The birth control (or reproductive rights, as is the term du jour) debate in this country is ingrained in a staunch binary: conservatives are against it, progressives support it. But why does it feel like conservatives are the only ones actually worried about the adverse side effects of hormonal birth control?
Look at the headlines, or open your preferred search engine and have a quick look. The overwhelming narrative is that conservatives are backward, female-body-controlling, transphobic, religious-right bigots who are antithetical to values which enable women to use, let alone have access to, birth control.
Even if that’s the overwhelming narrative, it isn’t the correct one at play here. What’s more, progressives may be the apparent champions behind birth control access, but they seem less than concerned about its very real, potential, adverse side effects that can wreak havoc on a woman’s body and her future.
Conservatism Is Controlling, Progressivism Is Liberating
The Illinois Family Institute called the birth control pill the “gateway drug to liberalism.” Meanwhile, Vox and other like-minded sites tie the birth control debate to the Trump administration using instances like the Hobby Lobby lawsuit to justify claims of an apparent “war on women” and our reproductive rights.
This is the central claim of the debate because the birth control pill is one of the towering pillars and victories of the sexual revolution, which conservatives blame for the overall declining health and wellness of women and our position culturally. The birth control pill symbolizes liberation and empowerment for progressives, meaning that any word spoken against it justifies swift and immediate reprimand. In this day and age, the pill is sacrosanct.
The pill symbolizes liberation, empowerment, and equality for progressives.
The pill has afforded the modern woman, at least the modern feminist, what she’s always dreamed of: apparent social equality with her male counterpart. That’s all well and good — some conservatives (and those who identify as neither progressive nor conservative) are on board with accessible contraception for all.
This polarization is, as you can probably guess, extremely dangerous because like many issues that are obsessively and needlessly politicized, it misses the entire point.
The “No Side Effects” Narrative Is Dead
This birth-control-bad/birth-control-good conversation completely neglects the obvious factors influencing the reasons why many women, no matter how far right or left they lean, speak out against hormonal birth control.
We’re fortunate enough to know by now the truly egregious effects that hormonal birth control is capable of having on our bodies. They include the physical as well as the mental.
The link between birth control and depression is well documented by now. And for every claim we make about its benefits and advantages, this caveat should be advertised right alongside them. Women who use birth control are more likely to develop and be diagnosed with depression, and to suffer from debilitating mood swings. And yet, medical professionals continue to insist and emphasize that there’s no such link between the two, despite years of data and piles of evidence to the contrary.
The link between birth control and depression is now well documented.
We’re also now aware that birth control can trigger deficiencies in nutrients that are especially vital to women’s health, like zinc, magnesium, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C, and B6 and folate. What’s worse, these deficiencies can severely impact your body even after stopping birth control. Additionally, the link between going off birth control and conceiving quickly isn’t exactly transparent either.
The “no side effects” agenda of birth control proponents may have been popular decades ago, but no longer. We as women should refuse to sit idly by and continue to be force fed the “no disadvantages, only positives” narrative being given to us by the medical community and Big Pharma, among others. For one thing, it’s damaging to the tons of women who recover and discover life after artificial hormones and natural contraception outside of birth control. For another, it’s entirely, factually inaccurate.
The Damage Is Done
Essentially, we’ve removed the actual possible consequences of hormonal birth control and taken them away from the conversation in favor of politicization. And we’ve done ourselves a disservice and hurt more women more by doing so.
Concerns about birth control are now relegated to “anti-contraceptive” movements, according to the nation’s foremost pro-choice organization. This conversation is severely lacking in that it has a tendency to emphasize what’s already present and completely neglect what’s desperately missing. There’s an over-emphasis on politics, on religion — the left and the right, which one is bad and which one is good. Nowhere in these kinds of discourse are women, mental health, physical consequences, depression, fertility, etc., even mentioned or considered.
Why does the conversation on what affects our bodies and our fertility revolve around politics?
Progressivism as an ideology makes a big show of emphasizing women’s voices and including them in conversations, even putting them at the forefront of movements and agendas of their own making. So how is it that the conversation on what has the ability to affect our bodies the most revolves around politics?
By completely neglecting, or even worse, intentionally failing to cover the truly despicable things hormonal birth control has done to women, their bodies, and their reproductive futures, we’ve enabled the very system we’re trying to criticize. Everyday, average women who use birth control aren’t the face of these debates. Politicians are, and what’s worse, every dig, jab, or quip serves to advance their own party causes, not the voice of women who are desperately crying out for recognition and acceptance.
It really looks like there’s one sole group of people actually concerned with the negative side effects of birth control, and it isn’t progressives.
What’s unfortunate is that this shouldn’t even be a party issue. Scientific research and investigations into the way artificial hormones affect our bodies shouldn’t be something we have to desperately and actively search for — it should be available right alongside the advertised “benefits.”
Many women don’t feel the adverse consequences of hormonal birth control. They’re usually the faces of these conversations. We never see or hear from the women who suffer — mentally, physically, or both — and we silence their voices for money, for political gain, for status, and to preserve a widespread, mainstream “truth” that just isn’t accurate anymore. It’s time that ends.
At the end of the day, the fanatical defense of hormonal birth control that exempts it from all wrong is an emotional argument that completely ignores the scientific facts.
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