Thanks, Birth Control?

Like, I suspect, many women (and I hope a few men), I have a complicated relationship with birth control. Specifically mine is complicated because I spent $500 out of pocket on an extremely reliable method (0.2 percent failure rate, according to the CDC) that failed. I chose to have that baby, and now I have a wonderful toddler. But I still give money to the National Network for Abortion Funds when I have the chance. And I still wish, more than anything, that I could redistribute fertility, and grant some of mine — if not all of it — to those who struggle.

Today I learned from Bitch that it’s National Thank Birth Control Day, and my feelings were, as usual, mixed. A friend said I ought to post, just to be on the record, so I made this tweet:

I have a great toddler. #thxBirthControl Of course, I also had a great run before my birth control failure.

— Laura Crossett (@newrambler) November 12, 2013

Then I mentioned it to my mother, who wondered if Big Pharma was behind the whole thing. I’m a librarian, and, after smacking my forehead for not checking into this first thing, I did a little digging. The answer? No, Big Pharma is not behind this. But the organization that is gives me a little pause. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy states in their mission that they hope, “in particular, to help ensure that children are born into stable, two-parent families.”

Almost half of pregnancies are unplanned. 10 million American women — 12 percent of all households (not just those with children) are single mothers to children under 18. [Table 4] It may be admirable to want to change those statistics. But it does nothing for the real lives of the women already living in them. It does not feed, shelter, or clothe them. It does not (though thankfully the Affordable Care Act does) provide them with affordable contraception. It does not make them feel less ashamed, guilty, or afraid.

Ironically, it was also today that I came across an article about the closing of the Florence Crittenton home in Lexington, Kentucky shutting its doors. That home, and the many others like it, were where girls were “sent away” in the days before readily available birth control and before Roe v. Wade — the days when being pregnant and unmarried was shameful, something hidden, sometimes even from your own siblings. (The comments on my post about the home on MetaFilter have yet more stories.)

I was 35 years old when I got pregnant unexpectedly. I had a good job and enough money to buy a house, which I did. I had the support of my family and friends and the baby’s father. And that pregnancy was still the hardest and most horrible time I have ever been through. I support easy access to birth control and to abortion, and I work for both those things. But what I wish, more than anything, is that we could stop with slogans and start with conversations, conversations about how frightening, and difficult, and sometimes unstoppable, our lives really are.

2 comments

  1. Keeping it real, Laura, that’s what you do. The world is lucky to have you in it. We’ve come a long way, but there’s much much further to go. Keep talking.

  2. No matter where a woman is on the continuum that runs from abortion through fertility treatments, she should agree with you here. Conversations are needed, and considering your statistics on single mothers, I’d prefer that for a while at least they be limited to women. Nothing makes me furious faster than a Steve King type telling us what we need to believe because he does, whether his experience relates to ours or not. We need to control our own destiny.