On Mother's Day, I participated in my usual Sunday morning ritual: reading the headlines on my Blackberry, checking my @replies on Twitter and scrolling through my friends' Facebook status updates. Among the chatter of "Happy Mother's Day" and dreary "Headed to the in-laws..." was another update -- words from one of my female friends, a musician in a committed two-year relationship. Her status was a "shout out for those of us that have successfully not become mommies."
Her status did more than update me as to "what's on her mind" -- it reminded me of what has been on mine. Not becoming pregnant is, for most non-religious, non-family-building women, a regular source of anxiety. I discuss birth control with just about every female I know. The cost of it, the difficulty getting away from work to get a prescription for it, procedures and pills that aren't covered by health insurance, on and on. These are smart, gainfully employed women who are actively trying not to get pregnant. What becomes of the woman who doesn't have the time or the finances to obsess over these ovarian strategies? Wait, wait, don't tell me -- I know how this ends. She gets pregnant.
In the storied reclamation of our gender, women forgot to claim one thing: our right to control our reproductive systems. While the fight is by no means over, it does seem like the contractions subsided with the invention of sports bras and shoulder pads. What happened to the big push?
When it comes to obtaining oral contraceptives, I get especially infuriated. We're not talking about abortions here -- what's wrong with prevention? The two most effective forms of birth control, after the mythical abstinence, are IUDs and other hormonal options, like The Pill. Why The Pill is not available over the counter is something that no one has been able to successfully answer for me. Certain forms of The Pill which don't include estrogen, called progesterone-only pills, are less likely to cause blood-clots and are often prescribed to women who cannot take higher-doses of hormones. A study done in 2007 by the Contraception Journal showed that a sample of random women could screen themselves for oral contraceptive contraindications nearly as well as medical professionals. Only 6.7% of the women incorrectly thought they did not have any contraindications/risks when, in fact, they did. Even with medical screening under normal circumstances, approximately 6% of oral contraceptive users in the US show contraindications for pill use. The study ultimately concluded that since the percentage of women who incorrectly misdiagnosed themselves is similar to the proportion of actual pill users in the US who are contraindicated for use, the over the counter sale of birth control pills would likely be safe.
Conservatives should get behind the numbers if nothing else. A study done in 2001 by the Institute For Women's Policy Research showed that making birth control pills available over-the-counter (OTC) would dramatically increase its usage, which could result in potentially $2.08 billion dollars in medical savings from preventing unplanned pregnancies. The same study estimates that the number of abortions would be reduced by 220,000 a year. How's that for Choose Life?
Yet after all of these comprehensive studies, women still take time off of work, go to their doctors, wear see-through gowns, patiently explain they're still with the same partner, remind the nurses they have been tested for STD's, stare at plastic models of fallopian tubes, pay co-pays and wait for our golden tickets.
Those little white hormones packed in foil and plastic aren't the controlled substance here: women are. And if anyone wants to tell you differently, ask them why you can buy condoms and cigarettes in a 7-Eleven. It's our issue. They don't get to make it a partisan issue or an abstinence-only issue. We need to take out our reality TV epidurals and get back to our bra-burning roots. We're not yet mothers, but we could at least do something for the next generation we might one day decide to have.