With the recent attack on the reproductive rights of women in America and the subsequent attack on women who take control of their sexual health, I feel the need to pose a question to the male majority who are spearheading these attacks.
Do you know how the birth control pill works?
The thought dawned on me after the infamous verbal assualt on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who was barred from testifying as a Democratic witness for the Obama administration’s contraception policy, by Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s three day rant was laced with slurs against Fluke, calling her a ‘slut’, deducing that her desire for access to affordable contraception means that she has ‘so much sex that she can’t afford contraception’, implications that she is a prostitute for wanting to be paid (via free contraception) for sex and finally ending with a call for Fluke and all women who want free birth control to post their sex videos online as reimbursement for those who will subsequently pay for the coverage with their tax dollars.
After listening to the implication that the amount of sex being had by Fluke was the reason for her motivation to advocate for free birth control, presumably to make sex more affordable for her if we go by Limbaugh’s logic, I started to wonder if Limbaugh and other men who agreed with him actually knew how contraception works. Rush continued to dwell on the amount of hypothetical sex that Fluke was having and consistently related it to the cost of birth control. He makes statements such as ‘have they heard of not having sex? Or not having so much sex?’
Maybe this is where sex education has failed us. In my fifth grade class, the boys were taken into one room with the male teacher and the girls stayed with the female teacher where both groups were shown ‘The Video’, that infamous video about our changing bodies. Maybe that seperation was a mistake because the men who are in charge of making policy that govern a woman’s body have no idea how it actually works.
So here is the information that was not on your video, boys. Birth control pills are not like condoms. In fact, the only thing they have in common with condoms are that they are a method of pregnancy prevention. Condoms are a one-time use device. After it is used, the condom is discarded and a new one is needed for any subsequent sexual encounter. On the other hand, the birth control pill is a bit more complex. The pill contains hormones that blocks ovulation, therefore prevents pregnancy by not providing an egg to be fertilized should the woman have sex. These hormones will also thin the uterine lining which will prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. A woman who is taking the pill will take it every day for three weeks, regardless if she will be having sex at any time in that three week period or not. In the fourth week, she will either take a week of placebo pills (which will result in a withdrawl bleed, mimicking a regular menstrual period) or she will begin her new pack of pills (which will allow her to skip the withdrawl bleed/period).
This hormone regulation is the reason why many women take birth control pills for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. Some of the most common non-sexual uses for the pill is the relief of menstrual cramps, regulation of irregular or heavy periods, symptoms of PMS, treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease, acne and ovarian or breast cysts.
Now that I have shared this information (that apparently is much more exclusive than I thought, since so many Republican lawmakers seemed to lack the basic understanding of women’s health), I hope that the misinformation that might be spread by men like Limbaugh would want you to believe. A woman does not need to take a new pill each time she has sex. A woman does not necessarily have to be sexually active to be on the pill or she could have sex twenty times a day and still have the same amount of protection. If the pill were designed to be taken with each sexual encounter, the cost would be astronomical for those who enjoy an active, healthy, and happy sex life. But the reality is that access to the pill and similar methods of contraception are still difficult to attain for far too many women who need them. Equal and fair access is the goal for women like Sandra Fluke, who have been torn down and attacked for their hope that one day the concept will be common sense.