My Ovaries. My Uterus. My Birth Control.
I was 17 years old when I had my first birth control discussion with my physician. For years, I had been experiencing such irregular, painful periods that I would stay home from school for at least a few days each cycle. I would spend most of the day curled up in a little ball, massaging my stomach in the hopes that it would pass. To help increase my regularity and decrease the amount of pain, my doctor suggested putting me on the pill. Sure, I was 17, but I was not having sexual intercourse. This was purely a necessary, prescribed medical treatment. At the time, my co-pay for the pill was somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 per month.
Years later, I was at the University of Oregon Health Center. I had been suffering from intense mood swings induced by the pill, and the NuvaRing had just been introduced as a method of birth control. By then, I was married and sexually active. However, the primary reason I still used birth control was to regulate my hormones and periods. When I was put on the NuvaRing, it cost me $30 per ring out of pocket. (One ring lasts one cycle.) I heard the retail price was going to raise to $40, so I saved money by buying a year’s worth in advance. But, it still cost $360 out of pocket.
Eventually, I became concerned about the potential health risks of the NuvaRing, given my family history, and started having more moodswings. So, I stopped taking it. Within a few cycles, my periods were painful and irregular. Because I had lost medical insurance, it was a few years before I saw another doctor and got a new form of birth control.
In 2010, after being plagued by severe mood swings and increasingly irregular, painful periods, I finally had insurance again and was referred by an urgent care physician to a specialist. After a few procedures and rounds of blood work, my GYN diagnosed my with polycystic ovarian syndrome. It was a major cause of the issues that I had been having for years: mood swings, painful menstruation, kidney stones, irregular cycles, inability to get pregnant. She eventually put me on a natural progesterone therapy and a new diet. My monthly hormone treatments cost me $20, and my new lifestyle finally solved a good chunk of what ailed me.
I continued taking this treatment until 2011, when I became unemployed and lost my health insurance. My periods have become increasingly more painful and irregular, and I cannot afford the out of pocket expenses to see a new physician for my yearly exam, tests, and treatment.
As I am a woman approaching the age I will have children, I need to have access to a GYN. I still need to treat my polycystic ovaries and make sure I’m absorbing enough calcium in my body to adequately support future childbirth. Without insurance coverage of the services that I need, I face an unlikely reproductive future.
I’m telling you this story because I am frightened by the current war on women being waged by the GOP. They consistently fight against measures that ensure we have access to birth control and abortion (which is often a necessary medical procedure), not to mention against government sponsored health care plans that would cover both. I am becoming increasingly concerned that I will not be able to access the medical tools that will enable me to become the mother of a healthy child.
For a group that tends to focus on the family, the GOP needs to realize that medicine is not black and white. What medical treatments will work for one patient will not necessarily cure the next. Blanket statement rejections of certain medical treatments and procedures could ultimately prevent women like me from becoming a loving, responsible parent. This saddens me. It appalls me. As a libertarian and feminist, it is inexcusable that the GOP not only wants to prevent me from accessing medically necessary treatment, but fights daily to put new restrictions on which type of health care I can receive from my physician. These are medical decisions that need to be up to me, myself, and I. These are my ovaries; this is my uterus; and, I deserve the right to make decisions regarding my birth control.
My girlfriend wanted to be safe. Before she could touch me, she wanted to know that I was safe. We dodged the bullet of STIs together and strengthened our own bonds. Planned Parenthood isn’t just about abortion: Planned Parenthood is about knowing you’re safe to live a healthy life with.
Just one more reason Planned Parenthood is amazing.