I’m sure, by this point, you’ve all heard about the absolute cluster that was the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case (or, in our household, that which is referred to as “The time when five middle-aged, rich, Catholic men decided that companies are people but women aren’t.”) In case you haven’t, this should sufficiently enrage you.
Today, Rachel Held Evans posted a response, including statements from eleven women who explained why it is they use birth control. This was an excellent response to a very complicated issue. I’ve long admired (read: envied) Rachel’s ability to navigate controversial topics with respect and grace, while still bringing a much-needed critical eye.
I really appreciated this. The reasons these women shared were varied, and really helped to show that being sexually active and being on birth control are not interchangeable, though they often do correlate.
I, however, found one voice not represented: that of women who are, by choice, not on birth control.
I am one of them.
And I think my voice counts, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much pro-birth control, pro-family planning, and pro-women’s health. I used to be on birth control. I was a Planned Parenthood client.
I wasn’t on it because of health issues, and I wasn’t on it because I wanted to be able to sleep with anyone on a whim without the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.* I was a newly married woman and a college student, and my husband and I neither wanted to have children at the time, nor were we, in any sense, ready.
Last winter, I stopped taking my birth control. Not because we were trying to have kids. Not because it was too expensive (I’m lucky to live in a state that covers family planning services, including birth control, for low-income women).
I stopped taking it because I didn’t want to take it anymore.
I have an anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, and a bunch of other mental health challenges. I am on, between prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal supplements, and homeopathic remedies, roughly twenty different medicinal treatments.
Being on birth control, however, seemed to counteract much of the effort put into managing my mental health challenges. I was moody, grumpy, and tired, I gained weight, I had headaches, and my periods were, at best, unpredictable.
When I was diagnosed with anxiety et. al. in February 2013, I started to pay more attention to what I put into my body. Body chemistry affects brain chemistry, and therefore a body unbalanced begets a brain unbalanced–and more susceptible to attacks.
Putting extra hormones into my body seemed like an unnecessary risk.
But more than all of that, I just didn’t want it. I was plain old tired of taking it.
So I stopped.
That was nearly a year ago. Thus far, I have managed to not get pregnant, but who knows what will happen.
Some of my fellow feminists may call this irresponsible. They may tell me that I’m experiencing internalized sexism. They may tell me to embrace my sexuality, that my body is glorious and that I should realize that.
And, while some of that is true, whether or not I take birth control doesn’t change any of it.
Just like being on birth control doesn’t change whether or not a woman is sexually active.
I am grateful for the women (and men) who have encouraged me, helped me, called me out, and liberated me. I am grateful that I live in a time and place in which I can easily get birth control legally, inexpensively, and safely (even though my current insurance does not cover it). I am grateful that we, as feminists, are calling out injustice, sexism, and prejudice.
But I feel like I’m being pressured into a decision all the same. Because I’m a feminist, I ought to be on birth control.
So, to everyone, to those who think birth control is a right and to those who think it’s a sin, here’s a reminder:
My body, my choice.
*Not that there’s anything wrong with this. I’m just deconstructing a caricature. Get some. Or don’t. Your body, your choice.