I wrote an op-ed for Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) to be published in Virginia media outlets prior to the November 2023 election. I don’t know that it was ever printed, or if it was, where. So I’ll hang onto it here because it’s still very applicable, and by the way – please support politicians who support the right to decide one’s own medical care.

Real-life Experiences Behind the Need for Birth Control

My husband and I chose to have five children very close in age. Then we chose to stop having children and needed contraception. I was done having children and wanted to be an active mom with the children we already had.

While becoming pregnant was not an issue, being pregnant was difficult. With each successive pregnancy, my energy level and mental health deteriorated more than the previous one, which clearly complicated life with small children. I spent about half of my final pregnancy on antidepressant medication. Fortunately, when the baby was born, my mental fog cleared. My recovery period was an energetic rush to organize my home, take my kids to the park and library, and make up for lost time.

Five children in less than seven years is rewarding but challenging, both then and now that they’re all teenagers. The long-term contraception options provided by our medical insurance have been a necessary part of maintaining our family’s physical and mental well-being.

Alongside my own pregnancies, I have many family members and friends who live with the heartache of infertility. For these families, what we commonly call “birth control” could more accurately be called “hormonal or menstrual regulation.” In the situation of infertility, contraception is not a means to prevent pregnancy but a tool to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and enhance her chances of welcoming a child. 

Two common reasons women do not become pregnant when they want to have a baby are polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. PCOS causes irregular menstrual cycles and prevents consistent ovulation – releasing an egg from the ovary to the uterus. No ovulation, no chance of becoming pregnant. But here’s the good news – oral contraceptives can be used to treat PCOS and help get things back on track.

Endometriosis happens when the uterus lining tissue developing for a fertilized egg to implant actually grows on the outside of the uterus and sometimes even on other organs. It is extremely painful regardless of pregnancy opportunities, and contraceptive medications are some of the most effective ways to treat it for many women.

Contraception can also help a woman recover after a miscarriage by regulating her menstrual cycle while her body heals. Depending on the specifics of the miscarriage, doctors often recommend waiting three to six months for recovery before trying for another pregnancy.

And let’s not forget about periods. Menstruation itself can cause all sorts of problems – heavy bleeding, iron deficiency, severe muscle cramps, loss of appetite and energy, even vomiting. Contraception can ease these symptoms so women can keep up with their daily lives during their periods.

What I share are not rumors I’ve read online but the painful experiences of women and girls I know personally. These aren’t just abstract concepts or distant problems; they’re tangible, painful realities that we live with every day. These experiences demonstrate the multifaceted roles contraceptives can play in women’s overall health. I’ve always found it a misnomer to call these medications “birth control” because they have nothing to do with the process of giving birth (that’s an epidural), and preventing pregnancy is only one of their many uses.

However, elected officials and political candidates around the U.S. and in Virginia have openly stated their intention to ban these medications that help women regulate their menstruation, prevent unplanned pregnancies, or create the right physical conditions to become pregnant. Almost 200 members of the U.S. House opposed a bill in Congress to enshrine the right to contraception in federal law after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Court to overturn its past ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut regarding access to contraceptives for married couples. In Virginia, we have seen bills introduced that could ban highly effective contraceptive devices like IUDs.

The irony is that many lawmakers introducing these bans oppose universal health care on the grounds that it would insert the government between a doctor and a patient. I cannot think of a more dangerous way to insert the government into health care than to outlaw medications and medical procedures, and criminalize healthcare professionals and patients for using contraception to maintain the good health of women and mothers. That is the exact definition of “inserting the government between a doctor and a patient.”

It’s also deeply disappointing to see those who claim to support families actively stripping away resources that assist women in becoming mothers.

It’s crucial for policymakers to understand that there are myriad reasons why women may need medical intervention to manage their reproductive and endocrine systems. It’s time to take action in the 2024 legislative session in Virginia and across the US to adopt legislation that protects women’s health and the right to contraception.

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