, in theory, it can keep a fertilized egg from implanting. But there are also women who use it for the same reason that I do, for their basic general health. Either way, it’s not my employer’s business why I have an IUD. My doctor shouldn’t need to clear it with my boss to treat me.

And really, we can argue all day whether or not “keeping a fertilized egg from implanting” counts as abortion, since that’s also the same thing that Plan B does (aka the morning-after pill, the OTHER thing Hobby Lobby now won’t cover for their employees). Personally, I say that until it has a heartbeat, it’s just a cluster of cells, not a human life. A cluster of cells with potential, sure, but it’s not the same as an actual fetus. (Also, people who confuse Plan B with RU-486/the “abortion pill” – please do your research, those are two very different things.)

Aside on Plan B: back in the 90s, a friend of mine was raped, and the next day we went to a clinic and got Plan B for her. Maybe there was a fertilized egg there, maybe there wasn’t, but in the wake of a really horrific trauma, it was reassuring for her to know that at least she didn’t have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy on top of all of the other emotional repercussions she had been dealt. I’m really glad that it exists for situations like that.

Back to the point about “birth control when it’s not a contraceptive” (man, I have a lot of thoughts on this one), my situation isn’t unique. There are a couple of million women in the U.S. who use hormonal birth control for reasons completely unrelated to contraception.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard a few recurring statements from the people who support the Hobby Lobby decision.

1. The female employees can pay for their birth control themselves.

The average IUD costs $900-1000. For most people who work in retail – even at a company like Hobby Lobby, which tends to pay their employees higher than minimum wage – that’s still a pretty sizable chunk of change. I’m not sure many people can afford that.

2. Small businesses should be able to do what they want without government interference.

To a point, I agree. But if government never interfered in private businesses, lunch counters in my home state of Mississippi would still be segregated. Government regulation is sometimes necessary in our society. It’s just a fact of life.

(If you happen to be one of the people who think the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, just… look, we’re never going to see eye to eye on anything, so don’t bother.)

3. If the employees don’t like it, they can just go work somewhere else.

Well, ok, I guess that’s legit. But this case sets a precedent for the 50 or so other pending lawsuits from corporations who don’t want to provide contraceptives to their female employees. What if you work in a specialized field, and the only place you can find employment is with a company that’s run by Catholics who object to covering all contraceptives? The Supreme Court basically just made that scenario possible.

It’s interesting to me that the people who see this as a victory for freedom of religion are the same people who would decry this decision if it went in favor of any religion other than Christianity. Say, for example, there was a company run by Muslims and they say that all of their female employees must wear a hijab. I mean, they’re just exercising their freedom of religion and if the female employees don’t like it, they’re free to go work somewhere else, right?

But if that were the case, do you think Sean Hannity and those people would be cheering this as a win for freedom of religion in this country? I find that pretty doubtful.

And look, I know I’m pretty far left politically, so this decision was bound to piss me off. And I’ve been talking about this issue with some of my friends who agree with the decision, and I’m proud of us for staying polite in our discussion on this, even when we completely disagree.

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that I’m more pro-choice now than I was before I had kids. I’ve experienced firsthand how hard being a parent is, and I realize that not everyone might be cut out for it. It’s extraordinarily hard to be a good parent, and it’s all too easy to be a shitty one.

But rather than abortions – which, honestly, nobody wants, even the most pro-choice among us – what would be ideal is if all women had access to all of the family planning tools that they needed. The easier we as a society make it for women to get contraception, the lower the abortion rate gets. And wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where every pregnancy was wanted?

As for Hobby Lobby, here, go watch John Oliver sum this up. He’s a lot funnier than I am.

5 thoughts on “when birth control isn’t for birth control

  1. Just an anecdote that fits with your point that not all birth control is used for pregnancy prevention – my mom was prescribed the pill to treat a benign tumor on her pituitary gland. They couldn’t operate on it (too risky) but the hormones in the pill shrank the tumor and fixed a lot of the issues caused by it.
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  2. This subject makes my blood boil! What next…telling their employees they cannot have sex unless they are married? I would just LOVE to see some personal dirt dug up on any one of the Green family that contradicts their beliefs. Petty? Maybe…but I don’t care.

  3. I still don’t get why Viagra can be covered. It makes me mad.

    I started birth control for regulation and cramps. And now not just for that but because my fiancé and I are not ready for kids. But I will not have my company tell me I can have birth control. I find that so wrong.

  4. I just wrote a big long comment and accidentally deleted it, arg. I think you know how strongly I feel about the decision. I’m frightened by the repercussions of corporations being able to skirt around laws based on religious beliefs (so ridiculous to say a legal entity has thoughts, feelings and beliefs). This decision opens the door for so much suffering, contraception is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m outraged… And I rarely get worked up about whatever thing is currently in the news. Several of my family members are threatening to disown me at this point for being so “anti-God”, but I’m just anti ridiculousness. Oh, and I take birth control for the estrogen, because my endocrine system got messed up after a 7 pint blood transfusion… Definitely not a lifestyle choice! I need to calm the hell down, but I’m not sure I can.

  5. The whole Hobby Lobby thing ticks me off too. I am one who is on the pill for PCOS, & for someone to tell me that it’s “morally unacceptable” to take it, they can stick it in their juice box and suck it to be blunt. I would personally love to hear about one of their family members needing it for medical reasons and see how they react to that.

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