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Christina Caldwell – WNN Opinion

Birth control pills canister

In the midst of new medical technologies in reproductive health, a birth control pill canister reveals how the use of oral contraceptives for birth control is often just a regular normal part of many women's routine to control their own reproductive cycle. Image: Hilary Thomas

(WNN) U.S.: With the recent escalation of governmental policy changes along with impassionate and contentious political debates regarding the major issue of birth control in America, it is hardly unfathomable to know that $5 billion was spent on contraceptives in the US alone for the fiscal 2011 year. This number accounts for the sales of Intrauterine Devices, oral contraceptives, male & female condoms, sterilization surgery and all products and procedures that would keep the birthing process from being carried out. With new products and brands being developed every year, this number is only expected to increase. With such a hefty price tag for the cost of birth control, the question of who’s footing the bill has been brought up now more than ever before. A great portion of this multi-billion dollar expense comes from the high demand of women, who have either never given birth or who have no desire to have children temporarily or otherwise. The birth control industry thrives off of their demand, but more women are becoming fed up with not only the rising costs of contraceptives, but also with the risks associated with certain birth control measures, the types of procedures they are allowed to have, and whether or not their employers will help cover the costs of their family planning.

In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer passed a bill this month that allows for religious affiliated employers to opt of providing coverage for birth control in their health benefits packages for employees. It has also been recently revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union that the bill gives employers in Arizona, who are considered religious affiliates to terminate a female employee from their business if it is disclosed that the woman takes birth control for the sole purpose of preventing pregnancy and not for some other health related issue. This bill has reportedly been created in response to President Obama’s controversial health care plan, which would supply contraceptives at no cost to women as a preventative benefit.  Although Governor Brewer is well within her rights for passing the bill, the backlash she has received, which crosses not only political barriers, but religious and cultural alike, goes to show that those in favor of contraceptive use are united in their stand against this bill.

For women who live in states that are not strongly supportive of contraceptive use, especially for permanent purposes, such as female sterilization, some women are worried about what the passage of Arizona’s bill could mean for them. In Mississippi, where a woman in her mid twenties has decidedly chosen not to become a mother at all, she has been told repeatedly by ob/gyn physicians that she should wait to have the procedure done when she is older or has had a child. “I don’t want to have children, and I know I don’t want to have children. My boyfriend has already had his vasectomy, and it was a little hard for him to get in the beginning, but he was still able to have the procedure done. I wasn’t. Instead I have to buy (costly) birth control and hope that none of the side effects will harm me until I’m over 40 or until my supposed maternal instincts kick in and I decide to have children. It’s just ridiculous.” says Heather M. Another woman from Alabama, 31 year old Terri has also expressed concern about doctors thinking for their patients instead of listening to their concerns. “They send you to mainly male doctors, who don’t believe that women who have never had children before should have the surgery done, and they make it seem like it’s because they care about how you’ll feel if you change your mind later. It just seems so insincere; I think it’s because of something else.” There are millions of women like Heather and Terri all over the country, who have to take some form of non-permanent contraceptive for approximately 3 decades of their child bearing lives, according to a recent study.

Contraceptive manufacturers see their need, and work steadily each year to develop new forms of birth control such as vaginal rings, patches, pills, and the like, which brings up an ethical issue. Prescribed birth control being advertised directly to female buyers, creating a high demand for products they may know very little about. Although most birth control measures do come with some form of risk, it’s easy for these companies to paint a pretty picture in an ad to gloss over whether or not this form of pregnancy prevention is best. All it does is put women in doctors’ offices, requesting a form of non-permanent contraception that the physician may know is not best for her, but because of the simple fact that it isn’t permanent in preventing pregnancy; it is not hard for her to receive it. Before the once leading pill, Yaz, became tied up in a lawsuit for the health issues they have caused in their primary market, young women and teens, they generated over $1.5 billion in revenue back in 2010.

Whether the money came from health coverage or directly from a woman’s out of pocket expense, holds no bearing to the fact that more light needs to be shed on the contraceptives in the US. If a company like Yaz can turn the concern of birth control into something as major as severe blood clotting in women across the country, then more focus needs to be put on not the actual words themselves birth control, but on only one word life. New policies should be being created to insure that the safest possible contraceptives are available to women who will typically be taking some form of birth control for 30 years of their teen and adult life. In a country where a man can have a vasectomy for around $300 and a woman’s tubal ligation can cost upwards $6,000, although both are permanent and effective, the woman’s procedure still poses a much greater risk to her health. More focus needs to be on issues such as this. Women have many options when it comes to how that would like to prevent pregnancy, often too many. What they need isn’t another brand, it isn’t another product, but instead a deeper concern expressed over how they can afford it, how it can be made safer for them, and being able to choose the best route of family planning for their own lives without the intervention of the government or their employers.

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Op-ed writer for WNN, Christina Caldwell, is a freelance writer from the ‘big (small) city’ of Elba, Alabama, U.S. She is also new to the freelancing world  and passionate about women and girl’s rights and empowerment. Her ultimate hope is: to change the world by “doing something positive” with what we already know. 

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