Birth control should be considered 'uncontroversial'

The birth control debate is on TV screens, newspapers and even my Twitter feed. Between Obama’s new healthcare bill, the Pope’s newest outrage, Dr. Oz’s health claims and Melinda Gate’s “My Uncontroversial Idea,” I decided to do some of my own research and get involved.

Two months ago, Opinions editor SoRelle Wyckoff covered the topic of debate between “Barack Obama [and] Pope Benedict XVI in the arena of contraception.”

The claim that the Obama administration is overstepping its boundaries into the lives of Americans is a crock. Republicans, the Catholic Church and other religious interfaces are claiming their rights of “religious liberty” are being violated; however, this is rhetoric at its best.

“In other words, ‘religious liberty’ does not protect individual freedom (whatever that may be) but allows organizations to police the religious convictions of their employees,” stated professor Finbarr Curtis in an article on contraception to the SSRC. Secularism, Religion and The Public Square is a nonprofit that covers topics like the birth control mandate and gets expertise from those who have the authority to give it.

His ideas play on a scenario where a married Southern Baptist woman takes a job at a Catholic institution (he uses a university, but I have a personal friend in the same situation at a private hospital), and her birth control is no longer covered by insurance because of Papal teachings she has no belief in. The woman already has three children, but whether she can afford more, her individual freedom to make that decision has been taken away.

To Curtis, “the response of the Church (and its Baptist apologists)” would be to refute this woman’s religious freedoms were violated because she knowingly took a job at a Catholic institution, and so she is free to pay the price of contraception not covered by insurance, stop using contraception altogether or find a new job.

This introduces us to Melinda Gates and her “uncontroversial idea.” In an article by the Huffington Post, she argues birth control is completely misunderstood and can be used to help the global economy as a whole.

To her, birth control is an uncontroversial idea practiced all over the world, and a result of birth control becoming controversial has prevented it from coming to developing countries where it could change the lives of hundreds of millions of the poorest families. Gates uses examples and statistics from developing countries that have had the opportunity to give women birth control in order for them to control their own lives.

In Bangladesh, there is a district called Matlab, where half the villagers were given educational access to contraception, while the other half were not. The study was followed for 20 years, and the Matlab villagers given this access had a much better quality of life than those without the same advantages. The households held more assets like livestock, land and savings; maternal mortality and infant mortality rates both decreased, the women were paid more in wages and, most importantly, the children had more educational opportunities than the families that did not have these advantages.

The study here doesn’t make birth control or contraceptives a miracle worker, but it does claim that, by having control of the growth of one’s family, people can and will make better decisions that can result in economic benefit.

A few weeks ago, I went home to spend a couple days of my spring break there before making my way down to Rosemary Beach, Fla. While there, my mom strapped me down in our living room and forced me to watch another Dr. Oz segment, it being her guilty pleasure.

Though my eyes bled for an hour, I managed to learn quite a few things. For one, Dr. Oz is one of the only doctors on TV with an actual medical degree, and two, birth control can actually lower the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Oz explained that each year a woman uses birth control, her risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer is reduced by 10 percent. This is not a miracle, but instead the side effect of a developed world with decreased mortality rates.

The cycle is simple. As women are living longer, they ovulate twice as much. Each time a woman ovulates, she is risking ovarian and endometrial cancer, infection and her ability to reproduce. However, because birth control regulates hormonal imbalances and ovulation itself, women are a lot less at risk.

The problem here is control; Republicans, the Church and other religious interfaces are fighting a battle for control that is meaningless in a world that is already a decade ahead of this medically mundane approach.

“People are worried about the impact on sexual mortality, but they are losing focus on what really is important,” said Sean Jennings, a junior majoring in economics and finance. “It’s not about sexual freedom and promiscuity, it’s not a religion or state battle, it’s a battle of human [liberty].”

I agree. And as a woman here in the United States, I know that I want to finish my education and have a career before I have children. I want to be able to give each of my children the best, without forfeiting their education or way of life.

Melinda Gates gave her talk in Berlin, Germany, a country where every woman has access to affordable contraception. Her idea was to make the world more aware and unite it in order to help the global economy. I am writing here in the United States, with the goal to make people aware and well informed of the ignorance of others, and how that can directly affect a thriving nation’s way of life, bringing us to a lower standard of living.


Sophia Fazal is a junior majoring in anthropology. Her column runs biweekly on Monday.

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