Before I start this week’s post, I want to acknowledge that it isn’t the post I initially set out to write for this week. I was going to talk about the attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. It’s an attack on women’s rights that feels like it happened in my backyard. I was going to talk about how I’ve spent most of my life in a place that made me used to the rhetoric the shooter (and his insane online supporters) used. But I couldn’t. It made me too heartsick. It made me have too much despair over the state of the world, and about the uphill battle it seems we never stop fighting. So Richard wrote about the shooting yesterday so that I wouldn’t have to, and you should read it here. And you should donate to Planned Parenthood here. The work that they do is important, and they need your support now more than ever.
All news is not bleak, even if it seems that way sometimes. New laws in California and Oregon will soon make it easier than ever to obtain birth control. Both laws make it legal for pharmacists to prescribe birth control right in the pharmacy. While there are still some kinks to work out in terms of cost and insurance coverage, overall this is great news for women. Women’s access to contraception is often questioned, or even denied, by lawmakers, (even if Ted Cruz claims that doesn’t happen) and removing obstacles that would otherwise prevent women from seeking control over their own reproduction is always going to be a good thing.
While these laws don’t give contraception quite the same freedoms of over-the-counter medication, they also make it more likely that insurance will cover the medication. Most importantly, they do make much more likely that women will get on, and stay on, oral contraception methods.
The current system in most states, where renewals of birth control medication are used as bargaining chips to force the woman troops back in to the doctor’s office, means that remaining on steady birth control is a somewhat cumbersome process. Studies have shown that convenience in obtaining birth control medication drastically increases the chances that women will stay on birth control. And many women who are currently using no birth control or less-effective methods of birth control have indicated that they would be willing to take oral contraceptives if they were provided without a prescription.
While some may pose concerns about the safety implications of having a pharmacist responsible for prescribing oral contraception, they do not really need to be. Researchers suggest that the pill would even be safe in an over-the-counter form, where women are responsible for choosing their own variety of pill. As OBGYN and professor Daniel Grossman puts it:
The science on this is clear: The pill is one of the best-studied medicines on the market today, and it’s certainly safe enough to be available without a prescription. Some women have conditions that might make it more risky to take the pill, but studies show that women can use simple checklists on their own to figure out whether the pill is right for them. It’s both safe and effective to make it much easier for women to access contraception.
The bottom line is that allowing women to be in charge of their own fertility has innumerable positive side effects. Easing access to contraception can decrease the personal and public financial burdens of unwanted pregnancies, and can even help narrow the gender pay gap. Access to contraception helps women to advance their education and careers, to navigate their personal relationships, and to establish their own bodily autonomy.
So take a moment to celebrate: at least two states are making it slightly more possible for women to control their own bodies.
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. ow. When she’s not discussing awesome representations of women on tv, she studies gender in popular culture.