Health Control

Zoe Fenson emphasizes that for many women, including herself, using birth control isn’t even about contraception:

On a regular basis, I encounter women with [Polycystic Ovary Syndrome] who rely on oral contraceptives to keep their reproductive organs in check. And even beyond our experience, there are a host of medical issues, tangentially or completely unrelated to reproduction, for which birth control serves serious medical uses. I’ve known women who take birth control to limit pain from endometriosis, to stave off migraines, to address skin-scarring cases of acne.

These issues almost never come up in discussions about access to birth control, because the conversation is so dominated by sex, and by extension, pregnancy.

Even when it does come up, the debate immediately gets redirected back. Witness Sandra Fluke’s passionate defense of contraceptives on behalf of her friend, who lost an ovary to PCOS. The loudest shouters in the public discourse immediately turned the conversation to her own sexual proclivities, accused her of agitating for consequence-free sex, and the point was completely lost. I watched that spectacle play out, raged over it, and cried quietly when my rage was spent.

Caitlin Dickson adds:

One of the birth control pills’ greatest benefits to users is a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Studies have found that the protective effects of oral contraception against both types of cancers increase the longer a woman takes the pill and lasts for years after she stops using it.

A reader joins the conversation:

IUDs are not just birth control devices.  They are used to prevent heavy hemorrhaging due to fibroids (growths in the uterus) in perimenopausal women.  Absent these devices, the women would have to undergo hysterectomies.

This is not just about sex.  It is about an employer making decisions, based on their religious beliefs, about the health of their employees.