In my life, I have never purchased any form of birth control. I’ve never gone to a nurse’s office, a health center, a pharmacy, or any other health care provider to even inquire about it. I couldn’t name for you the side effects of each different type, and I do not know the name of more than one company that makes it.
Here’s what I do know. Republicans and the Catholic Church have done their best for as long as I can remember to control me and my body. To tell me that my sexuality was a dirty thing. That I should fear it and despise it. That my body is dirty, that my soul is dirty, that I must bear the pain of childbirth because Eve took a bite of forbidden fruit and I must spend eternity paying the price for it. That my virginity – especially when I was young – was the most important, defining feature of my humanity, and that I deserved anything that happened to me if I didn’t try to hide and secure and safeguard my sexuality until a man wanted to come and claim it.
And so needless to say, the fact that I am part of the 2% of women in America who has never used birth control is completely and utterly irrelevant. Millions of people in America use it, millions of people in America want access to it, it’s cheaper and safer and easier and healthier than the alternatives, and it causes nobody else any harm. And so in looking at this debate, I have to ask myself: what the fuck is the problem?
Oh yes, providing it goes against the moral values of a very tiny minority of people. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. I’m forced to pay for plenty of things that go against my moral values, too. But living in a society such as ours means that our government does the best it can to serve as many of its citizens as best as possible. Our society does the best it can to ensure that people’s voices are heard, that their rights are protected, and that we can live – freely – the lives we want to live.
Just as we each have our own moral values we abide by as we go about freely living our lives, our society has collective moral values as well. One of those values is respect for a person’s physical autonomy. If someone needs a kidney transplant and I’m a match, no government in the country would force me to undergo surgery to provide that kidney. There may be some question as to whether religiously, some faiths would require that sacrifice, would require that we undergo that risk in order to save another’s life. But our government recognizes that one of the hallmarks of our humanity is our respect for personhood – for someone’s right to literally control their body. And so legally I am not required to put my health at risk, no matter what other life may be at stake. It is this respect for privacy, actually, that is the bedrock of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that permits abortion in this country. It’s a question of privacy and autonomy.
Women’s bodies are different from men’s bodies. But that doesn’t mean that men should have the right to control their bodies and women shouldn’t. It’s just ended up that way because men are in power. And so we view men’s bodies as the norm. Men don’t need to “control their reproductive systems” and so over the decades the question of abortion and birth control and reproductive health care has had to claw its way to the public consciousness. Which leads us to where we are now, with the Obama Administration rightfully saying “half of our population needs this, our society respects people’s right to control their own bodies, and we have an obligation to protect that.”
I’d care a lot more about the Catholic Bishops’ concerns if I felt like they weren’t so totally rooted in utter crap. Their allies in Congress are taking to the floor to lie about contraception and birth control, claiming that they cause abortions, which in essence implies that taking these pills is the same thing as killing babies. I may not have known off the top of my head the intricate details of birth control, but even the slightest bit of research assures me that these claims are entirely false.
Now I’m happy to have reasonable, logical arguments with reasonable, logical people. I’m even happy to disagree with them. But anyone who has to lie to make their point should take a cold, hard look at exactly what their stance is. When you are forced to lie, to mislead the public about what contraception is, shouldn’t that be a signal to you that maybe there’s something not quite logical or reasonable about your argument?
I don’t use birth control. I don’t know how soon I will, if I ever will, or under what circumstance I would start to. But I’m using my voice to join the millions of women who want the access to it because it’s the right thing for women as individuals and for our society as a whole. I may never need to get birth control, and I may never decide to use it. But that’s not the point. My government respects my right to have control and autonomy over my body, and that absolutely must include the right to control my reproductive system and my health. If we value a person’s right to physical autonomy, then we should be doing everything we can to guarantee that right. And so I’m publicly stating here and now that as long as President Obama supports that right for the millions of American women who support it, then I’ll stand by him. That’s a promise.
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