WOMEN

Birth Control Access Is Far From An 'Utterly Made-Up Nonsense Issue'

Do better, Ted Cruz.

Another day, another boneheaded not terribly nuanced comment from a politician about women's reproductive health, this one courtesy of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. He believes Democrats are lying about GOP efforts to limit women's access to birth control

"Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America," Cruz said in a campaign stop in Iowa. "Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue."

Sadly for Cruz -- and more pressingly, for women throughout the United States -- that assessment is nothing short of absurd. The Supreme Court has ruled that some owners of private companies can deny birth control coverage because of religious beliefs. House Republicans have targeted family planning providers who provide health services to women, including pregnancy prevention. And Republicans have threatened to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides millions of women with contraception.

Because it unfortunately still needs to be said, for the 190,567th time, birth control is an essential part of women's health care, and it is critical that women have access to a range of options. Sorry, Cruz, but the condoms you seem to think are readily available for 50 cents in every bathroom just won't cut it. Here are just six reasons why:

1. Birth control prevents pregnancy, and allows women to determine their own reproductive futures. Half (half!) of pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, a rate that is much higher than so many other developing countries. The consequences are significant: In 2010, for example, 19 states had public expenditures related to unintended pregnancy that were in excess of $400 million. So how does this all change? Ding ding ding -- birth control! To wit: The two-thirds of women in this country who are at risk for getting pregnant but who use birth control consistently and correctly account for only 5 percent of unintended pregnancies. And oral contraceptives and long acting reversible options, like IUDs, have much lower failure rates than condoms. (Plus, male condoms put the onus and control only on men.)

At a more personal level, being able to control their reproductive destiny gives women a real shot at life. Take Andrea, 34, who once told HuffPost, "I went to a high school where many kids didn't graduate and many girls became teen mothers ... I began taking birth control at 16, and because I was able to control when I wanted to start a family, I was able to graduate high school, attend college, graduate school, and travel abroad to work on developing my career."

2. It lets women actually live their lives while they have their period. Oral contraceptives and IUDs -- not condoms -- can help women manage menstrual disorders, which can wreak total havoc on their lives, causing debilitating pain, major bleeding and intense emotional swings. "Birth control saved me from a miserable existence of severe cramps and bleeding so bad that I couldn't leave my house to go to school," one HuffPost Women reader said in a Facebook comment. Another woman told HuffPost she started on Depo Provera, the contraceptive shot, when she was 15 partially to prevent pregnancy, but primarily because she was having "horrible, horrible periods -- like extreme, excruciating, make-me-vomit-for-six-days-straight periods." No one should have to live with that.

3. It helps with PCOS. Up to 1 in 10 women in the United States have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, which can contribute to everything from weight gain and excessive facial hair growth to infertility. Birth control pills, however, can help the many women dealing with PCOS regulate their periods, combat any related acne and reduce their male hormone levels. "Taking [birth control] probably saved me from infertility thanks to polycystic ovary syndrome," one Facebook commenter said

4. It helps with endometriosis. How much can long acting reversible contraception, like IUDs help women with endometriosis, a painful, chronic condition that affects more than 6 million women and girls in the United States. So, so much.

"I don't know how many times I was in the ER thinking my appendix exploded or I was dying ... [finally] I went to the doctor and found out I had endometriosis," Christy, 29, once told HuffPost. "They put me on a medication called Lupron Depo. I lost my hair, I had hot flashes every hour on the hour... In June of last year, I had my Mirena implanted and save for some killer contractions and two weeks worth of recovery bleeding, I haven't had any problems since. I have not had a period, I have not had any major cramping, no ER visits, no false positive pregnancy scares, nothing. I don't ever want to imagine life without Mirena." And she shouldn't have to.

5. It can help with migraines. The relationship between migraines and birth control is a tricky one -- for some women, hormonal contraceptive options can make things worse, while for others it's a total lifesaver. As one Facebook commenter said: "I had severe migraines that produced stroke-like symptoms (numbness on one side of my body, confusion, losing the ability to speak), which sent me to the hospital on more than one occasion and made it impossible for me to work or have any kind of life. I started birth control, and have only had two migraines like that this year, compared with three to four per week."

6. It helps with acne. And cysts. And period-related complications due to other health conditions many women live with every day. Several Facebook commenters said they have turned to birth control options to help combat acne. Another woman said it helped control ovarian cysts, explaining, "birth control pills made them go away, which meant I avoided having surgery." Jaime, 38, once told HuffPost that the pill helped with excruciating cysts in her breasts. "They felt like they were filled with rocks. I was skeptical due to the fact that I was not at all sexually active and surprised that my doctor prescribed the pill. But they helped tremendously. All of my cysts disappeared."

That's not all. One Facebook commenter said that she uses birth control pills to help manage excessive bleeding as a result of Von Willebrand disease, the most common inherited bleeding disorder among girls and women in the United States. Another said she uses it to help manage her pain every month, which is otherwise "incredible" as she has fibromyalgia.

And no, Senator Cruz, condoms -- great as they are -- cannot do all that. 

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