Birth control changed my life as a teenager
It’s 11 years later and I still vividly remember the absolute hell that was my period when I was 16.
I was wracked with pain — often for longer than a week — every month. I would get a period that lasted for more than a week, and then I’d get nothing for months. Sometimes, it hurt to even move. And I was bleeding far more than I should have.
And yet, thanks to my mom, I still consider myself very privileged compared to so many girls my age then, and so many women my age now. She recognized the irregularity of my periods and listened when I complained (quite loudly) about how much pain I was in.
She brought me to a gynecologist who actually discussed the medical benefits of the birth control pill with us, and did it making no mention of my sex life. The birth control pill has been proven to help with irregular periods, acute PMS, worse-than-average menstrual cramps, and a range of other period-related monthly joys that only affect us girls.
And that’s what we discussed with my doctor. It was about my health. And what’s more, my parents listened. And discussed my sexual health with me, they didn’t just decide for me.
I’m 27 now, so this conversation happened back in the early 2000s, when conversations about a woman’s sexual freedom and sexual health were not as prevalent as they, thankfully, are today.
I was pretty lucky to have parents who, while I’m sure they weren’t thrilled about their 16-year-old daughter starting birth control, recognized the need for it, approached it with my health in mind and discussed the issue with my and doctor and me (I really can’t overemphasize the importance of that “with”).
I didn’t realize how lucky I was, though, until this presidential election. For years, politics in this country have been dominated by the fight for control over women’s sexual choices and women’s bodies. But that fight has really intensified with the 2016 race for the White House.
As Refinery29 reports of the three Republican contenders:
“All three candidates are anti-choice. All three would seek to strip Planned Parenthood of funding; [John] Kasich has already succeeded at this in Ohio, repeatedly and with glee. All three oppose Roe v. Wade, and all three would appoint Supreme Court justices who share their views.”
And it just gets worse. Fifty-seven abortion restrictions were enacted in 2015 while states adopted 288 abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterms, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The ability to take control of my sexual health at such a young age, relatively speaking, was big for me, although I’m just realizing how big it really was. I got my periods under control, was able to function like a normal human again and realized the power in making informed, autonomous decisions over my own body.
For teens in general, that power to control their sexual health translates into fewer sexually transmitted diseases and fewer pregnancies, the Guttmacher Institute reported in May 2014:
“Teens in the United States and Europe have similar levels of sexual activity. However, European teens are more likely than U.S. teens to use contraceptives generally and to use the most effective methods; they therefore have substantially lower pregnancy rates.”
Seems pretty simple doesn’t it?
In a piece for TIME on Donald Trump’s medieval views on abortion, Jill Filipovic really nails just how regressive the GOP’s views on women’s sexual health are:
“What has been shown over and over to decrease the abortion rate is access to affordable contraception, especially long-acting methods like IUDs; the countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world not only offer abortion legally and often for free, but also make birth control easy to get, offer comprehensive sex education in schools, and don’t rely primarily on shame or fear to keep young people from having sex. Yet not a single major American anti-abortion organization supports affordable contraception access. None of them advocate for comprehensive sex ed.”
No one running for president has the right to tell me, or any other woman, what we can or can’t do with our own health and our own bodies. Least of all, let’s face it, the fairly privileged men who will never experience the health complications that can arise from menstruation or pregnancy.
As Rachel Green says: “No uterus, no opinion.”