Access to birth control shouldn’t be an issue. Why is ‘contraception’ still a dirty word?
Despite having fantastic contraceptives available to us these days, many people are still morally opposed to the idea of them or believe those speaking out about contraceptives are really more concerned with similar issues such as abortion or population control. What people seem to have trouble comprehending is that contraceptives used correctly will reduce the incidence of abortion as a greater number of unplanned pregnancies are avoided. On top of this, they provide women with the ability to choose if and when to have children, how many they want and the time period in between pregnancies.
Another issue people tend to have when discussing contraceptive options is that they believe when we separate reproduction from sex we are promoting promiscuity. The use of contraceptives does not encourage those that choose not to engage in pre-marital sex due to personal belief or faith to abandon their morals. What contraception does offer is the option for sexually active women, married women included, to have control over their bodies, health, careers and ultimately their lives.
The Catholic Church in particular is opposed to the use of contraception, as it believes that sex must be unitive and procreative. However, studies have shown that 98% of Catholic women in the US have used contraceptive methods other than those officially sanctioned by the church.
In recent times there has been great debate in the US over whether contraceptives should be covered by health insurance. Research conducted in the US showed that young women of reproductive age – 18-34 – are least likely to be able to afford birth control. When Sandra Fluke spoke out publicly about the need for contraceptives to be more readily available to those who need them she was called a slut and a prostitute because she “wants to be paid to have sex” by America’s highest rating talk show host.
However, Fluke didn’t back down, taking to US Cosmopolitan to justify her argument. She spoke about her friend who was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and needs birth control to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries. However, as her insurance didn’t cover contraception she ended up developing a painful tennis ball sized cyst on one of her ovaries, which she subsequently needed surgically removed. As a result of this, the 32-year-old is now showing symptoms of early menopause and she may never be able to have children. I know, what a slut, right?
It is in cases like this that the need for contraception to be more readily available even in our developed countries is highlighted. So many facets of our lives depend on our access to contraceptives. That’s not to say that everyone needs to use birth control, but everyone should have the choice.
However, millions of women worldwide aren’t given the choice at all, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. Giving women the education and option to choose whether to use birth control in Africa has the potential to greatly improve the current quality of life. Not only would contraception allow couples to have smaller families if they so wish so they can better provide for their children and afford to give them a proper education, but it could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
At present, 200 million people worldwide don’t have access to contraception. Unintended pregnancy is the leading cause of death among teenage girls worldwide. 100 000 maternal deaths occur each year during unwanted pregnancies. In both if these cases, contraception would allow women to only become pregnant when they are healthy and able to safely deliver a child. At present too many women in Africa are falling pregnant over and over again and their bodies cannot handle the stress. In addition to this, global access to contraception could reduce newborn deaths by nearly 50%. Every year 600 000 children born from unwanted pregnancies die in their first month of life. In these cases, contraception is not code for abortion – it is a way to save lives.
Over 1 billion people worldwide use contraceptives. In Australia, 71% of people use contraception. In the US 79% do, whilst in the UK 84% do. 77% of French people use birth control methods and 66% of Germans do. This is contrasted against countries in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia where the rates are much lower. Only 8% of people in Sudan, 11% in Liberia, 24% in Saudi Arabia and 2% in Chad use contraception because they simply don’t have access. By providing women with the option to use contraception, we are empowering women to save their lives, the lives of their children and give their families the best possible future.
It’s time to put the moral powerplay to rest and allow women to have control over their own bodies. If I have to hear another male politician chip in their two cents with an uninformed and outdated opinion I will tear out my ovaries with a fork. To the men in positions of power that are insisting birth control isn’t a necessity, it’s time to stop attempting to shove your beliefs down the throats of the population, suck up your pride and make contraception more readily available to the women who need it.