Hormonal female birth control pills have been around for nearly 60 years, as the first oral contraceptive pill was approved and put on the market in 1960. With the pill having questionable safety issues and access only given to married couples at first, feminists challenged this decision at the Supreme Court and oral contraceptives were soon available to all women, regardless of their marital status.
The pill has improved and adapted in many ways since then, and is now widely taken advantage of by millions of American women for its large range of uses. Treating endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), reproductive organ infections, mental health issues such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), iron deficiency, acne, painful/irregular menstrual cycles and obviously preventing unwanted pregnancies are some but certainly not all of the benefits that birth control can provide.
In October 2017, the Trump administration worked towards making a rule that allows employers to deny women birth control coverage through their legally obligated insurance. One of the main concerns presented was that people would have to disregard their religious beliefs and customs by supplying women with birth control.
Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), birth control became a federal requirement to be included in insurance plans since January 2012. This gave more than 55 million women across the nation access to birth control without co-payments, the remaining payment after insurance, and is often categorized as a basic aspect of healthcare that all women should receive.
Many women receive oral contraceptives from Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of sexual health services such as STD testing, pregnancy tests, cancer screenings, LGBTQ+ care, patient education and abortion services. This organization is geared toward providing the underserved population with basic healthcare, such as people of color, young men and women without stable benefits or income and the LGBTQ+ community.
Loy Norrix psychology teacher Rebecca Layton, who has been on the birth control pill for over 20 years, received the pill from Planned Parenthood for a period of time with a limited co-pay when she was working a job with minimal insurance. Layton was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that can cause enlarged ovaries and cysts. Symptoms of this condition include infrequent or prolonged menstrual cycles, excessive male hormone levels and hormonal symptoms such as acne. Layton uses the pill as a part of an overall treatment plan to decrease the symptoms of her PCOS as well as balance her hormone levels.
“It’s not the only thing I take. It’s not the only treatment course I go through,” Layton said.
As PCOS is extremely underdiagnosed, it has taken over 10 years for her to find a treatment course that successfully manages her symptoms and condition.
Drama teacher and forensics coach Paige Carrow has also experimented with using birth control to treat her condition, endometriosis. Endo- meaning within and -osis meaning abnormal condition, it is the term for when the endometrium that typically lines the uterus grows on the outside. This often causes extreme pain and discomfort, as well as irregular periods.
Carrow tried using birth control pills as treatment, but for her it didn’t relieve the symptoms of her condition, as everyone’s body responds differently and there’s about a 50/50 chance of it being successful. She also used birth control specifically for her menstrual period regulation and pain management when she was a young adult, where she saw positive results as well as side effects such as bloating and irritability. Carrow found it overwhelming to go through the process of obtaining birth control in her late high school/early college years, due to the multiple appointments and “hoops” she needed to get through, such as getting an appointment in the first place.
Among the many things that the Trump administration is trying to limit, the public’s access to female birth control is the one that they are logically the least qualified to make, given that 80 percent of the administration is male, according to “Elite Daily.” That breaks down to 327 men and 80 women, and this trend continues throughout his Cabinet, state legislators and all of Congress.
Inhibiting the public’s access to birth control will not only result in an increase of unwanted pregnancies, but take away the primary means of pain management that women use to counteract serious medical conditions. Treatment can be extremely expensive and difficult to obtain otherwise, as the alternative to many of these conditions is surgery.
“It’d be nice that if you needed a solution you could have easy access to it, just like if you need an easy solution for your headache you go take an Advil,” Carrow said, “but if they restrict that, then people are going to have to come up with creative and maybe harmful ways to suppress the pain they feel. I think it’s sad that there has to be limits on everything, especially when it doesn’t affect Trump. Trump doesn’t have a vagina, he shouldn’t have a say.”
It can be extremely beneficial for women to use hormonal birth control to regulate periods and alleviate pain. It’s also reasonable to use it to prevent unwanted pregnancies. When women have greater control of the number of children they have, they have more opportunity to get college degrees, which leads to having more career options, making more money and having a better quality of life.
If you are looking to get involved, Planned Parenthood has multiple different online petitions you can sign to show government officials how much support is behind the movement to counteract the proposed bill. There’s also options to donate to keep Planned Parenthood funding up, where the donation is often matched or tripled.
Birth control should be classified as basic healthcare that anyone who feels that they need it is entitled to receive. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and community health centers are working to help people get the resources they need to stay safe and healthy, something that should be a bigger concern among our communities and government.
If you are interested or in need of any of the services that Planned Parenthood provides, go to their website plannedparenthood.org or to their location in Kalamazoo at 4201 W. Michigan, or the Community Health Center located on 3299 Gull Road.
There is nothing shameful about taking care of your health and your body, and these organizations work hard to help anyone who may need it. Take advantage of the resources in our community and consider giving back!