Birth control a right?

Over the past couple of months I’ve heard arguments against private institutions being forced to cover birth control pills for their employees. Perhaps I’m biased as a female myself and believing that is every woman right to have the choice and access to all forms of contraception including birth control pills. Most legal arguments presented simply stated that the government has no say in what type of health care private institutions provide since they are not receiving any government funding. However I was still appalled to hear the language and stereotypes which fueled some of the other arguments.

One such argument which I found particularly offensive is that these institution should be made to pay for birth control, so that women can be as promiscuous as they please. I found this to be shocking that such a stereotype was still so heavily present. A man carrying a condom is considered smart, however a woman on birth control pills is considered a “slut”? Do woman not have the right to protect themselves and have ownership over their bodies?

Another argument made was since there are still cheaper alternatives to birth control such as condoms, it wasn’t essential for women to have birth control pills. First I believe that this places all of the responsibility on men and women should take equal responsibility when it comes to contraception. More importantly for women birth control pills are not only used for contraceptive proposes, but also for dealing with serve cramps, hormone imbalances, and acne. This brings up the question of are birth control pills an essential medication? I know many women who suffer from serve cramps and would considered it comparable to torture. They often have to miss work or school due to their symptoms. Wouldn’t it then be an essential medicine for those who are suffering?

Finally an argument was made that if women want or need birth control medication they should just purchase it themselves and not force their employer to pay for it. This was fueled by the belief that since there are so many birth control pills currently on the market, that it must be affordable. However birth control medication is different for everyone women, since each of our bodies are different. The generic or cheaper brands may not compatible with all women and with some birth control pills costing as much a 60 dollars a month, it is not within everyone reach. So should those women who can’t afford it be denied access to proper birth control medication?

Today this argument is back on the table with the many recent lawsuits of the Catholic groups against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. The addition of religion to the argument brings an entirely new discussion of rights. Now there is the addition of the right to freedom of religion. Does one right trump another right?

I do not believe that one right takes precedence over another. However I’m concerned with the rights of students or employees of institutions such as the University of Notre Dame which has also recently  filed lawsuit against this mandate, though they did so hesitantly. It is understandable that the government has no right to interfere with the church itself. But does that mean the church as the right to force their beliefs and practices on individuals which attend or work for educational institutions such as Notre Dame? In the past there has also been the case of Georgetown Law School in which a student sued for not having have access to contraceptive coverage. Although I highly doubt a student would ever choose not attend an esteemed educational institution due to lack of contraceptive coverage. But should there even have to be choice between right to an education and right to access of medicine?

Read more on current legal battle:

1 comment
  1. evelynatiemo said:

    You bring up some very good and accurate points, Katherine (sorry if I got your name wrong). As a woman myself, I too take terrible offense to these inflexible images that women are being depicted as. And each time I hear stories regarding this debate with birth control pills, specifically here in the U.S., I cannot help but feel frustrated with how hypocritical our society is. How come it’s okay to use sex (especially female sexuality) as an advertising tool for movies, books, magazines, clothing, alcohol (really, the list goes on), but when it comes to private institutions covering birth control for medical use, it warrants all of these feelings of prudery? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Another thing that doesn’t make sense to me is how birth control seems to be divided into two categories: for contraceptive use or medical use. Shouldn’t “contraceptive use” be merged in the same category as “medical use”? After all, when a woman gets pregnant, she requires prenatal care (which is medical care) in order to have a safe and comfortable pregnancy. And if a woman gets pregnant unintentionally and decides to have an abortion, doesn’t that abortion that she receives (as long as it’s within a hospital or clinic setting) involve the use of medical instruments and procedures? I think that in order for us to see any sort of progress with this debate over who should cover birth control pills, we must recognize that female sex isn’t as taboo as we are “trying” to make it out to be.

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