On Monday, Rachel Held Evans ran “Why I Use Birth Control,” which featured my story with ten other women. What I wrote for her focused on the fact that I use the NuvaRing to manage my PCOS/endo and painful periods. I focused on that part of my story for a few reasons; first, it’s the only reason I’ve really had to use the NuvaRing up until recently, and second because the time in my life when I couldn’t afford it and had a cyst rupture was extremely relevant to what’s happening with the Hobby Lobby decision.
However, I’ve been married for a year and a half, and both I and my husband would prefer not to use condoms, especially since I’m allergic to latex and the non-latex options tend to be more expensive. We don’t have to, fortunately, because I have hormonal contraception that I tolerate fairly well. This reason is also important to talk about, because I don’t want to have children right now. I’m not even sure I want to have children at all, and I figure as long as we feel that way it’s probably a good idea to wait.
Handsome and I are in the position where having a child would be fine if I unexpectedly became pregnant. It would interrupt a lot of our plans and I wouldn’t be happy having a baby so far away from our families (I grew up away from my extended family, and I don’t want that for my children), but unlike Darlene Cunha, having a baby wouldn’t send us spiraling into poverty. But … we really don’t want kids right now, and we’re lucky that our health insurance covers the NuvaRing.
Jessica Valenti argued in The Guardian that “women like sex” and asked us to “stop making ‘health’ excuses for why we use birth control,” and she has a point. I want to have sex and I don’t want to have a baby: hormonal contraception is the perfect option for me, and I shouldn’t pretend that’s not at least half of the reason why I use it, and why I would continue using it if my PCOS/endo miraculously disappeared. The fact that most of the women who shared their stories on RHE’s blog focused on taking hormone therapy for medical reasons instead of as contraception also received some criticism, and I believe that is valid. If I could write my section again, I’d include “not wanting to have a baby” as one of the reasons why.
Conservatives, especially conservative Christians, the Religious Right, and the Christian fundamentalism that is so deeply integrated into the culture that Hobby Lobby is a significant financial supporter of are completely horrified at the idea that women might have sex without “consequences”– because that’s all a baby really is to them, a consequence and a punishment for a woman enjoying her sexuality outside of male control. They have no right whatsoever to assert their patriarchal system onto me and make my sexual choices for me, but oh do they ever desperately want to. For that reason, I believe that Valenti is right– saying “oh, but virginal, good women need BCPs for medical reasons!” isn’t going to do much when the conservatives and social regressives are obsessed with controlling what a woman does with her body.
I don’t think we need to stop talking about the legitimate medical reasons why a woman or trans man might need to use hormonal therapy. It’s not a “health excuse”– it was the only thing that allowed me to function for the bulk of my life. And, personally, I am horrified that so many “Christian corporations” (I’m still in shock there is such a thing now, the whole idea is so essentially anti-Christ) are willing to sacrifice the health care of their female employees because of a completely unfounded belief about how hormonal contraception functions. That so many women desperately need hormonal therapy doesn’t affect them. Conservative Christian culture could not care less about women, and this proves it.
Conservative Christians want to make sure that women are punished, controlled, and enslaved by their uteri, and they are willing to sacrifice the health of every single woman who needs hormonal therapy to do it. They do not care about me, about the millions of other women like me. My pain, my suffering, means nothing to them when compared with their “deeply held religious belief.”
That’s why I think we need to talk bout both. Women deserve to think about if and when they want to have children, and they also are people with a specific medical need that deserves treatment options. That conservative Christians want to refuse us both says more about what their priorities are more than anything else– and loving Jesus and his children isn’t among them.
Update 7-17-14: Some have asked what I’m referring to when I say “conservative Christian.” Here on my blog I have chosen to use the terms “traditional theology” or “Protestant orthodoxy” to refer to theological conservatism, and distinguish between that and the theology of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. “Conservative Christian,” in the context that I have chosen to use it, refers to religiously-motivated social conservatism, as typically defined by socially conservative (and usually evangelical) Christians. If you identify yourself as a conservative Christian but you do not agree with those who would deny women necessary medical treatments and procedures, than the statements I’ve made here do not apply to you; feel free to disregard.