Ms. Magazine celebrated ‘Thanks, Birth Control Day‘ on November 18, featuring a panel discussion with three female birth control advocates celebrating “all that birth control does for people everywhere” and exploring “what’s left to do to make birth control less controversial and more accessible.”
Predictably, panelists made many sweeping, grandiose statements about birth control’s benefits, like:
I mean, birth control is freedom. It really allows anyone with a uterus to live their lives like they want to, with the sexual freedom that they want to — they get to live pain-free, they get to live free of periods or with less periods, and with all of the benefits that birth control has really it just allows them to be who they want to be without any limitation.
Ms. Magazine cited a poll conducted by Power to Decide, an abortion advocacy organization, which found that “84 percent of all respondents appreciated birth control for giving them the ability to work toward educational or professional goals, and 74 percent were thankful that birth control allowed them to manage health conditions.”
Safety takes a back seat
Unfortunately, the celebratory discussion was one-sided, neglecting to explore the significant, sometimes deadly, side effects that birth control has visited upon thousands of women over the years.
In a striking parallel to the abortion debate, the concept of safety seems to have taken a back seat to “access” as the sacred cow of birth control advocates. In the process, discussions like this one tend to leave informed consent out in the cold, as women cannot make truly informed decisions about birth control without access to comprehensive information on the risks of a particular method.
Platitudes don’t give all the facts
Live Action News has previously analyzed the reality behind larger-than-life claims about birth control revolutionizing women’s lives only for the better. In truth, the impact of birth control is far more nuanced and complicated in a way that isn’t captured by simplistic “birth control is freedom” platitudes.
Some supposed benefits of birth control, like decreases in pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, had more to do with legal policy changes. On the other hand, dramatic rises in divorce rates and children born to single mothers, as well as significant decreases in women’s perceptions of their own well-being and happiness have come in the wake of the sexual revolution, for which birth control was the linchpin. Birth control has not been the unquestionable panacea its supporters often claim.
They can’t “thank” birth control when they’re dead
But many women are unable to “thank birth control” for benefitting them in some way — because their voices were prematurely and permanently silenced by hormonal birth control. Brittany Malone and Alex Rowan were otherwise healthy, recent college grads with their whole lives ahead of them. Yet they died months apart from each other from the NuvaRing and the birth control pill, respectively.
The Ms. Magazine panel could have taken a moment to educate women on the increased risk for certain women of blood clots from hormonal birth control — education that could have saved college student Hope Johnson’s life. If it weren’t for the NuvaRing, Ally Givens would have celebrated her 21st birthday. Alexandra Williams, Julia-West Ross, Erika Langhart, and many more women have died due to complications caused by their birth control.
Conspicuously missing from the “Thanks, Birth Control” celebration was mention of the increased risk of new-onset depression and suicidal ideation (especially amongst new users of the birth control pill) as well as increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, cervical cancer, breast cancer, certain sexually transmitted infections, and more.
The panel moderators should have trusted women enough to give them all of the facts, to allow them make empowered and fully informed decisions.
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