A Subtle Form of Slut Shaming You May Not Realize You're Perpetuating
On May 23, the Trump administration put another dollar in its "Swear (that we are trying to f*ck over women) Jar" when it rolled out a new rule. The proposed legislation would amend the Affordable Care Act to allow employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage for employees if they have a "conscience-based" objection. This means that if a company has a religious or moral (or really any) opposition to birth control, it can remove free preventive coverage from the medical insurance plans it offers its employees. Because honestly, who hasn't wanted their boss and their government in their panties?
Under the 2010 ACA, contraceptives are free for women because birth control is considered a necessary component of healthcare coverage. But the Obama administration made an exception to the ACA's coverage, allowing religious nonprofits and closely held for-profit companies with religious objections to deny coverage for some — or all — contraceptive purposes. Trump's new draft rule takes this a step (or rather, a giant leap) further and is much broader in its exemption allowances, which will inevitably affect millions of women around the country. In 2013 alone, the ACA contraception mandate helped 55 million women obtain birth control and saved them $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket healthcare spending. That's $1.4 billion with a capital "B" — money that could then be spent on feeding families, higher education, securing a roof over one's head . . . ya know, the little things.
Anyone can understand that if women are forced to spend, on average, $1,200/year on contraception, making birth control free will aid women in taking control of their physical and financial health. In terms of securing economic freedom and bringing families out of poverty, this is paramount. As women of the 21st century, we should all be on the same page there. But we too often tend to lose our spot in the Why Birth Control Is Necessary book we were all given as fourth-wave feminists.
Whenever the discussion of birth control arises, so does one of justification. We hear our friends and coworkers exclaim that, "This is BS! I'm on the pill, but it's for acne," or, "WTF, don't these Republicans know that a lot of women take the pill for endometriosis?! Like Lena Dunham . . . ," and, "Before birth control I had the worst cramps — I need this covered!" Which are all completely valid and reasonable arguments, but they kind of miss the point.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a whopping 86 percent of women who use birth control use it for pregnancy prevention, aka its intended purpose. And that's awesome. But for some reason, when the topic of the pill comes up, we feel we need to offer up some other explanation besides, "I would like to have sex without having a child before I'm ready or can afford one." But why? Are we trying to appease reproductive-rights foes by offering up medical ailments that can be treated with the pill? Or do we still feel that, in 2017, we cannot be open and honest about the fact that we are sexually active?
As someone who has been guilty of the "acne" disclaimer on more than one occasion, I'm going to proffer that the majority of us, whether subconsciously or not, are still not completely comfortable with announcing that we have sex. We still fear that if we reveal that we use birth control to have sex, and not babies, that we'll be considered sluts — even though we know, as millennial women, that this is an antiquated and erroneous mindset. And yet, we perpetuate the cycle of slut shaming when we continue to use "acne" as an explanation for our BC prescription. Even if the aforementioned, alternative reasons explain your prescription, we still do not need to offer them up as some sort of mechanism to remove the pill's scarlet letter.
Clear skin and cramp-less periods are awesome, but so is having sex without an unplanned pregnancy. Wanting to have sex without an unplanned pregnancy should be enough of an explanation for our birth control. Wanting to have sex without an unplanned pregnancy should not require statistics and numbers to justify. Wanting to have sex without an unplanned pregnancy should be enough of a reason to demand access to birth control.
Our feminist foremothers didn't fight for our sexual liberation so that we could say we have "acne." We must direct the conversation around birth control by demanding that protected sex is our right and that no other explanation is necessary.