Category Archives: birth control

Twisted Morality

Before modern times, a laboring woman faced three choices if the baby was unable to descend through her pelvis. A cranioctomy could be performed on the fetus, where a hole is drilled into its skull and it’s brain removed to allow the head to come out. The mother would live, the fetus would not. The second option was a c-section, which would undoubtedly be fatal to the mother as, before the invention of modern medical techniques, there was no way to suture the uterus to prevent her from bleeding out. The baby would live, the mother would not. Of course, the work around solution would be to perform a hysterectomy along with the c-section, which would both save the mother and the baby. But while this solution was know about, it was condemned by the Catholic Church.

The reason? It would enable couples to have non-procreative sex.

Yes, to prevent people have having non-procreative sex, the Catholic Church would have rather the mother died during childbirth. Better a woman should be dead than engaging in sex for non-procreative reasons!

And here is what I want to stress. The focus of the Catholic Church, conservative protestants and others in the so-called pro-life movement is not about the health and well being about the baby as they have spun it, it’s about people have sex for pleasure. If the pro-life movement was about preventing abortions, then they would be backing LARCs.

Haven’t heard about LARCs? These are otherwise known as Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives. Essentially birth control that lasts for years so you don’t have to worry about taking a pill every day or slipping on a condom that could break. These are also reversible so if you decide to have a baby, they can be removed and you can procreate at your leisure. And the failure rate is less than 1%. They are extremely reliable. Examples include the IUD and implants.

In Colorado, they were responsible for lowering the teen pregnancy rate by 40% in 6 years (and the abortion rate fell by 35%) GOP “pro-life” Republicans refused to continue funding this successful program, because “morality.”

It’s not just teens in Colorado. In the US, the rates of unintended pregnancy are at an all time low thanks to the IUD.

Birth control has achieved what years of abstinence programs and attacks on abortions have not, drastic drops in the rates of unintended pregnancies AND abortions. Birth control works. And all of the arguments I’ve seen against birth control are based on a person’s religious beliefs and that whole morality thing about fears of people having non-procreative sex.

Here’s the thing, this moral panic about people having non-procreative sex? Its getting in the way of implementing policies that are good for the health and well being of the nation. And unplanned pregnancy is a situation that is not good for anyone and which, despite the promoting of adoption, there is no perfect choice.

Recently the CDC got into a flap about the risk of alcohol use during pregnancy. Having worked with substance use and seen the effects of FASD first hand, as well as the tragic situation women who are addicted to opioids find themselves in when they get unexpectedly pregnant.Alcohol use is extremely detrimental to a developing fetus, and the worst time to drink is when most women don’t realize that they are even pregnant! This can cause severe mental retardation and a host of other complications. Women addicted to opioids who become pregnant are at an increased risk of miscarriage if they try to STOP using drugs, and therefore have to continue using drugs (hopefully while monitored by a doctor). Unfortunately, the baby is born addicted to opioids and has to go through detox. This is not a great first start in life: being born addicted to a drug, and spending weeks detoxing at a hospital and not a nurturing home. For women who have gone through this, it is agonizing.

I bring this up as an example of the value of having a planned pregnancy. When a woman chooses to get pregnant, she usually pays a lot of attention to her life choices, eliminating alcohol and other harmful substances from her diet.

Drug exposure is not the only thing we have to worry about. Zika has recently exploded as a public health crisis. Exposure to zika while pregnant is likely linked with microcephaly and Guillain-Bare syndrome and a host of other birth defects. There have been cases of zika in the US and my husband who works for the city government is privy to the measures that they are starting to take to prepare for it here in Texas. In fact, I’m dismayed that with this new public health crisis more isn’t being done to make sure women in those areas have access to LARCs, which, in the case of Texas, would mean not fighting Planned Parenthood and working with them to make sure women who wants LARCs have them! But, as we have defunded Planned Parenthood, pregnancy rates are up. Further, the Texas government was so unhappy with this report that they have attacked the researchers. Once again, concerns about moral indecency vs public health is what is influencing policy here, and when research flies in the face of morality, rather than changing our policies, we’re attacking the people doing the research.

I’m about finding solutions that work that protect the health and well being of women and enable them to bring healthy infants into this world. LARCs dramatically reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate, AND they dramatically reduce the abortion rate. They allow a woman to decide when she is ready to have a baby, and therefore allow her to make sure her environment and her body is health when she chooses to get pregnant. This increases the chance of healthy moms having healthy kids.

Fretting about “morality” is not doing anything for the health and well being of women and their babies. In fact, it is doing a lot of harm. This so-call morality is not morality, it is ultimately about control. This is about the church dictating when it is okay to have sex and when it is not.

My morality is about putting policies and resources in place to make sure every woman who wants one has access to LARCs. It’s better for women, it’s better for men, and it’s better for the babies.




Why We Need Planned Parenthood

“Do you know where I can get cheaper birth control pills?” she asked. “I can’t afford them at the local clinic.”

“Have you tried applying for Medicaid?” I asked. As I live in Texas, and our governor in his infinite idiocy refused the Medicaid expansions. So if this young woman lived in another state she would likely have access to Medicaid and free birth control. As she lived in Texas, though, this was not a guarantee.

“I tried, I was rejected.”

The nearest Planned Parenthood is over an hour away, a prohibitive distance for a lot of my clients. I explained this to her and she asked about the local crisis pregnancy center. I explained they do not provide medical services such as prescriptions for birth control. What I didn’t say was that the only thing they do is employ scare and shame tactics to sway women away from abortion.

I felt the frustration and anger I’ve been feeling all year. Earlier in the year I had several clients become pregnant at the same time (we joked about there being something in the water). All of them had wanted tubals after having their last child, but were refused for reasons that weren’t explained to them, even though one of them had five children. And though they had attempted to take care of their reproductive health, they were labeled irresponsible for getting pregnant. Even though none of them had planned their pregnancies they accepted them, even as they worried about supporting another child.

Usually a woman can get on pregnancy Medicaid quickly. At the time this happened the system was overwhelmed, and it took several months for them to get on Medicaid. A month is a long time when you’re pregnant. One, due to bureaucratic errors, had an even longer wait. Worse, she was starting to suspect something was wrong with the pregnancy. She looked ill, with a greyish tint to her skin. She was worried about gestational diabetes, something she nearly developed in a previous pregnancy.

But her Medicaid was delayed. And she lived too far away from Planned Parenthood to go in for a check up. The crisis pregnancy center couldn’t help her. She waited and waited, looking more and more ill each time I saw her. Her life, and the well being of her fetus was at risk because she could not get to a Planned Parenthood!

How in the hell is this pro-life?

Planned Parenthood provides a vital service for the community. The clients I see are impoverished. They qualify for foodstamps and other assistance. In the three years I have worked here I have NEVER seen a client have kids for the benefits. Like the group of clients I had at the beginning of the year most try to avoid becoming pregnant again, but due to a lack of access to reproductive healthcare, are unable to.

What I see is women wanting to get on birth control but being unable to afford it.

What I see is women having reproductive health crises and being unable to afford care for it.

What I see is women who are pregnant and unable to afford to see a doctor.

Texas is not expanding Medicaid. Planned Parenthood is under attack and there is nothing to support it in its absence. Where I work women do not have reliable access to reproductive heath care. And I see the harm of it. Every day.